Don’t Live Life Alone

When I was in 7th grade my family moved from a suburb to a small town. Making new friends can be tough – especially as I was a pretty awkward middle schooler (hard to believe I know).  But I had two big things going for me.  1. My family was moving with me – we might be in a new house but the same five people were there every day, and 2. I had to sit in class for eight hours a day with all these new people.  In other words I had forced community.

After high school, I went to college.  Again, there was forced community.  I played football so I met 80 people before class even started.  I had a suite full of 8 other people that I was forced to share space with.  Many of these people became my friends.

What’s interesting is that when you are younger, whenever you take the next step, while it might be hard to leave some people, there’s a whole new group of people waiting.  You are almost forced to make friends.

Even as most of us start out in our early 20’s community is relatively easy.  Everyone is in the same boat.  For the first few years out of college, I always had roommates my age, people that were in the same place in life.

But as you get older and remain single, this becomes harder.  Every time you move, you start all over.  This became really apparent to me when I moved to St. Louis. If you are married and you move it can be tough, but you still have each other.  You wake up with the same friend every day.  As a single, you don’t have that.

In our culture, the older you get, the more you are alone.

Some people would say we choose this and there is some truth to that.  But if you think about it some of it is just reality.  We don’t have as many jobs where you work in large group anymore.  People also switch jobs more often and don’t even stay with the same company for 5 years let alone 20.

As a single person it is really easy to become more and more isolated.  Our peers are getting married and our roommates keep getting younger and younger.  Know what I’m saying?  I had a time where I was the only one in the office.  I went to work alone, I did ministry alone, I went to Church alone and I went home alone.  I remember one time my boss was saying we needed to make sure we had times of solitude.  I thought – yeah I’ve got that covered.

This is a dangerous situation for us as singles.

First of all it can lead to more time in our own head or what I call The Pretend.  I’ve written about this previously but it’s not good.  It can lead to us being disengaged and isolated. This, in turn, can make our interaction with others less full even when we are with people. All this is bad, not to mention it can decrease our ability to engage the opposite sex.  In fact as we have less and less engagement with the opposite sex, our ability to pursue a marriage relationship takes a beating. Finally, it also leads to more selfishness.  I can just do what I want, when I want.

We have to fight this.  There are no perfect answers but I want to give just a few practical ones.

  • Fight for community.  You can’t just hope it happens.  They don’t have to be like you or even your age.  Do what it takes, you have to do this.
  • Have a roommate or several.  I know, I know, you’re thirty something and the only option is a 25 year old – I say do it anyway.  It’s better than the alternative.  Take someone in who you mentor.  Buy a house and rent out a room.  Don’t go home alone.
  • Don’t lose your friends because they get married.  Your friends should be your friends no matter what.  I get that it might look different but if you are only going to have single friends you are in trouble.
  • Serve.  Even if it is in a small way this is one of the main places where community happens – around a common mission.
  • Listen to sermons and talk radio now and then – not just music.  Trust me on this – it makes you engage and helps keep you out of the pretend

Finally, as “Churchy” as this sounds, you have to engage God.  Learn to talk with God.  If we could take half the time we spent in our own heads and pray we would be changed forever.

So how do you keep from being isolated?  How do keep from being all alone?

Why Do You Want A Spouse

One of the simplest stories in the Bible happens in Mark 10.  Jesus is leaving Jericho and there is a large crowd with Him.  I’m sure it was a crazy scene, with people all around wanting his attention.  But from the street, Bartimaeus the blind man cries out to Jesus.  At first the crowd dismisses him but he cries out all the louder.  Jesus stops and says bring him here.  Then He asks him the big question, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus says, “Lord I want to see.”  Jesus heals him, everyone celebrates and Bartimaeus follows Him down the road.

I love this story for a lot of reasons but I think the main reason is Jesus’ question.  I think about how at different times I’ve cried out to Jesus and I wonder what it would be like if He stood in front of me and said, “What do you want me to do for you?”

I’ve thought about this question and I’ve asked a whole lot of other people to think about it. What would my answer be?  Would I take the easy route, and toss out world peace or something like that for the answer – I mean I could say that but I wouldn’t mean it and Jesus would know.

What’s interesting is while we all know this story, if you go back a couple of paragraphs, Jesus asks the same question to James and John – yeah I’d never noticed it either.  Their answer is way more honest than mine would probably be.

What do you want?  It’s such a huge question.  For a long time (like 15 years long time) I think I would have answered, “Jesus I want a wife”.  But I would have been wrong.  I mean I did (and do) want a wife, but that isn’t what I was really seeking.  You see whatever your answer is to that question, you have to ask one more – why do you want that?

In other words “Why do you want a spouse?” That’s a question worth asking.

What we want, really I think, is the answer to our core question which is, “Am I loved?” This is asked all sorts of different ways.  Am I valuable? Am I good enough? Do I matter? Do I have what it takes? Am I beautiful? Do your eyes light up when I come in the room? Am I accepted?

We want to know that we are loved – not just know it in our head, but in our heart.

The first place we get that question answered in our lives is our parents.  But somewhere along the line, we start to seek the answer from the opposite sex, and while this is a bad idea if you are married, it can kill you as a single person, because the answer is always no. Do I have what it takes? Apparently not.  No one’s eyes light up for me.  Am I good enough (insert pretty enough, successful enough, thin enough, any other enough).  I guess not because I’m still here by myself.

Or maybe worse, I can be single and keep needing this question answered again and again by yet another new person.  One person seems to answer it but then it runs dry.  I break up and someone else seems to answer it for a while and then I repeat the cycle.

One of the traps of singleness is the thought that if I finally get the right person (who of course will be perfect and perfectly answer this question – no pressure though), then I will know I’m loved.  This can happen whether I never have a date or I’m constantly dating.

But here’s the good and bad news – Marriage doesn’t answer that question.  

Marriage does answer two big questions -“Will I get married?” and “Who will I spend the rest of my life with?” But it does not answer “Am I loved”, not at the core. Only Jesus can answer it and we have to take the question to Him not a spouse, or anyone else. Married people know this (at least hopefully) but if we can get this as a single person we have a huge leg up.

First, it means I can be a complete person in Christ as a single person – I don’t HAVE to get married.  Second, If we know this truth, we are automatically more attractive.  A loved person is hot!  Seriously!  Finally, if we do indeed get married, we will be able to love the other person way better.  Really, you can only love another person if you first know you are loved.  And if we get married that’s the whole point.

So, it’s you and Jesus in the road.  What do you want?  Why do you want it?

Do You Want To Get Married? Really?!

One of my favorite scriptures is the story in John 5 of the man at the pool.  So here’s the story in a nutshell.  There was a pool near the sheep gate in Jerusalem where many disabled people went.  They were there because they believed that when the water was stirred, that the first person in would be healed.  Now there was a man (an invalid) who had been there 38 years.  Then Jesus shows up and learned his story.  Jesus then asks the man, “Do you want to get well?”

Now this seems like a very odd question.  I mean here is a guy who has been sitting by this pool (where people come hoping to get well) for 38 years.  I mean obviously he wants to get well right?  But maybe Jesus is on to something here.  Jesus realizes that maybe this guy has become comfortable. Maybe, even though originally he wanted to walk, now he had lived this particular way for a long, long time.  Walking would change everything in this man’s life.  Everything.  Jesus wants to make sure, “Do you still want that?”

The man’s response is classic.  Here is Jesus with all the ability to help him and he says essentially, “Hey yeah – I need to get into the water – could you help me do that?”  In other words, “Hey Jesus, help me heal my way”  He had become focussed on getting in the water, even to the point of missing out on being healed.  The means had become the end.

This has so many implications there’s not possibly room here to discuss them all.  

We are all wounded and we are all seeking to get well.  Most of all we all have things that we think will heal us, and often we end up asking for those instead of healing in any form Jesus wants.

One of the big traps we as singles can fall into is the idea that if I get married it will heal me (make life ok, fix my sexual problems, solve my loneliness, bring me happiness, fill my heart, etc).  I know for me there have been plenty of times where I feel like if Jesus would have asked me, “Do you want to get well?” I might as well have answered, “Yes, I want to get married.”  But marriage is not the answer to any of those type of questions. The questions that marriage answers are “Who will I marry?” or “Will I get married?” It doesn’t answer the big questions.  Only God can really do that.  And if I’m looking for marriage to do that I will screw up my search for someone to marry and/or I will have a really hard marriage.

However, as you stay single longer, there is another very real question here.  “Do you want to get married?”  You might say, “Jesus, seriously, I’ve been trying to do that for 20 years.  I mean I’ve been on good dates, bad dates, blind dates.  I’ve been on every dating site and been set up by everyone in my life.”  To which I think Jesus would still be smart to ask, “Yeah but do you want to get married?”

It’s a fair question.  After all if you are in your 30s or older, you’ve lived a certain way a long time, and marriage, changes everything.  The question is “Do you still want that?”  or maybe a better way of asking it, “Do you want that change now?”

I think it is extremely important that we ask this question because the answer changes things.

If your answer is no, you need to ask why.  There are some bad reasons.  For example, are you just being selfish or are you just really scared that after living a certain way that you won’t be able to do it.  It is legitimately scary, but that’s not a reason to say no.  But if the answer is no and you feel like Jesus agrees with that answer (it might be good to ask Jesus, “Do you want me to get married?”) then you’re going to need a new approach.  For one, quit dating.

But if the answer is yes, then you might need to change your approach as well.  You are going to need to be prepared for the fact that Jesus might actually give you what you want, in a way that you didn’t think of.  You need to be able to say, “Jesus I do and I will do it however, and with whoever you want me too.”

So, first, do you want to get well?  What is the “pool” you are counting on?  Is it marriage? Second question, “Do you want to get married?” And are you willing to do that any way Jesus wants?