Spouse or Robot?

This last weekend I was leading a discussion that centered around the idea of that we are not to be OF the world.  In the world yes, but not of it.  We were discussing 1 John 2:15-17 which tells us not to love the world.  But if we are not to love the world, then we have to know what the world or “Spirit of the Age” is.  If we don’t name it, then it is very easy to get lulled to sleep and passively get sucked into being a part of it.  We came up with three Spirits of the Age: Busyness, Tolerance (which really means accepting anything as truth) and Consumerism.

As I’m sure you can figure out, these worldly trends have a huge impact on us when it comes to singleness, dating and marriage.  Now I’ll spend some time on each of these in different ways in the following weeks but for today, I just want to mess with us a little in case you think these things aren’t impacting where we are going.

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Why Married People Need A Singles Sermon Series

Recently, I was asked by a pastor friend of mine to help him consider how to handle singleness from the pulpit and frankly throughout his church.  I of course said, “Read my blog – duh.”  Just kidding.

First of all, this man should be commended for taking it on and asking questions (not just of me).  I’ve written before about how your pastor probably doesn’t get it.  This is how one gets out of that situation – because anyone can get it.

Now I have some thoughts on what a sermon series on “singleness” would look like.  I’ll share some of that soon.  But one of the things I think a pastor runs up against if he wants to talk about singleness from the pulpit is that most likely the majority of his audience will be married.

This is one of the good reasons that churches do marriage sermon series.  They are trying to help people who are married.  And they know if they do have single people there, that most of them want to be married and therefore might be able to gain something from it.  In fact as I’ve written before – as a single you really should pay attention to that sermon series.

But the problem comes when this same pastor wants to talk about singleness.  How does he “sell” that to a mostly married crowd?  Today I’m going to tell you exactly how I’d do that.  In other words, I’m going to tell you why all this stuff we talk about here should be important to married people in the church.  Very important actually.  There are many reasons, but here are a few – in no particular order.

For starters, most married people, have single friends.  They work with single people, live down the street from them, sit next to them at church.  Married people need to know how to best minister to these people – and not from a place of superiority.  I think there are a lot of married folks who want to care about their single friends but don’t know much about it.  Learning more would help.  In the same way that I tried to learn to minister to my married friends (and even challenge them) even though I wasn’t married, married people need to do that as well.

This leads to a secondary point.  50% of American adults are unmarried.  Most of those people (as in literally most) don’t go to church.  So if we are going to invite a friend to church, there is a good chance they will be single.  If we are serious about reaching out into the community, learning how to think about singleness and the Gospel is pretty key.

Another reason married people need this information is that many of them entered marriage under wrong premises.  Yes the marriage sermon helps here.  But so does the sermon about not being married.  When you knock down all of the spiritual platitudes that we tell single people (God has someone for you, hasn’t brought you the one yet, is waiting for you to be ready, save yourself for marriage, etc.) we also help married people who are struggling in their marriage because they believed in those exact platitudes and now they are being let down by them.

Let me promise you this.  If a church did a gutsy sermon series on the unmarried and the Gospel, they would rock a lot of married people’s worlds.  In what would eventually be a good way, some crap would hit the fan.  Not only that, but there would be some marriages that are struggling in which by the end of this series, they would become committed to figuring it out.  They would be thankful.

Talking about singleness in all it’s forms, also reminds married people, that yes, you are in a covenant relationship for life, but your identity is not in that.  You were created unmarried and will be resurrected unmarried.  Not to mention, that talking about the holiness of celibacy also raises the holiness of marriage.  When we look at both together we get a better picture of the Kingdom.

Further, most married people will also become (or already are) parents.  If I had a church with a lot of parents of adolescents, I for sure would want them to know the stuff we talk about here.  Because how else are they supposed to help their kid walk through it?

Parents need an accurate view of what is going on out there.  If all they know how to offer their kids are the spiritual platitudes that the church throws out to the unmarried, they are setting their kids up to fail – and possibly fail hard.  It is vital that parents understand as best they can the scene today and all that goes with it.  The more they understand the better they will be able to advise, comfort and hopefully guide their children.  I don’t think this can be overstated.

Finally, and maybe most important, many of the things that we need to talk about with singles, have just as many (if maybe different) implications for those who are married.  The Gospel is the Gospel.  Switching contexts won’t change that.  Just like I’ve heard pastors say in a marriage sermon, “Single folks this applies to you” they would be saying, “Hey married folks, this applies to you.”




Should A Single Person Have A Kid On Purpose

This fall as I was helping to teach a four week course on singleness at our church (note, Way to go church!), we got asked a question that I had never thought about before.  And believe me I’ve thought about a lot of angles on this thing the last few years.

The question was essentially this: “Should/can single people adopt children? And what about artificial insemination?”

To be honest I was not ready for the question.  There were two thoughts that came immediately to my mind that made me want to lean yes.  First, let’s be honest, there are a lot of kids that are in really bad situations.  In fact, in our current culture, more women have their first kid out of wedlock than in it.  Would it really be worse for them to be with a good Christian single parent?  Really?

Secondly, there are a lot of women, and many men who desperately want to have kids.  I believe this is biological as well as spiritual desire.  Heck, we are supposed to go and multiply.  That’s one of the first commands of the bible.  It’s natural to want to do that. We’ve of course completely separated this from sex (which we’ve already separated from marriage) in our culture.  But that doesn’t make the base desire bad.

But after thinking about it more, I have big reservations.

The first big question we’d better ask ourselves is what are our motives?  In other words why is it that you want to be a parent?  While it’s great to have that desire, it’s really not about you.  It’s not about meeting some sort of emotional desire or fulfilling a dream you’ve had of your lineage going forward.  It’s about sacrifice and love.  You will be the number one influence (good or bad) on that person’s life.  That is not to be done out of some sort of personal need.

Secondly we need to understand that there is an order to things. We’ve kind of been sold in our culture that we can skip parts of the order.  Go ahead and have sex without being married.  Live together before you get married.  So why not go ahead and be a parent.  I can’t find someone to marry, or maybe I don’t even want to do the “spouse” thing, but I want to have a kid.  Why not just go for it?

But this is flawed thinking.  And it’s made worse by the idea that we can do what we want by ourselves.  In other words, the whole “I don’t need a man/woman” mentality.  But to be married and have a kid the right way, you actually do.  That’s part of the deal.  That’s the way it’s supposed to be.  It’s one thing to have messed up the order by sinning and have a kid as a result, it’s another to go out and create it on purpose.

Third it’s either better for a child to have both of his parents or it’s not. Most people believe that a stable two parent home where both people are married is the best place for a kid to be.  Now that doesn’t mean that if a kid doesn’t have it that he can’t do well.  If that was true we’d be in real trouble as most kids don’t have that these days.  But just because it can be done, doesn’t mean it should be done.  The truth is that the number one thing you can do as a parent is love your spouse.  That comes first.  Kids know.

So what does all this mean practically when answering the question?

I understand there are strong emotions involved here, but here’s what I think.

I think under no circumstance should you as a single person go out and on purpose get pregnant artificially or any other way.  This to me is the most clear answer.  Choosing to go out and get pregnant and bring a kid into the world with only one parent is wrong.  To me that’s about you, not about what’s best.  That’s choosing on purpose to bring a kid into a single parent home.

What’s less clear is the adoption question.  I think that you could make a strong case for adopting an older kid that is stuck in the system so to speak.  But I think we should keep in mind that there are a lot of great ways to help kids without adopting them.  You could be a foster parent.  You could invest in the lives of kids through an outreach ministry.  You could let a kid that is in trouble live with you for a time.

I had a close friend who met a refugee family in our city.  There was one young kid who my friend wanted to help get a good education.  He offered their family a place to live in a good school district.  They said yes, but then bailed.  But he went ahead and took the kid in for two years while the mom got things straightened out.  He sacrificed a ton for this kid. But once the mom was in a better spot, the kid went with her.  My friend never adopted this kid, but the impact was huge.  It was about the kid, not about my friend’s desire to be a parent – even though he does have that desire.

My point is if you want to help a kid in a bad situation, there are a lot of great ways to do that, in which you could have impact.  You can be a parental figure without being a parent. The number one point is this: It should be about the kid, not about you.

Interpretation Is Everything

In the movie “A Perfect World” Kevin Costner plays a criminal, Butch, who has escaped from prison.  He takes a young boy, Phillip, hostage.  As times goes on, they become drawn to each other.  Phillip has never really had a dad and Butch begins to teach him all sorts of things about “manhood”.  In one scene Butch has just gotten Phillip some new clothes.  They’re in the car and on the run, so he tells him to go ahead and change.

Phillip is hesitant (I get that the whole premise of boy being kidnapped is bad, but hang with me anyway).  Butch basically says, “Is it because you’re embarrassed I might see your pecker?”  Phillip says, “It’s . . . puny ”  Butch says, “Let me see, I’ll shoot you straight.” Butch looks over with a quick glance and says, “Hell no Phillip, good size for a boy your age.”  Phillip smiles.

Who interprets your life for you?

When I was in third grade I got picked on by some sixth graders. They threatened me on the way home from school.  For the first time in my life as a kid, I was scared of injury from another person.  I can still see that kids fist in my face.

In my third grade mind I was now weak.  Once you have an interpretation other events begin to get interpreted the same way.  In fifth grade a peer straight up punched me in the face as hard as he could.  I didn’t even fall, but I didn’t fight back. I could have thought, “I just took that kids best punch and I’m not hurt – I’m tough.” Instead, I took it as another confirmation that I was weak.

All sorts of things are constantly happening to us and around us.  Each time, we interpret what is happening and make agreements about what it means. Others help us interpret, starting with our parents when we are little.  If you’re a parent understand this: One of the most important things you will ever do is speak interpretation into your kids lives. How you react, what you say and what they hear from you when something happens to them forms the base interpretation for their lives.  No pressure. . .

We all deal with this of course, married, single or otherwise.  But I think this affects the single person in an extremely significant way because many of us are asking, “why am I single?”

There are all sorts of people helping us interpret that answer.

There’s hollywood.  You’re single because you are not a 10 or don’t have a flashy enough car or job.  If I were 007 I’ve had all the ladies.  I laugh as I write that but seriously, for a lot of us, the media is one of our main interpreters.  We’ve grown up on it and the message is obvious.  You’re not cool enough, hot enough, or rich enough to be loved back by another person.

There’s our well meaning friends.  Mostly they tell us that there is nothing wrong with us, which doesn’t seem right, but we hope it’s true.

Then there is the Church.  Usually this interpretation hinges on the fact that God has a plan – meaning that He has a Christian Soulmate for me.  It them moves in one of a couple directions.  Either I need to become better so that God will reward me with a spouse (this could mean date better, be content, wait on God, etc) or I don’t need to do anything because God’s perfect spouse for me just isn’t ready or the timing must not be right.

The worst part is that most of us, myself included for many years, have some sort of sick twisted combination of all of the above going on in our head.  I’m not good looking enough (insert strong enough, rich enough, spiritual enough. . . etc), and/or there’s nothing wrong with me (men/women just suck), and/or God will bring me the perfect person but for right now (and apparently for the last decade) He’s just holding out on me.

How you interpret your singleness affects your view of God and vice versa.  It affects how you see yourself and therefore how you relate to others.  If we interpret it wrong, then we’re going to have a hard time figuring out our calling (celibacy or marriage), let alone our pursuing it.

What we need first though is God’s interpretation of who we are as a person.  We need to grow in our identity in Christ.  If we are going to do that, we will need to reinterpret a lot of things and we’ll need to let some people in to help.

Most of us are afraid of the truth, but in reality most of the time the truth is better than how we have interpreted. Either way we need the real actual interpretation in order to have a chance at true spiritual health.

Who interprets your life?  What is your interpretation of your singleness?  How sure are you of that interpretation?  Who are you helping with their interpretation?

Don’t Date Jesus

I remember many years ago I was talking to a woman that I was serving at a summer camp with.  We were talking about life and many different issues and of course dating and marriage came up.  (We were not interested in each other, just talking).  I asked her if she was dating etc.  She said, “You know right now I’m not really looking.  I’m focussing in on me and Jesus.  I’m just dating Jesus right now.”  I just kind of smiled.

I get the idea.  And in fact for people that have relationships as an idol and have spent their whole life filling up their emptiness by dating, it can make a lot of sense to take a break and have a season of not dating.  But we need to be really careful with stuff like this.

First of all I think the whole dating Jesus thing is just weird.  I mean later on do you break up with Jesus?  If you get married do you have to have the break up talk with God?  If I’m a guy, can I date Jesus?  Yikes.

But the bigger point here is this prevailing idea that somehow singleness is a season where I’m supposed to really zero in on “my relationship with God”.  I think this is a dangerous spiritual platitude to live under.

People say this stuff for all sorts of reasons.  It can be a way to hide from the fact that I’m struggling with singleness.  This way I don’t have to deal with the hurt. It’s often an attempt to explain why God hasn’t “delivered” someone to me yet.  “Well if God wanted me to get married it would have happened (read it can’t possibly have anything to do with me or choices I make).  So God must want me to be with just Him.” Um, God always wants us to be with him. It sounds holy.  “Well I’m just focussing in on Jesus right now”.  But how is right now any different from any other time.  Shouldn’t we always be focussed in on Jesus?

I mean we should indeed take our singleness to the Lord.  But the idea that singleness is a season that enables me to focus more on the Lord is false.  Look it’s hard to focus on the Lord no matter what.  It’s also always the goal.

This can lead us down some bad pathways.  It could keep me from pursuing a good relationship.  If marriage means that I will be further away from God then none of us should get married.  Seriously.  But fortunately that is not the case.

Marriage was created pre-sin.  It wasn’t offered up as a secondary option or as some sort of compromise.  We act like Adam somehow did something wrong so God said, “Well obviously I’m not enough for you so I guess we’ll do this marriage thing.”  That is not what happened at all.  God created Adam and saw a need for more.  He created Eve.  He put them together before anybody did anything wrong.  He put them together while they were both living in perfect union with Him.  Their marriage didn’t take away from His plan, it completed it.

Now this doesn’t mean that every person will get married or that it’s wrong to be single. That’s not my point at all.  Also, God may very well have me single for a season for particular reasons.  But to just assume it without really dealing with what is going on doesn’t seem like a good idea.

There can also be this implication that if I just focus in on Jesus during my singleness then He will bring me someone to marry.  What if He doesn’t?  More time for just me and Jesus I guess.  I shouldn’t focus on Jesus hoping to earn a spouse from Him.  If I’m “dating Jesus” chances are that I’m still pretty focussed on wanting to be married.

The truth is that if I’m single I need to put Jesus first.  But also if I’m married I’d better dang well put Jesus first, because if I don’t I’m screwed.  If I’m going to focus on Him less when I get married we are in trouble.  To be honest, I think being married might actually make me rely on him more.  It should drive me to Him.  “Lord, help me love my spouse today even though I don’t feel like it.”  And try having kids.  Want to get on your knees?  Parent a teenager.  Wait up late on a Saturday night for your 16 year old daughter to get home to have her walk in looking exhausted, and then walk right by you to her room and spend the night wondering what happened out there.

Don’t date Jesus.  Follow Jesus.  Don’t let your whole spirituality, let alone your whole identity, be wrapped up in singleness or marriage.  We desperately need Jesus period.