Category Archives: The Single Bride

Wrestling with God

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Thursday Night: Blog post titled “Looking for a Fight“. Nuff said.

Friday Night: I don’t feel like reading my Bible. I don’t really feel like praying. God, I’m just kind of sick of thinking about You, right now. I’m tired. I’m stressed. I want a break. I am usually more alert at night than I am in the morning, so I do my devotions just before bed. I skipped them that night.

 Sunday Morning: I spent Saturday night at my parent’s house [warmed the bed in my old room which is now very different, but still somewhat familiar] and awakened Sunday morning to the bustle of my family members as they prepared for church. Yawn. At home, with no one but my cat to wake me, I often sleep through the morning church service. With no excuse, I rise out of bed and wind up at church only slightly late (as opposed to the 30-45 minutes I usually come in late to my own church if I get up at all).

 

So I stroll into my parents’ church, and after the worship service comes to a close the pastor approaches the front and the powerpoint displays the following passage:

Genesis 32:24-32

“Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him.

Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.’

But he said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’

So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’

And he said, ‘Jacob.’

He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.’

Then Jacob asked him and said, ‘Please tell me your name.’

But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’

And he blessed him there.

So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, ‘I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.’

Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew of the hip.”

 

Pastor’s point? God invites us to wrestle. He’s not afraid to fight. He wants us to get close to Him. You must get close to wrestle.

 

 

 

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Reflections: Love, Respect, and Sex

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http://www.cbn.com/700club/features/voiceofhope/

Okay, I skipped a few weeks on responding to these 700 club episodes. I’ll admit, it is no coincidence that I procrastinated on this specific episode. For one thing, I’ve written a lot about sex recently. I kind of wanted a break. Bur another reason I avoided this one is because I’m simply not sure how to respond.

I agree with parts of the teacher’s philosophy. I’m not so sure about other parts. I agree that sex within marriage is God’s plan and that it is absolutely the best way to go. I don’t suggest sex outside of marriage. However, his words leave me wondering how a couple will readily embrace the sexual union inside of marriage after training themselves to stay so far away from it.

That is always my issue when I look at the church’s approach to sex. I feel like this “Bad, bad, bad, stay away!” approach immediately followed by “You’re married now! Everything goes!” is just a disaster waiting to happen. I’m not necessarily sure what else to suggest, however.

Purity isn’t the part I struggle with. Single purity that leads into married purity is the issue I struggle with – if that makes sense. I think the sky high divorce rates within the church are a decent indication that whatever the church is teaching about sex and marriage right now isn’t very effective. I still feel as if the church uses the words “lust” and “attraction” synonymously. And I don’t think they should be interchangeable. I believe there is an important line that separates the two. I’m just not sure if I could point out that line.

Your thoughts?

Yoke or Burn

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Okay – I don’t talk about sex on this blog very often… or in great detail. Mainly because I find it awkward to write about the subject. But it is important.

DISCLAIMER: Do not take this post as personal dating advice. I am not offering advice. I am simply bringing up a point – a point which may be slightly controversial in the modern church community.

Mr. UnpaidTherapist called me into his office this week.

“Sarah,” he said. “I know that you already know this. But I feel the need to tell you again. Do not marry someone who isn’t Christian…”

He continued by describing the failing marriage of a couple he counsels. Wife is Christian. Hubby’s not. Marriage is falling to pieces. He then listed three women we both know who struggle in marriages with non-Christian men. He doesn’t want to see me face the same trials.

I listened to his lecture and chose not to respond. I’m not terribly comfortable sharing what I am going to post on this blog with a 45 year-old man at work. Nope.

But I’ve really been pondering this whole dating/marrying non-Christians topic lately. The entire basis for this advice against marrying someone with no faith or a different faith is that verse in 2 Corinthians, chapter 6. Verse 14 declares, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?”

Now before anyone who doesn’t follow the Bible gets offended, let me explain that this is not saying that Christians should cut off all contact with people who do not agree with us. I’m pretty sure Jesus Christ’s entire lifestyle would argue that concept. He hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors [who were infamous for cheating people].

“Yoked” essentially means joined, united, or brought together to accomplish a specific task or purpose. A yoke pulls two animals together to push a plow. Harnessed together, they create a more powerful force.

Okay, so when Christians quote this verse, they often continue to the “joining” of a married couple. They say that a believer and unbeliever should not be unequally yoked. Mr. UnpaidTherapist did not quote the verse. But this is the sentiment he was getting at. Believers and unbelievers should not unite in marriage… it will only cause problems…

Here’s my problem: If you read that verse in context, Paul was not writing to the Corinthians about marriage. Instead, he was discussing teachers. He was telling them not to become involved with false prophets and idols. Not once in this chapter does he mention marriage or anything closely related to marriage. If Paul intended to advise believers not to marry unbelievers, why didn’t he bring it up in one of the chapters that actually talked about marriage?

On the other hand, in passages like 1 Corinthians 7, where it would make a lot of sense for Paul to give advice about whether or not Christians should marry non-Christians, Paul gives no such command. Instead verses 12-16 indicate that an unbeliever who remains in such a relationship is sanctified by his or her believing spouse and that their children are made holy rather than unclean. As a whole, I do not believe Paul encourages believers to unite with unbelievers, but I do not see where he actually says it is wrong.

Apparently I like to go backwards… so if we jump back in Chapter 7 to verse 9 we see the reference I made in a different post recently. “But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am, but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

Glance over 1 Corinthians and you will quickly realize that Paul warns these people up and down to flee from sexual immorality because it is so detrimental to their bodies and their spiritual health. Over and over again he tells them to avoid it. If you can’t keep it in your pants, get married!

If you will notice, he did not say that if you are struggling to control your sexual appetite you should wait until you find the godliest person alive and then get married. He did not say that you should only get married to someone who will accentuate and empower your ministry. He did not even say you should at least hold out for someone of the same faith. All Paul said was that if you really want to have sex you should get married. Period.

If a believer marries an unbeliever, they will naturally disagree at times. And yet, every married couple disagrees about some things. Mr. UnpaidTherapist is right, I’m sure, about the trials that come with these types of marriages. However, my question is this: Are those potential trials easier or harder to face than the desire for sex while I am still single?

The church community teaches that Christians should not date or marry non-Christians as a general rule. However, the church community also has a sucky divorce rate and a lot of extramarital sex scandals. I don’t buy this sentiment that all non-Christian men are skunks (and yes, that sentiment is rampant in the church realm). I also don’t buy the idea that all Christian men will make good husbands (don’t even get me started on that one…).

If we place two scenarios side by side, which one wins?

Scenario 1 shows a girl who is holding out for the right Christian man to come sweep her off her feet. This guy is hard to find. Therefore she remains single until she is about 36. Needless to say, a typical woman in her twenties and thirties has some significant sexual hunger. These are her most fertile years; she was created to desire sex. Although she waited to marry until she found Mr. Right at age 36, she was sexually active on a number of occasions prior. From ages 18 to 35 she slept with 9 different men. Each sexual encounter left a mark.

Scenario 2 displays a young lady who married her high school sweetheart at age 19. Although she was always a church-girl, he never showed much interest in the things of God. He gets irritated at how she “lives” at the church and how she always wants to give away their money to those dumb missionaries. But he loves her and he is loyal. They have their struggles, but he would never dream of leaving her. He is her one and only and she has made a choice never to leave him either.

Well? Who appears to be better off? I’m not telling anyone to lower their standards. I’m not advising anyone to marry the next jerk that asks them out just because they’re feeling kind of horny. But I raise the question: Is being “unequally yoked” in marriage really such a big deal? Is the common advice of “wait for Mr. Right – no matter how long it takes” really such a good idea in this sexually charged world? Is this ever-popular Bible lesson about believers only marrying believers actually biblical? What do you think?

How About A Hug?

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She called my name. I turned toward her and smiled. Then I walked across the aisle and leaned into a hug. She completed the embrace. I began to straighten and pull away. She did not let go.

Panic. Why is she still holding me? Why hasn’t she let me go? How do I get away? I have to get away! I have to get away now!

She released. I’m away. What was that?

It was an elderly lady who went to my church. She’s about the size of my left leg – but not as strong. I hope you are getting a clear idea of how terribly threatening this woman could be to me. That specific panic attack awakened me to another of my fears. I am afraid of hugs.

I despise that sentence. It sounds so weak and pathetic. But it’s true. I mentioned in a previous post that I would be talking about fear. The fear of touch is on today’s agenda.

That day marked the beginning of some intense self-psychoanalysis. From then on I paid closer attention to situations that make me uncomfortable due to physical touch, experiences I avoid because physical touch would be necessary, and the people I seem to react most vehemently to in physical situations.

What have I discovered? I seem to react mainly when I sense a lack of control.

I was comfortable hugging that woman until she acted outside of my expectations. When she did not respond to my sense of control (the moment I pulled away), she caused me to feel endangered.

I have no problems with children or pets. In all reality, I am an extremely cuddly and affectionate person. Although children may climb into my lap (which is also outside my expectations) and animals may rub against me without any warning, I never panic. Although I cannot really figure out how an old lady from church posed a threat, I can understand why a child or a puppy never has. I feel no hesitation whatsoever when I am aware of a child or a pet touching me.

I am more comfortable hugging black men than white men. The only thing I seem to be able to connect this phenomenon with is a discussion I had with a black friend during high school. We seemed to attract toward men of different nationalities than our own. During one particularly deep conversation, she admitted that she generally felt safer around white men than black men and I admitted that the opposite was true for me. We ultimately concluded that this probably had something to do with the fact that she was abused by black men as a child and I was abused by a white man as a child. We automatically felt less comfortable around men who resembled those who had mistreated us.

Although the last few paragraphs explain some of my behavior, I haven’t completely figured myself out. As I learn more about myself, I am able to work through irrational fears. I am now more attentive to my “control factor”. When I feel like the situation is beyond my control I am usually able to wait out my feeling of discomfort. I no longer panic. I am also less prejudiced around white men than I used to be. I have retrained myself to recognize that every nationality is made up of people who are good and people who are bad, people who can be trusted and people who cannot be trusted.

Unfortunately, there are a few things I still cannot figure out. This weekend my fear of touch reared its ugly head twice.

Scenario #1 (Saturday)

My friend and I spent half the day talking with this man. Quick description: smart, kind, handsome, hygienic, and he seems like a really good father to his adorable daughter. (I can say all this because apparently my interest in him is abundantly clear to the rest of the world already… I’m really not sure how it became such a big deal to so many people… C’est la vie.)  All of that is said to emphasize the fact that this man is NOT in any way a creeper. There is nothing about him that would cause me to feel physically repulsed by him. There is nothing about him that would cause me to feel unsafe. Nothing to make me feel like I cannot trust him. There is absolutely no reason I should logically fear hugging this man.

And yet, when my friend (who is very much a hugger) went in for a hug goodbye, I bolted toward the door. I did not want to hug him.

Scenario #2 (Sunday)

I met a group of friends at the park. After hanging out for a while, I was the first to leave and one of my male friends hurried over to give me a hug goodbye. I accepted without hesitation. Then another friend came over and stretched out his arms. I wanted to tell him, “No”, and walk away. Much like the guy from the day before, there is no reason I should be afraid of this man. He is not a pervert. There is no rational cause for my fear. I wasn’t angry at him or offended by him. For some unknown reason, I am more comfortable accepting hugs from the other guy who came to me immediately prior. I can’t really figure it out.

 

Both scenarios ended in hugs. Both hugs were fine. Both situations leave me wondering, “What on earth is wrong with me? And when will it change?”

 

I have a friend who struggles with this same issue, but to a higher degree. He was severely abused as a young child. He trembles when a person holds him. He told his girlfriend that when he begins to shake, she must continue to hold him. It is the only way he can train his body to recognize that her touch is safe. He and I both rest in the belief that Jesus Christ can and will heal us. But it may take time.

Alas, I will end this post on a brighter note. In my efforts to find a scientific name for this particular fear (Aphenphosmphobia: the fear of touch – this was the closest I came), I stumbled across another blogger’s post. Everybody wants to know that there is someone else out there with issues just as bad as her own (or better yet, worse than her own).  http://thegloss.com/sex-and-dating/fear-of-intimacy-a-hug-is-not-a-hello/#comments

I found her post humorous. I hope you do too.

[PS. I want a shout-out from everyone of his/her most awkward hug memory. I’ll start in the comments… hopefully SOMEBODY else has a memory to add…]

As God Intended

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I introduced the subject with “Pants”. But have you ever thought about whether or not God intended singleness? I believe that some of God’s original intentions are still applicable today. I believe that modern marriage should take place between one man and one woman, as God originally intended. Other intentions, I obviously don’t believe are applicable today – see my previous post.

However, there are so many things that God never made clear specifications about in his Word. A question I would like to pose:

Did God originally intend for any person to

 be single for an entire lifetime?

 It’s not a question I came up with by myself. I was reading a book about singleness written in the 1970’s and the author voiced this question herself. When God stated that Adam needed a suitable helpmate, did he not imply that all men needed such helpmates?

In a world without sin or death, a widow or a widower would not exist. Divorce would be incomprehensible. Without sin – without lying, cheating, selfish ambition, backstabbing, harsh words, and vicious attacks – why would a couple want to divorce?

On the other hand, pure logistics might have led to singleness for some. Would God have created men and women in equal numbers? Or would there have been some happy, healthy singles floating about? Would they have even desired mates?

It’s just an idea to ponder. How could we ever know for sure what God truly intended?

Valentine’s Day …

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Dewey is on the left and Duffy is on the right.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. This day is all about romance, all about love – dedicated to sappy couples. To us singles, it is often just a brutal reminder of how alone we really are. We can’t ignore it because every time we walk into a store we see big red displays; hearts plaster the walls and flowers bud in every aisle  The advertisements may start as early as the first week of January, leaving us to hope, dream, and be disappointed for over a month. To make matters worse we can’t overlook all the excitement on the actual day. Bouquets sent to coworkers and friends’ gleeful cries over what their sweethearts’ gave them forbid us the peace forgetfulness offers.

I have to admit, I have shed some tears on Valentine’s Day. My very first heartbreak occurred at a school Valentine’s Dance. But Valentine’s Day doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it used to.

It started in high school. Two of my male friends had crushes on me. They’d been pursuing me for weeks. Valentine’s Day was just around the corner. I was terrified that these boys would get me Valentines and expect me to respond romantically. They were my friends and I did not want to hurt them. But they were my friends and I also did not want to date them. I dreaded the awkwardness that awaited me should one of them give me a gift and ask me out.

On the other hand, most of my peers were dating and I knew they’d be getting gifts. And I knew that I would hear them gloat over their wonderful relationships and then I would long for someone to give me a beautiful gift. I would yearn to feel special, feel loved. So I prayed.

I didn’t know what to ask for. I understood that asking for a Valentine, just to make me feel good, was selfish. I also realized that if I told God I didn’t want any Valentines I would be lying. If I didn’t get any Valentine I would probably wallow in self-pity, because that was the mood I was working myself up toward, and that self-pity had the great potential to turn into anger at God over my loneliness.

So I decided to spill my guts to God and tell him exactly how I was feeling. I didn’t know what I wanted, but I wanted something. After pausing and contemplating, babbling and stuttering, it came out kind of like, “Dear Lord, it would be awfully nice if someone who didn’t like me at all gave me a Valentine.”

Along came the big day. I went to school. Not a single gift. Thank you, Lord, those guys didn’t buy me anything. I went home mostly satisfied with the way things had turned out. I didn’t have to face any awkward conversations or accept anything I didn’t want. But I have to admit underneath all the positive feelings, I still carried a little disappointment.

Then I got a phone call. My next door neighbor asked me to come over. She was an elderly lady whom I talked with almost every day and had practically adopted as my grandmother. I walked over to her house and to my delight she held a great big pink dog with a huge heart attached to his collar. He was absolutely adorable and as soft as could be. Best of all, he was for me.

I knew that dog, Duffy I named him, wasn’t just from my next-door neighbor. God looked down at me that Valentine’s Day and decided to remind me that He loves me. If He loves me, what more do I need?

Since that Valentine’s Day I have had a few on which I didn’t receive a thing. But that doesn’t bother me anymore, because I know how much my Jesus loves me. That’s all I need. And for now, I would rather not be getting any Valentines than getting them from men I don’t like. 😉

 

Singleness is Not a Disease

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In today’s society, singleness is viewed as a disease – something to be avoided at all costs. A single woman cannot possibly be happy. Many believe that I am either involved in a secret relationship or that I am lying through my teeth about my satisfaction with life.

It may sound ridiculous, but sometimes I feel as if people are waiting for me to fall apart or wind up pregnant. At times I do feel lonely. At times I long for a relationship. Overall, I am content.

People rarely admit that they view singleness as an illness. However, in keeping with the old cliché, actions speak louder than words. Take a look at a typical conversation I repeated with several men when I first became a bank teller:

I don a friendly smile and greet him, “Hi!  How are you today?”

He grins.  “Good.  How are you?”

“Great,” I reply, and then look to the transaction.

“So you’re new here, right? I don’t remember seeing you before.”

“Yep.  I’m the new girl.  I just started a little while ago.”

He’s still smiling as he inquires, “How old are you?”

I’m not nearly as interested in conversation.  My focus is mainly on the transaction, but I respond politely,  “Eighteen.”

“Are you married?”

My lips straighten significantly. I’m pretty sure I know where this conversation is going. “No.”

“Do you have a boyfriend?” he pries further.

“No.” My smile disappears. His fades.

“Are you gay?” he asks somewhat hesitantly.

“No!”

His beam quickly reappears. I glare.

If the man liked me, he proceeded to hit on me. Some asked about weekends or holidays. Others were less patient and tried to set things up with me after work that very day. Those men never seemed to get the gentle hints that I wasn’t interested. They could not understand why I didn’t want my singleness “cured.”

Other men posed even more questions.

“Why are you single?”

“Do you hate men?”

“Are your standards too high?”

“What’s wrong with the men you know now?”

When they finally ran out of questions, most of which I never did have good answers for, they would plug in advice. The most common tip I received:

“You should get married.”

Thanks. Real helpful.

Or sometimes my single status piqued the interest of women. They also asked lots of questions and offered plenty of advice. But rather than halting there, they pulled out their wallets to display pictures of their sons, nephews, or grandsons. Next, they would boast about these wonderful young men and then clarify which ones were single and closest to my age.

I can’t really blame these meddlers because I know that they mean well.  Their eyes focus on the negative aspects of singleness, diagnosing it as very lonely and painful. Their main motive is to help me. Matchmaking is the only way they know how. They are often unaware of my Savior, who is more than capable of keeping me healthy and strong in the midst of my singleness.

Unfortunately, similar problems exist within the Christian realm. My passion for Christ leads me into several different churches and introduces me to several different Christians. I love meeting other Christians; God places us together to support each other, love each other, care for, encourage, and rejoice with each other.

However, as a young, single, Christian girl, I tend to attract some highly-determined parents. I am often approached with pleasant compliments quickly followed by references to their smart, handsome, Christ-like sons who also “happen to be single.” In response to my polite, but usually uninterested smile, they either continue to gloat over their extraordinary offspring or they begin to interrogate me – which is even worse. Questions about college, career goals, and future plans soon flood my ears.

I try not to be rude. I’m just not enamored by parents pursuing wives for their children. It’s especially irritating when I’m not likely to ever meet these sons. Rather than feeling like a friend or sister in Christ to these well-meaning parents, I feel like prey. I wait helplessly as they poke and prod into my life, all with the intent of snatching me up and bringing me home to their nest of crying hatchlings.

Sometimes I wonder if they believe I’m sick based on the symptoms they see amongst their own children. Although singleness is not a disease in and of itself, many singles are plagued by a different infirmity I call Woe-is-Me Syndrome.

 

Woe-is-me Syndrome is spreading rampantly through the Church today. Singles frequently fall to this ailment, then pass it on to their friends. Though the antidote is easy to come by, many singles refuse to take it. The more of a person’s life this affliction controls, the harder it is for that person to recognize or accept the antidote.

This syndrome destroys by filling a person’s mind with herself. It causes one to focus on her own struggles, her feelings, her life, to the point that she has nothing left to offer anybody else. She dominates conversations by talking about herself and what her life lacks. She glances over the needs of others, completely consumed with her own feelings of inadequacy. Not only does Woe-is-me Syndrome harm the body, but it can be absolutely detrimental to relationships. It must be, for relationships lead to it’s antidote.

This illness exists widely amongst singles due to our vulnerable circumstances. We are more susceptible simply because we have no husbands or children to care for. We may not be forced to focus on anybody but ourselves for weeks at a time. Woe-is-me Syndrome starts with a little case of self-centeredness or a few thoughts beginning with the phrase “if only”. It quickly morphs into a full blown disease boasting symptoms of depression, loneliness, envy, broken friendships, and resentment toward others’ lives and relationships.

How do we fight this dreadful malady? A change in focus destroys this condition. When we put others before ourselves, we send these symptoms packing.

A Saturday night with no plans may leave me feeling disappointed or neglected. Then I decide to write letters to an older lady at my church who lives by herself and rarely gets visitors. Suddenly some free time on a Saturday night provides a wonderful opportunity to develop a new relationship.

How about those days when finances are tight? I look at my married friends and envy their beautiful homes, then sulk that I cannot afford my own. As I head to the coffee shop for my favorite drink, I think of the things I can afford. I can spend a dollar or two on a drink each day with hardly a thought. I may not be able to afford a mortgage each month, but I could give up my coffee each day and use the dollar or two I save to sponsor a child in a different country. My living arrangements don’t seem so bad when I compare my life to those children overseas. Letters back and forth to a child living in different circumstances may greatly alter my sour perspective toward money.

Although singles may be more susceptible to Woe-is-Me Syndrome than our married counterparts, we must remember that our married friends fight other “diseases”. We are not victims. We are not doomed to a lifestyle plagued by this nasty condition. Jesus Christ is our ultimate model of a healthy single person. As we imitate Him, we can pray that others may watch us and also be freed from the bondage of Woe-is-Me Syndrome. We cannot be completely healed without His help. We do not have the willpower to resist those attitudes by our own effort. But with a focus on Christ, any single person can beat Woe-is-Me Syndrome.

Barefoot and Single

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Men are like shoes

 

I don’t mean this to sound shallow. I’m not trying to degrade men. I’m not talking about having a lot of them. I’m not talking about walking all over them. The comparison just seems to fit. Let me explain.

I have never enjoyed wearing shoes. I prefer bare feet. People constantly ask if my feet hurt or if they are cold. I tire of explaining that if I get too uncomfortable, I will put some shoes on.

A girl walks up to me in a gorgeous pair of stilettos. At first glance, I’m kind of jealous. They look so perfect. They’re cute and stylish; they accent her outfit marvelously. She gathers more confidence with each step she takes, from each compliment she hears. I want those shoes. I want that man. He’s a feast for the eyes. He has charm to match. He makes any girl look good. But as I look closer, her feet are slightly red and swollen. When we sit down for dinner she slides those shoes off under the table. I’m suddenly turned off by those shoes. I’m suddenly turned off by that man. All the attention is on him. She lingers in the shadows. He’s completely unaware of her pain, her discomfort. She doesn’t feel like she fits in with these people around her. But he does, and she’s with him.  Therefore, she needs to get over it and stay. The confidence this man or those stilettos bring her is fake. I wiggle my toes freely. I am comfortable with myself. I can leave if I want to. My bare feet may not attract the same kind of attention as those stilettos, but maybe I don’t need it. I’m content.

As I leave dinner I get outside and notice a different girl. She’s never been very popular. Not many boys pursue her. But she wants a boyfriend so badly. She has snatched up the first pair of shoes she could find, settled for the first guy that asked her out.

“Hi, Sarah!” Her smile is radiant. “Look at my shoes! Aren’t they unbelievable?”

I smile hesitantly, trying not to inhale. Her shoes aren’t necessarily bad looking, but they obviously haven’t been taken care of.

“Mhmm… unbelievable.”

Quite simply, these shoes stink! Any recent feelings of loneliness vanish at the thought of dating a man with horrible hygiene. I want a guy who cares about himself enough to stay healthy and clean. If he won’t take care of himself, how can I ever expect him to take care of me? In the hot summer sun, we wave our goodbyes and I go on my way, grateful that my feet are free to wiggle through the cool mud or even just to sweat, and then be hosed down clean afterwards. I could never put up with the stench of those shoes.

Next I meet a girl wearing some really nice shoes. They look clean, comfortable, and stylish. But she’s walking kind of funny. After a moment I realize that her shoes are too small. I watch her over my shoulder as she hobbles along.

“Oomph!”  Another girl runs into me.

“Oh, I’m so sorry. I tripped,” she says, then looks up at me nervously. “My shoes are a size too big. Are you okay?”

I assure her that I will be fine then walk away, curious over what I have just witnessed. Both pairs of shoes represent some really great guys. Unfortunately, these guys don’t complement the girls they are accompanied by. The first girl wants room to grow, adventure, and experiment. She doesn’t have that freedom with her man. He limits her in many ways. She can’t be herself with him. The second girl wants to run, jump, and dance. Her floppy, oversized shoes trip her up and hinder her performance. He is a great guy, and he might even be the right guy. If he is, however, the timing is off. In a few years he may fit her better. By dating him now, before the time is right, she wears him out and loses more interest in him each time he causes her to stumble. Song of Solomon warns us more than once, “Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the does and the gazelles of the field. Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires” (Song of Solomon 2:7, 3:5). This girl may be ruining her own beautiful love story by acting out of impatience.

I stroll into my house, happy that I’m still barefoot. For now I enjoy the freedom to run and dance, grow and adventure. Life isn’t perfect barefoot and single. Some days are lonely. I may walk across hot pavement or sharp rocks. Maybe someday I will find the right pair of shoes to protect my precious toes. But until then, I choose to focus on the feel of green grass and soft sand and to be satisfied exactly as I am.

It’s Called the Blame Game and It’s Easy to Play!

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                Humans have been playing this game since the beginning of time. Adam created the game and every human since has tried to play. The rules are simple. Blame somebody else for whatever you have done and you’ve hopped onto the game board. If the person listening believes you, move ahead one space. In the Garden of Eden, life was good. No need for the Blame Game. Adam and Eve experienced an ideal relationship with God – until the fateful day when Eve got talking to that serpent, the day she and Adam deliberately disobeyed God. After Adam and Eve sinned, God confronted them with a few questions.

Why ask? Doesn’t God know everything? Of course He does! In asking, He gave Adam and Eve a choice. They could either answer truthfully and repent for their blatant sin, or they could try to cover their butts and sin again. As their fig leaves foreshadowed, they would try to cover their butts.

In response to God’s “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” (Genesis 2:11) Adam replies, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I ate.” (Genesis 2:12)

In the Blame Game this appears to be a smart move. Adam blames two individuals in one sentence. First, he blames Eve because she gave him the naughty fruit. But in case that isn’t good enough, he even frames God, by pointing out that He’s the one who brought Eve about. Ignoring the dig aimed toward Himself, God humors Adam for a moment and plays along with the finger pointed toward Eve. Good job, Adam. Move ahead one space on the board.

“And the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’”

Eve follows Adam’s lead and jumps onto the Blame Game board.

“The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’” (Genesis 2:13)

For a minute and a half, Adam and Eve may have believed that God bought into their game. They probably felt a wave of relief pass over them as God addressed the serpent. Then God turned back to the woman. Uh-oh.

As the consequences in verses 16 through 19 would imply, God doesn’t play the Blame Game. He already knows who did what, when. And He won’t even consider the silly notion that our problems are His fault.

I know that God knows better than all of this foolish play. And yet, how many times have I stuck my game piece on the board?

As my eyes remain glued to the sex scene on my TV screen, I remind God that I’m not the one who picked out this movie. It’s my friend’s fault that I’m indulging in lust right now. As I watch my newlywed friends and envy saturates my heart, I tell God that if they weren’t so cuddly all the time I wouldn’t get so jealous. I flaunt myself in front of men, then whine to God over their perverted glances. I find myself tempted by those same men, and pose the question, “God, if I’m not supposed to be with him, why would You plant him in my path?”  Sometimes I sulk in bitterness or glare with hatred. But it’s not because I have a problem – it’s because of the ways I’ve been mistreated, the childhood abuse. Have I won the first round of the game yet?

These thousands of years later, I’m playing the same game Adam and Eve played. It’s a good thing God is patient, right?

Single for Life?

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I laid in bed, weeping. I long to be married one day. But that night I asked, What if I am not supposed to get married? What if God intends for me to be single my whole life? Could I do it? I have never dreamed up a future for myself which did not include a husband. What if God has different plans for me? Am I willing to sacrifice my dreams for God’s plan? I could not escape these thoughts, so I began to pray.

These were not easy questions to ask myself. As I prayed, part of me wanted to give the goody-two-shoes answer and spit out, “Of course I am willing to sacrifice my dreams for Your plan, Lord. Next subject.” But another part of me wondered, “Why would You ask me to give up marriage, Lord? Marriage is not sinful, nor is the desire for it. Why must I choose between my dreams and Your plan? Why can’t they go together?”

Soon, the story of Abraham and Isaac floated into my brain. For the first time in my life I could relate on some level to Abraham during that scene.  I imagine his heart cried out to God, “Why must I give up my son? Did you not promise to fulfill Your covenant with me through Isaac? Why would you ask me to kill him, if that is the plan?” Nonetheless, Abraham acted in obedience.

I gazed up at the ceiling and released my hold on my life, my future, my marriage. “God, if You want me to remain single all of my life, I will do so. I do not want to. But God, I am willing.” Then I cried myself to sleep.

As Abraham and Isaac departed, Genesis 22:5 says, “And Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you’” (emphasis mine). Although the situation appeared bleak, Abraham trusted the Lord to keep His promises. He intended to sacrifice the boy as He had been commanded, but he also believed that the boy would come back with him to fulfill the covenant which God had planned for him. Abraham demonstrated both obedience and trust.

Soon after I made that vow to God I met a man whom I will call Bryan. Bryan liked me and almost immediately began to pursue me. Although relationships tend to intimidate me, I felt remarkably comfortable around this man. I wanted to be with him. Unfortunately, I quickly learned that he was not Christian, which meant our most fundamental beliefs clashed. We talked for several hours the first week we met. By the time the weekend rolled around I already felt extremely attached. After much prayer and contemplation, I realized that I simply could not date Bryan. It would hinder my relationship with God, and my relationship with God was more important.

The next night that I saw Bryan he voiced the question: To date or not to date? Never in my life have I found it so difficult to reject a man. Miraculously, I followed through. I could not commit to a man who didn’t love my Jesus. This was my first real test since my conversation with God about Abraham and Isaac. I had kept my vow.

Although I had made my choice, doubts still plagued my heart. Shortly after this episode, an excerpt from my own journal reads:

I’m lonely. Isolated. Neglected. I want to throw up. Why? Because I have nothing better to do. I can’t feel God. Not tonight. I don’t know why not. Maybe because I’m too wrapped up in the guy I met last week. How do I get rid of the desire for human contact? Where does it come from in the first place?

My cat won’t do tonight. He is soft and cuddly. I love to hold him. But tonight I want to be held. I want to be the small one. I want to be cradled and loved. I want, I want, I want. I know it’s all selfish. But that knowledge is worthless. Because I don’t know how to make those selfish feelings go away.

In Psalm 6 David desperately cries out to God, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled. My soul is greatly troubled; But You, O Lord – how long?… I am weary with my groaning; All night I make my bed swim, I drench my couch with my tears. My eye wastes away because of grief…”

David was deathly ill when he wrote this psalm. Call me overdramatic, but I could relate completely to David’s desperation. There are nights when companionship feels as dear to my heart as life itself. Too many times I have cried myself to sleep over the desire for a man. In a way, this psalm brings me comfort. It reassures me. I’m allowed to go to God when I feel this way. It’s all right if I cast every last bit of despair within me onto His lap. I’m not the only one who feels this deeply. This vulnerable. This helpless. No matter the reason.

Just a few days ago I was thrilled to be single. The thoughts that brought me comfort then, are of no help tonight. My heart shows it’s true colors on nights like these. Will I praise God in the midst of my pain, or will I walk away, overwhelmed by my distress? On paper, the choice looks so simple. Of course I will praise God! He is worthy of my praise no matter what! But my soul cries out, “Where are You, God? I’m lonely!” As I trip on the stones and scuff up my knees along this narrow path toward Heaven, that wider path over yonder looks mighty tempting. After David’s heavenward plea he declares to those around him, “Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity; For the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping. The Lord has heard my supplication; The Lord will receive my prayer.” To start off the next chapter he proclaims, “O Lord my God, in You I put my trust.”

Could David feel God’s presence when he wrote those words? There are moments when I am so enveloped by the presence of the Holy Spirit that I can hardly be bothered by my current struggle. I enjoy the overwhelming sense that He maintains control. I know He hears my every word because I sense His immediate response.

Unfortunately, I can’t sense His presence tonight. Since David never mentions feeling or sensing God in this psalm, I conclude his statements are made in blind faith. He says nothing of God comforting him in this psalm. He makes no references to the Lord’s loving response. Nonetheless, he confidently declares that the Lord has heard him.

Exactly how much do I trust God? Nights like these, painful and lonely, are necessary. How am I to grow in faith without facing a few obstacles? What is faith if I can always feel God in the midst of my suffering? Although I cannot hear His voice, I know that He asks me, “Daughter, do you trust Me?”