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?

Unmet Desire Is Good

When I was a kid, I really, really loved basketball.  I wanted to be good.  I would pretend to be the Missouri Tigers in the driveway.  You know the drill – down two with time running out, you shoot, and. . . if you missed – well you were fouled.  Haha.

In high school I wanted to win, and I wanted to be the star.  Now the truth is I was good but not a star, but that didn’t keep me from working at it.  I would practice a lot.  I bought the “strength shoes” to improve my vertical. I did endless drills.

I had a good not great career.  But I loved the whole thing.  But what drove me was the chance to win.  I had a desire to win.  It wasn’t always met – but it drove me to be better.

We have a huge problem in our culture and it has a crazy impact on us as singles.  We think that unmet desire is always bad.  If I have a desire, then it should be met – right now!  This is America damn it!  Meet My Desire!

Desire is good.  In fact in Psalm 37:4 God promises to give us desires (not give us what we want, but give us what to want).  Desire drives us to do incredible things.  Desire makes us want to grow, to change, to become better.  Without desire we would be dead.

Desire drives us to act.  Always. The question becomes where do we let us drive us.

We all have a desire for love. Now obviously we need to take our desire for love to Jesus first.  This is critical for everything else in life.  The best part is that God will meet us and He does love us.  In fact he is the only person who can meet that desire.

But what about other desires.  Can God meet our desire for sex?  Can God be our spouse? Can God physically hold our hand or give us physical intimacy?  No.  And yet God created sex.  He created us with the desire for physical and emotional intimacy and partnership with another person.  That’s awesome . . . and frustrating!

So what do we do with unmet sexual/intimacy desire?

We can go out and meet that base desire by having sex with someone.  I mean we have needs and they need to be met.  A lot of us don’t want the work involved with that sin though so we settle for what I call “Lazy Immorality”.  By this I mean, porn, masturbation, romance novels, whatever.  (I’ll define this more soon).

We can also just try to kill the desire so we don’t have to feel it.  Just focus on work, or school, or a hobby.  The more extreme the better.  Whatever works.  Ministry works well here.  Just focus on other stuff.  Shove that desire down deep.

We can get religious.  Just be content where you are.  We can drop in some misused Pauline quotes.  The favorite is in Philippians 4 where Paul says, “I have learned the secret to being content in any and every situation.”  So just don’t want.  “Just Be” is how we take that.  But that isn’t really what Paul is getting at.  The “secret” isn’t to kill desire.  It’s not to be ok with whatever.  Paul gives us the secret in the next verse – through Jesus “who gives me strength”.

Paul had learned that regardless of what he felt, Jesus would meet him and sustain it.  His identity, joy, or overall life was not wrapped up in unmet desire or circumstance. That is the contentment Paul was talking about.  He wasn’t saying, “Don’t feel.  Don’t try to make things different. Stay as you are it’s fine.”  No Paul was saying Jesus was bigger than all of that.  He is saying let whatever your situation is let it drive you to Jesus.  I don’t need to kill my desire or have it met the wrong way.  I need to walk straight into unmet desire – with Jesus.

We can’t just tell people to not worry about it.  We don’t do this in other areas.  The church doesn’t say to the poor – just stay poor and be content.  It doesn’t say to the sick, just stay sick and be content.  No, we step up and step in.  We act.  (Or at least we are supposed to).  All the while pointing out that no matter what the circumstances Jesus has to be desired first.

The truth is that these desires we have are natural and good, and from God.  We need to engage Him and we need to move forward.  It’s hard.  Unmet desire is a part of life to the full.  We need to feel the tension.  It drives us to the things that God has for us – if we let it.

What do you do with your unmet desire?

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?