On Singleness

If you’re reading this I sincerely hope that you are not single. Not because I hate it and wouldn’t wish it on anyone – not at all. I hope that you are not single because I want¬†you to understand me just a little bit more, and maybe remember what it was like for you. To know what it is like now. And if your’e single, I’m glad you’re here, too. I don’t know if my experience will fully resonate with yours, but I hope you can find comfort or challenge in these reflections. And fullest of disclosures – I’m mostly talking about singleness in the church ūüėČ

So singleness. Singleness is coming home to my apartment and finding every single thing exactly where I left it – for better or worse. It is deciding to do things on a whim and being able to drop everything (if you want) to hang out with a friend or help out with a church event/ministry. It is staying up all night on Friday night on your couch with a pizza and wine and going to bed when you fall asleep because no one told you it was 1am. Singleness is also walking into a work Christmas party and losing count of the numerous confused faces when the answer to “where is your boyfriend” is “I don’t have one”. It is awkwardly smiling and shiftily looking side to side when they talk about marriage or children at church, or trying to steady yourself in your car before you walk through Ikea alone, again, or even better, preparing yourself mentally for you next large family gathering where everyone wants to know (with the absolute best intentions, I might add) if you’re seeing anyone now. It is talking to yourself in the grocery store as you try to decide if you can really COMMIT to eating an entire cucumber and a whole container of ripe peaches this week.

Singleness is great. And it is hard. Just like any other relationship status. And I feel like we definitely have it figured out with how to relate to single people…until they don’t fit into our box of what it looks like. Or until they reach their mid-to-late twenties and we realize they don’t want to only hang out with all the other young singles, they want to still be with their peers. Particularly in the church in general. What do you do with us? What do you think of when you see us? I confess I wonder this sometimes as I sit in my seat – especially when marriage or children come up. Do you look at me standing by myself and pity me? Do you wonder what is wrong with me? Sometimes I wonder what is wrong with me – if I’m statistically supposed to get married then why am I not?

Singleness is hard. Singleness is also great. I can pull an all nighter to get the church newsletter out on time if I want. I can say yes to more time commitments and ministries purely because the only time I have to schedule is my own – so I can choose to eat takeout for dinner and volunteer after work instead of cooking a meal. Or last minute say I’ll go away all weekend on a youth retreat because I don’t have kids to worry about or a significant-other to reconcile calendars with. I can unabashedly say yes! Yes I will watch your kids tonight I’ll be there in 5! Yes, I will help you clean the sanctuary after work tomorrow. Yes, I will wait until the last minute to step in and take a new responsibility when you cannot find anyone else who has the time to fill¬†that role. Yes.

But it is lonely out here trying to be in your community. I want to get together with you. I want to be your friend. In fact, I want to be friends with your 8-year-old daughter, the 53 year old couple who just became new grandparents, the 70 year old woman who still organizes the Sunday morning coffee. I want to be invited into the messiness of raising toddlers, the craziness of pre-teen hormones, and the loneliness of empty nesting. I want to share with you my baking and crafting adventures, my career highs and lows, and have coffee or tea or dinner together Рin our homes or out. Literally whatever you want.

One thing I did during lent this year was try to invite more people over to my home. And it was terrifying. I’ve always wanted to have an open home where people feel comfortable and where I can have hosting opportunities. But then I got here and suddenly I didn’t know if it was ok for me to invite a couple over if I didn’t have a partner to entertain my girlfriend’s husband. Is it ok for me to invite over the parent’s of my young adult friends because I want to know them, too? Is it ok for me to invite a family over? I don’t want to invite myself into other people’s lives, but I also want to offer this different way of existing among you. This idea that hey – maybe I can be a valid part of your family. And maybe it’s scary because it’s all in my head – but I don’t see too many of “me” out there.

Singleness is supposed to be a gift – Paul tells us so. But it’s a really hard gift to use sometimes. I feel like an unwrapped present sometimes. We are all so busy – we blame our kids, our spouses, our commitments to (too many?) things for our busyness. But we are¬†so busy.¬†But maybe we can find a way to un-busi-fy ourselves and make time for each other instead. Because isn’t that what we are? Single, married, dating, way too young to be thinking about that? (I’m looking at you, 18 year old looking for love).

We believe that we are all in different stages to be able to learn from each other and grow with each other, and that we are all able to serve and give differently as we grow through those stages. So maybe, instead of segregating ourselves all the time based on our marital and offspring status, we instead viewed ourselves as all part of a huge family where we are able to interact and grow deep relationships? We can be in relationship with those that are our peers, but I also want to be in a church where I am in relationship with other people too. Where a single woman feels free and comfortable to invite an older couple over, and where a family with babies feels free to spend time with a couple with teens and doesn’t worry about the state of their house (I genuinely would rather you have a bit of a messy house when I show up than you be exhausted from cleaning everything before I walk over the threshold – REALLY). Where we truly allow our self-imposed barriers to break free and embrace the differences that make us who we are. Because we are all people who are loved by God and trying to become more like him. And, arguably, you have as much to learn from me as I do from you. And I can’t wait.

On Church

I am one of those people who basically spends the equivalent of a part time job doing church stuff – either attending, getting ready for things, doing admin work, meetings, other events, or whatever else that week has. I’m also one of those people who grew up seeing their parents do the same thing – which means I’m one of those annoying people who just don’t understand why you wouldn’t do that and did not realize that it was an abnormal thing until a few years ago…

Conversely, I am also one of those many people who has been hurt very deeply by the church. I have felt betrayed, hurt, ignored, and insignificant within her walls – which is ironic because I have also felt loved, healed, seen, and important within those same walls. I’ve spent all of my 25 years attending various churches and seeing joy and pain in so many ways – seeing the good, the bad, and (sadly) the ugly of what can go on when you throw a whole bunch of messy people together.

So why, if I have been hurt and continue to be hurt by the people of the church, do I keep going and giving of my many resources to see her continue to thrive? Because I love her – and because I have hope for her – hope that as we continue on and persevere, she will achieve her potential and that she will become all that I know she can be.

As Christians, when we talk about marriage we talk about commitment forever, divorce is not really something we go into a marriage considering, and when we talk about conflicts or issues, we emphasize working things out. In fact, we highly recommend marriage counselling BEFORE you get married and we are some of the only people I know of who regularly talk about things like love and sacrificially loving without even breaching the context of a romantic relationship – we are the people who look at the story of David and Jonathan and say wow that was a great friendship where their souls were knitted together. We emphasize vulnerability, sharing your burdens with other people,

Interestingly, in the same passages about marriage and husbands & wives, we get little glimpses of how God views the church — as the bride of Christ. Additionally, the Bible uses similar language when talking about husband-to-wife relations as they when talking about all believers when we are supposed to “submit” to each other. Elsewhere we are told to love our neighbours as ourselves( Mark 12:31), to pray for each other (James 5:16/1 Timothy 2:1), to seek to solve conflicts & correct each other (Matthew 18:15-17/Galatians 6:1), to give what we have so that no one is in need (Acts 2:42-47, ), to encourage/build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11/Hebrews 3:13), do all things in love (1 Corinthians 16:14), and, clearly, I could go on.

So if the church is a super important body, and we are supposed to honour and care a lot about the people inside of her, why, when we talk about church today, do we suddenly decide that this relationship is all about me and what I can get, it is one where I should come in with barriers and walls, that there are very small boxes you must fit into to attend and serve in the church, and that only certain people are fit to attend?

One of the most positive experiences I’ve had is starting to go to the gym – and I don’t mean positive in the now I’m more fit than I used to be way or the now endorphins got me high way, I mean in the way that the environment I started putting myself into was open, accepting, and positive towards where I was and where I was going. never once was I made to feel un-fit, un-beautiful, or un-worthy to be there. I was just another person on a journey of fitness and I would get told as such every time I would mention small feelings of doubt. It’s not that no one recognizes the need to lose weight, eat healthy, and drink water – it’s more that the journey we are on involves one thing at a time and we all have “been there” so we support others in their journey, wherever either of us may be.

It’s almost like at church, we become so caught up in what we think we need to be and ought to be and what we “need to do” to reach people with programming that we’ve forgotten the important parts. Crossfit gyms are unique because they’re literally warehouses with barbells. and like a rower. and a bike. but that’s about it. (ok also ropes and a few other weight things but you catch my drift). You go into a Crossfit gym to do a workout, sweat a lot, lift heavy stuff and move fast. Not many people do individual workouts, and there are 0 mirrors in the gym (except for like, the bathroom). So, when did churches become defined by their additional “services” to the public (do you have women, men, children, families, young adult, single older adult, babies, youth, tweens, older women, older men, married couples, newly married, single women, single men, ministries? and a Christmas and Easter kids pageant. And also a kid’s choir. And a hymn service, a modern service, a Gregorian chant service, a fire-and-brimstone message and a contemporary message?) No. No you don’t. Not to say that some of those ministries aren’t important and don’t have their place, but the point of the church was never to actively only serve those inside of it – it was to serve those outside of it. Jesus came to heal the sick not to tend to the already-taking-the-meds-and-on-the-mend ones.

People call it a family. The Crossfit box, I mean. Multi-generational people, you miss your friends when you don’t go for a while, they see you go through life ups and downs. They hold you when you cry after an emotional release after a hard workout. We sometimes call church our family – but usually in a clich√©-from-the-front-stage kind of way. We keep lots of people at an arms distance, and we often leave¬†when something doesn’t go the way we think it should or if another place down the street has a sparklier better-spoken pastor/worship leader/building, or when we have a conflict. Not that the auxiliary things aren’t factors, but perhaps they should not be our driving factors. When in doubt, I refer to this article. (I agree there are reasons to leave a church, I just find we often use bad ones)

When I went to Europe last year, one of my favourite things was visiting other churches while I was there. I don’t even know how to explain to you the warmth and joy I had at seeing people on the other side of the world (ok not quite the other side but close enough) worshiping the same God in similar and different ways, and seeing people I don’t even know get baptized into the larger church body. She is beautiful – the global church – and our local expressions get to be a part of that wonderful overarching story that we may never know all the parts of.

As beautiful as the church is, she is not perfect. I think she still needs a lot of work – globally and locally. She is a beautiful piece of art, but she is also a messy glob of wet paint on a canvas that you were trying to paint a landscape on that somehow now has dirt and grass stuck to it even though you did not set out intending for a mixed media piece. Also you did not mean to put that glob on either…

But the only way she gets better and thrives is when all the people within her try. Trying to be open and working towards things when other people aren’t. Being vulnerable knowing that those around you may not receive it well. Working towards what we know God has commanded we do as a group of believers even if other people don’t agree and get hung up on things. Caring for the people we may not really like a ton but we love unconditionally. Choosing to see past our theological differences. Forgiving. Seeking reconciliation. It’s not easy – it takes work just like everything else and every other friendship and every other community we engage in in our lives.

What Twilight Actually Taught Me

Just to clear the air a little for you, this is not a sarcastic post. I’m 100% serious.

So I started reading the Twilight saga when I was in 10th grade. And truth be told, I totally fell for the “ERMAGOODNESSIWANNABEAVAMPIREEEE” thing for a little bit. This probably comes as a surprise to most people who think I have “better taste” in books, but there was something about the story that made me finish. Yea, I could do without book 2, thats a little to angsty for me, but i can still enjoy the other three (books) four (movies). Which brings me to the point of why I’m writing this.

This weekend, everything about Twilight will come to an end (unless Meyer goes and writes those books in Edward’s point of view. I can still dream, right?). ¬†So, obviously, I’m going to go see it. But as I was thinking about Twilight and hearing about it and seeing it pop up everywhere etc. etc. etc. I realized that there are 2 things I’ve learned from Twilight – or rather that it inspires in me. They are inter-related, but here they are.

1. Marriage is a partnership

One of the most striking lines in Breaking Dawn Pt 1 (coincidentally,my other favourite line is in the next point) is when Edward is talking to Bella after they find out she’s probably going to die while delivering their child. He’s ticked, and that’s not surprising. He doesn’t want to lose his wife – and he has no choice because “she decided all on her own.” They were supposed to be a partnership (which means you decide things together). They clearly didn’t here. If you know the story, you know Edward isn’t a saint here either, but the point is … lack of communication = failure of marriage. You don’t just coexist, you are walking together. You don’t just walk around with your significant other. You (quite often in today’s society) hold hands. You talk to each other. You don’t just walk for 5 miles silently ignoring them (unless its a prayer walk … or you’re REALLY angry). The partnership created through marriage is two people becoming one. Not two people becoming two people who exist slightly closer together.

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Gen 2:24, ESV)

Comprendez-vous? Going in thinking its all about you is not going to work. Ever. And hey – thats not easy! But look at that, Bella and Edward prove it isn’t.

Granted, most of us don’t have a vampire trying to exact¬†vengeance¬†by killing us, but we still have problems. The problem arises when we assume that because something is going wrong, we clearly weren’t meant to be together. Life isn’t handed to us on a silver platter. Neither is it in Twilight. Relationships take work – hard work. They require constant nurturing and growth – which only comes when time and energy is invested in it. Being in a partnership means that when your partner is in danger, you protect them. It means that they are celebrating, you celebrate with them. It means that when they have a vampire growing inside of them and they want to carry it to term, you do everything you can to help them (ok, that last comment was a little sarcastic).

2. No one is perfect – and that means no Fairy Tale Endings

And so we move to my other favourite quote (also said by Edward)

“Its an extraordinary thing to meet someone who you can bare yourself to; who will accept you for what you are. I’ve been waiting for what seems like for a very long time to get beyond what I am – and with Bella I feel I could finally begin. So I’d like to propose a toast to my beautiful bride: ‘No measure of time with you would be long enough, but why don’t we start with forever.'”

I feel like all too often we are searching for the perfect person.We want the perfect fairy tale ending. We literally want to have the Cinderella/Ariel/Belle/Mulan/Jasmine/Bella ending. And we think that culmination of our lives is finding this person and being with them forever. But we forget that no one EVER is going to be our perfect person. Sort of like Scarlet O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind”. Man was she obsessed with Ashley – or rather the¬†thought¬†of who Ashley was. And then at the end she realizes that she “loved something that didn’t exist”. Nice job Scarlet.

But back to the point, I think that all too often we get caught up in the fairy tale ending, and constantly search for something that will just be perfect in our lives. But that is completely unrealistic. Bella’s life isn’t perfect. She’s a vampire for heaven’s sake. Plus, she didn’t just have it handed to her on a silver platter. Sure,¬†Bella is immortal, with Edward forever, has a baby, has a best friend (who is coincidentally in love with her baby…), and gets to stay in contact with her dad. Sounds like she’s got it made, right? Uhm, did you forget she had a mom? Oh, and she ALSO had to make it through 4 books to get there? While Twilight is steeped in happy endings and “perfection”, there are still things that go wrong.

Even Twilight doesn’t have a perfect ending.

Yes, I understand how so much of Twilight and any other Tween/Teen/Adult Romance novel/book/movie makes it seem like life is perfect once you find your perfect match person … but I’d just like to point out that we usually ignore the two hours of screen play before that ending.

Do I still hope that I’ll find someone I’ll marry one day? Uh, yes. But hey – I know better than to expect my life will end up like these perfect princess stories. I also know with fair certainty I’m not turning into a vampire any time soon. But anyway, ¬†herein lies my rant on Twilight’s redeeming qualities. Not too many, but enough to remind me of what I’m waiting for.

Keeping the sacred Sacred

sa¬∑cred/ňąsńĀkrid/::¬†Adjective:
1. Connected with God (or the gods) or dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving veneration: “sacred rites”.
2. Religious rather than secular.

Ok, not gonna lie, that definition is slightly lacking. However, it is a good base to start with. We obviously know that God is sacred and anything related to him/the church/religion is sacred (or at least supposed to be). When something is sacred, we treat it with our utmost respect. We revere it. We try our best to keep it pure and protect it from prying eyes and nosey-busy-bodies.

So what did I mean by saying that the above¬†definition¬†was lacking? I meant simply this: it didn’t tell us practically what is sacred. Now, I didn’t expect it to either. It did an excellent job of generalizing the term as it relates to everyone. So I will put one thing on the list of what I think is sacred (and, coincidentally, connected with God).

Our heart.

You know Рthat muscle that pumps blood to our body. The thing that aches when we are hurt by someone, and the thing that makes us feel like we could fly when something goes right. So how do you keep your heart, which is our most intimate thing (it is, in essence, who we are!) sacred?

Before I talk about it, I suppose I should say why I’m talking about this. Lately (and by lately I mean over the past few months) I realized that I was emotionally invested in way too many people in my life. I was putting a lot of time into friendships and openly sharing my struggles with a whole list of people under the banner of “we’re brothers and sisters – we should carry each other’s burdens”. Now this is a true statement, I just took it a little too far…

I’m not going to say “don’t tell anyone about what you’re struggling with”. I think that is ridiculous. We are relational beings – we need support systems. What I AM going to say is this: we should be careful how much we tell and to whom we tell it.

Remember I said I was emotionally invested? This is how it started. I would be lonely and depressed, and then I would wonder why no one was talking to me. Then, I would find someone and end up pouring out everything I was thinking about. I used to think this was fine. I started to get some close friends. But THEN I realized that some of the friendships I had were no longer casual friendships. They were creeping into the realms of intimate, deep friendships. And worst of all, the ones with my brothers ¬†were starting to venture, for me, into the mysterious gray area of “wait, are we … more than friends?”. Needless to say, I realized something was wrong.

I decided, through a lot of thinking while away at camp, that I had invested way too much of my heart into other people. I wanted to have a perfect friendship Рno scratch that. I wanted a perfect relationship with someone who would always talk with me and be everything I wanted. I wanted it so much I was trying to get it without committing to someone. And by doing so I was only hurting myself.

I decided that enough was enough, and that I needed to keep my heart and my deepest dreams, hopes, and thoughts a secret. They are so special to me, and I¬†cherish¬†them. They aren’t things that just anyone can hear and hold onto – these things are special and should be saved. My heart is one of the most sacred things I have in my relationship with God¬†and with my future husband. How can I look him in the eye one day and say “here’s my heart. You get all of it” when my whole life I rationed away parts of it?

Maybe I’m rambling, and maybe I sound like a million other blogs, but I really believe these things. I want to be able to have a parts of me that are special – parts of me that are only found out after spending time actually trying to get to know me. I am a complex person – really we all are – and I want to embrace that.

And the best part is that through protecting my heart and keeping it sacred I am bringing glory to God. What else could a girl ask for? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.