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5 Ways I have Grown Spiritually Through Singleness

 

1. Singleness has deepened my faith.

It’s true that some people love being single and have no strong desire to be married. I’m not one of those people. From as early as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be married. I’ve gone through seasons of loneliness and questioning God. There was one time in particular when I was struggling with singleness and I asked God not to bring me a husband, but to just answer the question once and for all: Will I one day get married? I was sure if the answer was no I could live with it. I was sure if the answer was yes I could live with it. But what I couldn’t seem to live with was not knowing the answer. But the answer that came that night wasn’t yes or no or even maybe. The answer was “Trust me.” I realized if God did answer that one question for me I would have a follow-up question: Will I ever have children? Will I realize another dream? Will I ____? And if God answered all the follow-up questions, why would I need faith? Those simple words “Trust me” taught me that faith wasn’t the ability to endure the future, it was simply trusting God day by day, without knowing the future.

2. Singleness has taught me to live with tension.

Just as I have had times of loneliness and questioning God, I have also come to find contentment and joy in singleness. There are some great benefits to being single. It didn’t come easily. I had some long conversations with God, filled with tears, begging, pleading, bargaining, and finally acceptance. I came to the point of surrender and told God I was okay with never being married. It wasn’t what I preferred, but I would accept it. At that moment a great peace came over me. The struggle was over.

Except that it wasn’t. A few years later I found myself struggling with discontent again. Bargaining with God once again. And wondering what had happened to this peace and contentment I had found. That’s when I discovered that a longing for marriage and a contentment with singleness were seasons I would continually go through, just as I continually seek God’s peace in the midst of the struggle. At first I would beat myself up every time I returned to the feeling of loneliness. Shouldn’t I be content all the time if I surrendered to God? But God didn’t take away my desires. I live with both a contentment and a discontentment. Neither feeling is wrong, so I’ve learned to live with the tension in my life. I found out it’s okay to not always be okay.

3. Singleness has taught me to form my own support systems.

Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another person.” God has designed us to live in community. Our relationships with one another are where our spirituality is truly lived out. Marriage creates a place for that as two people have made a covenant to love one another through the ups and downs of life. As a single I have to seek out and maintain relationships that will feed me spiritually and emotionally. This includes mentors and mentees as well as peers my own age. This is not always easy for me, but God has given me the grace to find people who I can connect with, people who will challenge me to grow and people who comfort me in difficult times.

4. Singleness has taught me how to rely on God.

Living solo has its share of challenges and it seems like I am daily adding to the “list of reasons I need a husband.” I keep telling God about the list, but so far he hasn’t brought a husband into my life. Not even any good prospects. And so I’ve found that Jesus is my husband. I know it’s often said as a cliché, but when I say it I mean it honestly and not in a creepy way. I’ve had to become truly dependent on God in my life because I don’t have that spouse to fall back on.

5. Singleness has taught me the importance of family.

Being single does not mean being alone. I still need my family. Not living with family makes staying connected a challenge. It means taking time to call or visit. It means giving up vacation time for family events. But the benefit of being single is that I’m not tempted to limit my family only to people I live with.

We each form our faith in the context of our own life circumstances. It’s tempting to look at others and think have a spiritual edge because their life is better suited to growing spiritually. I’ve sometimes thought I could have such a greater impact on the world if I had a more magnetic personality or better musical skills or more money. And yes, sometimes I’ve wondered if I could be more spiritual if I were married. After all, marriage is a picture of Christ and the church, as we are told at every wedding. However, I’ve discovered that God has molded me spiritually through my singleness. And that’s one reason to celebrate my singleness.

How about you? How has God used your singleness or marriage to shape your spiritual life?

 

Doctor Who all docs 2

“Doctor Who” and Theology

“Doctor Who” is a British Sci-fi television show on the BBC. The show started back in 1963 and ran until 1989 (aka Classic Who), and was revived in 2005 and runs until today. The main character is a mysterious alien from the planet of Gallifrey, who calls himself “The Doctor”. He can travel anywhere in time and space in his TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space), which appears to be a blue Police Call Box on the outside, however, it’s bigger on the inside. We know very little about The Doctor, in fact, we don’t even know his name, which is the eternal question, “Doctor Who?” He travels with a Sonic Screwdriver which opens locked doors, scans computers, polarizes stuff, and various other tasks. The most well-known villains are the heartless Daleks who exclaim, “Exterminate”. They are the most wicked and scary to The Doctor (but to us, they look like giant expresso machines with a toilet plunger and a whisk). It is stereotyped as the television show kids watched from behind the couch while growing up. And those who are avid fans are known as “Whovians”, and the population of Whovians is growing greatly and vastly all over the world!

Although this show isn’t what some might label, “Christian”, I do believe it can validate some Christian theology. How so? Well, I was hoping you would ask…. Here’s my Top Ten…

10. We can go anywhere in time and space, where do you want to go first?

The Doctor can travel through all of time and space, but very rarely does he travel alone. He has companions who may stick with him for a series or more, and others that only show up for an episode or two. If The Doctor spends too much time alone, he becomes overwhelmed with loneliness and his choices suddenly become self-centered and unwise. He needs company. He needs fellow helpers. He is interdependent.

Doctor Companion

In our American culture we proclaim independence as though it is a good thing, but really it’s not. We all need friends in life. We all need people to help us through. On our own we are incomplete. I often tell my church members we are to be interdependent and in laymen’s terms that means, “Scratch my back and I’ll scratch your’s”. Scripture supports this as we look at a chord of three chords is not easily broken (Ecc. 4:9-12). When we read about The Body of Christ, we are reading about interdependency (I Cor. 12:12-30).

9. I don’t talk about him… the War Doctor…

The Doctor participated in The Time War where he had to destroy his home planet in order to save the universe (and to all those Whovians out there about to correct me—yes, I am aware of what happened in “The Day of The Doctor”).   He was stuck at a place in time where he had to choose the lesser of two evils. It has haunted him since. However, that pain has changed him. He revives as a pacifist and sees death as a very, very, very, end, end, end resort!

We all have things that haunt us in life.   It’s those haunting things that keep us humble and realistic. It’s those things we can use to make us better. It’s those things that give us conviction to fight for what we fight for. It’s those things that build our character. It reminds me of Paul’s thorn in the flesh (II Cor. 12:1-10).

8. That’s him. That’s the Doctor.

In order to keep the show running for several years, they wrote in the plot that The Doctor can regenerate, or in other words, welcome a new actor to play the role. When the Doctor regenerates, he has the same memories and the same knowledge; however, he has a new body and a new personality. Each actor has brought a new aspect to the Doctor which is highly entertaining, and exciting when it comes time for a new Doctor to be announced to play the role.

Doctor Who Tigger

As Christians, we believe the Holy Spirit regenerates us. There is some poor theology that circulates around. It’s the concept of, “Come to Jesus, get saved, and everything will be okay.” Uh, false! We still deal with the problems we had before, however, our perspectives changes a bit. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a person made new.” Right a person made new not a new person entirely. (II Cor. 5:17)

7. I’m The Doctor.

Like I mentioned above, we don’t know his real name. All we are told is that he gave himself the title, “The Doctor” because it was a commitment of what he wanted to do: heal.  And it’s not usually physical but rather emotional, mental, and/or societal healing. (This is related to my number 9 above as well). My favorite episodes are “The Sound of the Drums” and “Last of the Time Lords”, because the three words The Doctor uses to destroy The Master is probably one of the best sermon illustrations of all time!

Christ is the ultimate healer and that is His mission. He doesn’t come to condemn, He comes to save. (John 3:16-17)  He came not to be helping those who were healthy but to be the doctor to the sick. (Matthew 9:9-13)  From the cross, Christ looks down at the unrepentant guards casting lots for His garments and says, “Father forgive them.  They know not what they do.” (Luke 23:32-43)  Christ healed the sick and raised the dead. His mission is to heal not to destroy.

6. Do you have a plan?

It’s a well-known fact that in the heat of the battle, The Doctor never has a plan. His only plan is to do something clever, which is vague. Sometimes it’s his companions who know how to solve the problem. Sometimes, it takes multiple attempts. But as for a plan, The Doctor rarely has one.

Doctor Who no plan

I am an open theist.  An open theist says, “God does not have every single second of the future planned. The future hasn’t happened yet, so it’s void. God only knows what can be known about the future.” My personal belief is that anyone can work within what they can control or what one has perfectly planned (even me!). It takes more power and more greatness for one to be able to work through something without utter control or a plan. To me, that’s one of the ways God is bigger than me.

5. What do you want?

When faced with a villain, the Doctor doesn’t beat them up on the spot… typically. Rather, he asks, “What do you want?” and then he tries to figure out how the villain can get what they want without destruction or causing pain. The Doctor is constantly asking questions and searching for clarification.

Doctor no better than dalek

I know we have all heard, “Communication is key”, but it really is. Rather than teaching that violence solves problems, The Doctor teaches conflict/resolution. He teaches peaceful means to reach the goal of peace.

4. We can’t change it. It’s a fixed point in time

There are fixed points in time The Doctor cannot mess with and he must live within those restraints.

One of my personal mottos, which is extremely hard to live up to, is, “It is what it is.” There are things we can’t fix. Things we cannot change. We must figure out how to live in these places without bitterness and resentment even though we would do anything within our power (if we had any) to fix the problem. In the end, it’s just a part of life.

3. That’s brilliant!

The Doctor travels from planet to planet, place to place. He meets some weird looking creatures and aliens that are very different from him. Never does he ostracize them. Never does he segregate himself from them. Instead, he finds wisdom and beauty in them.

Doctor Who not scared

We spend so much time segregating ourselves from the unfamiliar instead of running towards it to learn more about it. Perhaps if we did, we would learn there are a lot of brilliant things in this world that we have missed by our own prejudices. I think we’d also learn, we really aren’t different from whoever we consider to be ‘the others’. We’re all humans trying to make it in this world.

2. The Moff has no heart!

One of the key writers of the series, Steven Moffat (also known as ‘The Moff’), is joked to have no heart because he kills characters. But in all seriousness, The Moff, as well as other writers of the show, are remarkable storytellers! Our culture misses the significance of storytelling so much. We like ‘preaching’ and discourse so much better now. But there’s something to be said of the fact that when I watch an episode, I am constantly left on the edge of my seat, two inches from the screen, spewing out loud to absolutely no one, “Noooooooooooo!” or “WHAT?  WHERE DID THAT COME FROM” or “WHOA!  AWESOME!” And throughout the entire season there’s this thread that crescendos the story until the final blast in the season finale. This makes me the theorist, the studier, the questionier, the curious one, the anticipater. I can’t look away! What can this mean? Oh my gosh! I don’t know what this means, it’s driving me insane!

Some fight that The Bible is literal and we must read it that way. However, for a story to be powerful, to capture our attention, and in order to teach us, it does not require it to be non-fiction. In other words, the creation story is not required to be a literal 7 day event in order to have power and to display God as almighty. Jonah doesn’t have to literally be in a whale in order for it to be a powerful story of God’s grace.  In fact, Jesus was a powerful storyteller using such techniques of parables. Fiction storytelling is powerful!

1. Two hearts

The Moff once said this of “Doctor Who”: When they made this particular hero, they didn’t give him a gun, they gave him a screwdriver to fix things. They didn’t give him a tank or a warship or an x-wing fighter, they gave him a call box from which you can call for help. And they didn’t give him a super power or pointy ears or a heat ray, they gave him an extra heart. They gave him two hearts! And that’s an extraordinary thing; there will never come a time when we don’t need a hero like the Doctor.”

Doctor Who  Compassion

I think one of the greatest things I have learned from The Doctor, and what makes me truly appreaciate it, is that this alien is motivated by love. The Doctor can do some pretty amazing things out of love, but it absolutely no comparison to what God and Jesus can and will do out of love!  There is so much depth when we say God is love. And Christ has called us to love God and love others. I think it’s pretty amazing that an extremely popular television superhero show is teaching kids what it means to act out of love for your fellow men, fellow women… fellow aliens :-).  So when you stop to think about it, we can all be the hero of our everyday story.  We don’t need a superpower, we just need love.

Doctor Who stories

In conclusion, I just need to clarify one thing… I am not a Whovian! ;-)

Doctor Who wins

peter n paul

How the Jews’ Sin Confronted My Sin Of Judging Others

Disclaimer: I know this is a touchy subject for some, but the idea here is not to start an argument. My desire is to illustrate what it means to wrestle with Scripture, and this is not only something I have wrestled with (as you will read below), but also something our Evangelical culture is wrestling with. Please note any comments that are outwardly discriminative or offensive to either view will be deleted. Let’s be peaceful about this, and let’s all make it a desire to communicate instead of dominate in the responses to this blog. And before I go any further I want to thank everyone who helped me wrestle with Scripture this past year, whether we agreed or not. Being willing to listen and help me process information is what mattered, so thank you for your willingness to be a guide to me.  So without further ado…

In the last couple of years, the conversation on the topic of whether or not salvation of the sexually active members of the LGBT community can take place has intensified. For the first time, I had to face this subject straight on because I am a pastor leading others. I can’t merely say, “It doesn’t matter, just love” because others will look to me to see what I find to be true and will look to my example. I had to find out what I believed for myself.

While growing up, I had always been taught homosexuality was a sin, an abomination, and a pathway to hell. I’m not one to make a judgment of someone else’s eternal salvation. I am aware of Jesus’ words that cut to the throat of the Pharisees who liked to judge others around them because of their own self-righteousness. As I read the Gospels, I no longer found myself able to openly say homosexuality is a sin. Why? There are too many stories of Jesus sitting with the outcasts. Jesus even says he comes for the sick not for those who think they are righteous. (Luke 5:29-32) And one passage from the Gospels has always kept me from claiming anyone is going to hell. (Matthew 21:28-32)  The strong conflict between what I was raised to believe and what I found in The Bible started stirring in my mind every time the word; “homosexuality” entered any given conversation.

A year ago, I purchased a book by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. entitled, “Strength to Love”. This book is a collection of his sermons where he addresses political issues of his day. He challenged people to rise above hatred and to love, as a way to fight the struggles of this world. In order to make the sermons more relevant to today, I changed Vietnam to Iraq to help get a solid understanding of his theology of pacifism. I interchanged white and black to homosexual and heterosexual, so not only was I reading it to understand racism but also to understand the discrimination against sexual orientation that has arisen in our nation today. From this book I was truly challenged to love ALL people. I was challenged to see ALL people as equal.

At this point, I was sincerely starting to question if homosexuality was any more of a sin than being black. If homosexuality is an orientation, then naturally, it’s not more sinful than being black. It’s just how one is born. This is where the real wrestling started to begin in my life. This is where the inner turmoil began to bubble up and confuse me. Reading arguments on Facebook became outrageously upsetting. Listening to people say gays were going to hell made me want to scream. At the same time, my theology was lacking. What did I believe? What would Jesus do? How can I find truth? And for crying out loud, “What does The Bible teach on this topic!”

I turned to the political world. I listened to conservative Christians. I listened to liberal Christians. I did not see how either view stood solidly in theology. We can’t go by what “The Bible says” alone because there’s a lot of things The Bible says that I don’t believe, for example, women will be saved through childbirth. (I Timothy 2:15) On the other side of the argument I found myself wondering why certain passages of Scripture were suddenly being interpreted differently than I had ever heard before. And the whole stance on forced celibacy made me absolutely angry; after all, single people are forced into celibacy as well. Why is it okay to change the thoughts on celibacy for homosexuals, but not for singles? How is that consistent? Well, it’s not. So, I personally believe neither view is complete in Scripture interpretation. This only caused more confusion for me.

My inner turmoil surged and I often felt like a volcano. People were asking me what I believed, and in those moments, I wanted to erupt and spew lava everywhere! I was so frustrated at my own inability to make a decision. Why couldn’t I just decide? Why couldn’t the answer just appear in black and white? Where was the blueprint?

It was at this point I decided I needed a break. Frustration always stops the learning process. ALWAYS! If I were to know what I believed, I needed to defuse and reenter the topic later. I left Facebook groups that intensified my emotions and tried to avoid the topic as much as possible.

The frustration lingered onto me like that single hair that lingers in your mouth because you can’t find it to pull it out. It took me approximately three months before I was able to pull the hair out of my mouth and defuse entirely. Finally, my mind was mostly clear. Yet, I was still reluctant to I dive back into the topic again. The frustration had been too overwhelming and I didn’t want to go there again.

I returned to college, and entered my very first class and in my textbook entitled, “Jesus is Lord” by Kenneth Schenck, something powerful stood out to me. I was at our last pastors’ retreat, sitting in the glow of a hotel lamp, when it became clear to me, like a big bang coming into place in my head. Everything suddenly came together. You see, in Acts, Romans, and in other Pauline Epistles there was a great debate on circumcision. And “a great debate” is an understatement. It was an explosion in the Jewish world. At that point in time, Christians were still considered a sect of Judaism. After Christ’s resurrection, we see an inclusion of Christ’s mercy and love into the Jewish belief where exclusion once stood. This upset the Jews, because they claimed, “WE are God’s chosen people! WE have been following rules and laws for centuries! What have THOSE Gentiles done? Why they aren’t even circumcised! And everyone KNOWS God made a covenant with Abraham so that ONLY those who were circumcised could be a part of God’s chosen people. If they want to be a part of us, circumcision is the ONLY way. God will NOT meet with the uncircumcised for it is against The Law of the Old Testament!”

So it became a two person team: Peter and Paul. Peter ministers to the Jews, and Paul to the Gentiles, and they try to close the gap and bring the two together. Paul teaches by saying ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) That’s right Jews; you are not more righteous than the Gentiles. We ALL are messed up and are in need of God’s mercy. As the Jews refused to listen he would try different theological angles over and over again to try and get them to see, they were ALL equal. Paul even went as far back to Adam to say we ALL come from sin, and that from Jesus, we ALL can have redemption. Jew and Gentile alike (I Corinthians 15:20-34)!

Now, it became clear to me why one of the commandments is, “thou shall not covet.” The Jews were coveting the ‘free ride’ that the Gentiles were receiving into God’s Kingdom. Suddenly, I saw the connection. We as Christians today aren’t that far off. We are the new Jews. We always have that ONE group we send away and say, “The Bible says” and ride them off as going to hell. During the Catholic Crusades, it was any Protestant. In Rev. King’s day, it was believed that integrating blacks and whites in public places (even in the churches) was against God’s will and they would go to hell.   Interracial marriages were a big uproar for a while. People were ONLY to marry within their own race or else they would go to hell. Now, it’s the LGBT Community being told they are going to hell. And all of these accusations were defended by a 66 book collection called, “The Holy Bible”, and it was all stated in the Name of God… *gulp* that makes me extremely nervous…

A few more classes down the road, I was to write an interpretation of Romans 8:26-27. I was hesitant to write what I truly felt about the topic, but I did. I wrote that this controversy with the LGBT community is not new. This controversy has been going on for centuries. In fact, the only things that have changed are the terms “Jew” and “Gentile”.   My teacher responded by saying I had great understanding of the Scripture, and then made this comment at the bottom of my paper, “It is true that one must never allow particulars (truths) to inform universal truth; universals must always inform the particulars.”

Later, I read about Cornelius in Acts 10-11, and it struck a very strong chord in my heart. Cornelius, an uncircumcised Gentile received The Holy Spirit and so did many other Gentiles. The circumcised Jews were shocked because they had not invited the Gentiles into their belief structure, not because God wouldn’t accept them.

That’s when I decided, this ends with me.

I believe members of the LGBT community are born with their sexual orientation. I believe God loves them. I believe homosexual sexual activity kept in a monogamous marital relationship is not a sin.  I believe God can talk with those in the LGBT community and can work through them. I believe they can be saved by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe they are my equal. I believe there is no heart where God’s mercy cannot reach.

Some may ask, “What if you’re wrong?” My response is, “First of all, I prayed consistently, and I felt the Holy Spirit guiding me throughout the entire process and you can’t convince me otherwise. Secondly, I chose to love my neighbor more than I love being right.” Some may say, “God is a just Judge.” My response is, “You’re right. There is a God who is the just Judge, and we’re not Him.” Some may think I made this decision in order to join the world. My response is, “This wrestling took nearly a year. Don’t you think if I just wanted to join the popular crew, my decision would have just happened with a snap of my fingers and without question?”

To those of you who are in the LGBT community, I ask first for the forgiveness of my ignorance and of my sin towards your community. Secondly, I ask forgiveness on behalf of The Church. We have been hateful towards you. We have said awful things. God calls us to love others. When our arms were supposed to be outstretched and welcoming, you found hatred, judgment, and anger. Please forgive us, we are wrong.

To those who are wrestling with this, please keep wrestling. It’s never easy, but it is ALWAYS worth it! And I encourage you to seek out a Christian in the LGBT community if possible, because whether we heterosexuals want to admit it or not, we really aren’t the experts on this topic, they are!