Discontentment Can Be…Good?

Contentment makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor.
Benjamin  Franklin

I could talk on forever about contentment.  It really is so important for each and every soul, not just for singles.  The beauty of contentment lies in it’s peace, it’s lack of fear, it’s lack of striving after the newest thing, it’s confidence, it’s selfLESSness.  The eyes of the contented look to God with a knowledge of His goodness and a trust in His grace.

But there are some situations in which it would be bad to be content.

Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking–make up your mind!

Well, there are certain things that we should never be satisfied with–our knowledge of God, our gratitude to Him, our love of His will and His people, our sharing of our experience of Him with others. These are all things that we should only wish have more of, to do more.

Religion promotes the divine discontent within oneself, so that one tries to make oneself a better person and draw oneself closer to God.   Cyril  Cusack

So to continue to build our faith in God requires both contentment AND discontent–contentment with His leading and discontent with our knowledge of Him.

Wow…now that’s something to think about…

God is looking for imperfect men and women who have learned to walk in moment-by-moment dependence on the Holy Spirit. Christians who have come to terms with their inadequacies, fears, and failures. Believers who have become discontent with ‘surviving’ and have taken the time to investigate everything God has to offer in this life.
Charles Stanley

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Waiting

I mentioned in an earlier post that our world tends to present marriage as the only happy ending.  What this has created is the apparent feeling that we “aren’t finished” until we are married, thereby putting single people into a continuous holding pattern.

I have a dear friend, who was single into her late 20s,  who brought this to my attention.  One day I was visiting her and we started watching TV together. I couldn’t help but notice that her TV had this green hue across the entire screen, with an intermittent wide stripe of green that would appear at random intervals to add to the ambience.  The next week I noticed the same thing…so I asked her whether she had thought of getting a new one.  She said something rather curious.

“Well, Mary, I’m going to wait to buy a new TV until after I get married.”

Wh-aaa-t?

“My husband will want to have a say in which brand and type to buy.”

Of course I said, “Ahhh…is there something I don’t know about?  Are you dating now?”

“No,” she says.

OK…Hmmm…

When I asked her when she was going to give up her single bed (not a twin, a SINGLE) that she’s slept on since she was…well…a toddler…she said the same thing.

“My husband will want to have a say in the choice of bedroom set.”

First of all, he’s a guy.  Will he care about the type of ‘bedroom set’?  Secondly, what if God doesn’t lead her down that path?  Is she going to continue sleeping on a single bed, watching Martian TV until she’s 90?

We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept  the one that is waiting for us. Joseph  Campbell

 Why all the waiting?  Shouldn’t we grasp each moment we’ve been given?  Carpe diem may not be from the Bible but shouldn’t we seize each moment that God has graced us with?

James 4:14 says, Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. (sorry for taking it out of context :D).

We don’t know what tomorrow brings.  Let’s get busy in the work He has given us in the place we are in now.

Now, be sure to note that I am not endorsing materialism, but that singles should not sit waiting for the world’s definition of a happy ending but should make the most of every moment.

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.  Psalm 118:24

If you are going to wait, you should wait on the Lord!

Waiting For Tomorrow (Mandisa)

Maybe tomorrow we’ll start over
Maybe tomorrow I will finally change my ways
Said the same things yesterday
Don’t know why I’m so afraid
To let you in
To let you win
To let you have all of me

Can’t spend my whole life wastin’
Everything I know I’ve been given
‘Cause you’ve made me for so much more than
Sittin’ on the side lines
I don’t wanna look back and wonder
If good enough could’ve been better

Everyday’s a day to start over
So, why am I waiting for tomorrow

Maybe today I’ll start believing
That you’re mercy is really
As real as you say it is
It doesn’t matter who I used to be
It only matters that I’ve been set free
You rescued me you’re changing me
Jesus take everything

Can’t spend my whole life wastin’
Everything I know I’ve been given
‘Cause you’ve made for so much more than
Sittin’ on the side lines
I don’t wanna look back and wonder
If good enough could’ve been better

Everyday’s a day to start over
So, why am I waiting for tomorrow

Oh, I’m makin this my moment now
To grab the hand that’s reachin down to save me You saved me

And I’m not gonna wait until tomorrow
Oh, tomorrow

The World’s View of Singles

I could have called this post “the Media’s View of Singles”.  The media has a dual role in our world today, firstly as a reflection of the world’s viewpoint and secondly as an influence over the world’s viewpoint.  I wanted to make this more personal though:  we are part of this world so I have opted to entitle this post as I have.  For the purposes of this post, let’s consider the world’s view and the media’s view as one and the same, although this is not strictly true.

According to the eMarketer blog (post from 29 March 2011), in 2010 TV advertising spending in the US grew 9.7% to $59 billion (divide by 10 for the approximate Canadian figure).  Fifty-nine billion dollars…wow…Just from TV ads, not including magazines, on-line, etc.  Obviously somebody out there believes that the media has some influence over us.

If this is the case, we really should see what the media is saying about us singles.  Alas, to understand the world’s view on singles we need to start with their view on non-singles.  Yes, I know, this is supposed to be a blog for singles, about singles, by singles but sometimes we have to at least mention those marrieds out there.

If you are oldish like me you may have perhaps heard of some of the TV shows from the 50s, 60s and 70s, like Leave it to Beaver, the Partridge Family, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Addams Family, I Love Lucy, Green Acres, etc.  They all centred on family life and some of the trials and hilarity that comes to married couples.  Even some of the shows from the 80s, like the Bill Cosby Show, focused primarily on family life to entertain their fans.

Today’s TV shows, however, seem quite different.  There are a few that do centre around families (Everybody Loves Raymond, the Sopranos) but they are in the minority and don’t quite have the same message about the importance of family as the shows from the past. If you look carefully, what you will see instead of shows about family are a whole lot of cop shows and medical shows (and vampire shows…).  Instead of being married, most people in these shows are single, separated, divorced, or living together.  What does tie them together is that their main characters spend a considerable amount of time looking for love.  Unfortunately, they seem to be “looking for love in all the wrong places” to quote Johnny Lee.

“I am just a small girl in a big world trying to find someone to love.”
―    Marilyn Monroe

This leads us to a crucial point:  what is the world’s view of love?  From watching TV, listening to music and reading magazines we get the idea that love is a feeling that one gets about that special someone, and once that is gone, then there is no more love.  I think this is why we have so many disappointed, unfulfilled and searching people, both Christians and non-Christians, in our world.  Because this is not what love is.

First Corinthians 13:4 – 8, 13 says, 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. NIV

I see no mention there of particular feelings about a person, but what it does mention are characteristics of true commitment which is a choice, not a feeling. These are also characteristics of God–this is how He loves us.  How do we show love to God?  We obey Him (John 14:15, plus many other places).  There is no talk of a warm, fuzzy emotion that makes your heart race and your pupils dilate.

So, you see, if the world has an aberrant view of love, it will skew their view of relationships and, therefore, of singles AND marrieds.

They are correct in one aspect, though, and this is that our world is all about love.  Not eros, or sexual love, as our media would like us to believe, but agape, or Godly love.

I had a non-Christian friend of mine a few years ago tell me that she had finally figured me out–she said that I was ‘asexual’.  This surprised me somewhat and did make me giggle (I couldn’t help it!  She was comparing me to a plant or some forms of fungi–you have to laugh at that!).  But this really does show a lack of understanding about me.  I like guys.  I have had crushes on male movie actors, television actors and even some of the real people around me.  I am not asexual, rather a heterosexual female that chooses to not practice pre-marital sex.

Our world cannot understand us singles because they are so focused on love between people as being the ultimate fulfillment in their lives. We Christians should know better, but that $59 billion advertising budget has gone a long way to deceive us.

Colossians 2:8(NIV)

8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, that depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

Christians should focus on God’s love first, then on loving others.  Isn’t this how Christ answered the Pharisees in Matthew 22?

35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

We can’t expect the world to understand something they don’t believe, but by understanding what the world does believe about us and how it is thus reflected in the media today we can hopefully keep ourselves from being deceived by this world and to start living more fulfilled lives.  If enough of us lived the truth about love in this world (meaning that God IS love), this could bring about a revolution in the way the world thinks and then perhaps in the way the media displays.  It’s just a thought.

Is Something Wrong With Me?

“Hey, Mary, I met another single Christian!”

My friend was very excited about this apparently rare event.

“Single and forty?  What is he like?”

“Well, he’s a decent guy…”

We look at eachother and I say, “There’s got to be something wrong with him if he’s 40 and still single!”  We giggle together until…

…I realize that I’m forty and single!  Wait a minute!  Is there something wrong with me?  Is this what people say after meeting me?  “There’s got to be something wrong with her…”

The problem with this thought process is that it is not only the non-singles that may think it but we singles as well.  I have on occasion wondered if there WAS something wrong with me.  In my less kind moments I have come across someone who was less than appealing to me and in my base, human way wondered how come they were dating/engaged/married and I was not.  I’m prettier, more intelligent, more social, more well-traveled, have better hair, dress better, drive a better car, can run faster, know my way around my community better, have better running shoes, have nicer lips…yeah, it gets kind of sad, doesn’t it?

So, is this the Urban Myth that we singles hold about ourselves in the darkest, most hidden parts of our psyche?  Is there something wrong with me?  Is this why I’m single?

As the Christian Single Myth Buster I will remind you firstly of what we have already addressed in a previous post:

You are single because this is God’s will for you.  No one has looked at you and scoffed and walked away–God has chosen singleness for you as His best for you.

Secondly, I have to remind of what you already should know:

1).  God created you and made you like Him.  Genesis 1:26a–Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…”  If we are made in the image of God how can there be anything “wrong” with us?

2).  God loves you.  “For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour; I give Egypt for your ransom[,] since you are precious and honoured in my sight, and because I love you…”  Isaiah 43 parts of verse 3 and 4.  You are precious to God!

3).  God gave His only Begotten for you.  “For God so loved the world [you] that He gave His one and only Son…”  John 3:16

4).  Christ willingly gave himself for you.  “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  Hebrews 12:2,3

5).  Through Christ we are God’s children.  “How great is love the Father has lavished on us, that we might be called the children of God!” 1 John 3:1a.  You know what this makes us?  Princes and Princesses, of course!

All right then, we might be prettier, more intelligent, more social, more well-traveled, have better hair, dress better, drive a better car, can run faster, know our way around our community better, have better running shoes, and have nicer lips and still be single.

Does this mean there is something wrong with us?

ABSOLUTELY NOT!  The world around might not understand this, and sometimes we might not believe it ourselves, but there is nothing “wrong” with us.  Actually, there is something RIGHT  with us–we are following God’s plan, even when the going gets tough.

And please, don’t ever forget who you are in Christ!

Who am I?  by Margaret Becker

Who am I, Jesus
That You call me by name…
I am counting the stars
On Your blackened sky
You call them all by name, You know them all by sight
In this sea of lights
I sense Your majesty
And I break at the thought that One so great
Could care for me
Who am I, Jesus
That You could call me by name
What could I ever do
To be loved this way
Who am I, Jesus
In Your eyes, tell me, who am I
I am counting the mountains
That I’ve laid at Your feet
And I’m reduced to tears when I think of how
You’ve moved them for me
In this storm of life
You’ve been my safe retreat
Through the wind and the fire You always were there
To carry me

Who am I, Jesus
That You could call me by name
What could I ever do
To be loved this way
Who am I, Jesus
In Your eyes, tell me, who am I

Confessions of a Single Christian…

Yes, I am advocating contentedness in my position in the world.  However, there are a few things that bug me about being single where I am.

PET PEEVES:

1).  Super Size This!  I think it is a great thing that supermarkets have Family size items, like peanut butter, however, it would be nice to be able to get a smaller size more in keeping with my ability to consume.  Hey, don’t get me wrong, I love buying toilet paper in bulk, but do you know how long it would take me to finish off a family size peanut butter container by myself?!

2).  Two for one.  If this was a sale at a shoe store, I would be there with extra reusable bags for carrying out all of the loot…but usually this does NOT involve shoes.  No, this is more likely involving food or tickets or admission, etc.  For me, I only need one entree when I go out to eat, so why can’t they just give me that one entree for a discount?  Even when I go out with my friends there’s 3 of us so there is still someone left out of a two for one deal.  I think I’m going to try to pretend that I am their child one of these times, to try to get in on these family deals!  I fear it’s not likely to work 😦

3).  Single Supplement.  Closely related to Pet Peeve 2 is the Singles Supplement.  If you are not familiar with this concept, it is an additional amount that a single person has to pay if they are travelling on their own.  Because most travel related groups expect double occupancy, the supplement is the penalty you must pay to travel by yourself… hmmmm… So my friends called me up one day and invited me to go on a river cruise of the Danube with them–Heaven!  Alas, the prices were as follows:  $9000 for a single person (yeah, seriously!) or $9400 divided by 2 for double occupancy.  Suffice it to say that I didn’t go (insert sound of crying).

4).  The Perfect Man.  This of course could also be called The Perfect Woman, and refers to the tendency of friends of singles to claim to know the perfect person for them.  The criteria for choosing this person as your “perfect” potential mate appears to only require them to be breathing, and of the opposite sex.  Don’t get me wrong non-singles–I know you are concerned for us and want us to be happy, but please, please put a little care and intention into finding us the perfect man.  I once had a sweet little lady at my church try to get me to go out with this gentleman who was an absolute stranger to her but had happened to show up to church that day.  He turned out to be a felon on a day pass from prison (again, seriously!).

Thank you for listening to me rant.  I’m sure there are one or 2 of you in cyber space that have had similar experiences.  Getting it off your chest is good so talk to your friends about the things that bother you, just be sure that you don’t become embittered by these light and momentary troubles.

“Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”  2 Corinthians 4:16, 17

Does Single Mean Alone?

I’ve spent a portion of my life living in small rural communities and so have gotten used to being “alone” and actually quite like it.  Is this partly due to my selfish desire to be able to do what ever I want?  Maybe.  Is it because I’m comfortable with myself?  Maybe.  Maybe I’m just becoming a social pariah…

I only go out to get me a fresh appetite for being alone.
Lord Byron

The point is that as a single I can choose to be alone if I want to.

Is alone the same as lonely?

Language has created the word “loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone.  And it has created “solitude” to express the glory of being alone.  (Paul Tillich)

Being alone does not necessarily mean that you will be lonely.  One can be lonely in the midst of a crowd.  One can glory in being alone.  I think this is an important distinction.  My non-single friend once said to me that she felt so lonely.  I was shocked–how can she mean she was lonely?  She had a family around her all the time!

OK–so anybody can feel lonely, not just those who are single, and being alone doesn’t mean you have to feel lonely.  Now, as Christians, the question is:  are we ever really truly alone? Moses said to Israel in Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or or terrified … for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Jesus tells us in John 10:29 that “no one can snatch them (us) out of my Father’s hand.”  If we are sitting in God’s hand, not only is that not alone but He’s pretty darn close to us!

The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.
Anne Frank

Perhaps when we are feeling lonely the best thing to do is to cry out to God.  He is there and He loves us so much. One of my favorite hymns is In the Garden by C. Austin Miles, which says “I come to the garden alone … And He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own, and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”  Perhaps the key to being in solitude rather than lonely is to talk to God and keep Him in the conversation.  He wants us to get to know him.  He wants communion with us!

For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone. Audrey Hepburn

The Meat Market Effect

Upon looking at a list of the members of my church family a few months ago I was very surprised to notice the large number of single people, mostly women.  I guess I hadn’t really thought about the single people who, unlike me, have been married before and for various reasons are now single.

I began to wonder how many other people in today’s church communities are unaware of the number of single members in their churches.

Remember, however, that there is nothing new under the sun (Eccles 1:9b)…  In Acts 6:1 we see complaints to the disciples because “their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.” (NIV)  The only single women we really hear about in the Bible are unmarried daughters and widows–the daughters lived under the protection of their family but the widows lived on the compassion of their community.  So to be sure that each person’s needs were met, the early church looked for those “known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom” to care for them (Acts 6:3).

What can we take away from this?  Our church communities need to firstly recognize that there are singles in the church that need our support.  Secondly, I think we have to be open to the Spirit’s leading about how to go about addressing the needs of this group.  Every church family will likely have a slightly different way of ministering to their unique group of singles, so I’m not going to make any specific suggestions at this point.

I will, however, make a suggestion as to what NOT to do.

In my life I have gone to a grand total of one singles event.  It was not pleasant.  There was no sense of encouragement or support.  It felt quite uncomfortable, like a meat market with live animals milling around to be auctioned for sale.  No, seriously, this is how I felt!

I think, personally, that if you can avoid the meat market effect you will be able to minister more effectively to more people!  A suggestion to avoid this is to have separate mens and womens groups.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t have combined events with all your singles together, but I would encourage the separated groups because single women will get more support and encouragement from single women, and single men from men.  Remember, we will multiply our efforts if we can get the people within the group to minister to eachother.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward  love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another…” Hebrews 10:24, 25.