One of the things I’ve been thinking about lately is the idea of suffering. This has not been brought on because of personal suffering. I am in a season right now where I don’t feel a lot personal suffering. But I have had many seasons where I have. This was especially true when I was single.
What has brought on these thoughts is that I have friends who have suffered and I’ve seen a lot of confusion in the singleness arena about the idea of suffering. For example there is the idea that celibacy is too great a cross to bear. That it is unfair that we are asking those who are not called to Celibacy for the Kingdom to suffer. The idea that it is unfair to ask those who are unmarried and wish to be or those that are celibate due to the fall of man, to remain celibate is to ask them to suffer unfairly.
I want to offer a few thoughts here about suffering in general and then bring it back to singleness.
You may have seen in the news that a man recently “married” a hologram. Yes you read that right. A hologram. Now before you get all judgmental here please listen to the man. Akihiko Kondo points out that, “I believe that the shape of happiness and love is different for each person.” Does this sound familiar?
I’m not here to bash Kondo today. What I want to do with this post is discuss a couple of things. 1. We are careening off the rails as a culture and 2. What should it look like as the church to stand in the middle of it.
One of the things that I’ve been thinking about lately as I’ve been reading some scripture is idea of choice in the face of different contexts. The particular scripture that started this thought was 1 Peter 2:13-20. Here Peter instructs even servants to submit to their masters. . . even the bad ones.
Now obviously our culture and history has a lot of impact on how we read that. But Peter’s point isn’t that slavery is good. Or that unreasonable masters are ok. The point is that regardless of my circumstances and context, I’m called to act as Christ would. Peter and the early Church Fathers backed this up with their lives. They actually did endure extreme injustice with joy. In reading their writings, and writings about them, you can’t really help but be amazed by it all.
This is true for every area of our lives of course. Our income level, our job, what country and situation we live in. But for the sake of this blog it also relates to singleness, dating and marriage.
When I was in high school and college, one of the things that I battled with constantly was the idea that I wasn’t “good enough”. I battled this in almost every area of my life. I saw myself as decent, but not great at pretty much everything. The things that I did care about (sports for example) I worked my tail off to become great. But I never saw myself as arriving at greatness.
Nowhere was this more true than with the opposite sex. I was constantly in the friend zone with the girls that I liked. I thought I was physically not attractive enough. Later I thought I wasn’t making enough money. The list goes on. One of my go to thoughts was, “I’m just not good enough.”
I’ve shared a lot of things on here about what I’ve seen done wrong in how we talk to/about men – single and married. Let me share about one of the best events I’ve ever been to and why it stood out.
A group held a special event a couple of years ago in a community near me. They hosted a “Father’s Night”. They invited the people from the community to come to the school auditorium to honor some fathers from the community. They first had three very different speakers talk about fatherhood and what it means. Then, get this, they actually honored some fathers with fatherhood awards.
A few months ago I wrote a post about the idea that if you desire marriage and don’t feel called to Celibacy for the Kingdom that you don’t need to be content with your singleness.
In that previous post I shared where I think this idea comes from: 1. People thinking that if you aren’t looking for someone that’s when you find the one (spiritual platitude reasoning) and 2. Well meaning people who are misinterpreting what Paul says in Philippians 4.
I suggested that Paul never tells anyone to be content with their current status, but instead calls them to be content in Jesus regardless of their status. Paul is speaking against anxiousness, desperation and striving; not for laziness, feigning feelings or lack of growth in life.
The overall point was that it’s ok not to be content with where you life is.
But today, what I want to talk about is the other part. If we are discontent with where we are, perhaps single and wanting marriage, how do we be content in Jesus. How do we not be anxious, desperate and striving. How do we find joy and peace that surpasses understanding when we don’t like our current status or context.
Have you ever as a single person had an event happen to you where you realized just how on your own you really are? What I mean is, have you had that moment when you realized, what happens if _______ happens to me?
It can be simple things. I remember one weekend when I was leading a singles conference we were talking about advantages and disadvantages of being married vs. being unmarried. One lady gave a practical example of a disadvantage. She said, “if for example my car breaks down. Who do I call? If you’re married, your spouse might be able to say to their boss, ‘My spouse’s car is broken down, would it be alright if I took an hour and went and got them?’. But that probably isn’t going to work for any other relationship.”
Let me give you one that sort of got my attention. I was in my early thirties. Single, no relationship. This particular day I started feeling pain in my abdominal area. I thought, no big deal. A little indigestion. But it got worse. I went to the gas station to get some gas and thought I’d grab a Sprite. I could barely get out of the car as I was so doubled over.
The last couple of posts we have been talking about the difference between attraction and desire and whether or not sexual desire is a sin. To sum up the second question we noted that indeed many of our desires come from a sinful heart and therefore we often desire sinful things. However it what we do with these desires that determine if we sin or not.
So the question is, if I have a sinful desire (as we all do) then what do I do with it? In other words if acting on a sinful desire coming from a sinful place leads to sin – how do I not act on it, and what do I do with it instead.
The first thing that I want to clarify is: what does acting on desire mean?
In my last post I posed the thought that sexual attraction and sexual desire are not the same thing. I believe this it true in general by the way. In other words attraction of any kind is not the same as desire of the same kind.
The question that follows though is this: Is sexual desire for someone other than your heterosexual spouse a sin?
So there’s a new song out by Marshmallow and Anne-Marie (No I had not heard of them either) called Friends. It’s all over pop radio right now. The song and video encapsulate what we call the Friend zone. In fact it is often called the Friend Zone Anthem.
Now I’ve written extensively about the friend zone and avoiding it here at the blog for years. (Some posts are linked below). But I haven’t written on it in a while and I know that there are a lot of people, especially younger guys, who find themselves in these situations.