Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Problem With Christian Mingle

Singleness is not something we do well, we as a society nor as Christians.

People look at us funny, try to fix us up with "nice" people they know, and, internally, pity us. Relationship FOMO is rampant, and gets worse the older you get. 

There is even an entire dating site dedicated to find matches for Christians, Christian Mingle. Their slogan Find God's match for you makes people feel as if A) there is definitely a match out there for you and worst, B) that you must find a match for yourself.

What about if there isn't a match for you? Is that necessarily the worst thing in the world? Must you be matched, even if you yourself don't feel the need to be matched but rather feel the pressure to be matched?

We start to believe the lie that, because we don't have a significant other, something is wrong with us. Deep down inside we feel, whether we want to admit it or not, unnatural

We even carry our insecurities about singleness into our faith. We misquote Genesis 2 saying "God says it isn't good for us to be single." when in fact the Bible says in Genesis 2:18 "It's not good for man to be alone." 

Notice the difference. Single. Alone.

More often than not, in most things Christian concerned, we do them wrong because  we view them wrong. We bring our tithe (and with it, our entitlement) instead of the tithe (and with it, our gratitude). We say we have to do ( fill in the black with Christian activity) instead of we get to (fill in the black with Christian activity ). 

We do it wrong because we view it wrong. 

The same is especially true for singleness. Instead of viewing singleness as a season for an undivided heart towards God and personal growth, we view it as if it were some curse, that God had forsaken us because we didn't have a date on valentines day or someone to kiss under the mistletoe at Christmas. 

We treat singleness as a sickness that only another human being can cure. I mean think about it, as soon as people find out you're single, they instantly want to hook you up with someone, a cousin, friend, someone they work with, ANYONE just so you don't have to be single. 

But what does the Bible, the guide upon which we base our faith and life, have to say about singleness? While scripture doesn't possess any language to discuss the modern notions of singleness, dating, and the like (after all, the concepts of dating in comparison to the ancient practices within the scriptures are relatively new) there are places where we can infer certain principles to apply to our lives.

One of those places is back in our original Genesis 2 discussion. 

Picture this with me:
You're is paradise. Literally, paradise. There are trees of every color and shape. Plants are thriving all around you. The weather is an eternal blue sky, temperature fluctuating between 65 and 85 degrees. While you still have to work in this paradise, the ground and vine and tree seem to willingly offer you jewels of nourishing and very delicious fruit. While living in this lush paradise, there is no need to worry about predators for all of the animals here are vegetarians submit themselves to your authority and care. You have all that you want and everything you could ever need. Most importantly, you have the unfiltered, uninhibited presence of God. He comes to walk with you, talk with you, teach you and shower you with His all encompassing love.

It is in THAT context that Adam, the first person, lived. And it is in that context that God said "It is not good for man (or human kind) to be alone." God himself is intrinsically social, being one part of the Trinity (hence the language in Genesis 1 "Let US make man in OUR image.") 

But note, the bringing about of Eve was God's decision, not Adam's. Adam had all he needed and everything he could have wanted. Adam had a purpose, Adam had direction, Adam had a focus. Adam had God beside him, and God was enough for Adam. But God saw that "there wasn't a helper suitable for Adam." (Genesis 2:20b) That's when God made Eve.

What does that show us? It shows us that Adam wasn't focused on a mate, but rather his assignment, his responsibility to care for the garden and spend time with God. 

It was God's decision to create Eve when and how He chose. Song of Solomon 3:5 tells us "I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases." Don't try to fill your singleness with just any person instead of waiting for your person. Don't attempt to fill a spot that God is (at this moment) purposefully leaving vacant. Instead of loping and staring at what you perceive to be the empty place beside you, place your attention on the God above you and the task before you.

On to another story popularly used in the "battle against singleness", the story of Ruth and Boaz. 

People talk about Ruth as though she was some damsel in distress and Boaz came in on his white horse to rescue her. We often forget (or even omit) what Ruth had done before Boaz even came on the scene. Ruth's major strength was in her faithfulness. She was faithful to her mother-in-law, Naomi, even after the death of her own husband, Naomi's son. She remained faithful to Naomi, even when Naomi freed Ruth of her daughter in law duties. She remained faithful to Naomi, even changing her religion to follow Naomi's God (Ruth 1:16). Ruth faithfully followed Naomi back to Bethlehem, and became a gleaner in the fields of Boaz. She did all of this with no certainty of a husband. She simply remained faithful to her duty.

Fast forwarding to the New Testament, Paul had a bit to say about singleness. In 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 (ESV) he says:
"I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord."

Paul should know, he was married before, (he had to have been married in order to have been a Pharisee) but at the time of writing this, whether through death or divorce, Paul was single. Did he lament? Was he scrolling Facebook, bitterly looking at all of his friends who were coupled? No! He was out, working, helping give birth to the church that, even 2000 years later, we appreciate.

So what do we do with all of this?

For those of us who are Singles

1) Make God enough
Stop believing the lie that you are incomplete without a significant other. God made Adam and Eve, not to complete, but to complement each other. They function great when together, but alone they can still operate.

But outside of God, you are incomplete. You will not function to your best ability, you will not have peace, and you will not fill that void (that you may be  trying to fill with a person) unless you fill it with God. Fall deeply in love with God first

2) Find out why you're feeling bad about being single
Why do you want a significant other?

Is there outside pressure? Are your parents telling you that you aren't getting any younger? Are you watching all your friends couple up and get married?

Is there internal pressure? Are you thinking that it's just time to couple up? 
3) Change your focus 
When you focus on being single as a negative, all you will see are the negatives. When you see your singleness as a season where you have an undivided heart towards God and uninhibited attentive devoted to your purpose, you see it as an opportunity rather than a burden.

Matthew 6:33 says "But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you." God already knows you want a significant other, most likely he place that desire into your hear to begin with (Ps 37:4). By seeking Him first, making Him priority

4) Fall in love with you
That's right. Fall in love with you. Not in a boastful, braggadocios way, but in a reverent way to God. Most of the time, those of us who are hurting in our singleness are trying to fill a void within ourselves that only God can. We don't love ourselves, so we look for someone else to love us. 

If you don't love yourself, how can you expect others to love you? How can you even expect to give love that you don't even possess for ourselves?

When David wrote Ps 139:14, "I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your work is wonderful, I know that full well." There is a reverent appreciation for the person God hand crafted. Fall for that person, soberly viewing you're awesomeness and awfulness together, and appreciate the person God is shaping you to become.

For those of us who are Coupled:

1) Make room for your single friend:
Be sensitive. Your single friend is going to try and give you the space to continue to grow in your relationship. Make room for that person in your life. You still need friends, especially a few single ones to keep your social circle balanced. 

2) Stop trying to hook the single person up:
I know your cousin is very nice. I understand that your friend is a cool person. That doesn't mean you should hook him up with me. Please stop treating this season as if I'm in misery. Did you ever consider the fact that I could be content in this season? That my focus has not been and won't be searching for a spouse but rather completing my purpose well and trusting God with leading me to the person I'm supposed to be with? Something to consider.

3) Support the single person:
Don't flaunt your relationship, but be honest about the struggles you're comfortable with sharing. And stop telling your friend "Oh you'll get there one day." as though you have arrived to a place they have not yet attained when you only have just embarked upon a different part of your life with new challenges and new struggles. Be there for your friend.

My prayer for you is that you will find peace and contentment in this season of singleness, that you will combat the lies that try to tell you that you are inadequate, incomplete, and unnatural to be single with the truth that God is sufficient, that He created you with a purpose, and that in Him you are complete. My prayer is that we learn to do singleness, and to do it well.