Bible College Spinster: Single, but Single-Minded

 

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

A pastor I really respect from my church made the statement that to have a pure heart meant that one was single-minded.

Coming out of a Christian culture obsessed with sexual-purity, my teenaged self had always just assumed the beatitude was connecting to saving sex for marriage. Hearing this new definition as a young adult struck a chord with me.

Single-minded. Having one single driving purpose. A lone resolve.

Had I ever been after just one thing?

I wrote previously about the realization that I have been pursuing things other than Christ. This has been the case for, well, forever. Encountering the question, “Have I ever been single-minded?” The answer was no, Definitely not.

This begged a different question, though: If I had other driving purposes competing for my attention, what were they?

There were multiple answers, but the biggest one was embarrassing to me.

I had read a book in high school that was very influential in me devoting my life to Christ. It was also very influential in cultivating some very militant thoughts toward dating, modesty, and culture that have take the ten years since reading to be set straight by scripture and patient, truth-minded people. God uses all things, I guess…

The author stated that she believed that if you truly wanted to be married in your heart-of-hearts, God would grant that in his time. She based this out of Psalm 37, where David writes, “Delight yourself in the LORDand he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Listening to the pastor talk about single-mindedness all those years later, I was struck by the fact that I had been following God for all the wrong reasons.

I had literally been pursuing God in hopes that he would provide someone to pursue me. And that wasn’t happening and I was growing disillusioned.

I was following Jesus because I believed that if I followed him hard enough, he would give me the desires of my heart. Like he was a magic boy-friend producing genie.

Call me double-minded with impure motives. Color me foolish. Trust me, I felt it. By the grace of God, I felt it.

In the couple years since being presented with this, I’ve since had a chance to look at Psalm 37 again. And here is the question I have:

I was looking at that verse like God was in an infomercial. “Follow me in the next ten minutes and I’ll throw in whatever you want!” What if he is not promising to give us what we desire right now if we throw in our lot with him, but something bigger.

What if he is saying that when we follow him, he will give us something for our hearts to truly desire—that he will give us desire in and of itself?

As I have prayed for single-mindedness rather than an end to my singleness, I have found that the spirit is cultivating something new in me.

Yes, I still long for a partner, but there is a new trust that if that doesn’t happen, it will be all right. There is beginning to be a desire Jesus more than a husband. Delighting in the Lord becomes more and more the desire of my heart.

I still cannot say than I am single-minded, but by God’s grace,  he has begun to change my tastes. He is cultivating a purity of heart that I am not capable of doing on my own. This cultivation reveals my desire for love and acceptance, and wholeness that my double-hearted nature wants me to believe will be fulfilled with lesser things. It is through time in the word, in prayer, and in community with the body of Christ that my heart sees what it needs to focus on and what it truly desires.

So yes, I may be single. But that also may be what God is using to cultivate single-mindedness.

The Spinster Abroad

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So I think it’s about time I gave you an Iceland post…

If you didn’t know, I went to Iceland a month ago. I realized a week before I left that I had not informed some key people in my world that I was even taking this trip—like my grand parents or even my best friend, which felt like a big relating fail and I’m realizing that I didn’t tell you either.

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Kirkjufell (Church Mountain) is one of the most photographed sights on the island. This beaut was situated across from our gorgeous little guesthouse.

So I went to Iceland! Sorry I didn’t tell you  before.

Never have I been to a place so saturated in beauty. I can wax eloquent forever, but I think I’ll just leave it at the thought that never have I felt so small in a place. Between the heft of cliffs and mountains and the never-ending collection of water falls, my eyes and heart were full and I’m forever grateful for the experience.

The true value of the trip came to me while journaling in the sunroom of one of our guest houses mid-trip. See, Iceland was maybe not the ideal location for little-prissy me. But I wanted wonder and I wanted inspiration and a chance to gain back some imaginative real estate. I’m not an avid hiker—I more like a lovely stroll with maybe a steep hill or two. I’m not a risk taker—at least if I am, I like to really think it all through. But this was so worth it and so valuable.

I was journaling in our little guest house across the bay from Kirkjufell after a rainy day of adventures and I was struck by the thought that I was going to be alright.

The Beach in Vik
The Beach in Vik

I mean, on the trip, yes, but also in life. See, I’ve written a lot about taking advantage of this season of singleness and finding contentment where God has placed you, but behind that has always been a fear.

What if this isn’t just a season? If I’m not content now, will I ever be? Is there something wrong with me?

That evening, journaling prayers, God was able to calm these tightly carried anxieties.

My friend and I planned the entire trip start to finish, just the two of us.  We were taking a calculated, but kind of crazy risk being in a remote country alone, but we were here and God was blessing so much of the journey. And we were alright. More than alright—we were having an amazing time.

And it was in that realization that the thought came:

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Chillin’ at Gullfoss

If this was going to be my life, it was going to be an alright one. If God’s plan is for it to be just me, myself, and I, the life He has given will not be bad. It will not be without love and relationship. It will not be without adventure or heartache. It will not be a life without purpose. It may be a quiet, small, and maybe nondescript one, but a fine one none the less.

For the first time—and maybe this is an embarrassing confession since I write about this a lot—I felt at peace with where God has placed me. This life isn’t about finding your person or your dream job or ideal body weight. He has so much more waiting for you. There is a life of depth and hope and beauty waiting to be lived when we’re willing to live in trust of His plan.

So, maybe this isn’t a post about Iceland, but rather about what I got to bring back with me.

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Bible College Spinster

A couple weeks ago, I talked about how I’d like to start posting monthly writing samples. Blogging has always been practice of the craft for me and this week I’m stretching out a little. This is the start of what may be a blog series or may be a larger project. I’m not sure where this is headed, but I’m sharing it anyway. Enjoy!

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I knew pretty early on that I did not want to get married right out of college.

During jr. high youth group one night, they split the guys off from the girls and panel of women talked with us about purity. As part of the introduction, they each shared how they had met their husbands.

“We met in our biology class in college.”

“He lived on the floor below me in our dorm.”

“We were introduced the first day of our freshman year.”

I distinctly remember thinking, that is a boring love story. I want to meet someone in a cool way. After school. After backpacking through Europe.”

Backpacking through Europe was the epitome of adulthood in my thirteen year old mind. I had just read Maureen Johnson’s 13 Little Blue Envelopes and knew that was the goal after college. NOT getting married. I wanted to live a little first.

And that was that. Until I encountered the horror of a freshman girl’s dormitory.

I never had questioned my dating status, let along my marital status until my first night at college when the question was thrown out:

“Do any of you think you’ve met your husband here yet?”

I am not. Kidding. This was the first night.

And from there it just felt like so many women were in a scramble to find that perfect fit somewhere on campus. For the most part, it wasn’t a race. I have plenty of friends who found their person in a normal amount of care and time and their wedding celebrations were such a pleasure to be a part of.

But there were some couples that were slightly more concerning. Some of them resulted in rushed marriages and even more rushed divorces.

Looking around in the aftermath of those years, it’s been interesting to observe longings that have surfaced in my life as well as in the lives of my friends through the first years of marriage into the early parenting stage from some of them.

photo-1459876488407-12ece558ba10I never thought I would get to 24 and be one of my only friends left rowing in the single boat. And I’d be lying if there weren’t moments I look around and wonder if I missed something—took a wrong turn or acted on introvert impulse when I shouldn’t have.

But I’ve been here long enough to know that the grass just isn’t going to be as green as it is on Fixer Upper. I’m thankful for that.

Honestly, I’m still trying to get back to Europe, let alone get down the aisle.

So much “spiritual” reading I did outside of the Bible was concerned with being a good girlfriend, or wife, or even mother. But I’m not using that info. Not really. I’ve found in this season a yearning to just learn how to be a person.

As part of this writing experiment, I’m trying to find out how to wring this season dry. I made it through bible college without the husband and baby I was promised with my diploma and I want to live into that well.

I’ve felt for a while that the church in general is not sure what to do with a woman in her mid-twenties who is unwed without prospects…Maybe not the church in general. Maybe it’s the church in West Michigan.

And as much as I want to be comfortable in that, I feel like I’m kind of alone here.

So I write this for you. To let you know you’re not alone…. or maybe just to confirm if I am. So in these posts, I’ll be unpacking some observations and throw out some thoughts.

I don’t want to spend this season waiting for what is next. What is here is next. And I’m owning it—The life of a Bible College Spinster.

Christmas: The Heritage of Longing

I love and hate Christmas.

I feel like most single women can echo the sentiment.

It’s wonderful to spend the time with family, to decorate the house, to enjoy the homecoming of friends you haven’t seen in a while. Candlelight services, caroling, advent. It’s a wonderful time of year.

And then there is also the awkward time spent with family, the stress of hosting get-togethers, crazy malls. The forgetting of the meaning of this season.

And I don’t mean the world forgetting to stop and celebrate Christ’s birth. We live in a fallen world where Christ’s sovereignty is denied on an hourly basis. Of course I don’t expect the general population to celebrate Christ’s birth.

 I mean what we forget within the body of Christ.

See, part of what makes Christmas a hard time of year for me is the longing. I long to share romantic Christmas dates with someone special. I long to have a family of my own to make Christmas memories with. I at least just long to say yes when the “are you seeing someone?” brigade intrudes on holiday gatherings.

It’s easy to let the unmet longing shade the season of hope and joy, but I think to ignore the longing is to miss something important in this season.

Because Christmas is a celebration of longing.

The world was in desperate need of the messiah and the longing for his presence throughout the Old Testament is unmistakable. In Christ’s coming to earth, that longing was met and through his death, fulfilled.

In this season of advent, we now long for Christ’s return.

I was reminded by a friend earlier this month that God has given each of us specific longings and needs to draw us in to him. We try to fill those longings with relationships, or status, or possessions, but of course that doesn’t work.

Having a boyfriend, or husband and family would not ease this hunger in my soul this season. Not really.

Because there is still great longing in me for what will not be met on this side of heaven. And so often I misdiagnose that longing and loneliness I feel to be that of a relationship with a man rather than my need for unbroken relationship with God.

But that longing is why we celebrate this season. We look forward to having this longing met in the second coming of our king. And we give thanks for the first coming and the sacrifice that makes our longing able to be met.

We are descendants in a heritage of longing. We are beautiful beggars waiting for our hunger to be satisfied.

This season is an invitation to face our longings head on and seek the truth of what we really desire.

So this is my challenge as we head into this week. As you experience the longing, loneliness, or discontentment of your holiday season, look at the feeling in light of advent. In light of the anticipation and desire of what is before us.

Rest in the knowledge that your longing will one day be met.

Until then, may you find joy and peace this Christmas season.