Tag Archives: single

Engage!

It was a few months before my graduation, a little over a year ago now.  I had just finished another one of those Mother-Daughter conversations that daughters can recite with astounding accuracy  – it’s practically scripted.  Truth be told, it has been for generations, but some mothers & daughters get an early escape from it.  We didn’t.

“If you were married, I wouldn’t worry so much.” Continue reading Engage!

The Man I Would Marry

During one foray into online dating, many years ago, I was asked for 5 characteristics that I wanted in a man I would marry. Fair question, a good one really, and I gave it some thought – how would I pare down a list of preferences and must-haves into the top 5 without losing some of the essentials?? I finally came up with a list, and being the word-wrangler that I am, I was able to make an alliteration, which has come in handy. I still want a few items that don’t fit conveniently into this list, like someone who enjoys variety in dining, but the absolute essentials are these:

Pastor of our home. Above all, this man must have a solid relationship with Jesus Christ, and a readiness to lead his family to the throne room with praise and prayer for any issue big or small. He is the one answerable to God for the decisions of our family, and he should be in a position to get his answers from God before that time comes. He is to have a pastor’s heart, as gentle and comforting as it is firm and uncompromising, appropriate for the situation.

Provider. He must have the ability and ambition to bring an income that will cover our need for food and shelter. He must have a reasonable perspective on money and what it takes to earn enough, being neither a workaholic nor wasteful. He must also recognize where provision ultimately comes from, and not deny the need for Godly generosity, yet with wisdom.

Protector. I will be his prize, and a not-so-bad prize at that, so his first thought should be toward my best interest. It may or may not mean heroically sacrificing himself to snatch me from the teeth of death – but he should love me enough to be unflinching if it comes to that. Generally, it would mean encouraging me and my to-do list to maintain appropriate balance, and stepping in to do the heavy lifting so that my body is not prematurely worn out.

Partner. We’ve got to work together, whether it’s in ministry, remodeling, or dishes. There’s no point in me joining my life with someone else’s if we’re going to continue living as independent individuals. He will need to be ready to discuss and negotiate, then follow through, holding up his end of the bargain and occasionally lifting me – as well as accepting that I will occasionally need to lift him. Partnership works that way.

Playmate. Part of life is enjoying its blessings – the scenery, the stories, the flavors… While we will have interests & friends that don’t necessarily cross over (he isn’t invited to women’s retreats), we must truly enjoy one another’s company. We have to laugh together, and be free to laugh at whatever strikes us as funny, even if in a moment, it’s the iced tea I just dumped in my lap or the keys he accidentally locked in the car.

I started, over the years, to believe that such a fellow doesn’t exist in our century. I’ve been learning lately that I’m incorrect. I’ve met guys such as these, usually through my relationships with their wives. These are blessed women indeed. One day, perhaps, I may meet a single man in my age bracket who meets these qualifications, and whose qualifications I meet. Until then, I’ve learned that I have Someone who meets all of the above characteristics. I have a Pastor, a Provider, Protector, Partner, and yes, even a Playmate. I’ll have to tell you about Him in another post, but I can honestly say (and have), I am well cared for. There is no man on this planet that could have given me all the provision, protection, and encouragement I have gotten from the Lord. Granted, I don’t get to sneak bites of chocolate pie from His plate with an impish grin, but He’s managed to make up for that. He’s also promised a big party & fabulous meal in the future, when spilling tea in my lap will be impossible.

The Men I Didn’t Marry

Relax, guys, it’s not a full-disclosure expose, honest. It’s just that, occasionally, I think of each of you, and to differing degrees and for various reasons, I give thanks.

Mr. ‘First Love’ married someone else and had multiple children – now the family is in turmoil because of characteristics I was once too starstruck to see, but have since become familiar with. Many apparently confident people are working hard to keep their closet doors closed, ever fearful of the skeletons that may jump out & attack at any moment. Such people are distracted and fear that they cannot afford to be genuine. I’d rather have someone who throws his closet doors wide open, introduces his skeletons to my skeletons, and we can all dance in freedom.

Mr. ‘Close Call’ had his own issues (yeah, don’t we all). That could have been a real mess, with the control structures in both families and anger management issues in both of us. It would have been ugly. I dated another one with a controlling mentality – let me warn you, ladies, it looks like protection at first…it looks like care and leadership… but do more than scratch below the surface before you give him what he wants, because you may find yourself catering to his wants for a long time to come, and more out of duress than depth of affection.

Mr. ‘Too Good to be True’ is an illustration of God’s amazing attention to our every whisper. I hung up the phone, having been in a pleasant conversation with a fellow…we were in the first steps of the dating dance, and this guy was fairly impressive, so far. I tossed off a simple but sincere “if there’s something I should know, now would be a good time” prayer, and climbed into bed. I had just fallen asleep when the phone rang, 12:30 in the morning, and on the other end I heard the sniffling sobs of a man who was already committed, essentially engaged, to another woman. She & I spoke a few days later, she sounded more like a mom than a girlfriend (make sure you keep the distinction ladies, or it’ll come back to bite you). I don’t want a guy that I take from someone else, because he could as easily be taken from me. Hollywood is replete with examples.

The list of blind dates, well, internet match-ups, could fill chapters… it’s not that I’m such an experienced dater, it’s that these folks, well, if you’ve been there, you know. One was so without a sense of humor that he registered negative on the scale, so badly that it was rather humorous. One didn’t connect with anything I had to say, but tried to convince me he was highly enamored with the unique person that I am….hmmm… I’d rather be understood. A couple made for pleasant conversations with people I would likely never meet & talk to if we’d remained in our normal circles – interesting conversations, those. I’d encourage more pre-screening, and lower expectations – if it’s a fun diversion for a few hours, no harm done, enjoy. Some people really have met their spouses online and couldn’t be more thrilled. I’m one of those who sign up every few years to remind myself why I don’t sign up for online dating.

There’s one that I miss, less frequently now, but again, the starry glasses are broken and I can see both my errors and some of the elements in him that may not have fit me and my life’s path as much as I had convinced myself. It is because of this one that I offer the caution to take things slower than you believe slow to be. We get tired, anxious for the decision to be made, but that gets us a free ticket to broken hearts or worse disasters. He married someone else, and I have honestly prayed that he and his family are happy. This tells me that if he had been mine, we would have worked through the issues that divided us – he didn’t, so he wasn’t, so I give thanks for not marrying the man who wasn’t absolutely sold on the idea of me being his wife. I’m going to be committed to my man, I want him committed to me.

Finally, there’s the one that got away…quietly disappeared into the mist and has been impossible to find. Again, if he’s mine, he’ll find me, or God will put us in the same place at the same time, and we’ll take it from there. Until then, or until I’m introduced to the right one, I’m thankful that my story doesn’t include the issues I could have been facing.  Rather, it has me being free to minister to those who are dealing with them.

Relationships: design & distortion

It’s not good for the man to be alone – I will make a helpmeet for him. (Gen 2:18)

DISCLAIMER: Yes, I know there are exceptions, I’ve met several of them. The trend, however, still significantly outweighs the exceptions.
<END DISCLAIMER>

Guys seem to know this inherently… let a woman get sick, and she’ll hide away under the covers, occasionally coming out to make another cup of tea…. let a man get sick (you know this, ladies!), and he can’t quite reach the remote control that’s laying on the floor beside him – he need only drop his hand from the couch, yet he calls out for his wife. Let death visit a long term marriage, and the widow will more often than not shift into the single life and new (or renewed) interests… the widower, on the other hand, will often remarry in fairly short order. It’s not that he doesn’t miss and grieve for his lost wife, it’s that he’s simply lost without her and flounders until he gets remarried.

We ladies (take note, fellas) also crave companionship – we were designed to respond to, lean into, a partner. We want to share thoughts and projects and dreams and sunsets (maybe a sunrise or two, on special occasions) with someone who is committed to be there for the next one (or at least try). Those who find such a relationship, once, consider themselves very fortunate, and frankly don’t expect to find it again. This is why the widows tend to say “that was good, now for something different”. They have given their whole selves to one man, and it’ll take a lot to find another worthy of a similar gift.

Strangely enough, most people don’t get past the schoolyard mentality when it comes to relationships. The ladies are still anxious to let everyone know that someone regards them as special, and the guys are still blase about the whole thing – “oh her? yeah, we’re together”. Maddening! But it’s so classic that musicals have been written about it – ‘Grease’ comes to mind. Why is that?

Some time after Gen 2:25, the first man & woman made the decision that they should know and decide for themselves what is right and good, without interference from their Creator. We have been on our own ever since, except for those who have gone back to Him for direction. He told the woman, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Gen 3:16). I had long thought this was part of the decreed penalty, but I’m starting to believe it was a simple statement of fact. The world has been jostled from it’s original design (geek translation: there’s now a bug in the system), and this unreserved partnership will never be the same again. The core is still there, the need for a helpmeet, and the need to be needed… but, like all other things, it developed a protective thorny shell. Now we have this crazy denial dance we go through, so that we don’t have to admit to getting our hopes up in case the relationship ends.

Some of us, especially ladies, deny who we are so that we can appear to be what *he* wants. Some of us, especially men, deny the need for another person by juggling two lives – one still single, and one focused on winning *her*. He finds security in his independence, she finds security in belonging. When we get past the honeymoon, or 10th anniversary (depending on how long the mask holds out), we look at each other and wonder what happened to the person we married and who is this stranger? Eden’s scene plays out again: “this woman…it’s her fault”, “I was deceived” (Gen 3:12-13). Women in every generation since have been wary of another deceit, and men wary of a companion they cannot control – both certain that if they let their guard down, something will go wrong. And in the insistence on protecting ourselves by hiding from others, it inevitably does.

What’s the solution? Well, society tells us to keep putting on masks, maybe changing the color or texture from time to time in a frantic attempt to be attractive and fresh. It also gives us ways to pursue independent interests and suggests that we can satisfy some of those companionship needs outside of the Designer’s blueprint. The catch-22 spins around and the marketers profit from leading us through our own shortcomings. We try to emulate the airbrush models that hold his/her attention, while scooping up another magazine or TV show to safely partake in other peoples’ lives as though it were a spectator sport, all the while desiring to know and be known fully in a secure relationship with someone who will not leave on a whim nor take abusive advantage.

God tells us to stop hiding, and find our security in Him, confident that He will guard what is entrusted to Him, and fit persons together to their greatest potential. Take as an example the story of Ruth and Boaz, great-grandparents to Israel’s famed King David, or the tale of Esther, who through circumstances became Queen of Persia and was in the unique position of opportunity to save the Jewish people from genocide. History is full of such pairings that seem to have happened serendipitously, and worked out to great advantage to the couple and/or society as a whole. God has the best view of each life, and knows when & how to best combine two. Go about your days, be real with yourself and others, and trust Him who knows you inside & out.

Mother of Many

There’s a promise in Isaiah 54:1, that the desolate or barren woman will have more children than she who is married.   This was true of my Aunt Bettie, long a single woman yet surrounded by children and young adults, and it is turning out to be true of me.

My fourth “~grandchild~” was just born, 13 hours ago as of this writing.  He has two real grandmas, perhaps a step grandma, and at least two churches and a distributed youth group that have anxiously awaited his arrival and are pleased to welcome him.  Still, I lay a little claim to his parents, and to the parents of my other three “~grandchildren~”.  They are among 20 or so now young adults who in their teen years nicknamed me ‘Mama J’, a title I wear proudly.

Pondering my crew, the memories and the continuing blessings, I went in search of that promise, to read it once again.  Wary of those who would grab a snippet of scripture and apply it out of context, I chose to read what Isaiah wrote in the chapters before and after this word.  Here’s what I found:

Isaiah 53 is among those scriptures known as the “Suffering Servant Prophecies”.  It is here that our Savior is described as one who carried no physical or charismatic attraction, one who was despised and rejected, yet who willingly chose to bear our iniquities on Himself, in full agreement with the Father, that we might be restored to relationship with God.

Isaiah 54 opens with:

“Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband,”
says the LORD.

There is a paragraph about the shame of her youth, being rejected as a wife,
…and being claimed by God Himself, as her Redeemer and Husband.

Her children will be taught by the Lord, and have peace.  (amen, may it be so!)

If she comes under attack, it will not be from Him,
…and He will vindicate, so that no opposition will succeed.

There is meaning for me in these words – specific meaning, in all of them.

Isaiah 55 is an invitation from the Lord – an invitation to participate freely in the covenant provided by Jesus, the suffering servant of chapter 53.  There is a plea to seek and find Him, find refreshment, and fullness.  There is the assertion that we can’t look at His offer on our terms, in the way we do business, because His ways are immeasurably above ours.  There is the promise that He will bring joy, for the sake of His own reputation, because

He is the God who keeps His promises, always.

Isaiah 54, with its promises of husband and family, stands between the description and the invitation of our Lord.  He knows what rejection is, and He invites us, with or without resource, credentials, or heritage, to participate in His realm as welcome and beloved.

Single woman, unchosen or rejected,
with no born children to carry on your genes:
You have a faithful and generous Husband who will never reject you,
and you will have plenty of children.

(that includes me)