I Fell in Love with an Atheist

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There is no way to dice it or dance around it. I loved an atheist. I loved him with every fiber of my being. Had it not ended, I might have loved him more than I love God.

In total transparency, my ex still has a small piece of my heart, that tiny shoebox in the corner of a heart where first loves and tacos live. Our “relationship” was a roller coaster of poor judgment, horrible communication, brilliant times full of laughter, sweet sincerity, highs, and lows. Conversation rarely revolved around God but, when the topic arose, it was like a round of tug-o-war.

I didn’t know he was atheist when we first started dating. I thought he was simply jaded and wayward. He was a music director at a church, his family was deeply rooted and involved. Having been raised in the church, he knew the political childishness that can happen within church walls filled with sinful humans. It never crossed my mind that he didn’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t share the same heartbeat for Jesus that I did.

When the truth came to light, the hopeless romantic in me believed he would return to God. I was in his life to help him see the light. It was all God’s divine appointment. I believed God put me in his life to help him. Deep down inside he had to believe, right?. He HAD to. Feeling we were meant to be together, I fervently prayed for his salvation. He opened a part of my heart that had been closed for a long period. I thought we couldn’t NOT be together.

After the last round of relationship lows, I realized what was happening. I had created a false god out of this man and our “relationship” (Exodus 20:3). I had put my desires, my heart, my treasures for this man over my desire for God. I was trying to serve two masters but failing the most important one (Matthew 6:19-24). I was delivering loaded selfish prayers to God and ignoring every conviction and warning sign He laid in front of me. It became clear. I knew what I had to do.

My prayers shifted to a focus on God. I prayed for God’s will and for God to either change his heart or knowing it would break my heart, take him out of my life. And it happened. My heart shattered.

I spiraled to a lonely place, feeling worthless, and angry at God. He had put all this love and excitement in my life only to rip it away. My conversations with God consisted solely of prayers for loved ones. None for me, not for my anger and broken heart. But He was there, waiting for me to be done with my temper tantrum.

I made the choice to trust and give my heart back to God. He handled the rest. My heart softened, I grasped two important truths:

1. God shows me countless amounts of infinite selfless love every single day. Every morning I open my eyes, I’m reminded of God’s eternal love.

2. My heart will mend because it belongs to the most trusted Physician.

When my ex moved on, I reflected on God’s protection from mistakes that could have had life long consequences. With God’s love, I made it through the heartbreak stronger and wiser. I thank my ex for the good times and being the one God used to show me I have the capacity to love at a high level. It’s the reason my ex holds a small place in my heart shoebox.

Now, I focus on building my relationship with God. Like any relationship we’ve had our ups and downs, but He’s always right there, always. He loves and guides me through every low and celebrates with me at every high. My relationship with Christ is the most important I have. Grounded in His truth, I know it is the foundation for all other relationships (Matthew 22:37-38).

-Crystal

Single for a Reason?

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Through my many years of singles ministry and working with pastors, one phrase is repeated often — “single for a reason”. It is the idea that singles are composed of misfits and odd ducks that are stranger than… married people. Next time you hear this phrase, here are some possible responses:

 

We’re all messed up

  • The false promise of this statement at its core is that it compares married and single adults and deems one group inferior or strange. Would someone not be “single for a reason” simply if his/her marital status changed? It is the same person but with a different marital status and still “odd” or “quirky” in nature. The point is categorizing people as more “together” or “not together” by their marital status should cease. A married adult ministry is filled with the same adults who were once single, and for that reason, we are all the same messed-up Christ followers, in need of the same church family and support.

 

Reject rejecting language

  • When you’re in the presence of this phrase being used, why just stand back, laugh, and lower your eyes in agreement? Ministry is full of people, each unique, and sometimes just plain odd. That doesn’t mean their relationship status is for any reason other than following God’s direction in their life. Let’s stop language that tears down other believers in Christ as inferior and, instead, see ministry opportunities where we are called to love God and love others.

 

Leadership matters

  • Is it really a group of people’s fault when a group declines with individuals who may need extra ministry attention? Pastors, we argue it is vital to have leadership that is following your church’s direction and God’s vision for your community. In singles ministry, nearly 50% of the adults in the group will be married at some point, so by nature, it requires more leadership recruitment and investment than other ministries. However, doing so will lead to a vibrant singles ministry and an adult ministry with leaders on fire for the Lord.

 

The reason you or a group of people are “… for a reason” is not due to a stereotype associated with a marriage status. It is due to a perception we allow to be pervasive in our churches regarding singles. Singles are a whole person. Jesus was single. Paul advocated for singles. We should start valuing our ministry opportunities rather than passing judgment on certain people groups in the family of God.

A Broken Engagement = Broken Dreams

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According to leading wedding industry averages, nearly one-third of engagements end before the wedding day. That means when the right one says “I do,” there is more work to be done besides the wedding details. Engagement is not a time to stop focusing on your relationship, but rather the time to dig deeper into the reality of a lifelong commitment before God.

 

Don’t make a lifelong commitment on a short-term relationship

  • Maybe you are reading this and are not engaged. Regardless of where you are (or aren’t) in a relationship, time is meaningful. Spend time with the person and see a future that cannot be replaced by bursts of conversations or non-personal communication. This is the person you should see yourself building a family with, to whom you need to stay committed through good and bad times. How do you know this person is the one if you have not been around them long enough to see their values demonstrated by life actions, not just talk?

 

While your dreams are broken, you are not

  • Cue the song lyrics “Love Hurts.” You had your future, or at least a piece of it, planned out, and you were excited about the adventures ahead. It’s not just the broken relationship with your spouse-once-to-be, but there friends and family to notify too – not to mention social media. What appeared to be a dream became a nightmare. Let yourself process these feelings and emotions, but remember the Truth is found in God’s Word. As a Christ follower, you are a child of the One True King, and He knows the number of hairs on your head. You are eternally loved, never alone, and complete regardless of a called-off wedding day.

Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. – Luke 12:7

 

Trust His plan not your plan

  • The wedding spiral can be brutal. Once the question is asked and a ring is placed on the finger, the rabbit hole of planning, bridal shows, and pinterest boards begins. The tidal wave of budgeting and opinions can be brutal, even when it’s about the happiest day of your life. But when the engagement is called off, the reversal of all those emotions and decisions must happen, including notifying everyone involved. Your plans are derailed, but His plans never were. Regardless of the reason, God’s got this. Turn to wise counsel in this time of shifting plans, and keep your eyes focused on Christ.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,

“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,

plans to give you hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11

 

Many singles have experienced an engagement that did not end in marriage. It is actually more common than expected. When stories are shared of past relationships, many can recount a very serious breakup or an ended engagement. Learn from the experiences in your life that may wound you, but never let them leave you broken. With Christ, you are never broken — you are complete in Him.

Snip, snip. Ouch, ouch!

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I have this problem called self-reliance. Lately, it’s been popping up in my prayers in the form of raw inappropriate confession. “I want to do this by myself!” “Why do I have to wait for you! Why do I have to trust you for everything! Isn’t what you have enough?”
Yikes. I know, right. But, before you click exit, you should know that I’m candid, not rebellious; besides, God knew it before I said it. Saying it rips away the facade. Verbalizing feelings tears away any pretentious mask, allows me to hear the unbelief that would have otherwise remained in the crevices of my fallible soul. Being blunt with God allows Him to deal with me in truth and since I’m so candid, I get dealt with…a lot, and lately, it’s about this self-reliance thing.
The most ambitious of us have this weakness. We like to compete. We like to know that we can do it. We tote around superhero suits in our bags, purses and briefcases. We don’t ask for help often; maybe not at all. We like to hide our weaknesses or work really hard at annihilating them with intense self-improvement and self-development hoping to be ever strong and awesome. Our good God sees the work we’ve done and, yep, the fruit we bear.
Then comes the chop of pruning! Snip snip! John 15 says that if you bear fruit, pruning happens.

Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. John 15:2 (ESV)

It comes again and again to those who are His–to those who hear and obey Him.
Snip! It comes upon those who call on His name, for our merciful God wants children who aren’t self-reliant, but God-reliant. He wants the fruit of our lives to yield glory to Him, not admiration to our own surname or to our superhero title.

After the Lord your God has done this for you, don’t say in your hearts, ‘The Lord has given us this land because we are such good people!’ No, it is because of the wickedness of the other nations that he is pushing them out of your way. It is not because you are so good or have such integrity that you are about to occupy their land. The Lord your God will drive these nations out ahead of you only because of their wickedness, and to fulfill the oath he swore to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You must recognize that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land because you are good, for you are not—you are a stubborn people.” (Deuteronomy 9:4-6) NLT.

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:6 ESV)

Allow God to do some necessary snipping today, and shift the gaze of your admirers and yourself to the truly Glorious One, Jesus.

Light out of darkness

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Why do we have difficulties?

As followers of the Way, we are called to hard lives. Jesus is pretty clear. Carry your cross.

The more we traverse through scripture, the more plain the cross becomes. Lives of sacrifice. Lives where we choose others over ourselves. Lives where we believe and act as if others are better than ourselves. And, turning the cheek and humbly accepting criticism and persecution that comes with that territory.

No wonder the path is narrow.

What part of God’s character does this come from?

After wrestling with ideas of suffering and difficulty, ponder the fact that God is the Creator. Does God wants to show His glorious power by bringing light in the darkness? How can God create light out of light? (If anyone could, He could). When there is darkness in our lives: darkness in our minds, bodies, families, workplaces, homes, neighborhoods, is God’s creative power most abundantly expressed?

The Beginning
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. …Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.…(Gen. 1:1-4)(HCSB)

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. 2 Cor. 4:6 (HCSB)

What if God wants to separate the light from the darkness in your life?

He can logically only separate light from darkness if darkness exists. Therefore, sin and evil in the world function as a part of His ultimate plan to redeem and show Himself most glorious and, for us, make us even more bright and beautiful than ever before, despite our stubborn will. The Sovereign Lord turns it all for our good by creating light out of the darkness of our stubborn will (For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV)

What is the darkness you are experiencing?
Could you imagine what light will look like in the center of the situation?
Being the artist that He is, what light might He be growing in you as a part of His masterpiece?

Authority of Scripture and a Game of Telephone

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Sometimes, I like to play a little game with my students.

it’s called “telephone.”

The objective of the game is to transfer the same message from the front of the line to the end of the line. When we are ready to begin, I communicate the message to the first person, and then I let the message go!

Sometimes, when I check with the last person, the message got through…and sometimes… the message failed mid, or quarter-way through.

If I really want the message to transfer, I walk down the line and watch and make sure it passes the inattentive kid, the one who can barely hear, and the one who paraphrases things to the point of distortion. In the case of communication issues based on their tendencies, I repeat the message, louder, slower, repeatedly…by any means necessary.

This is what the Holy Spirit has done for us throughout the ages. He is the One walking from ‘person to person,’ watching over the message AND the transcriber of His message: the apostles, prophets, teachers throughout church history, biblical translations, etc. to make sure his message did not get “lost in translation.”

In the same way that I ensured that my message got through the entire line, the Holy Spirit watches over His message. If I am a human and can do this, How much more can the King of the Universe perform “telephone” in the span of human existence?

Right. Much, much more.

We can trust His message because we can trust the Messenger of all messengers.

————————

Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. – Acts 8:30-31

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. – John 16:3

Why Would God Allow Me to be Born Gay

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Every week, Table for One blogs generate questions. Recently, we’ve received questions about our stance on same-sex attraction and how or why God would even allow someone to have that struggle in our lives.

Our immediate response is to say that homosexuals are not alone in their battle with sin.

Every person ever born has a sin nature and is prone to sinful desires. Each one of us could ask God the same question: why was I born with sinful desires in my heart? Why do I have the desire to take someone’s life? To lie? To commit adultery? To gossip? To be a glutton? To be prideful?

To sum it up: “We are with you.”

We are all sinners. Same-sex attraction is not “special”, it does not warrant its own category of sinfulness or depravity. All fall short of the Glory of God. Being attracted to the same sex does not mean you have to act on it: just as gluttons have to choose not to eat and gossipers choose not to speak. It’s a choice to engage in sin, regardless of the debate about the source of those feelings.

No sin is so big that it cannot be overcome. You can have victory over this struggle like other struggles we all have. The point to remember is that victory does not necessarily mean having a heterosexual marriage and kids.

Victory is first and foremost an abiding relationship with Christ!

Christ died to release us from the bondage of our sinful desires. Our responsibility towards those who lead a gay lifestyle is not to try to “change” them, but to pray for them and share the gospel. Those who experience God’s grace and turn to Christ as Lord and Savior are released from the condemnation of sin. This does not mean the desires will cease to exist. We all know from life experience that the desire to sin never leaves us; but neither does Jesus Christ–He will never leave you or forsake you.

So we cling to Him daily and make HIM (not our desires or our lifestyle) the first priority in our lives. As we do this, He will stand beside us in the struggle and give us the power to live the life we were called to experience.

God loves strugglers.

Having A Heart Ready for His Word

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John Piper’s article, “Satan Takes the Word” from DesiringGod.org resonates as it explains the parable of the sower.  In the explanation detailed in the above article, Piper tells his audience how to prepare their hearts for the Word. It is tremendously valuable; I advise you to read it. It is in reflection of that article that I pose the following question: how do you prepare your heart for God’s Rhema Word? If you follow the reference link, you will find that rhema is the insight/knowledge/message that the Holy Spirit would like to speak directly into your heart personally to direct, lead and encourage you. How does one prepare for such personal communication from the Holy Spirit and when it comes, are you willing to be led?

I am like a donkey, I kick my heels in and find myself “kicking against the goads” pushing against the very One who loves me the most in this season of singleness. Sometimes when my heart has not been properly watered, lacks nutrients and hasn’t been recently tilled, my heart refuses the One I love, Jesus. Yet, during this season, nothing is more important than leaning into the comfort, the love, the affection and the validation of the One who loves me more than everyone on the planet combined.

In my exploration of what it means to have a tender heart to the Lord, to be willing to obey, to have the desire to please Him and to say “yes” every time His beckoning calls, I must have a tender heart. (My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “LORD, I am coming.” Psalms 27:8 NLT).

Here are a few things I’ve noticed about permitting the tenderizing process of my heart- from stone to flesh:

  1. Worship – When I find myself grumpy, or silent in spirit, I need fertilizer. There is a drastic difference between the atmosphere in my heart when I have been listening to worship, and not secular music or nothing at all. Worship stirs the affections of the lover toward the loved and should not be taken lightly. What is the difference between a pastor getting up to speak first, instead of worship first? The atmosphere! To change the atmosphere of your heart, try worship music. After turning on the style of your choice, your heart will tilt towards your Beloved King of Kings and the dull moments of your life will turn into extraordinary meetings with the divine. Turn it on, leave it on, watch your heart grow!
  1. Community– Sometimes it’s nice to stay in. Sometimes work is hard, and you are tired, and there is this and that to do, but community life is vital! Through the fellowship of other believers, we are made strong. When we are weak, we have prayers from our brothers and sisters. When we are discouraged, we are encouraged! “Unfriendly people care only about themselves; they lash out at common sense.“ (Proverbs 18:1 NLT).  Community is the kneading done in the heart. It is the massaging, the tilling and it works the Word past the tough rocks like unforgiveness, bitterness, and unanswered questions of your heart. Without tilling the soil, the fruit is hindered.
  1. Word – The Word is the seed. If it does not go in, nothing can grow! In times of intense discontentment and frustration, the cause is often missed my Bible reading. When we read/listen to the Word, we find ourselves thinking of how to apply the Word through various situations. Scriptures that respond to everyday concerns pop into our heads and tell us to press on. The Word is as critically important as food, and we need it every single day. As in the natural, in the spiritual, there are many ways to get your daily Bible allowance.

 

We were all born into iniquity. None of us are righteous. Since we still live in the flesh, we have to daily choose our spirit man over our flesh (refer to Galatians 5:17 below). The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.  

To win the fight, obedience to the Holy Spirit’s leading is required, and to achieve a transformational obedience, a fertile, ripe, and ready heart’s is necessary. When we have a tender heart, we are most ready to receive the rhema Word of our Heavenly Father who leads, guides and orders our lives.

Galatians 5:16-18 16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses. (NLT)

Romans 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. (NLT)

Did I Make a Mistake?

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My plane landed in Central Asia in the wee hours of the morning. After training, I couldn’t get here fast enough. This is where I felt called to and had been working towards for a long time. It was finally happening. I was joining the work of taking the Good News to the nations.

I piled my four VERY heavy bags on a cart, and basically skipped to the exit to meet my mentor. I was so excited to meet her. She dropped me off at the guest flat and told me she would pick me up in the morning to attend an office luncheon where I would meet the rest of the team. I was ready to hit the ground running.

The “guest flat” was in a dilapidated Soviet apartment building, and I was nervous to stay by myself. However, updated my Facebook status (you know, first things first), and settled in…. And then.. it hit…

I started sobbing. I’d never felt more alone, trapped, or scared. Doubts and fears flooded my heart. Three years suddenly seemed like an e-t-e-r-n-i-t-y. After texting with one of my mentors, I fell asleep two hours later. It would be better tomorrow, right? Nope…more tears. When my mom called, I tried to disguise my emotions (because, you know, moms can’t see through that), but I wept. I felt like a child again, being held by her momma. And through her, God held me. She didn’t tell me to come home, instead reminding me I was right where the Father wanted me. The first two weeks I could barely talk to anyone without crying. I even struggled to comprehend the Word through the jet lag, culture shock, and roller coaster emotions.

A local Believer shared with me she thinks we are often like the Israelites. She explained that although God parted the Red Sea to deliver them from the Egyptians and lead them to the Promised Land, they were grumbling about the mud on their feet. Okay, so the part about the mud is not in the Word, but there are plenty of accounts about the Israelites grumbling about other things.

This made me reflect on the grace and love He has shown me. He has done miraculous things in my life, demolished seemingly unmovable strongholds, and surrounded me with amazing supportive friends and family. And yet, I was struggling to trust. God never promised comfort or ease, but He does promise that He will NEVER leave us. I am NOT alone. Evidence His hand facilitated my journey to Central Asia is apparent. He led me here, He has a plan, and He will sustain me. Those first few days brought me to my knees, but it is the best place to be if I’m kneeling before Him. I’ll always remember His first Words to me in this country – “Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14

Maybe It’s Your Fault You are Lonely

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We all see the Facebook posts of a lonely person.

Whether married or single, you have friends who post and post, and then post some more. It seems every time you check your feed, you know the last meal the ate and how food was!

Then there are posts of loneliness and clear cries for attention and help that break your heart. You want your friends to not feel alone, so you try to get them to engage in activities but to no avail.

For singles this is more common as they often live alone and even those with a roommate spend time alone. Alone time does not equal being lonely. Being lonely is the feeling of abandonment or low self worth that makes a person feel like no one else knows how they feel.

Here is the thing with loneliness: you have to own some of the responsibility yourself. To be a person who is not alone, you have to be the instigator to say yes more often to social engagements and sometimes that means spending money to make things happen. It is not a matter of being an introvert or extrovert.

To avoid feeling alone, you need to be proactive to stay engaged in life.

Below are a few ways you may be responsible for feeling alone.

 

Not connecting with friends.

Friends are a great base of social interaction and companionship for anyone. Some friendships, like David and Jonathan’s in the Old Testament, can be deep and meaningful. (1 Samuel 18:1-4) You have to own half of the responsibility to establish relationships that can be deep friendships. Connect with others that share a common interest and resist the urge to stay home all the time.

 

Not doing social things with others.

We hear the uproar to this comment. Yes, we know it can be difficult to afford being social all the time. Singles are on a tight budget and every dollar is important. But, social things are important. Even for the introvert. You need to find social things to do. They do not have to always be a singles event. Sites like www.meetups.com offer a way for you to find a interest and share with others. Go out with co-workers. Say yes to lunch on Sundays, even with that married couple that asks. Being connected is worth every penny.

 

Not reaching out to others in time of need.

Nothing is more frustrating for a leader or minister than to find out a person in their group was in need and did not let anyone know. It is hard for anyone to admit they need help. But, if you are fighting against being lonely, not reaching out will not fix it. People may offer to help you from time to time. If you say no every time you become more distant from others, which leads to our next point.

 

Not allowing people to love you.

In his book The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman believes everyone has a “love tank.” We agree! Singles, you have a love language and you need to know how you prefer to be loved so you can allow people to love you. You have to let down some guards and take a risk from time to time. Friends are there to help you and love you. It is hard, but it is worth it! (Click HERE to take a test to find your love language.)

 

Not establishing a FRAMILY.

Friends who are family, Framily! You need to have a few 1 a.m. friends, framily, or whatever you call them in your life to walk with you. Unfortunately in this fallen world, the older we get, the more family is lost to tragedy. The principle here is to surround yourself with people you love and who love you enough to invest in your life. That way when hardships comes, you have a network of people to call–not just one or two family members.

 

Lastly, leaders to singles, never stop reaching out to those who are lonely. One day they may let you into their Framily. It may take years to break down their walls and let you into their world, but it is worth it.
Singles ministries that thrive are ones who create a sense of community for one another and those that flourish are based on the Word of God. That is why our missions statement is to Build Community for Single Adults Through Discipleship. Keep loving the ones who fight your love the most. These people are the reason we started this blog. The one on Facebook who is lonely and looking to connect with others.