Sunday, May 16, 2010

Meeting Jesus at the Singles Bar



A few weeks back Pastor Scott asked me if I would be willing to be on a "Single's Panel" and speak at Living Waters for this next Sunday. I said "OK," and know I have to think about the questions I will be asked. They are the following:

#1. What does the church need to understand about being single?

#2. How has God met you in your singleness?

#3. How has God called or equipped you for being single and for serving Him as a single?

I should probably start off by saying that I never planned on being single. Back in High School I thought for sure that I would have been married with kids by now, but it didn't work out that way. To be honest, the way my life has been the last 15 years, it's a good thing I'm single. Some of the stuff I had to go through would have been devastating for a family. And that certainly would not have been fair to them. Also, now that my teaching career is stalled, the financial stability that I feel is very important to a family is pretty minimal.

In 1st Corinthians, chapter 7, Paul goes on in detail about married and unmarried folks, and their places in the body of Christ. At one point he kind of sums it up like this; "Never the less, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him."

A little earlier, Paul was explaining why it was so handy to be unmarried as a Believer. Essentially, single folks can get a lot more done for the kingdom because they have less obligations & responsibilities than married people. While that's all true, now that I have had time to think about it for a few weeks, I've noticed that there are some downsides to being single...and I ain't talking about the obvious.

So, to the questions:
#1. What does the church need to understand about being single?
Well, my gut reaction is to say that single people are not contagious. It's true that we are often a Third-Wheel when it comes to other couples, but most of us are pretty fun to be around...myself in particular. (I'm so cool that can make water freeze on contact...and funny too.) The point is that you will not become single simply by hanging around with us.

A couple of other things...
* I do actually like to be asked out to lunch after the worship service.
* Yes, I am flattered when someone tries to set me up with their single friends...even if the best I can say about her is along the following lines; "Well, she certainly has a great personality."
* We don't like to sit alone, but are often too embarrassed to ask if we can sit with someone else.
* YES! We do get lonely.
* I could go on, but I won't.

#2. How has God met you in your singleness?
This was a hard one for me. As I have been thinking over all of this for 2 weeks now I have come to realize what a selfish jerk I am. Single people have a lot of time for themselves, so I think it is natural to become rather insular & inward looking. However, it's dawning on me how much time I waste when I could be spending it to get to know God better.

I was reading an intro to a Brennan Manning book called Ruthless Trust. The intro is written by Larry Crab, and he recalls talking to Manning about a retreat that he was going to go on. I guess it was some kind of "Weekend of Silence" thing. Anyway, Crab asks Manning what he expected to get out of such a thing. Manning replies, "Well, I'm not totally sure. But I think that ABBA is just happy that I will show up." (ABBA is the very affectionate term for God. Essentially it means "Daddy" in Hebrew.)

I should have more of a mindset like that. Seriously, I have more so-called "Free Time" than most, but I don't spend it with God. Frankly, my prayer & devotional life sucks. I find myself thinking about Jesus A LOT, but not much in the way of just sitting down and talking with him. Definitely an area for improvement. (For Pete's sake, I have a stack of really great books on Christian spirituality, and I haven't thoroughly dove into any of them since Christmas time.)

I wouldn't & won't do this as a way to earn brownie points with God. It doesn't work like that. I would & will do it out of a desire for a true and loving relationship with Jesus. The God of the Bible is deeply relational at his core, and that is what he wants with people. So...

#3. How has God called or equipped you for being single and for serving Him as a single?
Honestly, there are those "DUH!" moments when you feel the need to smack yourself in the head because of the obvious. Because I have more free time, I HAVE been able to spend a bit more time with others doing this or that. I don't have to rush off to get the kids in bed.

Tonight at work, there was a young man that I ran into that I am very concerned about. In fact, this whole past week God has really had him on my heart because of some of the stuff he is involved in. I had burned him some copies of some sermons & stuff that I really like. I'm trying in my extremely imperfect way to be some type of positive witness to him. Well, it dawned on me that if I was married and had family responsibilities, I probably wouldn't think much about him one way or the other. But I don't, so I can, and I do...gonna be praying a lot for him over the next few weeks.

I need to realize & embrace these opportunities that God puts before me. We have roughly 80 or so years on earth. But then we face eternity. This life is pretty temporal and finite. Eternity tends to be a bit longer than that. I'm still convinced that everything that happens to a Believer here in this world will be recycled & reused in the next in some form. So, single, married, widowed, what ever, ultimately it is still about God and you.


So why me?
See, I know what you're thinking. "Why? Why is this awesome specimen of manhood still single?" OK, so here is some background on me. (Although, this might be kind of a shotgun approach as far as explanations go.)

* I have never been "In Love" before. Yeah, I've had my infatuations, and I've certainly been "In Lust," but I can honestly say that I have never had that kind of deep affection for anyone.

* As a "Guy," I will admit that I am deathly afraid of commitment. Honestly, anytime I start dating someone, I get this feeling in the back of my mind that my freedom is being taken away. It's not an easy thing to shake.

* Back at seminary, I had my personality tested. It turns out that I am a Functional Extrovert. Essentially, this means that at my core I am a very private, introverted person, but that when a situation arises where someone needs to step up, take charge or whatever, it's game time for me. (Maybe it was just a polite way of saying that I'm bi-polar.)

Anyway, that would explain why I can be so outgoing in most situations, but need to recharge my batteries by going on mini, or day long road trips. Honestly, I get all itchy if I can't get out and see the sites by myself for long periods of time. It's funny now that I think about it. I feel very close to God when I do this. It actually feels like he is in the passenger seat from time to time.

* Finally, I had a serious Fall From Grace many years ago...at the hands of people who called themselves "Christians." It sparked a rebellious phase in me that I am still healing from. I would have been a horrible husband & father during that time. So I view it as God sparing me and others from a train wreck.


So, do I want to take the plunge?
* Yeah, while I have come to terms with being single, a part of me would still like to get married someday. The fact is that any woman who would put up with me would be someone that I would adore to my dying day. I could very well be quite a handful.

* On the one hand, I am extremely "Low Maintenance"...I could care less about all the fancy-shmancy stuff. I am a great cook. I actually LIKE yard work. I am a good conversationalist AND a good listener. (Chicks dig that.) Plus, I'm a great kisser...seriously!

I'm also great with kids. (Perhaps because I still am one on many levels) I love teenagers! Seriously, they are just so cluelessly goofy & entertaining. How could anyone not like teens?

* On the other hand, my brain is very complicated & complex. So the inside person would be tough to deal with I think. Plus, it seems that when I AM interested in someone, they have no interest in me what so ever...and visa versa. Also, it seems that when I see a woman that I am attracted to, I immediately insert both feet in my mouth, become racked with self-doubt, sweat profusely and develop a strange desire to pass out.

* In case you are curious about what I look for in a woman...just in case you are interested in applying, ya know. Well, my ideal woman would be a cross between Jessica Alba, Cate Blanchett and an encyclopedia of Biblical & World History. (I hardly think that is too much to ask for.)


In the mean time, this is where I am. Whatever my circumstances, the choice I have is whether or not to use my life to grow closer to Christ and to advance his kingdom, or to stay a selfish jerk. Struggling with my sinful nature sucks, because the time that I do spend with Jesus feels really good.


Well, anyway, thinking about my weird mind, the things that run around inside of it (I'm REALLY good at over-thinking things), and some of my mistakes from the past caused me to recall an old song I liked. Like I stated before, if I ever do find a woman who is willing to put up with me, I will treat her like a deity. And this would be the song I would sing to her...



Peace

Joe

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