Left Behind

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As a single guy who is old enough to be pondering questions such as, “Am I contributing enough to my 401(k)?” or, “Does my potential new job offer dental benefits, because I might need dentures soon…?”, I have been around long enough to have witnessed the marriage of many of my best friends. Heck, most of my friends are on their second or third kid and are worrying about which school district has the best honors program for their supposedly gifted offspring!

Single adults often have to act enthusiastic in uncomfortable social situations, but perhaps the most painful and awkward act we have to perform is putting on a big smile and offering a heartfelt “Congratulations, that’s awesome, I’m so happy for you guys!” when our best buddy or childhood friend finally decides to tie the knot – and we have no prospects on the horizon whatsoever!  Maybe you have “made your peace” with the whole Being Single thing and are content with where God has put you in life – good job, great friends, nice place to live, a church you feel really plugged into, etc. – but, to my mind at least, there is nothing that will challenge this state of contentedness more profoundly than the news of a close friend that’s getting engaged.  Sometimes it doesn’t even take that much – we’ve all had those friends who were mainstays of our social group and who we hung out with all the time, but as soon as they found and began dating their soul mate they immediately vanished from the group and were gone from our lives as suddenly as the flip of a light switch.

Now don’t get me wrong – as someone who hopes to be married someday myself, but more importantly, as a Christ-follower who, in my better moments, attempts to treat others the way I would like to be treated – I am definitely not saying we should not or cannot truly rejoice with our friends when they come to us with the news that their lives are going to be permanently changed – far from it!  But if we are painfully honest with ourselves, we will admit that sometimes it is like attempting to grin cheerfully during a root canal to try to be as sincerely happy for our soon-to-be-married friends as we hope they would be for us if it were our turn.

So what to do?   First of all, acknowledge that it stinks – not that you necessarily need to tell them that (and if you do tell them, pray long and hard beforehand that God would give you the right words, the right time, and the right spirit in which to have that conversation).  Just be honest with yourself and with God and admit that, yes, you are losing someone, at least for a while.  In fact, it’s almost like someone close to you has died.  For a romantic relationship to strengthen into a God-honoring, rock-solid marriage, the couple has to enter into a much more exclusive relationship than any they (and you) have ever experienced.  Know that your engaged or newly married friends are not (99% of the time, at least) intentionally trying to leave you, their single friend, behind – they just need to spend a lot of quality time together in order to enter into that intimate relationship that God desires for them to have so that they can truly become one.   But none of this changes the simple fact that you’ll miss having them around like they were before!

And of course, as a single adult, having a friend get engaged and married is just another not-so-subtle reminder that we are not.  It’s not that we mean to be childish or jealous, it’s that our minds are being bombarded with thoughts like, “Why not me?” “Am I going to be the last one standing?” and on and on it goes… So yeah, just say it, “It stinks!”

Having said that, know that genuinely rejoicing with your friends while at the same time mourning the passing of an era and the permanent alteration of your friendship is not only possible, it’s also not “wrong,” so you shouldn’t feel guilty or weirded out about being in this seemingly conflicted state of mind.  As a guy, I’m not too proud to admit something like this, but let’s face it – God also made men just as capable as women of feeling loss.  We men probably don’t express it the way the ladies do, but yeah, we’ll definitely miss not being able to spontaneously call up our buddy to go skeet-shooting on a Saturday morning without him having to first check with his “social planner.”

Finally, remember that your “couple” friends still need you!  Yes, they will withdraw into themselves for a while and yes, your relationship with them will never be exactly what it used to be, but just because they are getting married doesn’t mean they don’t want or need your friendship any more.  It may take them a few months or so to realize it, but they will wake up one day and realize that their husband or wife, however wonderful he or she is, cannot satisfy their every human need – and God made each one of us with a deep need for friendship.  They need your friendship as they enter their new romantic relationship, and they will still need your friendship months and years after they get married and start having kids.

God is not the author of pain, sadness, or loneliness – His word tells us that all these things are the by-products of our fallen and broken world and will one day pass away with the coming of the new Heaven and Earth. Sometimes, though, I believe God allows us to deal with the “loss” of a good friend so that we will be reminded that He is, indeed, truly enough. He and He alone is our constant companion, and in a world of constant turbulence and change, we need this reminder often.  He always has a way of providing exactly what we need at just the right time – and sometimes He has to take away what we think we need to show us what we really need. Thankfully, His wisdom and timing are always perfect, and when nothing else in the world makes sense, we can trust His heart and know that, as a gracious and loving Father, He will never fail to provide for our needs in ways that are far greater than we would ever imagine!

Separated or Single?

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He walked out on his marriage a month ago and comes to your church. He’s brand new and comes to the singles group. He seems nice and you greet him, talk to him, and connect him. Over lunch that week, he mentions that he is recently divorced. As the conversation progresses, you realize that when he says “divorced” he mean that he has left his wife and the “paperwork” is still “in process”. So then, is this person divorced? As a minister of the Gospel, how do you counsel him? Is he single or is he married?

A real world problem for singles ministries is dealing with a person who is separated but not divorced or, in our view, even single. Table for One Ministries defines divorced as “The papers are filed” for a reason. We believe that until a divorce is legally finalized that person is married. Marriage is a sacred commitment and by all means should be fought for until the end. Separated is nothing more than married but not together. It’s still marriage.

This is NOT to say singles ministries cannot help. The church can and must help in this situation, but singles ministry should be for singles not married adults. The problem is introducing a hurting, frustrated, married person to a group of happy, healthy single people does not encourage the married person to seek God’s strength to fight for their marriage. Instead, it encourages them to abandon their marriage and seek the “happy single life” they see in front of them.We can hear the criticism now:  “Every case is different and there should be exceptions,” “Divorces can take years,” and “Things are over, so why wait?”

We encourage the waiting to give God time to work. Emotions run high during separations, and they need to be given time to let God speak to BOTH people involved.

To those separated: marriage commitment is a big deal. Leaving it should not be a simple task. Allow God to move and even if that divorce takes months to sort out, take time to heal before looking to engage the single adult world. Leaders, protect your singles from getting involved with a married person, and encourage the separated adult looking to get involved in a married adult group first, giving God time to work in their life.

Feeling Alone in the Pew

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It’s Sunday morning and you are off to church. You arrive on time for the worship service and slip into the back. Then, there it is. The happy couple in front of you with two kids and a dog at home with a nice home and great jobs. Just what you wanted to see when you came to church today, something you don’t have.

Instantly, your morning focused on God turns into what you don’t have.

Does this describe you?

Feeling bitterness or jealousy in the Church pew should never happen. Christ tells us in Matthew 28 that He will be with us until the end of time.

So how is it possible to feel so alone in God’s house? Emotions can run high with anyone, but for those experiencing the issue of being single and wanting to be married, the littlest thing such as this scenario can spiral emotions to a place of loneliness.

Jeremiah 29:11 tells us God knows the plan for our lives, so we need to build up trust in that promise that completes singles in Christ. Trusting is hard–it takes work and time. But trusting God with the small things makes it easier and easier to trust Him with the big things.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
– Proverbs 3:5-6

Remember, in God’s house you are not alone. Stay focused on giving Him all the glory and praise and trusts Him wholeheartedly with your life. Worship is a big part of your spiritual growth; make sure that time is focused on Him and not on you.

True Love Doesn’t Have to Wait

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True love doesn’t wait. That’s right. All our lives we were taught by Disney, ABC, Hallmark, and others that someday our one “true love” will come and sweep us off our feet. Get married and have perfect children and live happily ever after. But is that what Scripture teaches us? Christian programs talk about this issue, but we are not talking about physical attraction love only. Paul encourages a life of singleness over being married for the sake of Kingdom work in 1 Corinthians 7. Jesus was single and said “Come and Follow me” (Mark 1:17) and died upon a cross for all mankind’s sins to rise again three days later victorious over death. John 3:16: God loved us so much he sent His one son to die for you. True love. 1 John 4 talks about how God is love and we know God’s love by loving one another. The Bible is clear. Be complete in Christ now and know true love!

True love is what Christ has done for us, not what Prince Charming or Snow White has to offer. Singles, do not buy into the lie that marriage is the only way to experiencing true love and be complete. Be complete now and if marriage is in God’s plan for your life,  then great! If not, you are complete and whole knowing the truest love this life has to offer.

Taming the Single Tongue

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“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth comes praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both freshwater and saltwater flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”   James 3:9-12 (NIV)

As a single adult, taming the tongue is particularly important when speaking about your singleness. At Table for One Ministries we believe singles are complete in Christ. Nothing else will satisfy you or even come close to His love shown you.

So why talk negatively about being single like it’s a curse or an unwanted gift? This verbiage displays a lack of trust in the One who controls everything in our lives.

Your tongue has power. In fact, it’s described in verse 8 as “a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” Yikes! That is harsh for the average Christian believing they are mostly good and mostly honoring God most of the time. The issue of taming the tongue comes down to submission to Christ and love.

You must submit your words to the Word of God (James 4:7). Your words should speak love to others so that they may know the love of God.  “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:11-12)

Let your tongue be honoring in all you say!

Single Struggles: Seeing Happy Couples

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There they go walking in front of you again. Mr. and Mrs. Perfect with their awesome married life. I bet they have a kid on the way! Wait, there is another young couple walking the opposite way holding hands and clearly in puppy love. Uh, it’s time to leave the mall because just when you had seen enough there is an elderly couple that looks like the were on the movie “UP” sharing ice cream at the food court. By now you are wondering if you are the only person who just doesn’t always want to see happy couples all the time!

As a single adult, seeing “happy” couples can sometimes set you back for a moment, even longer depending on your desire to be with someone else. Remember that if you have made a decision to follow Christ you are complete in Him and nothing else. No relationship or object can fill the desires of your heart like Christ’s love can.

Now the moment has passed. Maybe someday God will have someone for you like that but right now He is in control and you do not need to be with someone to be happy. Remember that God knows the desires of our hearts and we need to trust Him with those desires and allow Him to work those into our lives. Now, on to the grocery store!

Sin Will Make You Stupid

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Have you ever heard the phrase “Sin will make you stupid?”  Credit Dr. Danny Akin for that phrase.  It’s true, sin will make people do incredibly ridiculous things knowing they will get caught in the act. Take people who look at things on the internet in a corporate work environment. Not all, but most corporations have a way to track what you see on your screen while you are at work. Knowing that people get caught and fired all the time, people still choose to view those things in the workplace. E-mail is another thing that is easily tracked and leaves behind evidence of what you are communicating with other people. Recent examples include former CIA Director David Petraeus and South Carolina former governor Mark Sanford. Both highly respected people in high ranking positions that let sin make them stupid.

So how do you as a single adult keep sin from sending you down the wrong path and doing something “stupid?” James 1:4-10 tells us to flee from evil and drawn near to the Lord. The Messages says “Quit dabbling in sin and purify your life.” The last verse says to “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” So do you dabble in sin from time to time not thinking it is a big deal? It’s not the “major sins,” but ones like gossip, white lies, and taking a double look with lust at the person who just passed you by that you keep on hand as a little sin and don’t fully give to God that will make you stupid.

God wants us all to live life and to have it more abundantly. We can do that by cutting out sin where we see it in our lives to keep us above reproach with the Lord. As a single adult you need to surround yourself with people to support you and pray for you on a weekly basis. Be involved in your church organization and find those people that will keep you from making bad or “stupid” choices.

Dating is Way Too Serious

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I attended a Christian college. I lived with a roommate attending seminary. I’ve been a part of a large singles group. Basically, I’ve been in a number of Christian circles. And within each circle I’ve noticed a common thread: Dating is way too serious.

Maybe you can relate? After a date or two, a couple is considered to be dating. After a month, it’s a serious relationship. Within a few months, it’s time to start talking about marriage. (This is a slight exaggeration–but not by much.) It’s easy to see how one or two dates leads to high expectations in a potential dating partner. Every prospective date needs to be evaluated for marriage compatibility right away.

As a result, dating within a Christian group can become stifled. Some choose to date in secret until their relationship is serious. Others choose to date someone outside of the group to avoid the high level of scrutiny. Finally, some choose to avoid dating altogether unless they think someone is the perfect match.

I would venture to guess that most of us wish Christian dating wasn’t like this. Guys are tired of being turned down. Girls are tired of not being asked out. Why can’t dating be more relaxed and transparent? How can the dating culture be changed? Let me share some advice given to me that I believe will help with this dilemma.

Guys, the advice for you is very simple. If she is available and on your mind, ask her out on a date! Don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out if she is interested in you. Even if she does turn you down for a date, the rejection probably won’t be nearly as bad as you think. (And, if you are rejected in an awful way, she probably wasn’t going to be good dating material!) Don’t spend time researching every aspect of her life. You will get much better answers if you ask questions during a date. You can’t expect dating to be relaxed and transparent if you only ask out girls you’re ready to marry.

Girls, the advice for you is a little more unconventional. If he asks you out on a date, say yes! (This comes with a few caveats, of course. If he is clearly not living for Christ or you don’t trust him, it’s okay to say no. If he’s separated but married, say no.) Don’t worry about compatibility. The best way to find out if you are compatible is on a date. Even if things don’t work out, you still come away with a free meal and a boost of confidence. Also, like it or not, guys have egos. If they have been turned down several times in a row or believe you are going to say no, they may just avoid asking you out in order to avoid rejection.

Singles can’t expect dating to be relaxed and transparent if we’re only saying yes to someone we’re ready to marry.


PDA – Public Display of Affection

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PDA is everywhere. Holding hands, kissing, hugging, all sometimes done to an extreme in public. It’s the level of PDA as believers that we can control and that should be modest. Sometimes single adults who have found someone have been known to, well, show excessive PDA. This comes from possibly years of not being able to have someone to share physical emotions with and finally getting the chance to do so. As believers, you need to do whatever you do to the glory of God, 1 Corinthians 10:31. This includes the way you show physical emotions in public and private.

For those of you who have just started dating and have been confronted about your PDA or you are concerned you are showing too much PDA, a few words of advice. Likely you are showing this PDA around your single friends, so be considerate. It was not that long ago you were on the outside looking in on this type of relationship. Be sensitive to your friends and withhold from excessive PDA in their presence. There is a reasonable level of PDA to be accepted in social situations. But keep your PDA modest as to honor God and respect your friends.

To single adults who have witnessed excessive PDA from your now dating single friend, a few words of advice. First, do not gossip about it to your friends. Confront the couple and lovingly tell them to please be sensitive around you and others with their PDA. Second, not all PDA from your now dating friends is bad. Let them express some PDA even when you are not in the mood, just as you would want the same treatment someday when you may be with someone.

Curmudgeons Corner Valentine’s Day

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Ah, Valentine’s Day!

As late winter exerts its seasonal charms (whether, in your region, that means snow turning to dirty slush, or dismal, chilling rain, or a cheery snot-fostering burst of early pollen…) our society arranged a trite holiday celebrating infatuation, and requiring (as all holidays do) an outlay of precious cash for proper observance. We’re conditioned to it early, from compulsory participation during most boys’ formative “I hate girls!” stage in elementary school; Valentine’s Day is Something You Have To Do. More particularly, it is Something You Have To Do So That Nobody’s Feelings Get Hurt. That, too, is reinforced in the elementary school classroom, where everyone has to give everyone else a valentine–or else!

Naturally, once freed from the classroom and out in the world, the hearts of the young and single on this special day, turn lightly to thoughts of self-pity, anxiety, and that special sort of wishful thinking that easily degenerates into resentment. “Does anyone care about me? Am I sending the right messages to anyone I care about? Would spending more money help?

Whose idea was this horrible annual ritual, anyway? Is there someone I can sue?”

Since the historical St. Valentine’s connection to romantic love is far from clear, it surely wasn’t HIS idea. Some suspect church officials trying to replace a previous pagan festival, “Lupercalia”, which involved sacrificing goats and running around naked. (I would apologize to the Pagan-American Community for perpetuating stereotypes, but it so happens that Lupercalia involved precisely those behaviors.) In any case, it was probably a rather pleasant festival until modern advertisers got hold of it and began carefully shaping our anxieties so that they could subtly suggest spending money to assuage them.

The earliest commercially printed Valentine cards appeared in Victorian England. In those times, however, things which were commercially produced were considered a bit impersonal for the expression of affection. Instead, the Comic Valentine became popular. These ancestors of the grade-school mass-produced Valentine seem more appropriate, today, to April Fools’ day, rather than to February 14. A typical example has a gorilla in a bonnet, with the legend “One Of Your Ancestors”; another one shows a leering rogue declaring “It is your pocket full of cash that I would wed, my beauty!”

Comic Valentines

Comic Valentines mocked their recipients soundly, with insulting caricatures and verses; a casual examination of these barbed little taunts might well lead to a feeling of gratitude that whatever February 14 brings, it won’t be a postman trudging along to hand=deliver an insult. Yet, contrarian that I am, I can’t help but thinking the Victorians might have been on to something. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend,” says the Proverb, “but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Would you rather receive an insincere insult–or an insincere compliment?

Whether flirting or just commiserating with friends on Valentine’s Day, you might do better to regard the commercial pressure of the holiday with the cynicism it deserves–and restore a little of the playfulness that made Valentine’s a whimsical relief from the dreary last days of winter. And in the end the seasons always do that–one more reason not to let this one get you do.