While I’m Single… (Part 4 of 5)

Let’s quickly review. I told you that through these blog posts I would explore 3 questions I’ve been asking about dating and 3 commitments I’ve made and upon which I have chosen to “double down.”

So far we have looked at 2 questions:blank-sign-question

1. Why do you want to date?

2. How holy do you believe God’s grace will enable you to be?

In this post, we will explore the final question.

Maybe the way I struggle with this question is different from the way you approach it. Or maybe not.

I’m tempted to target this more to the gents who may be reading this, but I actually think it is equally appropriate for both men and women. Here’s why: Though I believe that it is up to the man to be the one who pursues the woman, statistically women have been shown to be “pickier” than guys. Therefore the question of the day applies to both genders:


Question #3: What are you looking for in your future spouse?


Seriously, I’m asking you. What?

Have you ever heard the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears? If not, I’m sorry for your childhood. You can google it and watch one of the videos that pop up as a bedtime story tonight. Sometimes dating can feel like Goldilocks’ adventure in the house of the three bears where she is too-hot-too-cold-just-right1 (1)searching for the thing that is “just right”…or in our case, the person who is “just right.”

I’m not going to give you specifics because I think they could potentially interact with underlying insecurities, but I’ve heard some pretty ridiculous reasons given as to why a guy isn’t interested in a girl (or vice versa)…because they are “too _____________” or “too _____________.” As I’ve been re-watching Seinfeld on Netflix, there are more than a few ridiculous conversations along those lines. I’ve been guilty of it myself.

So what is “just right” to you? Or should I say, who is “just right”?

This question may be a little more challenging to address because of the perspective that you bring to the table.

Some of us are indeed looking for a person who is “just right”…perfect for us in every way. Others are looking for “just anybody.” And in between those extremes, we ALL find ourselves somewhere along the continuum of expectation.

Screenshot 2015-09-18 17.50.56Where do you find yourself? (take a moment to give your anonymous answer to this question…it will only show the percentages of how many people answered each way)

On the one side, we struggle with being too picky and on the other we struggle with compromising legitimate standards. How do we reconcile the tension between having high standards and being too picky? What is non-negotiable? What needs to be negotiable?

By the way, if you are reading this and you are a young, hilarious, beautiful, billionaire heiress who has retired from being an astronaut and, out of your love for God, have decided to spend your emotionally stable life serving others by cooking gourmet meals on your yacht as you sail around the world in search of conquest and adventure, please message me. I think we should talk. You may be “just right” for me.

So…I tend to fall more on the idealistic side of the spectrum. But, as I said in a previous post, I go through phases where I’ll settle for “company” as my idealism wanes and the reality of being alone rises to the forefront of my thoughts. So I suppose you could say that I’ve made a road trip or two across the continuum.

Let me address you “just right” folks first.

Recently, in reading through Tim Keller’s Book The Meaning of Marriage, I came across this gem of a quote:

Both men and women today want a marriage in which they can receive emotional and sexual satisfaction from someone who will simply let them “be themselves.” They want a spouse who is fun, intellectually stimulating, sexually attractive, with many common interests, and who, on top of it all, is supportive of their personal goals and of the way they are living now. And if your desire is for a spouse who will not demand a lot of change from you, then you are also looking for a spouse who is almost completely pulled together, someone very “low maintenance” without much in the way of personal problems. You are looking for someone who will not require or demand significant change. You are searching, therefore, for an ideal person—happy, healthy, interesting, content with life. Never before in history has there been a society filled with people so idealistic in what they are seeking in a spouse.”

Gulp.guilty

He is suggesting that the attributes of the person that fit our definition of “just right” may be attributes motivated by a desire to have someone who will conveniently fit into our lives and who will not require us to change.

Surrounded by a culture that places supreme value on ideations like “acceptance” and “tolerance,” could it be that we subconsciously embrace these expectations and unknowingly demand them from the people who get closest to us, pushing them away when we feel they demand too much? Or when someone’s issues no longer make a relationship convenient?

At this point, I want to go back to the passage from the Bible that I used in a previous post.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy… Ephesians 5:25-26

Gosh. When I think about that, I realize that Jesus loved us and gave himself up for us when we were not “just right” at all. When I am totally flawed JESUS LOVES ME.

checklist-shutterstock_156086177The love that Jesus demonstrates for me is not earned by my ability to meet the qualifications of his checklist for his future spouse. Rather, the love He shows me actually enables me to become that which I wasn’t.

I wonder if, rather than focusing on the search for the person who is “just right,” we should fix our eyes on the love that God gives us when we are all wrong? As we become more aware of our own shortcomings, and even more so, the Father’s love for us in the midst of those shortcomings, perhaps we will have the capacity, with that same love we have received, to love a person who is “too _____________?”

Because here’s the truth: Aside from Jesus, “just right” doesn’t exist.mr-wrong

You won’t find it. And, I hate to break it to you…you’re not it either.

So say hello to “Mr. or Miss Wrong.”

Gulp.

What about those of us who fall on the other side of the spectrum and are in a place where we are looking for “just anybody?”

There is a big difference between being picky and having Godly standards. There are certain things that the Word of God admonishes us to consider when entering into a relationship that could lead to marriage; primarily that we are spiritually compatible with the person we are considering entering into a covenant with.  I’m not talking about someone who has “prayed a prayer” one time like you did…I’m talking about somebody who is walking down a firm path in the same direction that you are going.

Can I encourage you to search God’s Word and use it as the filter of not only how you see your own value but in establishing values that help you determine what you are looking for in a future spouse? If you don’t, your standards will be shaped for you externally by our culture or internally by your own unmet desire for companionship.

So, what are you looking for in your future spouse?

It’s not bad to be specific. In fact, specifics can be very helpful. We all need to decide upon and commit to our own list of non-negotiables (standards) and negotiables (preferences). But I want to check myself to make sure that my “specifics” are not unknowingly skewed by selfish, idealistic expectation on the one side or pessimistic desperation on the other.

So that’s why I’m making this commitment:


Commitment #3 – To be Practical in Pursuit
To pursue a relationship with Godly standards.


Want to join me?


Will you do me a favor and leave a comment stating the 3 most important qualities that you are looking for in your future spouse? You know you want to. The comments box is right there…

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While I’m Single… (Part 3 of 5)

sex
My apologies to any of you just tuning in. You may want to review the previous posts in this series. It will feel more like entering through the foyer rather than the bedroom.

At the beginning of every semester in college, the wall in the mail hall was completely covered with flyers advertising used books for sale. At times, it was impossible to find a square inch of “non-postered” wall space on the block-long wall. Needless to say, it was hard to get your used book flyer to stand out.

But one fellow student found a way. In size 72 font, he simply wrote one word on an otherwise white sheet of paper: “SEX.” At the bottom of the page, in fine print, he listed a few books he was trying to unload. I’m pretty sure they sold pretty quickly.

Sex sells. And it certainly gets our attention. From the cameras of Hollywood to the conference room at the office to conversations with friends, messages about sex are all around us.

“It’s just sex.”
“Did you sleep with him?”
“Use what yo mama gave you.”
“It’s my body. I can do what I want with it.”
“Bro…how did last night go? Did you…ya know…?”
“I don’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive…if you know what I mean.”

You’d be hard pressed to find a TV show where sex is not the normal “end of a date activity”…except for the out of touch, judgmental, prudish character who wears cat sweaters over her jumper (no offense to anyone who chooses to dress like that).

But messages about sex are not just “out there.” They’re “in here.” Just like God came up with the idea of marriage, he also came up with the idea of sex. Pretty interesting, eh? And He gave us a healthy desire for it. Not only so, but in our sexually charged culture, we battle consistent sexual temptation (not from God) in our thoughts. Or maybe you’re one of the .0000000001% who don’t? If so, good for you…you can stop reading.

Bottom line: This issue is up close and personal. I’ve been on a couple of different dates with Christian women in the recent past where the question was raised to me, “Is sex on the table?” When the answer was no, that invariably led to the famous follow-up question, “How far is too far for you?

Which leads me to my big question for this post…


Question #2: How holy do you believe God’s grace will enable you to be?


Seriously. I’m asking you. How holy?

You may notice that I changed the question. You know why? Because the question “How far is too far?” is a terrible question. Seriously. It’s so dumb.

Let me illustrate (I drew this for you myself…which is why it looks like it was done by a 5 year old…a smart 5 year old, but still):

IMG_6897 (1)

Click on this sexy drawing to view it full size.

It’s all about where your focus is. Notice where each question leads (go ahead…take note…I spent a lot of time on that).

If you focus on negative things…you tend to become negative.

If you focus on positive things…you tend to become positive.

If you focus on what you can get away with and still desire to experience life and peace…good luck.

So, let’s explore our question of “How holy do you believe God’s grace will enable you to be?Guess what?!? I know the answer. But before I answer that, let me pause for just a moment to address those who may be asking the question as to why I’m equating sex with sin in my pretty drawing.

Andy, are you saying sex is sin?That all depends. It can either be one of God’s greatest gifts to you—bringing life and peace, or a misused gift—creating pain and internal discord. Which one it is depends upon whether you are married to the person you are having sex with. Again…sex is God’s idea. It’s intended to create “oneness.” Ultimately it is a tiny picture of the delight that we can experience in oneness with him. Since God invented it, He gets to say how it works because He knows what He made it for. He says it’s to create deep oneness and intimacy in the context of a committed covenant relationship…because that’s the type of relationship He desires to have with us.

If the fruit of the properly used gift of sex (in marriage) is oneness, then the misuse of that gift (sex outside of marriage) creates dissonance. Tim Keller says, “It is radically dissonant to give your body to someone to whom you will not also commit your whole life.”

chainsaw haircutGod doesn’t want you to be fragmented. That is not his aim for you. If sin is “missing the mark of God’s best for you,” then sex outside of marriage is sin. Again, he gets to set the rules because he made the tools. If you don’t like it, take it up with him. You don’t use a chainsaw to give haircuts. That’s not what it is for. And if you use something in a way other than it was designed, people get hurt. It’s the same with sex.*

Ok, back to our question, “How holy do you believe God’s grace will enable you to be?

Ready for the answer? Check this out:

Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:18-20

So here’s the context: some Christians in the church at Corinth (the people this was originally written to) were regularly having sex with pagan temple prostitutes. And you thought that conversation you overheard at the gym was scandalous!

God essentially says to them “Don’t do it! It’s tearing you apart! That’s not how it works! You are harming yourself!

But then He says a CRAZY thing…

“Don’t you realize that your body [the one you are misusing] IS the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?”

Notice (seriously…take note of this) what he does NOT say:

He does NOT say, “Don’t you realize that your body WAS the temple of the Holy Spirit, the place that God chose to live…but you scared him away when you screwed up by screwing around so you better act right if you want him to come back!He does NOT say that. Nope. Not what He says.

He speaks to these misguided folks who are sinning in some pretty crazy ways in misusing the gift of sex and says, “You don’t know who you are…God himself lives in you. If you knew who you were, you wouldn’t be acting like you are acting.”

You see, in the Old Testament (before J.C. in the Bible), God lived in an immaculate temple. It had king_solomons_temple_bookends_2to be perfect and pure because God is perfect and pure. In the New Testament time (now), He chooses to live in us. The problem is that we aren’t perfect or pure because of sin…sexual sin being one of many types of sin. But God is so committed to you that He came up with a plan. Jesus sacrificed his life and went through unimaginable pain to “buy you back” by taking the consequence for your sin, and in exchange He gives you his perfection and purity (some would call it righteousness). That’s the only way that God would live in you. DO YOU GET THAT? He could make his home anywhere, but He looked at you and said “There! I want to dwell there!” And He paid a high price for you!

Again, DO YOU GET THAT? God himself, in the person of the Holy Spirit, has chosen to make YOU his home! He makes you a new creation. You go from eternal death to eternal life. (By the way, if you’ve never made that decision to follow Jesus and haven’t experienced this new life I’m talking about, I’d love to talk with you more about it…message me…or just ask Jesus if you want…you can talk straight to him).

The Holy Spirit doesn’t run away when you sin. That’s part of the reason why sexual sin creates so much dissonance. I mean…talk about awkwardmisusing a gift designed to create oneness while the One desiring to be one with you is all mixed up in the middle.

The solution is NOT to try to earn God’s presence back in your life if you have sinned sexually. The solution is to repent…which literally means, “to change your mind.”

Change your mind and:

  • Acknowledge that you missed the mark of God’s best for you.
  • Realize that Jesus has already paid the price for ALL your sins…yes…even THAT one…even the ones you haven’t committed yet.
  • Reject any shame or guilt that you may feel. You don’t need to carry that. Jesus took your shame on the cross. Don’t waste his offer to take it from you.**
  • Come into agreement with and commit to God’s plan for how to use the gift of sex.
  • Realize who Jesus has made you, the perfect and pure residence of God himself! He bought you with a high price!
  • Recognize you belong to him now so honor him with your body.

If I could sum up all of those things in one statement, it would be this:

Discover who you are and then simply be that, the perfect and pure temple of God!

And listen: If God himself lives in you, don’t you think He will help you to use the gifts He gives you in the way that He designed them…in a way that will bring honor to him and life and peace to you?

It’s difficult. I get it. Believe me. But it’s worth it. And so are you.

He. Will. Give. You. Grace.

Grace does not give us the ability to sin. It gives us the ability not to sin.

So that’s why I’m making this commitment:


Commitment #2 – To be Patient in Purity

To discover who I am and be that.


Want to join me?


*To study this out for yourself in the Bible, I’d recommend you start in 1 Corinthians 6:15-17. It’s one of many passages that talk about God’s purpose for the gift of sex.
** You might even want to change your mind and talk to somebody that you trust who’s your same gender. Share your struggles with them and have them pray for you. It brings healing where there has been tearing. I don’t even understand it. But I can tell you that it’s true. Check out James 5:16

While I’m Single… (Part 2 of 5)

And now it’s getting real. No more intros. No more overviews. I promised that I would share 3 questions I’ve been asking about dating and 3 commitments I’ve made and upon which I have chosen to “double down.” So here we go with the first of each

Wendy's burgerA few years ago, a couple of friends and I were going through the drive thru at Wendy’s for a late night snack. I was driving and ordered first, saying to the menu board speaker, “I’ll have a Double Stack, please.” I asked my friend sitting in the back what she wanted. She dramatically began, “I guess I’ll just have a Classic Single. Because that’s what I am. Single. I’ll always be single. Single forever.

“Uh. Ok,” I said, breaking up her emotional tirade, “would you like fries or a drink?”

No. Just the single. Alone. By itself. Just like me. Single. Alone. By myself.

This actually happened (I mean, who could make that up).*

At times the desire to have a significant other to share your life with can be so all-consuming that a fast food menu can be the catalyst for a meltdown. She wanted a boyfriend, and she wanted one bad[ly]. Even in her ecstatic utterance she hinted at the reason why—because she felt alone. By herself. Lonely.

Though I have never embarrassed myself in a fast food freakout about my singleness, if I’m going to be honest with you (which I said I would), at times I feel that same kind of lonely that my friend over-enthusiastically shared. It would be nice to have someone to share my life with on a deeper level.

Loneliness. That’s one of many valid reasons people want to date. But what about you?


Question #1: Why do you want to date?


Seriously. I’m asking you. Why do you want to be in a relationship?

For the sake of brevity, here’s an incomplete list of possibilities:

  • To feel loved or valued
  • Because cooking for one is lame
  • For a sense of security
  • To enhance your social status
  • Because “war” is more fun than “solitaire”
  • Because time is ticking away
  • To fill a void in your life
  • Because you think it will make you happy
  • Because you are bored

That’s just a start.

How you answer that question is really, really important. Here’s why:

Your direction when you depart determines your destination.

departures-sign
For example: When I was flying back from Kenya last week, I had to go to the airport gate that said “Dallas” above it. If I had gone to a different gate, I would have ended up somewhere else. Duh.

But in relationships, sometimes we unknowingly start in one direction and hope to end up at a different destination…breaking the very basic logic of my dumb airplane illustration. We can be tempted to depart from the gate labeled, “I want someone to fill this emptiness in my life” and vacuumsomehow expect to arrive at “We have an extremely mutually beneficial and satisfying relationship.” If two people start a relationship with the intention of each filling a vacuum in their own lives, all they will end up with is a giant sucking sound rather than a satisfying relationship. Because that’s what you get when you put two vacuums together…get it?**

So what is the ultimate relationship “destination” that you desire? For the sake of argument, let’s say that the ultimate purpose of dating is to find a suitable partner for marriage. What do you want yours to look like?

Here is where I think we need to ask the one who invented marriage what He dreams for you. He told me that it looks a little like this:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy…to present her to himself…holy and blameless…***

Yikes.

So if I could over-simplify the ideal destination, it looks like this:

  • Loving your spouse – for more on this topic please see 1 Corinthians 13
  • Giving yourself up for your spouse (preferring him/her above yourself)
  • Helping your spouse experience everything that Jesus gave himself up for him/her to experience

In short, it’s looking at your spouse’s life, being excited about who God is making them to be, and laying your life down to help them get there. Wow.

I’ve got to be honest: I’d really like somebody to do that for me. Which means that I also want to (and need to) do that for someone.

If that is the destination that I desire, in which direction must I begin? If the end game is all about the value that I can add to someone else, I will have to make a difficult course correction if I begin the journey motivated by my own unmet need or selfish desire. It would be foolish to lay relational foundations focused on myself with the hopes that, one day, when my needs are met, I will suddenly be able to focus on loving my spouse like that.

I have to choose my direction NOW. Even if just in the way I THINK.

That’s hard.

Sometimes I get lonely and am ready to settle for company. Sometimes I feel a social divide between me and my married friends that would disappear if I had someone by my side. Sometimes I’m bored and I just want someone to be with so I don’t have to eat, play, travel, [insert thing here] alone.

But all those things start with me.

So how do I get to the destination of a mutually beneficial and satisfying relationship/marriage?

Jesus.

Did you notice that the Bible verse I quoted above had more to do with Jesus and what He did for us than marriage (even though it has everything to do with marriage)?

The only way I know to be set free from yourself so that you can truly love another person is by allowing Jesus to love you. He gave up everything for you. He has the best in store for you. In embracing how much He loves you, how close He is to you, the value He sees in you, the fun He cross-jesusdesires to have with you, and the grace He makes available to you, you are made complete and have something to offer your future spouse.

Tim Keller, in his book The Meaning of Marriage says, “If God had the gospel of Jesus’s salvation in mind when he established marriage, then marriage only ‘works’ to the degree that approximates the pattern of God’s self-giving love in Christ.

I’m not saying, “You just need Jesus.” I have no trite answers.

But I do believe you need a deeply satisfying relationship with Jesus. I know I do. It’s what we were made for. And it’s the only way that you will be able to arrive at the relational destination He dreams for you; by being made complete in his love and then starting in the same direction He did—to love, not to be loved—to serve, not to be served.

 So why do you want to date?

I’m committing to this:


 Dating Commitment #1 – To be Perfect in Purpose

To love, not to be loved. To serve, not to be served.


Want to join me?


*By the way, my friend worked through her issues and is now happily married and doing amazing things in life. So be encouraged.
**I stole this concept from Tim Keller’s book The Meaning of Marriage. I highly recommend it.
***Ephesians 5:25-27

While I’m Single… (Part 1 of 5)

Oh boy. Here we go. Why am I so nervous about this?

First of all, let me make sure you read the title correctly. It says “WHILE I’m Single” not “WHY I’m Single.” I realize that with a strong Texas draw there could be some confusion. But this series is not a defense for or speculation about why I’m single (if you’d like to counsel me on that, you can send me a private message). It’s something different.

Recently, as another birthday has passed, I’ve been reflecting upon what I’ve been learning. I’ve also been thinking about the messages that I can authentically share during this season of my life. One of the biggest ones that comes to mind is this: dating and relationships.

Dating-Is-AwkwardThere are a lot of messages floating around “out there” about dating. Some concepts are conveyed through culture, social norms, and the media. I’m not sure that I want to blindly accept what our culture has to say without making some proactive decisions of my own. Other suggestions about the subject come from friends, books, and sermons. But…someone who is married has shared most of the sermons I’ve heard about dating. There’s nothing wrong with that. But something about that makes it harder to relate.

So I’m feeling led to share what I’ve been learning about the topic of dating. It’s actually a little uncomfortable for me because this is a subject that I tend to be pretty private about. But the risk is worth it if it serves as an encouragement to you—hopefully not only in the way you think about relationships, but also in the way you choose to act out those thoughts.

I’m not writing to be critical of culture but to challenge you to clarify and commit to your own convictions.

These posts are not motivated by the actions of others but by my own temptations to compromise. I want to be honest. I want to be real.

Because sometimes dating can be difficult.

So who am I writing this to? Well…singles. Duh. According to the latest stats, that’s 51.2% (or OVER half) of the adult U.S. population.

% of Singles
I thought about narrowing my audience by saying “Christian singles,” but decided against it. I think it’s for all the single ladies”…and…uh…all the single guys (gosh, that was so dumb). Honestly, I think it would be helpful to my married friends too. Here’s why: Relationships (including dating and ultimately marriage) were not invented by an enterprising social entrepreneur. The Bible begins and ends with a marriage. We were created for relationship. Maybe you don’t believe you were “created” by a loving God? I’d invite you to hear me out anyway.

What if relationships are God’s idea, and because of that, He best knows how they are supposed to work? What if his “rules of engagement” are not intended to keep things from you, but to keep things for you?

So…here we go…

dating keyboardUnfortunately, I will NOT be sharing the 3 keys to successful dating…because I don’t know what those are, obviously (again…you are welcome to send me a private message if you think you can help). Instead, over the next week or so, I’m going to explore 3 questions I’ve been asking about dating and 3 commitments I’ve made and upon which I have chosen to “double down.”

Want to join me?