On Mondays at lunch, we fast and pray for God to work in the hearts of men and women to have each more clearly show imago Dei in their unique ways. Additionally, we pray for godly spouses and marriages to be granted to those who desire them.
Last week, I was waiting for a friend and absent-mindedly perusing that weird church bookshelf. (I’m pretty sure every church has one.) And these three titles jumped out at me:
And my first thought was, “Wait, what? All these options are….terrible! We’ve got single and lonely. Dating someone but focused on trying not have sex. Or heartbroken after a relationship ended. Well, that’s just lovely!”
In all seriousness, one of the reasons that we (both writers and readers) have a constant stream of things to discuss is because singleness, like most of life, is a multi-faceted journey that doesn’t lend itself to oversimplification. The literature rack was just an embodiment of that reality on a small scale. Please indulge me because I would like to briefly address this nonsense.
Single and Lonely: Finding the Intimacy You Desire.
- So many things wrong here. First of all, lots of people have intimacy problems and lots of people are lonely. Some of those people are single but lots of folks aren’t. The singleness part of the title could be correlated with loneliness, but it is certainly the exclusive cause of the loneliness.
- The title also implies that if marriage were to replace singleness, the reader would no longer need to look for intimacy. Absolute nonsense. As fallen humans on this side of heaven, we will live and struggle with unmet desire of all kinds. Period.
- Lastly, there is a sense here that loneliness is something to be ashamed of and solved at all costs. I don’t think that’s helpful at all…especially since we follow a Savior, who while on earth, was an unmarried man who also dealt with the reality of human loneliness (more here).
Sex before Marriage: How Far is Too Far?
- Still shaking my head. Really? This all we’ve got to offer dating couples? We’re twenty-five years past the True Love Waits fad and we’re still asking the misguided question of “How far is too far?”
- To be helpful and relevant, this brochure should be titled something like “Learning to Use Your Body to Love God and Others Unselfishly Instead of Sexually Consuming Other People (Including Your Spouse) to Meet Deep Spiritual Needs that Self-Gratifying Sex Can Never Fill.” Or as another option: “Healthy, Passionate, Completely Integrated, Self-Giving Incarnational Celibacy!” Oddly, no one wants to print or read those brochures.
- Honestly, I think sometimes what we’d really like are some snazzy little guidelines to describe what behaviors are permissible for us and allow us to still claim some shred of self-righteousness about sexual ethics. That kind of hypocrisy sets us up for pride and/or despair. I’ve seen both sides of that coin, and what I mostly learned is that I need the gospel and Jesus Christ more than I need behavioral guidelines.
Starting Over: How Not to Screw Up Your Next Relationship.
Ok, deep breath. The assumptions here are legion:
- The relationship ending is the same as “screwing it up.” (So I guess the flip side is that the relationship continuing is the same thing as succeeding? Definitely not true in all cases!)
- Your last relationship failed because you did something wrong. Also, the relationship’s outcome was in your control.
- There will be a next relationship.
- If you do things properly, your relationship will work out correctly (assuming they mean you’ll get married?)
- After a relationship is “screwed up,” you have to go back to the beginning and “start over.”
- In general, I expect to see these kind of assumptions in the pages of glossy not-that-profound women’s magazines. But this is my church and a reputable Biblical counseling organization! This is the level of thoughtfulness we have about dating and breakups and dealing with relational disappointment: a Chutes-and-Ladders style game approach where one wrong relational step sends you back to the beginning, and getting married gets you out of the game.
Well, there you have it…another deep breath! In any case, as we do annually in August, we’re taking a break from our usual weekly fasting and praying. But these brochures inspired some questions to mull over in prayer during August.
- Relational Intimacy: Where is loneliness real to me right now? What parts of my life are unseen right now? Are there parts of my life or heart that I should share with someone else? Is the Lord calling me to enter into someone else’s loneliness? Are there areas of relational grief that I refuse to acknowledge or allow the Lord to address?
- Sexuality: Where are my views of celibacy, sexuality and God incongruous? Do I have areas of sexual darkness, addiction or selfishness that need to brought into the light? Am I rationalizing these areas of darkness because I am single? Do I resent being created as a sexual being while living a celibate life? Am I free to love and give myself appropriately in the contexts I have right now?
- Dating and Relationships: Have I been viewing my relational life as a really painful hike up Marriage Mountain? What is a better metaphor for my experience of life with Jesus? Do I view myself as either a really bad mountain climber, and/or unfairly pushed down the mountain by cruel members of the opposite gender? Do I have unforgiveness or strong soul ties about past dating relationships? What heart-level issues does the Lord (not me, my friends, my family or my exes) want to address about past, present or future dating relationships?
Praying with and for you this August!
By His Grace,