Right now there is a lot of reporting out there about the American Evangelical culture and it’s impending doom. While I think that reports of it’s death have been greatly exaggerated, it should lead to a lot of reflection in all sorts of contexts.
As I watch it unfold and watch the church interact with the culture in several ways and in many different contexts I see a couple of things that we have to get past. These things play out in all sorts of different ways, but of particular interest here in the space, is in relation to singleness.
Here are two major problems (not that there aren’t more – as well as many good things) that I see over and over again in different cultural exchanges.
In our culture we are constantly talking about how we identify. Not only that, but we know that whatever our answer is to that question, we will be judged by it. It has of course to do with who we are, what we do, or even what we believe. We are republican, democrat, conservative, liberal, American, black, white, male, female, gay, straight, feminist and on and on. In the Church identify ourselves and judge others as Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, fundamentalist, charismatic, Baptist, Calvinist, Lutheran and on and on. Heck in my town we identify people by their zip code, whether we live north or south of a street and what high school that someone went to. We can also identify ourselves and others by things that have happened to us, or that we’ve participated in or even what teams we root for.
Some of these are things that we are born into and others are things we choose or believe. But if we are in Christ none of these things are supposed to be our core identity. Meaning that they are not to be the first thing that defines us. This includes whether or not we are single or married.
Most of my usual readers know that this blog is written mainly for men. Lots of ladies read this and probably 70% of what I write here is pretty applicable to both sexes. This is especially true of all that I’ve said theologically about celibacy, family and the Church. It’s mostly true of the things we discuss having to do with living in the context of being unmarried including things like dealing with sexual desire, community, touch, money, dealing with loss, etc.
However most of what I’ve offered here in terms of what to do with attraction, how to attract people, how to get a date and how to date, have been very guy centered. I’ve had several requests from female readers at different times for thoughts on what they can do in those areas. So I want to offer some thoughts today.
One of the things I did a lot as a single person is pray for a spouse. That took a lot of different forms. Sometimes it was simple and relaxed. Other times it took the form of crying out (read begging) for God to bring me The One. Often when I really thought someone could be the one it was praying for God to “make it happen”, sometimes before I’d even been on a date (that hurts a little to type – Ha!).
But over and over again for years, it never happened. God didn’t “answer” my prayer.
This really begs two different types of questions. First, should we, and if so how should we, pray about gaining a spouse. Second, why is it that God doesn’t seem to answer this prayer or as I like to say, why doesn’t God just “poof” us a spouse.
I recently received an email from a reader asking some questions about a particular situation. I won’t go into the details but one of the things she said was that she was trying to leave the situation in God’s hands. This is similar to some things I’ve talked about before but I want to revisit this idea.
This message of waiting for God to bring me the one or that God will bring the right one at the right time is super problematic if not wrong entirely. And yet it comes from everywhere. I remember once sitting in church and hearing the pastor in a marriage sermon say that he knew there were frustrated singles because God had not brought them the person yet.
It’s used often as a spiritual platitude spoken to singles as well as by singles themselves. Especially women.
When I was an teenager in school, one of the things that I heard constantly from girls that I wanted to date was something to the effect of, “You’re a great guy, but I just see you as a friend.” In other words over and over again, I entered what has become known as the friend zone.
This is a terrible place to be. We get there a whole lot of different ways. When I was younger, (at least in my experience) there were some times when I really was friends with the girl before I decided I wanted to date her. But as you get older this is less likely.
Many guys when they like a woman start being really nice to her. We go out and try to meet her needs, help her out with anything she wants, buy her considerate gifts etc. I once bought a girl a birthday present that I wasn’t even dating. I was a 30 year old man. WTH was I thinking? I liked her. I should do nice stuff for her right? Yikes!
A few weeks ago I wrote a post about chasing vs. pursuing. I’ve already decided we need some new language to make all of that more clear, but that is not the topic for today.
I received a note from one of my female leaders asking a good question in response to that post. In actuality she asks a much more important question, perhaps without knowing it. I don’t typically write specifically to women here because, well I’m not one, and I don’t come from that experience. But I think this is important and merits an post.
In follow up to the post on chasing vs pursing, may you write a refresher on how women should appropriately response to being chased or pursed? I think that for the well liked, popular Christian single lady, it may be easier to differentiate the two and act accordingly, perhaps due to exposure or experience. For other women, especially when requests and invitations are few and far in between, or even non existent, it can be hard to tell what is a good and noble pursuit versus what is simply a chase because we are a woman. Sadly, I have fallen for this one, and I would appreciate insight on how a woman should respond to such encounters in the future.
This question brings up a few very important points that we need to consider. So let me take a crack at them here, while hopefully helping answer the intent of her question.