Sunday, April 12, 2015

Joyful in Singleness part 4 conclusion: Personal Note and Opinion

Joyful in Singleness part 1
Joyful in Singleness part 2
Joyful in Singleness part 3

Pastor, Christian Book reviewer, and blogger Tim Challies mentioned recently that in his search for recommendations of female conservative bloggers, he noticed that many of the blogs he found had gone cold. “Conservative female bloggers tend to publish less consistently than their male counterparts” he wrote. Subsequent to that observation, three of the women on his recommended blog list contacted Mr Challies to explain why. All were married.

The women bloggers mentioned a myriad of reasons why their essay production is slower than male counterparts, including the normal and reasonable fact that they have many demands on their time as either working mothers or stay at home moms. Challies illuminated the simple fact that many male theologian bloggers are employed or are in a career attached to theological writing, such as pastor, parachurch essayist, professor, or seminary student. A woman’s ‘day job’ often gives little time to theological writing at night.

Contrary to rumor, a single woman's
life of service to the Lord
doesn't look like this. It involves
dirty dishes, car breakdowns, and slogging
through difficult verses - alone
As a female Christian conservative blogger, I am also acutely aware, as are my sisters, that as women we must study harder and more deeply before writing, to ensure that we have not been deceived, deluded, or led astray, but that we understand the scriptures correctly. As women, the bible clearly shows that we have a tendency not to. We are the weaker vessel, it was the woman who was deceived. (1 Timothy 2:14). Thus, it takes longer to produce a piece, because so much prayer, study, more prayer, and editing are involved. At least, that is the case for me.

In her response to Mr Challies, Hannah Anderson said that productivity or sheer output is not necessarily a mark of quality. She said, “don’t evaluate a blogger’s worth based on productivity alone. In my own life, I’ve had to accept that God has called me to be both a stay-at-home mom and a writer.” 

I applaud my sisters who are busy with serving the Lord through their capacity as mothers and wives, congregants, and volunteers, and yet still write wonderful and uplifting pieces for their sisters and God’s glory.

However … I would like to report from the side of a female blogger who is not married. What of the single woman, given the spiritual gifts of discernment, teaching, and exhortation, and who possesses a God-given ability for writing? What of the single woman who has no husband and no children, no family, lots of time, and a nearly insatiable interest in the bible? What then? How can such a woman use her Spirit-given gift and her God-given time to serve the Lord?

I wrote to Pastor Challies and had a nice exchange with his blog secretary/e-mail screener. But it seemed that his interest in exploring single/unmarried female bloggers’ issues and contributions to the faith were not to be. I kept thinking about the issue, though.

I mentally looked around my church. I saw the row of youths sitting in the chairs at the back wall, between the ages of 16 and 23 or so. One young man teaches the career and college class and is headed to a Christian University in the fall. Another participates in the choir, and sometimes co-leads musical worship time. Others serve in the nursery. Most of the Youth participate in sort term mission trips in the US and even abroad; several single young people traveled to Peru to serve in an orphanage there.

In looking around further, I saw widows. One is very active in serving in the community, tirelessly, as well as serving in our church. Over there is the recently divorced man, sadly through no desire of his own. Over there is the married woman with small children whose husband is working far away for long periods. There is a widow with health issues. Some widowers. Of course there are married couples of all ages and stages, too. And me, a single loner, older in life but relatively new to the faith. What a diverse demographic spread in our small, rural Baptist church. And why wouldn’t it be? Jesus calls people to his own from all races, creeds, economic status, and stages of life.

I don’t enjoy talking about myself so much, but I think it would be disingenuous not to share my background a bit after so much writing about being single for the kingdom. People need a context so my actions and statements can be judged accordingly. I am single and childless. I came to the Lord as an older woman, at age 43. I’ve been professionally employed in all my adult life either as a teacher, or writer/journalist/editor. I was divorced prior to salvation for a biblical reason. After salvation, I joined a church and I serve there. I firmly believe that serving in real life is and should be a primary place of service for all Christians. Blogging is not a substitute for real life. It's no substitute for discipling relationships in a church with oversight and support.

John Stott wrote of his 90-year singleness and how it came to be.
In spite of rumors to the contrary, I have never taken a solemn vow or heroic decision to remain single! On the contrary, during my 20s and 30s, like most people, I was expecting to marry one day. In fact, during this period I twice began to develop a relationship with a lady who I thought might be God's choice of life-partner for me. But when the time came to make a decision, I can best explain it by saying that I lacked an assurance from God that he meant me to go forward. So I drew back. And when that had happened twice, I naturally began to believe that God meant me to remain single.
Though prior to salvation I had wanted very much to be married (but not have kids, interestingly), after salvation I realized, like Dr Stott, it was not God’s plan for me to have either marriage or children. I accepted this without too much protest and with some relief, but I did ask the Lord to help me with it. He did. (1 Corinthians 7:7).

When the platforms for bloggers became available and free, I started this blog on January 6, 2009 and began publicly doing the writing, researching and editing I’d been doing already informally. I had already started my personal blog in 2006. The focus of this blog is Christian prophecy, discernment, and encouragement. I'm in my seventh year and I thank the Holy Spirit for giving me endurance and catalysts for ideas by reading His word.

The Lord began designing my life so that I could sustain myself through an employment that was fulfilling but not mentally or physically taxing, (teacher’s aide) and still have the energy to arrive home and shift gears into the second part of my day- the most important part- ministry through writing. If I spend 8 hours a day at school, I will just as likely spend 8 hours a day researching, writing, blogging, praying, studying, and responding to people via email or in real life who have biblical questions or concerns. It’s my ‘second shift.’ In this regard, however, sometimes I do get undisciplined.

You see, though single and actively dedicated to Jesus most of the day, I’m not a holy, exalted person. I’m still human. There are some days to my shame, I don’t pray. I have a tendency to enjoy movies and TV shows on Netflix and Hulu (currently binging on BBC’s The Indian Doctor) to the exclusion of spiritual work. Netflix and Hulu are a blessing in that they’re inexpensive and allow me to exclude lascivious ads and manage what passes in front of my eyes to a higher degree than broadcast TV, but still, some days I have to push through an urge to just watch the tube all day and then walk around the pasture taking photos of sheep and grass and picking flowers.

For the wives and mothers who blog, my hat is off to them. Their primary means of serving the Lord is to raise a family in submission to your husband and ultimately the Lord. Yet they still find time to write and do it well.

I have no such responsibilities. What else would I do with the extra time the Lord has given me? Squandering it would be sin. And I know I'd fall into sin. We know what the bible says about idle widows, "They learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle but tattlers also, and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not." (1 Timothy 5:13). That could easily be me in an instant. At root, I am lazy.

I should use the time, talents, gifts, and energies He gave me for His glory, always keeping in mind the kingdom of God. Blogging theological essays of varying depth each day is not easy, it is tiring some days and causes spiritual grief on others. But it is always fulfilling. I have an opportunity to meet with the Lord each day through His word- without distraction. Even if my blog counter read zero every day, I would still blog. I have an audience of One and I pray He is pleased.

One other item to mention: something that would go a long way toward rectifying the near-idolatrous focus on marriage and family to the near-exclusion of addressing ministry for singles and others in conservative Christian churches, is expositional preaching. Preaching through books of the Bible will result in a perfect proportion of sermons aimed at each demographic, because it would reflect the perfect proportion Jesus had in mind when He sent the Spirit to inspire its writing in the first place.

free to reuse by torbakhopper
Topical preaching is fraught with stumbling blocks. A pastor's fears or biases will lead him to preach on his likes and comfort zone and avoid his dislikes and discomfort zone. Culture around us is filled with marrieds, so preaching usually reflects that church reality also.

It presents stumbling blocks to me personally, also. In my own case, when I see that yet another sermon series will be on "Marriage" or "The Family" I have to fight an urge to make myself absent that day. I then need to spend spiritual energy chastising myself by mentally saying 'It's about worshiping Jesus, not what I get out of it' ... 'I must support and honor my pastor and leaders, not selfishly stay home because I don't click with the topic' ... 'I must not forsake congregating with the saints as the bible says'... Pastors, just preach the word, in season and out of season. (2 Timothy 4:2). Everything that way will always come out even.

Stott: Final words of advice for single people:
First, don't be in too great a hurry to get married. We human beings do not reach maturity until we are about 25. To marry before this runs the risk of finding yourself at twenty-five married to somebody who was a very different person at the age of twenty. So be patient. Pray daily that God will guide you to your life partner or show you if he wants you to remain single. Second, lead a normal social life. Develop many friendships. Third, if God calls you to singleness, don't fight it. Remember the key text: "Each person has his or her own gift of God's grace" (1 Cor. 7:7).
Joyful in Singleness part 1
Joyful in Singleness part 2
Joyful in Singleness part 3

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Further Reading

This blog's tagline gives me pause as to its overall philosophy, ("social psychology + faith + reconciliation") but this particular essay I thought was very good.
Singled Out: How Churches Can Embrace Unmarried Adults

Desiring God: How to Serve "The Singles" — Ministry to Unmarried Adults in Your Local Church by Carolyn McCulley

ChurchLeaders: 8 Single Principles for a Singles' Ministry

6 comments :

  1. Elizabeth,

    I deeply appreciate your writings. I feel certain that the Lord is using your labors in many ways that likely, most of which you currently do not see. I am glad that as you said, you work a second shift (ministry and all that goes into Christ honoring effective ministry) . Wise pastors do know , as do wise Christians that the family has been, and is under escalating attack! That said, one should also be balanced in their preaching, teaching, etc., and knowing the single person is also under attack. Yes, the single (not speaking of the youth here) often times feel out of place not only in the collective setting of the Church, but even in society - unless of course a single is without Christ and doing what many do in their lost condition. I realize that the larger congregations may have likeminded singles that set together, get together, etc., and I think this helps. The problem is there are not the larger Church settings for many Christian singles in their various locations, and even if there are, one needs to be on pretty high alert in my view regarding what is happening in the area of apostasy which seems to me prevalent, especially in the mega Church.

    I liked what you wrote specifically concerning the balances that result from expository preaching verses topical preaching. Of course we know too, that expository preaching is what’s needed in the Church today.
    Most, but not all of topical preaching takes a few verses of scripture and then twist it to fit their sermons.

    I know that there is much more that can be said , especially on apostasy and deception, which you often write on. I also know that I am not an expert on your chosen topic - singleness. I do think you were very insightful and covered a lot of bases on this series, thank you. We as Christians that find ourselves single or married must serve and submit to God’s work, purposes, and will. If he changes the course of any of our redeemed lives at any time, then let us not be fixed in what may have been His plan at a previous point in our time on this earth. Bottom line for me is to labor with His Truth’s while I can, and to be content without an intimate team member (helpmeet) , or with one if that ever transpires. I believe the term contentment rolls over into so many other areas in this life as well. I am learning to keep my focus on the Lord, the critical rescue mission at hand, and all of my circumstances with contentment.

    Rick :--)
    Metro Atlanta

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  2. Thanks to your blog, I learned about expository preaching and our family sits under a pastor who preaches this way every Sunday. Your use of your gifts and singleness is a huge blessing to someone like me, with a husband and a bunch of kids, because I can go straight to your blog and others in your sidebar to receive news through a good filter and much in the way of edification and conviction. I get the benefit of your research and careful writing. Even though I don't know you face to face your single and full life blesses my whole family tremendously. Truly the body of Christ functioning as one. ;) I admit to living vicariously through your Quiet Life blog as a place of my own filled with kitties and cuteness where everything stays in its place can sound mighty appealing sometimes. May we all be content whatever our circumstances! Thanks for teaching me about singleness in such depth. :) Melissa

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  3. Elizabeth,

    I think this is an important topic for the church today. I know, growing up, that I could have used this message - whether I would have listened or not! - that as a single you have such great opportunities to serve God in great ways; that being single is opportunity itself.

    The dynamic changes when you are married. I am married now (7 years this year), and my husband is a great blessing. My best friend, really. We've taken an incredible journey with our faith in these last few years (we're in our early thirties). We do not have children, and it is possible that we may not have children in the future. We are sort of in a category of our own in the church - a young childless couple - but we're free to serve in lots of ways couples with children may not be able to.

    I can agree with Paul when he says it's good to be unmarried (Please note that I LOVE my husband and we are very happy!), because being single is very much a blessing. I'll be candid and say that in my first years of our marriage, I often had a few negative thoughts - that I could be doing the exact same things (cooking/cleaning/washing) but with half the work if I was doing it for myself only! There's a lot of compromise in marriage - something that should NEVER be taken lightly. I knew beforehand that if I ever did get married, it would be the first and only time. It was a serious matter for me. God has to be at the center of a marriage, otherwise there is nothing to hold two wholly different people together.

    But I can still agree with Paul about being single. It is a good thing.

    It was never helpful to me when family or friends would point to this man or that man, or mention someone they knew that might be a potential mate. Because at those times (I grew up in the church, but was not saved until later), it really took my focus off the important things, and put a burden on me that being single wasn't acceptable. Instead of obsessing over some boy, I could have been cultivating a relationship with Jesus. Wow - as I'm writing this, I'm coming to some of these conclusions about my past. I may have to write about this later! Had they pointed me to Jesus instead of pointing out some man that may be available, I may have been more mature in my walk at this time.

    So that's something I will be proactive in doing when I'm around my young sisters in Christ: Point them to Jesus Christ!

    Thanks for your work!
    Lesley

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  4. I enjoyed the series, Elizabeth. Especially this last entry. I know I am not alone in relaying to you that I am thankful the Lord has called you to singleness. We need brothers and sisters in the faith that have time to serve the wider body through their gifts. I have benefited greatly from your writing and counsel. Thank you.
    Jennifer

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  5. Thank you for this series and reminder of the gift our single brothers and sisters are to the body. As a married sister with children, how could I encourage my single sisters? I know a few who are older who are still hoping for marriage. I know a few others that seem resigned to singleness....not sure if they see it as a gift or not. Is there a way for me to speak blessing into their situation to encourage them to see it as a gift? Thank you ~ Misty

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    1. That's a really good question. Of course, firstly: prayer. Pray for them, for them to have peace in waiting for God's will to be made known. I guess, secondly to encourage the ones who are resigned to singleness to focus on Jesus instead of an earthly groom. Remind them of the single women and men who God used in incredible ways.

      Here is an article from Relevant Magazine "3 Ways to Encourage Singles". I am not a huge fan of the magazine but this article made good sense.

      http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/relationships/3-ways-church-can-encourage-singles

      I know it isn't really enough, not when your heart is heavy for singe friends who are sad, but maybe it's a start.

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