You Are Single For A Reason – But Probably Not The One You Think

In my 20 plus years of being single I’ve heard a lot of reasons for singleness.  Some of it was attempted pastoring or self righteousness, but most times it was attempted encouragement which I learned to appreciate because I knew people loved me.

As I’ve said almost ad nauseum here we in the Christian single culture have basically settled for spiritual platitudes that don’t really deal with the issue at hand – either individually or as a whole society.

One of those is the idea that God has you single right now. This is of course often followed by other platitudes such as “God has you single right now for a reason”, or “Since God has you single right now, take advantage of that”. Or “God has you single right now so be content in that”.

One of the big problems we have in protestant culture when it comes to singleness is a complete lack of understanding of what Paul is talking about when it comes to the unmarried.  It kills us because we keep bringing “the word” to the situation without even understanding what we are saying.  We mix and match scriptures in an attempt to make the current singleness culture fit into our favorite theological leanings.  It ends up being “help us sleep at night theology” that frankly doesn’t help many people live well single or get married.

Now before I say more and make some people really uncomfortable, let me say this clearly for the record – God may indeed want you to be single right now.  No doubt He calls us to all sorts of different things in all sorts of different seasons.  So I’m not negating that possibility in someone’s personal life.

But it is a terrible blanket answer to singleness.  It would mean that God has suddenly in the last 40 years of history decided that people shouldn’t get married until 30 or older.  Or I guess it could mean that for thousands of years people disobeyed God by getting married earlier.  I’m not comfortable with either of those answers.

First off, the bible never talks about singleness as we know it.  It just doesn’t.  In the oft referred to passage in 1 Corinthians 7 Paul is answering questions the Corinthians had asked about marriage and sexual immorality.  There was mass confusion and he was attempting to clear some things up.

Paul says a lot of things here but when it comes to the “gift” of being unmarried, Paul is NOT talking about a call to a season of singleness.  He is instead talking about a call to (or gift of) celibacy.  He is saying that some are called to serve God from an unmarried state. He is not saying you have the gift of singleness until you get married.  He is saying if you have it, don’t get married.  That is a HUGE distinction.  

What we’ve done is taken this and turned it into a way to avoid dealing with why we are single.  Or we take other things Paul says in other places and transpose it into this passage.  For example in Philippians 4 Paul says he has learned to be content in all circumstances.  We transpose that to mean, “God has called you to singleness right now and you should be content in that.”  But that isn’t what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7.  He says if you aren’t content (read called, or gifted) in celibacy – Go Get Married!

This is so critical.  Paul is not saying if you are unmarried that you don’t have to worry about the things of marriage.  It would be more accurate to say that one of the ways to see if you are called to celibacy is to ask if you are worried about it.  Otherwise he would be saying that celibate people are better followers of Jesus than married people.  If that were true then no one should get married.

My biggest problem with this is that we end up saying to people, if you are single right now that is where God has you and you should just sit there and be content in it.  That is not what Paul says.

There are lots of reasons our society is where it is in terms of marriage.  Most of it is not God’s plan.

God is not calling you to be insecure around women you like.  He has not given you the “gift” of lack of commitment.  He has not called you to live with someone you are dating instead of marrying them.  He is not calling you to consumer date.  He is not promising you that if you are called to marriage that it will magically happen without your effort.  He has not “gifted” you with the fear of divorce.  He has not given you the “gift” of extended adolescence.  I could go on and on.

We as singles need to quit hiding from our crap in bad theology and the Church needs to get off it’s butt and quit enabling us to do it.  The Church should be the safest place to deal with all of the reasons why we are single, not just the ones that make a nice sermon.

You are single for a reason – lots of reasons actually.  Some of that may be God’s timing or calling.  But a whole heck of a lot of it isn’t.  The way out isn’t mixing and matching scripture to feel better.

How The Church Is Helping Kill Marriage

When I was right out of college I attended a conference with several people I looked up to and their spouses.  They did an incredible job of including me which was a real blessing as we went to meetings and theme parks.  One vivid memory was hanging out with a couple of the guys in the hot tub at the resort when all of a sudden one guy said, “Hey Justin, sorry bro, but I’m gonna go have some sex with my wife.”  To which I said, “No apology needed, go now!”  We both laughed.

It was one of my first times being around a bunch of married Christian people and it was inspiring.  We joked with the guys about how every one of them had married up (which was for sure true!).  I saw how they were a team and yet each couple was completely different in how that looked day to day.  It was awesome.  And it made me want to be married.

We need more of this, and a lot less of what the Church has fallen into over the last 20 years.

God bless the Christian culture in this country but man we tend to overreact.  We have been reacting to decline of the family for some time now.  But in a attempt to save marriage, we are actually often adding to it’s demise.

We somehow believe that if we can make every marriage a good one from the beginning, then all will be well.  But, in a culture that is already hesitant to get married, we have often made them more hesitant.

For starters we have attempted to kill the marriage idol. This is the idea that if I get married then everything will be ok.  It is centered on romance and getting my needs met.  It puts unrealistic expectations on the marriage.  So we tell people how marriage is not about romance.  We spend an inordinate amount of time from the pulpit and in books talking about how hard marriage is.

While this is true, it needs to be balanced out. Where’s the joy?  Where’s the fun?  What if pastors stood up in the pulpit and said, “Sex with my wife is awesome!”  If the Church is so concerned that everyone get married, we should quit accidentally talking everyone out of it.

The second thing we’ve done is create an impossible standard for getting married.  We lift up Ephesians 5 and of course the Proverbs 31 woman. Holy smokes!  Who lives this out perfectly?  Can you even be an Ephesians 5 guy if you aren’t married?  We basically have said, “Whatever you do, don’t settle.  You’re looking for a strong, spiritual person, equally yoked to you, who has it all together and is a perfect grown up.  Don’t settle!”

Along with this is the idea that it used to be easier to find this.  Really?!  COME ON!  Let’s talk about Biblical marriage.  You married who your parents picked for you – if you were lucky.  You had to stay in your caste.  They didn’t typically do a spiritual maturity test first. What a joke.  Have these people read the Bible?

In the “religious right” church there is even this idea that somehow there is a previous magical time where everyone in America was a Jesus follower.  Although I’m not quite sure, I think this is the supposed to be the 1950’s.  Just because everyone went to church and didn’t get divorced doesn’t make it “right”.  The revisionist history needs to end.

Finally, we have completely over spiritualized the entire thing.  If I’m single it means that I just need to be patient and do right because God has a plan.  He will “bring me someone when the time is right.”  Keep praying.  Keep waiting on God.  This sort of “help you sleep at night theology” is killing us.  It makes God the “Great Withholder” and leaves us waiting for our Christian Soulmate that isn’t coming.

Now obviously I’m not suggesting we soft sell marriage or tell people to just go out and marry whoever.  But if we are going to help the next generation we need to stop trying to scare people away from the wrong marriage.  They are already terrified.  They already know marriage is hard – they need to know it is good.  They need to know about the joy of true oneness, the benefits of being in it with someone.  They need to be told about the intimacy available with being with one person for a lifetime more than they need to know about the cost of a one night stand.  They need to be invited to something more awesome. They need to know that they need to pursue it, not just wait on it.

Most of all, they need to see it because most of them haven’t.  We need to give them hope of what it can be, not just tell them what it isn’t.

Singleness And The Church Of Don’t

Several years ago our lead pastor gave a sermon on singleness.  I laugh as I type that because we have a church that has a high percentage of singles and yet even we have had only one sermon in the last seven years directly aimed at this question.

He actually did a really good job but then he did something that hacked off a lot of people. He basically said that some of the reason people are single is that they are awkward and don’t know how to approach another person.  The thing is that he is absolutely right.  But the bad thing was – that was the extent of what he offered to do about it.

There is a major problem within the Church in this arena (and when I say Church, I mean as a whole – local churches, the body as a whole, christian books – all of it).  It can identify all the problems and can tell us what not to do, but they offer nothing to help you actually do it.

The Church is great at telling us what marriage is and how to have a good marriage, although they can oversell the toughness of it (future blog).  They have seen that marriage needs help and have responded.

They are also great at telling us what to do and not do once we are dating.  Our church actually has a position paper on dating.  But the problem is they don’t have one on singleness itself (being called to celibacy and how that relates to everything else) and they don’t offer anything about how to actually get a date to begin with.

Here’s what you can learn (right or wrong) about singleness from the Church.

  • Who to date and who not to
  • How long to date
  • What not to do – i.e. Don’t have sex
  • What marriage is and that it should be the goal
  • How to not marry people you shouldn’t

Do you notice a trend?  The Church seems mostly concerned with controlling how we date when/if we do.  I’m not saying this is the heart of the people, but to me it has often seemed like they are more worried about whether or not I have sex or date a non-believer than about whether or not I’m called to celibacy or marriage, let alone how to pursue either one.

Here’s what I’ve learned from the Church in the last twenty years about celibacy.  Ready? Nothing.  Here’s what I’ve learned about creating attraction and actually getting a date. Same thing – Nothing.

Mostly what they have offered is spiritual platitudes like, “God will bring you someone” or “In His time God will provide the “right” person”, “Wait for the right one” and on an on.  But they have offered basically no plan for how to engage that.

Now some people would say (and I would have said this in the past) that it’s not the Church’s job to play matchmaker or to help people get married.  But now I disagree.

If you are going to try to tell me who to date and how to “behave” then give me the plan to get there.  If it is your job and your business to keep me from having sex and to have me “marry right” then by all means tell me the plan.

Here’s a great example.  In the 90’s there were all these books about Biblical dating. Ignoring the fact that there is no Biblical dating plan, even if there was one, what was the plan to get the date.  If for example you as a church are going to say that your people should use “courting” instead of dating, then you’d better have a plan to help people do that.  Create a community of people that live that way, that can help others actually do it.

If the Church is so bent on everyone being married, then come up with some ways to help people achieve that. Don’t just give us a list of specific don’ts and then offer up random theological platitudes for the do’s.

It’s a double standard and the worst part about it is that it drives good single people away from the church.  We get tired of being told what we should have and can’t do without any sort of plan of what we can do.

What do we do with our need for physical intimacy? Why can’t I get a date?  How do I gain confidence with the opposite sex?  Why am I afraid of commitment?  Where can I lead?  How do I know if I’m just supposed to stay unmarried?  What’s the plan?

If it is the Church’s job to control what singles don’t do, give us some things to do.  And here’s the thing about it – that will actually preach and most of it will cross over for married audiences as well.

What is your church’s message to singles?

The Church’s Family Idol And Singleness

Here’s the truth about our culture right now. Close to 50% of marriages will end in divorce. Stats show that nearly one third of first marriages will end in divorce within the first 10 years.  When you add in out of wedlock births, close to 60% of kids in high school don’t live in their “nuclear family”.

The Church has seen this and tried to respond. . . mostly by talking about marriage and family.  But as an unintended consequence we have sometimes made family an idol. And for all of this attention to family, we are not winning.

We have this idea that if we do enough teaching on marriage and family that everything will turn around.  We have hundreds of books.  We hold seminars and conferences.  We have Focus on the Family, we have churches named the Family Church.  We have outreach to families.  We say, “We are going to be doing a sermon series on marriage so invite your neighbor.”

We’ve created this idea of the Biblical family.  This is a little crazy when you consider that there probably isn’t one marriage in the Bible that you would want to emulate.

Now to be sure there are great principles in the Bible for marriage.  But really they are mostly the same principles for all of life.  How do you love another person?  If you’re married, that should be the number one example of that. It’s your number one covenant relationship.

But the Bible isn’t about family. It’s about God and us, mainly God actually.  Jesus says unless you hate your wife and children, you can’t follow me.  How do we reconcile that with how we teach all this stuff?  Jesus is obviously not saying to hate anyone.  He is however saying that He comes first – and that is true regardless of marital status.  So the real question is regardless of my context how do I follow Jesus?  Seems to me we ought to talk to the other half of the peoples’ context.

Now before you rip me, let me say that I’m not against any of this.  I think it is vital the Church talk about these things.  I know that I have been impacted, even as a single, by these teachings.  I’m for it and I’ve encouraged us as singles to learn from it for a variety of reasons.  I’ve seen marriages and families be saved by it.  But this focus on the family will not turn the tide because singles aren’t there to listen to it.

Married people already go to church.  Most of the people that don’t go to church are not married.  According to Barna 37% of them have never been married at all.

What used to happen is the Church would lose the young 20 somethings and then when they got married they would come back.  The problem is that now they are not getting married.  Only 20% of those 18-29 have ever been married.  That means that we are losing the late 20 somethings.  It means that the neighbor you are supposed to invite to the marriage sermon series – they are single.

We can’t just say let’s save marriages because if we’re not careful, there won’t be any marriages to save.  We need a theology of singleness to go with our theology of marriage.  We need to offer some practical help for single people.  We can’t just say get married and then we will help you.  We need to help people figure out if they are called to celibacy or marriage and then help them do it.

Let me give you an example from my own church (which I love).  At my church we have what we call position papers.  These are “brief” papers that say where we stand on certain things.  So for example we have papers on baptism, communion, the end times, etc.

So of course we have a paper on marriage.  We also have one on divorce and remarriage. We have one on Christian sexual ethics.  We even have one on “dating” (we’d be better off with a position paper on how to get a date).  But we do not have one on singleness or celibacy.  And our church at one point was 50% single!  If we don’t have it, who does?

I’m not mad, bitter or whining. That’s not my heart at all.  But, we are losing and this is part of the reason why.  We need to deal with it.

Catch this:  Most of the battle for sexual purity, Godly marriage and family, and even the hot button issues like homosexuality and abortion, cannot be won without a right theology of singleness. People are lost and confused.

You CANNOT change this without a right theology of singleness.  And that theology has to go WAY beyond what not to do on a date.  Until it does it’s going to get worse, not better.

What is your church’s theology of singleness?  What is yours?

The Myth Of The Christian Soulmate

This last weekend my fiancee and I were discussing our attempts to read Christian Fiction. First, what does that even mean exactly?  Fiction written by Christians?  Fiction about Christians? Is it always about white people living in the old west?

At any rate, one of the biggest genre is the Christian Romance Novel.  So I decided to go to my favorite resource for books, Amazon.  Wow!  Ok, here we go.  For starters apparently only Christians can write “religious fiction”.  Anyone else I guess either never writes fiction or they just don’t get a section.  Then we get to the breakdown of different types of “Christian Fiction”.  There are 183 books under Biblical fiction 3700 books under historical fiction and . . . wait for it. . . almost 8000 books under Christian Romance.

Moving past the fact that most of these appear to be about Amish people let’s get to why I’m bringing this up.  The Christian culture has been inundated with a false sense of romantic love.

It’s not really about the books which even most Christians don’t read.  It’s about the fact that we play along with what the world says and just Christianize it.  The world says that I have to have another person to be complete, that there is someone out there for you who is exactly right for you.  We say, God has someone for you.

This reminds me of back when Christian rock was getting started.  Here was the sell.  “Hey man did you hear these guys?  They are just like Metallica man – except Christian.” Really!?

One of the things that drives me the most crazy about all of this is we are never first. Never. Everything we do is a freaking reaction to what we see as “wrong” with culture.  There’s hard rock music, let’s make a Christian version.  There’s romance novels, let’s make a Christian version.  Ahhhhh.  The latest is of course, there’s online dating so let’s make a Christian version.

The truth is we should have thought of most of these first.  But we didn’t.  Worse though, most of the time “our” version isn’t as good, and we end up preaching mostly to the choir. The most effective way to make a difference as a Christian artist – don’t get labeled as one.

But here is my point today.  We have invented what I call the “Myth Of The Christian Soulmate.”

It’s everywhere.  Christian Mingle’s about section reads, “The ideal place for Christian men and women to find friends, dates, and even soulmates.”  I can’t count the times in my 20 years of singleness that someone has said something to the effect of “God has someone for you” or “God just hasn’t brought you the one yet” or “Make sure you wait for “the one” God has – don’t settle”.  What could be more paralyzing than that last one?

All of this is some sort of weird cross between romance novel, misplaced Calvinism, and what I call Help You Sleep At Night Theology.  And it is no where in the Bible.

In an attempt to encourage the hurting and lonely, as well as be protective (and often controlling) of the flock, we end up giving platitudes that aren’t really helpful in the long run and just aren’t true.

There is nothing in the Bible about soulmates.  Nothing.  It is not there.  There is nothing about how to find someone to marry.  There are some, and I mean only some, principles for marriage and getting married.  But there are no promises about God bringing you a spouse, let alone a perfect one.

The soulmate idea is bad for a lot of reasons.  The idea that I’m incomplete without someone and if I just find this other person I will be whole.  No person can fill that role. We need to be complete in Jesus.  That doesn’t mean that because we have Jesus that we shouldn’t want a spouse.  But a spouse (real or wanted) should not be put in the savior role.

It can make us mad at God.  If He has my soulmate and hasn’t brought them to me, then it’s His fault.  This is also a convenient way to avoid any responsibility what so ever. Perfect.

Finally, judging every encounter through the soulmate lens pressurizes the whole process. Some of us can never even get into a relationship at all because no one “meets” the soulmate criteria.  Others think everyone they fall for is their soulmate and then when it doesn’t turn out they have to either try desperately to hang on or beat themselves up for “missing it.”

As I’ve said before, I believe that God can and does send people into our lives.  But guess what, we get to choose what to do with that.  And isn’t that what we want anyway?  Isn’t it more romantic to be chosen than to be destined?

Religion And Dating Don’t Mix

When I look back at my twenties and dating I just kind of cringe.  I think a lot of people probably do.  But the reason I cringe isn’t because I slept around, or dated all the wrong people.  It’s because I was too religious.  Religious dating can really screw us up.

Here’s what I mean.  First of all there is this idea that there is a “Biblical” way to date.  As I’ve mentioned in a different post, this is utter nonsense.  No where in the Bible is there any sort of guide of how to get married, let alone date.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zero. Ok, moving on.

There is also the idea that because you should only date to get married that you shouldn’t go on a date unless you know you will marry them.  Which again makes no sense. First off there is a big difference between going on a date and “dating” someone.  I agree that main reason to date is to try to get married, especially the older you get.  But the idea that you should only go on a date with someone you know you can marry is crazy.  It can be paralyzing.  Especially when you pair it with the next religious dating ideal.

There is the idea that we need to guard the other person’s heart.  This one isn’t even possible.  It starts with the right idea of not leading someone on.  I want to talk more about this later but I agree we need to be careful.  If we aren’t interested we shouldn’t date them. We shouldn’t make promises that we aren’t ready to be committed to.  We should never lie.  All those things do guard everybody’s heart but thats just called honesty.  But the idea that I don’t want to ask someone out in case it doesn’t work out and they get hurt is delusional and probably a little arrogant.  It assumes I’m the one controlling the relationship.  I’d be the one to end it.  I don’t want them to like me too much in case I change my mind.  Really?!

The truth is even if my intentions are great, I can’t guarantee that if I ask someone out that it will go somewhere.  And I think we need to give our ladies a little more credit.  Adult women are capable of dealing with hurt.  They can handle it.  I once had a woman flat out tell me, “Hey, it’s my job to guard my own heart.  We can’t find out if it goes somewhere if we don’t go forward.  I’m ok with the risk.”  She was exactly right.  Really, if she wasn’t mature enough to be ok with the risk, then it probably wasn’t going anywhere anyway.

The final problem is if you do go out with different people you can get labeled as a serial dater.  Now I’m certainly not suggesting using no discernment and just dating anyone at any time.  I’m also not suggesting dating just to date or asking out anyone just to get a rush or because you need approval of women.  Motive is everything here.  I’d also say that if you have lots of fairly long relationships that always fail, you need to check yourself and what’s going on.  There could be a fear of commitment.

But it can be a double standard.  Why aren’t you dating anyone?  Why aren’t you married?  There are lots of great women in our church – but you’d better only ask out one, because if you ask out more than one, everyone will think that you just want to serial date our church.

I big timed lived in this stuff in my twenties.  I WAY over thought potential dates.  I’m not talking about people that I didn’t really want to date, I’m talking about people I thought I could be interested in but wasn’t sure.  How the heck were you supposed to find out?

In an effort help people date right (or court or whatever), Christians have unintentionally made it harder to get married.  We are helping to paralyze people from actually pursuing relationships.  We end up over thinking, over analyzing, and over spiritualizing the whole thing.  We end up with guys who have no idea how to actually pursue someone when they DO want to because they can never be sure if they SHOULD.

Non-Christians make it way less complicated.  Like someone – ask them out. We could learn some from that.

We can’t date constantly worried about choosing wrong, trying to protect everyone, worried about what everyone thinks.  We can’t date in a context that says, don’t try, don’t risk, don’t touch, don’t mess up, don’t hurt anybody.  God’s grace is bigger than that.  We need to walk with Jesus but we need to free ourselves from a made up “Christian Dating” culture.

Has “Religious Dating” held you back?  Has it stifled your path?  Has it messed you up.

Are You Prosperous?

A couple of weeks ago someone emailed me and asked if I would write some about singleness in the context of Jeremiah 29:11.  This is of course the verse that says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Basically, what this person was asking about is if God wants to prosper me and I desire a spouse, then why is He not providing one?  They rightly pointed out that you could try your best to follow God and still seem pretty non-prosperous.  Why do people point to that, especially as it relates to singles?

This is a really important thought, not just related to singleness but certainly including that.

First of all, a lot of times this stuff gets served up to singles as spiritual platitudes by often well meaning friends and churches.  It fits under the “Everything Happens For A Reason” group.  Things like, “This is God’s best for you”, “Just wait on God,” and “God has someone for you.”  Now any one of those could be true in a particular situation but they shouldn’t be tossed out as truth for every situation.

This particular verse is one of the most misused verses in the Bible. 

To begin with we can’t just pull sentences out of the Bible and apply them to the question I’m currently asking.  We have to look at what it says in the context that it was written. Mainly it is important to ask who is it written to.  In this case God is speaking through Jeremiah to the Israelites who at the time are in exile in Babylon.  In the sentence before, God says that after 70 years he will bring them back to Israel.  So in a straight up reading of that scripture, in context, God is promising something to the Israelites at that time (which by the way He delivers on).

But I think it’s fair to go beyond that a little.  In other words when you look at the whole of scripture I think it’s fair to say that God does have good plans for his people.  Now granted His people screw it up about 90% of the time, but God’s plans for us are good not bad – always.  I think this scripture (when included in the full context) is a good picture of an example of that.

But even there the example doesn’t stop in verse 11.  A huge part of our problem is we pick what prosperous means, and then we demand God give it to us.  But what does prosperity really look like?  If you read even just the next sentence you get a picture. “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

In other words, God is most interested in us and Him.  Seek ME!  Find ME!  I’m HERE.

I once heard a 20 year old single mom speak on this in front of about 3000 people.  She had been abused, abandoned, and neglected.  She lived in community living, was trying to work and go to school.  She stood up there and read this scripture (all of it, not just verse 11) and then after sharing that God wanted us to seek Him she said, “I AM PROSPEROUS!”  She said it with such authority that Jesus might as well have been standing at the mic. She got it!

We are prosperous if we have Jesus.  We are not if we don’t.

This idea that I can look at my singleness and just assume that God wants to give me a spouse is not a very good approach.  If I were you I sure wouldn’t hang my theology of singleness on a verse about the Israelites.

But here is what I would do.  I’d trust what the whole of scripture says about God’s love for you.  You see God does care.  He is interested in your singleness, dating and everything else.  He promising to lead you if you will seek Him.  And He for sure wants to lead you to life to the full.

And here’s one last thought.  What if your identity was in Christ, not singleness or in whatever you see as prosperity?  What if you saw yourself as prosperous to begin with?  If you really believed that, lived out of it even, how would that change how you view your singleness?  How would it change how you interacted with the opposite sex?  Which do you think is more attractive – someone who views themselves as prosperous or someone who doesn’t? It’s a lot easier to love someone out of prosperity than out of neediness.

So let me ask you, Are you prosperous?  Do you approach your singleness out of need or prosperity?

Dealing With Dating Fatigue

Once when I was a senior in high school I had two dates in one day.  I went and met a girl for lunch that a mentor set me up with (yes I was already being set up – weird I know).Then that night I went out with a different girl from my school.  Now when you’re a senior who has struggled to get girls to like him, that’s a great confidence boost – I was “the man” for a day.  But when you get older a day like that just makes you tired and there’s not much “the man” about it.

Today I want to talk about Dating Fatigue.  There are a huge group of singles who are suffering from this.  Now some of you are thinking, “I don’t really go on that many dates – I surely don’t have this problem.”  Not so fast.

Dating Fatigue (DF) is more about a feeling and attitude than about how many dates you’ve been on.  Here’s a simple definition of DF – You are flat tired of dating.  You are tired of meeting people, tired of spending money, tired of online searches, tired of wanting to like someone and not, tired of not being excited about anyone, tired of people asking how it went, tired of being rejected, tired of having to reject someone else, just tired, tired, tired.

I’ve been urging you over and over again on this blog to not just sit there and hope it happens but to go out there and get in the game. Nobody gets married if you don’t go on a date, and you have to go meet people to do that.  But the truth is that it can be exhausting.

Even if you are energized by meeting new people (as I actually am) it can still be tiring. This is turned up a notch in a couple of main ways.  For starters we are all busy and we don’t want to waste time dating people we aren’t interested in.  More than that though, as you get older, you don’t have as much time to play around.  If I’m 25 I can kind of ride something out for a few dates, but honestly at 35, not as much, or at least it feels like it.

But most of all, gearing up for hope, and then having it not go anywhere is just emotionally tiring.  Worse, if we aren’t careful, it can affect how we are on the very dates we go on – it can make us bad dates.

Now, I’m talking about dates, not dating.  In other words I’m not talking about relationship fatigue.  That’s another issue altogether.  Nor am I suggesting that getting to know several people is a bad idea. In some ways, whether we like it or not, it is a numbers game.  I’m just saying that sometimes it gets old and we need to deal with that.  So what can you do?  Here are some things that have helped me.

  • Go with hope but with as few expectations (good or bad) as possible.  Just go to get to know another person
  • Realize that this might be the only time you will meet this person, so go in peace and as full of the Spirit as you can.
  • Make the first date short.  This is so key.  You are probably going to know in the first 10 minutes if you want a second date.  If you do, keep it short, and meet again – this actually creates good tension and excitement anyway.  If you don’t, then you aren’t stuck for a whole day (or weekend – yikes that was a tough one).
  • Some people say give everyone a second date.  I totally disagree.  If you know you aren’t interested its ok not to do that.  Nothing adds to dating fatigue more than extra dates to “be nice” or to “try to like someone”.  I would say that most of my dating fatigue came from this (including when I was on the other end of it).
  • Don’t tell the world that you are going on the date.  Others wanting to know how it went just adds to DF.
  • Take a break from dating.  If you’ve been on a lot of dates and are burned out, just step back.  But do me and your friends a favor and don’t announce it.  Just do it.  And secondly, don’t miss on a person you really like just because you are on a “dating break” – for the love – really?! (Oh, and ladies, don’t use this as an excuse to say no to someone.  Just say you aren’t interested – trust me).
  • Self evaluate.  If you have been on a lot of dates and none of them go anywhere, be sure to ask if you might be the issue.  Maybe it’s something you are doing.  It might not be, but it might be worth asking or if you are really brave ask a friend or two.

DF is real!  We slide in and out of it all the time.  Dating shouldn’t be a chore so we need to do all we can to avoid it and then when we do experience it, take a breath, realize that it’s ok, get our bearings with the Lord and community, and then re-enter the scene.

Have you experienced DF?  What led to it?  How have you combatted it?  Help each other out here – what has helped you?

Is Jesus Enough?

When I was a much younger single person, I remember a lot of conversations with older folks (mostly married) in which I was challenged with the thought of, “Is Jesus enough?”  In other words, “You’re single right now so Jesus will have to be enough.”

Man that sounded holy to me (It also made me want to sing the Doobie Brothers version of Jesus Is Just Alright – still does actually).  That’s right dang it, Jesus is enough.  I don’t need someone else.  However this is only sort of true, depending on what question you are actually asking.

Part of the problem with the Church’s response (or lack of) to increasing singleness is that we say stuff that not only sets singles up to fail, but also in turn sets marriages up to fail. The reality is that we need a good theology of both marriage and singleness.  One will not work without the other.  We need a lot of help with both.

When we say to a single person that Jesus is enough that implies several things. First off, it could mean that Jesus needs to be enough for right now.  But this makes no sense.  Jesus is enough for now, but not for later?  If you get married, then Jesus won’t be enough?  This goes right along with what I’ve written before about the idea of singleness being a “season where you focus on the Lord.”  This idea is so rampant and so just flat bad.  There is no season where you should not be focussed on the Lord.  And again, if singleness means being closer to the Lord than marriage, no one should get married. Marriage is not a concession to not being tight enough with God.  Yikes!

Which leads to point two.  Marriage happened while Adam had a perfect, sinless relationship with God.  In other words it wasn’t a lack of God being enough that made Him create Eve and put them together.  God looked at Adam and said it was not good for man to be alone.  Wait!  You mean even when he was totally with God, Adam still needed someone else?  Whoops.

Finally there is the idea that gets floated that if Jesus is enough for you, that means you must be called to singleness.  Once again, Jesus wants us to be focussed on Him regardless.

The question in regards to the call of singleness is not a question of how much you are focussed on Jesus.  It is a question of calling to vocation – to what type of ministry you will do.  It’s the second vow, not the first vow.  The first vow we have to make is to Jesus.  We all have the same first vow.  WE HAVE TO GET THIS.

In addition, the Jesus is enough question can lead us to other bad places as a single. Mainly that we don’t find true community.  In other words, regardless of marital status, it is truly not good for “man to be alone.”  We need other people.  We were created relationally, by a relational God, for the purpose of relationship.  If we are told enough that Jesus is enough we can end up not only avoiding marriage based on personal holiness but avoiding true community as well.

At the end of the day Jesus is actually enough in a lot of ways that matter most.  Jesus is enough for salvation – in fact nothing else works for salvation.  Jesus is enough for full life, but when we follow Him, He usually helps us get that by leading us to others and speaks to us not just directly but through the Church (his people) and the Scriptures.  But the truth is that we are not guaranteed that.  In other words He doesn’t promise earthly community and in fact lots of people have followed Jesus without the Bible.  We certainly are not guaranteed a spouse.

But a married person doesn’t have any of those guarantees either.  I could get married this week, and my spouse could be taken away the week after.  Would Jesus be enough? Get what I’m saying?

I think a better question might be, what are you staking your life on?  Now our answer to that needs to be Jesus.  Because at the end of the day He is the one sure thing.  And that has absolutely nothing to do with marital status.

Don’t Just Wait On God

There was a man whose town was about to be flooded.  He decided not to evacuate before the water came, hoping that it wouldn’t rise near his home.  But in fact it began to rise quickly.  This man believed in God and had such great faith that when he prayed that God would save him he knew for sure that God would.

He went up on his roof and waited.  A man in a canoe came by and asked if he wanted a ride.  The man said, “No thanks.  I’m waiting on God rescue me.”  The water rose.  A man came by in a motor boat and offered assistance.  The man answered, “I appreciate it, but I’ve prayed to God, and He is going to come and get me.”  The water rose.  The man was forced to the very top of his house.  The coast guard flew over his house in a helicopter. They dropped a ladder and said this was the last time they were coming.  The man waved them off and said, “Go and rescue others.  I’m counting on God to rescue me.”

The water rose and the man was swept away and drowned.  When he got to heaven and met with God he asked, “I prayed to you,  believed in you, showed great faith, and yet you did not rescue me.  Why?”  God answered, “You came to me which was great.  I sent you warnings to evacuate, I then sent one of my people on a canoe followed by another in a motor boat.  Finally I even sent a helicopter.  And yet you refused all my help.”

You may have read a parable like this before.  I think it’s so often exactly how we live our lives.  We take our prayer list before God (which is good) but then we kind of pray and forget about it.  We don’t actually pay attention for how God would answer that prayer.  I sometimes think God must just shake his head and think, “Justin, for the love – I’m trying to help you out here kid – pay attention.” Haha.

Now obviously we have to use discernment.  Just because we pray and something happens doesn’t make it from God.  “God, I need a new car,” followed by a Porsche sighting is most likely not God telling you that’s what you need – although that would be sweet.  But we go the other way.  We pray and then go about our day.

We either think we know exactly how God will answer it (our way – arrogance) or we pray unexpectantly (not believing anything will happen – resignation).  Both can be killers as a single person looking to get married.

I’ve heard way to many people say stuff like, “God just hasn’t brought me anyone yet”, “I’ll just do what I do and if God wants to send me someone He will”, “When God is ready for me to be married He will send me someone.”  Really?!

Now if you’ve sought God and you feel like He’s told you that then great.  I don’t mean to discount those as answers that God wouldn’t give you.  But just assuming them is kind of a bad idea.  It’s a way to hide from two things.  First it’s a way to hide from disappointment with God.  He hasn’t delivered me a spouse but it’s all good, He must have a different “plan”.  Second it keeps us from dealing with our own stuff.  Waiting on God often seems to mean, “I’m not doing anything wrong – it’s just that God hasn’t sent someone yet.”  Yeah it couldn’t possibly have anything to do with me. Yikes!

Whatever the case this mostly leads to inaction on our part.  In other words, I don’t have to actually do anything – and I certainly don’t have to risk.  God will bring me the person in “HIs Time”.

Now I want to be very clear here.  I think God absolutely sends us people.  But I wonder if often we miss the message because we are either waiting for the perfect scenario that doesn’t exist, or we aren’t doing the obvious things we know to do.

We get caught swinging the pendulum back and forth reacting to our own sin on both ends.  We either try to control everything and don’t involve God or we react the other way and “leave it up to Him” without taking any action at all.  I don’t think either is very effective. Neither involves acting while interacting with God.  Which is what I think He really wants us to do – to actually walk with Him, not just wait on Him or do it without Him.  He wants us to engage.

Have you ever used “waiting on God” as a way to hide from hard stuff?  How about as a way to avoid actually dealing with Him?  Are you paying attention to who God might send to help?