Saturday, February 21, 2009

"Describe how you've felt blessed to be single at some point this year."

That's how my care group leader opened our meeting last night.

Now, for one, let me just say I'm always a little unsure of how to react when, at a singles' group function, we ACTUALLY talk about being single. I can't say as it has ever happened before this one... and now it seems like it happens a LOT. That said.

He wanted to go around the room and have everyone tell a story from the past year of how they'd felt blessed by their single state. I'm sure if he'd had two more hours, he would have inquired of each one of us individually. It struck me as a little overoptimistic to assume that everyone there would have a response, especially since, even over the course of maybe 30 minutes of hearing others' testimonies, I would still have had nothing to say, even if he'd called me out.

Yeah, intellectually I get it. You've got more time on your hands. You're free to go out with friends or stay out late. You can serve more freely in the church. You can eat ice cream cake and popcorn for dinner if you're so inclined. But those are just things that I tell myself to try to make myself feel better. I don't see them as blessings. I know that singleness is a gift, but I'd never call it that and REALLY mean it. I've never felt blessed by it.

On the other hand, at least I can say I don't feel cursed by it. I have no notion of a mean God withholding good things for no good reason. Duh, He's God. And that's my answer to the question Matt closed the meeting with yesterday. He said to share our answers to this question with someone by tomorrow. I have, but I'll share it here as well. The question was - "What can you do to remind yourself of God's goodness in the midst of your single state?" Or something along those lines. My second answer doubles as the best answer I'd have for the first: If it were possible, I WOULD be dating someone. You know, "possible" in the sense of "I like you, you like me, wanna go out? ktnx call me!" But I'm not supposed to be in a relationship right now, therefore I am grateful that God has not even allowed for that temptation. I guess it's circular reasoning - I know I'm not supposed to be because I'm not, and if I were, it would be the right thing, so really, either for the good of the joy or the good of the learning process, I can't go wrong. So basically it amounts to a gratefulness for His omnipotence through space and time. And, y'know, that He cares to bother with that sort of thing.

Personally, I liked singles' group better when we didn't talk about it. I go through my day NOT thinking about it and then go to hear God's Word preached and instead I'm asked to dwell on the very thing I've been trying to avoid. Eh, that's not as true as it used to be. I don't have to try nearly so hard not to think about it as I once did. But still. Like the assumption that alll 20-something of us have actually found blessing in the gift of singleness, I question the wisdom of taking an entire evening to discuss... THAT. For my own sanity, I had to walk out of chapel one time because of that, and that, when I was older than many of the singles there. I simply couldn't handle it. Call it ignorance or immaturity or idolatry and you'd be right, but you'd also have to agree that it did nothing to encourage my soul, either. Doubtless, any number of people were really encouraged by last night's conversation. I... didn't cry. That's gotta count for SOMEthing.

Yeah, can I hear myself. I'm a whiny child who STILL hasn't learned how to fight this battle. I feel like I'm in a group of people who all GET it, who don't need to be babied, who can engage in this sort of conversation without bursting into tears over crushing memories and crushed dreams, who know how to be sad about this without letting it destroy them. I feel like I'm in the wrong class, like I should have been held back a year or something.

I know that marriage isn't that big a deal. That there's nothing wrong with being single, both sides have pros and cons. I know that you never find satisfaction in another person. I know there is no happily ever after. Relationships aren't the answer. So... how 'bout let's talk about something else, eh?

13 comments:

gortexgrrl said...

You're right. That group leader did make an assumption and a false one at that. The fact is that there is no "gift of singleness" (which is an erroneous translation of 1 Cor 7:7, courtesy of the Living Bible, who has since dropped this phrase and "gift of marriage", which is also not in the original Greek).

Singles leaders should find a happy medium rather than over-selling the "happy-happy-joy-joy" version of singleness, or going the other extreme and treating singleness as if it's a disease.

I'm not sure why you say you're 'not supposed to be in a relationship right now'. I hope that's not more singles leader hoo-hah that you've been given. Whether to marry or remain single is very much left up to the individual in the bible (1 Cor 7:8, 9, 28, 36,39, 1 Cor 9:5, Prov 18:22). And there's nothing about having to reach any kind of contentment nirvana as a prequisite.

learning beautiful said...

I can say with full assurance that I'm not supposed to be in a relationship right now... because I'm not in one! If I was supposed to be, then I would be. And you're right. One of my best friends in college met her future husband at a time when she felt she was least prepared for that kind of relationship; there's no "right time." It's just something God knows because He knows the ending.

And actually, I wasn't thinking of it as a "gift" like the gift of tongues or of prophecy... but it's a gift. Like, God says, "Here, this is what you need more than the other. It will bless you, if you will receive it as a gift."

As for the other, my leader wasn't saying you have to be falsely happy... but you are supposed to be happy. And why not? God's given you exactly what you need. And you should use that *gift*.

gortexgrrl said...

"I can say with full assurance that I'm not supposed to be in a relationship right now... because I'm not in one! If I was supposed to be, then I would be."

But it's that just putting God's stamp of approval on your own choices? I'm not saying that it's wrong to be single, but what God allows to happen isn't always a "gift". Look up the word "gift" in the bible, it never refers to things that you wish for that don't happen. The Bible is never disingenuous. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great to make the best of where you are right now, but there's no verse in the Bible that says "where you are is exactly where you're supposed to be".

learning beautiful said...

I disagree! Think about it: is God perfect? Is He good? If He is perfectly good, then can He do anything that is not good? Is He all powerful? Is He all knowing? Then nothing that happens is beyond His control. So if something seemingly “bad” happens to me, 1. He knows about it, 2. He orchestrated it, 3. it IS good. It’s only that I have a limited view of the situation and I don’t see how it is good. Yet. So if everything that happens to me is actually “good,” then whether or not I like it at the time, it is a gift.

And what is good? Whatever honors God as God. As the One perfect source of all life, deserving of creation’s unending praise because He is without any flaw that would make Him unworthy of that praise.

So is death good? He allows death, doesn’t He? Passing by the perfectly good point that life on earth isn’t all that great anyway, I would still say yes. Death is good. Death reminds us that we are fragile and dependent on God for breath. Death often has a sobering effect on the living, causing them to consider their pride and self-sufficiency; it drives them to the One who can give hope after death. Physical death breaks the barrier between communion with God – the saved will find themselves in His presence, and what better place to be?

So what of the unsaved? It is difficult to understand how a perfect being would condemn anyone to eternal torment… but look at it this way – the unsaved spend their whole lives refusing to honor God, their Creator, who became a man and submitted Himself to death so that we could be in His holy presence if we’d accept His offer to take our place. Can the Perfect One share communion with imperfection that refuses to acknowledge His superiority? I think that it’s fair for Him to make that call.

Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” ALL things: my mistakes, my successes, and yes, where I am in life. It is not out of His control. I AM exactly where I’m supposed to be because if I was supposed to be somewhere else, the All-Powerful God would have me there, whether I liked it or not. It’s not “God’s stamp of approval.” It’s me saying that my choices aren’t going to mess up what He’s got going on.

And I don’t know what’s going on. If I had my way, I would not be single. In fact, I’d be dating a specific someone. But if I were with him, he would not be with the girl he’s with today, and she has been good for him. If I were with him, I would not have had to learn some of the things I’ve had to learn in order to deal with the rejection – good things to have under my belt, not the least of which are things that relate to learning how not to put so much value on the achieving of marital status. If I were to marry this guy, I might later find out that we weren’t as good for each other as I thought, and would I not then be sad that God didn't lead us apart? I would never have the chance to meet another guy who would have been better for me, and I for him. Or I’d miss out on an opportunity that would give me more satisfaction than being in an exclusive relationship. I have no way of knowing what my future holds; only that God is working all the bits together for the best “good.”

Am I saying that people who marry and get divorced are out of God’s plan? Of course not. They have something to learn from that, too. I only know I’m grateful that He hasn’t called me to that sort of lesson!

Maybe the Bible never uses the word “gift” the way I’ve used it here, but look at John 11:3-4, concerning the story of Lazarus: "So the sisters [Mary and Martha] sent a message to Him: 'Lord, the one You love is sick.' When Jesus heard it, He said, 'This sickness will not end in death but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.'" Did Lazarus die? Yeah. But was that the end of the story? Nope. Lazarus was brought back for a few more days (or maybe even years) of life! God was glorified, His power was shown, and it was a foreshadowing of Christ’s own death and resurrection. Did Mary and Martha think that the thing that they wished wouldn’t happen (the death of their brother) was a gift? Certainly not. Not for four days. But when they saw God’s glory, when their brother’s life was restored, when they believed that Christ is the Messiah… would they deny that those were gifts?

Does that make more sense? I’m sorry I wasn’t more clear before as to my meaning behind some of my terms. If you disagree with my arguments, please write back! I’d love to hear more of your thoughts. :)

gortexgrrl said...

"So if something seemingly “bad” happens to me, 1. He knows about it, 2. He orchestrated it, 3. it IS good."

God allows things to happen as a function of the free will he grants to his creatures (although, according to Paul, it's not really free, since we are slaves to sin).

God generally doesn't mess with the natural laws he has designed, in other words, the same number of Christians exposed to second hand smoke will get lung cancer, when viewed against a comparable non-Christian reference group. Lung cancer is a consequence of messing with God's design for our lungs.

Same thing with singleness: marriage has always been assumed to be God's design for almost everyone, and it has only been in the last few decades that marriage rates have fallen, as a consequence of many artificial human actions, such as widespread premarital sex afforded by modern birth control and social trends that followed.

I suppose you could say that it is "good" that God allow human beings to experience the consequence of their own individual and collective choices. But remember one of the key tenets of Calvinist thought (since that's where you seem to be coming from) -- that God cannot be the "author of sin".

You quote Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” But you left out the last part of that verse "and are called according to his purpose". God certainly works with us when we are working with his missional purposes (which is the context of the verse), but this doesn't necessarily mean that "God designs your cancer", as John Piper writes. Or that we are encouraged to think of what ever we do as "God's will". I think we need to think more in terms of God's moral will, as per his written word, rather than speculating about his sovereign will, which we cannot know.

"ALL things: my mistakes, my successes, and yes, where I am in life. It is not out of His control. I AM exactly where I’m supposed to be because if I was supposed to be somewhere else, the All-Powerful God would have me there, whether I liked it or not."

But this does put "God's stamp of approval on your choices"! I heard a fellow once speak this way after cheating on his wife, that he felt at the time that if it wasn't God's will, he would do some thing to stop it.

"If I were with him, I would not have had to learn some of the things I’ve had to learn in order to deal with the rejection...If I were to marry this guy, I might later find out that we weren’t as good for each other as I thought, and would I not then be sad that God didn't lead us apart? I would never have the chance to meet another guy who would have been better for me, and I for him...Am I saying that people who marry and get divorced are out of God’s plan? Of course not. They have something to learn from that, too. I only know I’m grateful that He hasn’t called me to that sort of lesson!"

Even if God has purposes in allowing certain things to happen, it's not always about "teaching you a lesson", although it is good to learn from things. These kinds of teachings to singles are problematic, because they keep them feeling as if God is going to keep punishing them until they've "learned their lesson". Who marries and who doesn't has mostly to do with fleshly human factors, like physical attraction, supply and demand. Stuff that has little to do with who's holy and who's not.

learning beautiful said...

Sorry I didn’t get right back to you – I’ve been without a computer for two and a half weeks.

In Romans 6:22, Paul says, “But now, since you have been liberated from sin and become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification – and the end is eternal life!” Liberated from sin. Obviously he didn’t preach that we’re still slaves to it! But that really has very little to do with the conversation at hand, true?

Of course God isn’t the author of sin; I wasn’t trying to say so. What are you getting at? Sin isn’t things that we consider unpleasant; it’s anything that robs God of His glory. Consequences for ignoring God’s wisdom that then cause us to seek Him and show us that He is greater are therefore the exact opposite of sin.

Romans 8:28, in the Holman Christian Standard Bible, fleshes out the phrase even more to say, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” No, I didn’t quote the whole verse – I assumed you knew it already, and the second part is little more than a reiteration of the first.

And that’s just it – I would say that God DOES design cancer for some, singleness for some, death of beloved, getting stopped at a light that makes you late for work. All these things work like puzzle pieces that make us who we are, and with God designing those pieces, we can rest assured that He is shaping who we are to be “more like Christ.” They test your faith. They test your patience. They drive you to the author of peace. No, we can’t know His sovereign will ahead of time… we can only rest assured that once it’s happened, it IS.

It sounds as if the fellow who justified cheating on his wife in that way was deceived, in the sense that he believed that since it happened, it was not sin. God does not confine Himself to single events like that, though. We are a sinful people and we will sin; that doesn’t mean that we’re not wrong. And it doesn’t mean that He’s in any way out of control of the situation. That situation could have been exactly what the couple will need later on in life to experience reconciliation. It could be that God used it to draw one or both of them to Himself. In that sense, yes, the sin that he committed against her was something God allowed (so it was part of His will) to happen in order to bring about a greater good and show His power. He did not cause sin, but He knew that man’s sinful heart before he was born… and He knew how to make a good thing out of evil. Like you said, we don’t know His sovereign will… until after it has happened.

I didn’t use the phrase “teaching you/me/them a lesson” precisely because it carries that negative connotation that implies something wholly other than I mean. In the sense that you use the phrase, yes, those teachings are problematic and make people who desire marriage to feel as though they’re being punished for not knowing enough, and it is that sort of thing that I rail against. My point there, however, was [well, first it was a side note to counter an argument that I assumed you’d present, but mostly…] to say that God teaches us in different ways… and that we all need His teaching/guidance as a completely positive thing. If I have my druthers, I will never have to suffer a divorce. But if I do, it will not be as though God is “teaching me a lesson” for some sin that I or he or my great great grandfather committed. It would be ultimately because that pain is a necessary piece to the puzzle of my life, a necessary period of time in my lifelong pursuit of Him.

“Who marries and who doesn't has mostly to do with fleshly human factors, like physical attraction, supply and demand. Stuff that has little to do with who's holy and who's not.”

This is the main point of contention, yes? When you say “who’s holy and who’s not,” are you speaking of two different kinds of humans, or of God (holy) and men (not)? Because if it is the latter, I must adamantly disagree, because you would be making another argument that God is not in control of the world He created. If the former, then I do certainly agree. People get married every day who are not ready for it, who are not mature, who are not “good Christians” (which is what I assume you mean by “holy”) and it can be a beautiful thing! We all need to learn, no matter how old we get. And God knows that some will learn things better in a single state than the alternative, and some He knows will not learn certain good things until they have a spouse to help them along. It is my grief as it seems to be yours that too many Christian people believe that they are somehow at fault for their singleness when it is nothing less than the grace of God preserving them for something better.

Did I leave any of your concerns unaddressed? I appreciate that you’ve been willing to converse and I don’t want you to get the impression that I’m shying away from anything!

catwoman said...

"Romans 8:28, in the Holman Christian Standard Bible, fleshes out the phrase even more to say, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose...

...And that’s just it – I would say that God DOES design cancer for some, singleness for some, death of beloved, getting stopped at a light that makes you late for work. All these things work like puzzle pieces that make us who we are, and with God designing those pieces, we can rest assured that He is shaping who we are to be “more like Christ.” They test your faith. They test your patience. They drive you to the author of peace. No, we can’t know His sovereign will ahead of time… we can only rest assured that once it’s happened, it IS."

It's one thing to say that God allows these things and can use them, quite another to say that he "designed" them. Again, you must look to the scriptures to see if these concepts are really there -- **and they're not**. Nowhere in the bible is disease described as a "gift" or a trial to build someone's faith. Faith building trials are almost always spoken of in terms of enduring persecution for the sake of the early church.

"If I have my druthers, I will never have to suffer a divorce. But if I do, it will not be as though God is “teaching me a lesson” for some sin that I or he or my great great grandfather committed. It would be ultimately because that pain is a necessary piece to the puzzle of my life, a necessary period of time in my lifelong pursuit of Him....People get married every day who are not ready for it, who are not mature, who are not “good Christians” (which is what I assume you mean by “holy”) and it can be a beautiful thing! We all need to learn, no matter how old we get. And God knows that some will learn things better in a single state than the alternative, and some He knows will not learn certain good things until they have a spouse to help them along."

Again, I would contend that not everything that happens to you is for the sake of teaching you something or making you a better Christian. You can take the same arguments about sovereignty and say that something bad can happen to you so that someone else will become a better Christian. And you'd probably agree with that, but the scriptures don't speak of happenstance in this way.

learning beautiful said...

2 Cor. 12:7-10: “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.”

It’s never clear what the “thorn” is, but suffice it to say that it is an uncomfortable situation in Paul’s life. Yet the purpose of that trial was for God’s glory to be made known, and Paul saw it as a thing to be glad for. I used the word “design” because of the complexity of His plan. Because, in His foreknowledge, He knows the little things that will be necessary to ultimately bring about our good, and the things that we’ll do to resist Him, and what He’ll need to do for us to counter our foolishness.

But again, I don’t want to get caught up in semantics. The reason for bringing up that verse in Romans is to reiterate what it says: that we can have hope, no matter what our situation, that God is working it for our good. And that includes people who ask God why they’re not married.

Maybe I’m not correctly hearing your point. What is your concern/complaint, specifically?

I want to be married, but I will not go out and rashly ask someone off the street to marry me just so I can have a ring on my finger for a month or two. There has to be mutual interest in one another and common ground spiritually, and I’ve not yet found anyone who finds me interesting and I, him. Yes, I’d agree that there is too much emphasis on the topic of marriage as a whole directed at singles, both “find a Godly husband!” AND “don’t cause your brother to stumble!” and not enough time spent on finding any middle ground in the meantime. I think the church sucks at helping singles cope with what we often mistake for a “bad time” in our lives… partly because no one can force us to appreciate it as an element that will be used for our good. No one can make that click in our minds for us, and it is a very complicated concept that I, at 26, have only recently begun to see from any different perspective than I ever have before.

“Again, I would contend that not everything that happens to you is for the sake of teaching you something or making you a better Christian.”

Well, maybe not. But He said He’s working all things together for my good. And personally, I like to learn and be stretched and challenged, so I look for teachings and ways He has revealed for me to mature through my experiences. Maybe it doesn’t ever say verbatim that that’s what they’re for, but I’d rather not lose out on the opportunity to be a better person if He’s gracious enough to show me a better way to live and view my world.

Daddy said...

LB - "I can say with full assurance that I'm not supposed to be in a relationship right now... because I'm not in one! If I was supposed to be, then I would be."
GG - there's no verse in the Bible that says "where you are is exactly where you're supposed to be".
Me – I have two responses to this, so I’ll give both.
(1) Your statement is not made in a vacuum. It is wrapped in the context that you (a) would prefer to be in a relationship (b) have been diligent to seek out God’s direction for your life and (c) sought to use the wisdom that He has given you. Given those conditions, your statement is perfectly correct…but I suspect GG was looking at the statement without consideration of the context.
(2) I tend to line up with GG, but this is touchy ground. Your statement, I feel certain, springs from Romans 8:28 and the doctrine of the sovereignty of God most likely joined with a heavy sprinkling of the doctrine of predestination – yes? If not, please clarify.


LB - Is God perfect? Is He good? If He is perfectly good, then can He do anything that is not good? Is He all powerful? Is He all knowing? Then nothing that happens is beyond His control. So if something seemingly “bad” happens to me, 1. He knows about it, 2. He orchestrated it, 3. it IS good.
GG - God allows things to happen as a function of the free will he grants to his creatures
Me – I’m afraid that I’d have to fall in with GG on this one. I’ll withhold further comment until I get your feedback about “Touchy Ground” above.


LB - I AM exactly where I’m supposed to be because if I was supposed to be somewhere else, the All-Powerful God would have me there, whether I liked it or not.
Me – The way I’m understanding your statement, this makes God the Grand Puppeteer. That’s a picture I definitely cannot agree with.


LB - Am I saying that people who marry and get divorced are out of God’s plan? Of course not.
Me – “Out of God’s plan”. If by that you mean that the divorce was something that God “did” then I would have to disagree on this point as well. If, on the other hand, you mean by this that God is still with them through the situation and can turn ANYTHING around and bring good out of it, then I would sound a resounding “Yes!”


LB - If I have my druthers, I will never have to suffer a divorce. But if I do, it will not be as though God is “teaching me a lesson” for some sin that I or he or my great great grandfather committed. It would be ultimately because that pain is a necessary piece to the puzzle of my life, a necessary period of time in my lifelong pursuit of Him.
GG - It's one thing to say that God allows these things and can use them, quite another to say that he "designed" them.
Me – I’m still falling in with GG here. Still looking forward to your feedback on “touchy ground”.


LB - The reason for bringing up that verse in Romans is to reiterate what it says: that we can have hope, no matter what our situation, that God is working it for our good. And that includes people who ask God why they’re not married.
Me – AMEN!!!!!!


GG - “Again, I would contend that not everything that happens to you is for the sake of teaching you something or making you a better Christian.”
LB - Well, maybe not. But He said He’s working all things together for my good.
Me – AMEN!!!!!!

nic pfost said...

i know there's a lot of discussion here, and it's heavy. i just didn't want anyone to think i was ignoring it. but i'd really like to go back to the actual post again, just for a minute.

personally, i think you're justified to be irritated by the focus on singleness in singles group. i actually tend to think its one of those unhealthy things christians tend to do without really thinking about it.

life is complicated and messy and ridiculous. you don't have to be married for that to be true. and you know what, every single one of us needs *relationship*. not marriage. but relationship.

so singles groups that have sessions with topics like this one ("ways you're blessed to be single", "living a godly single life", "having pure relationships with singles of the opposite sex", etc) really miss the point in a lot of ways. we don't need to learn about how to live the single life. we need to learn about living life, period.

the New Testament doesn't really spend a whole lot of time gerrymandering people into homogenous demographics to tailor its message more effectively. no, it just tells real people about what it means to live real life. some of the people are married. some of them aren't. you could argue that it's notable that two of the heavy hitters (jesus and paul) happened to stay single, but they don't really make a big deal out of that on the whole.

i guess the biggest reason i hate singles groups is because it isolates you from the rest of the church, as if that were necessary somehow. also, it makes marriage too much of a "next step", which is counter-productive and stupid. it's too organized: you start with elementary school VBS, move to middle school sunday school, then high school missions trips, graduate to college-age sunday night services, then singles groups, then young marrieds, and so on.

well, you graduated high school and went to college, right? that's what you're supposed to do!

so you're in singles group ... when are you gonna graduate?

it's just ridiculous to me. being single, as you said, isn't better or worse than married. it's just different. it's a lateral move, not a step up.

every single one of us is lonely and longs for relationship. most of the lonely, longing people in this world are already married. its no silver bullet.

really, i think singles groups should just be tossed in with everybody else. i sort of get why middle schoolers and younger need to be broken out sometimes, but i kinda just think adults should be all together. if there's too many people for one class, break it up by topic, not by "life stage". or better yet, randomly assign people to different classes and rotate every few months -- force people to get to know others in the church. christians getting to know each other: hows that for a radical thought?

anyways, now even i'm getting off topic. stay strong. don't let them brainwash you. you've got more figured out than you realize, methinks.

Daddy said...

Well said, Nic!

learning beautiful said...

I confess I’m not exactly sure what you’re asking, or rather, what your point is behind the question in the first section. Maybe the rest of this comment will clarify somewhat….

I don’t think this is a subject that can be fully proven, one way or the other, by human understanding. That’s why there have been so many words, lol. Still, “where there are many words….”

Do we agree that God can see the past, the present, and the future? If so, then He has seen the mistakes we choose to make. He’s seen the ways we’ll fail. He knows how we’ll hurt one another. Since He knows how we’ll react to our circumstances, He can provide the way out. He can make good things out of the evil. He doesn’t change those circumstances to begin with because without trials, learning would not happen, and without the wisdom that comes from learning… you see where I’m going. As a parent, sometimes you have to let your child make mistakes for them to learn what’s right/best/smart.

So, no, I’m not referring to God as a puppeteer. If I wanted to, I could probably find someone to make love to me tonight. I could hunt down some illegal drugs, get drunk, fly to Alaska, go scuba diving, kill someone, play some pool. God would know it before it happened. He could avert any of those plans if need be, or He could let my plans play out because there was more to the story – redemption somewhere down the line, a person who would not have been reached if didn’t have to go to rehab, a person I wouldn’t meet if I didn’t fly to Alaska. Viz, He doesn’t let bad things happen without a good reason. It’s a small world, after all, and we have no way of just how intricately everything works together, just how much we need each other, pain, joy, interaction, to get where we’re going. We get glimpses sometimes, but only God gets the pleasure of seeing that larger picture.

By “out of God’s plan,” I mean that they haven’t done anything that He didn’t know was coming and didn’t already have plans to use as a part of their story.

Again, I used “design” because the word “plan” didn’t seem strong enough. “Plan” seems too simple, so two dimensional, whereas a design can be multi-faceted, complex, colorful, and unpredictable. It’s like a rock carving. You could carve a very beautiful form out of a rock. Good job. Very nice. Or you can use the imperfections, the natural design, the natural shape of the stone as a part of your design. The natural lines in the stone have meaning. The viewer can appreciate the way some bumps and cracks were not erased but used to make the result entirely unique and wonderful. It takes a real Artist to make a beautiful piece of art out of a piece of crap rock, but God does it all the time.

learning beautiful said...

Hi Nic! Good to hear from you! :D

As it turns out, our church used to have only adult care groups – singles and marrieds all together. That was right before I came to the church. I don’t know why that decision was made… maybe conversation can be more open in the married groups; they certainly wouldn’t get much out of “making the most of your life while you don’t have the requirements of a spouse and children” talks. I do know that our group has grown by leaps and bounds since I’ve been there… maybe when they made the decision, it was nothing more than, “They’re finally numerous enough to give them their own group now! Let’s do it.”

I have to admit that it was a blessing to me to be in a group of people who were of that specific “single” demographic. People who are in my same stage of life. Because as much as I dearly love my married friends in Cola, there was just so much that I couldn’t relate to. And especially as someone new to the church, it was nice to find all of those people in one place. But then I’d also have to confess that while they do put a lot of emphasis on getting to know people and not letting differences in age, stage, etc. get in the way of getting to know folks in the church, I have done very little to branch out. Would that be easier if I were in a marrieds group? Well… yeah, it definitely would. But I can’t BLAME it on that; it’s my responsibility regardless.

I totally agree that they miss the point by drawing so much attention to it. Still, in their defense, singles are GONNA think about it and they’re GONNA want not to be pure all the time… the leadership are GONNA feel like we ALL need reminding. It will always fall on a person’s ears who grumbles to themselves, “I just finally STOPPED thinking about how much I want to be in a relationship” but there will probably also be someone who will then think twice about doing something foolish, too. Serving the weaker brother, and all that.

If they made the focus on living pure lives in the sight of God and made it a “whole life change” thing and not a specified issue, maybe it would work…. “Live life.” I can roll with that. :)