One of my big missions is to inspire single women (in particular, but not exclusively) to identify and develop their unique gifts within the church. But I already hear a lot of single women asking, "What if I don't have a gift?"
Actually, you do. You've just bought into an incorrect definition of "gift." The real definition is super simple.
This post is meant to be a follow-up to: "My Response to the Purity Culture and Josh Harris."
First, I delayed publishing this follow-up because I wanted Paul to look over the post before it went live (my guard against errors in both memory and Biblical matters!). Secondly, please note that this is a super condensed skimming of very large matters. Paul said that it could easily be two or three blog posts, but, honestly, we could write a whole book on the subject! (And many people have.) For the sake of brevity, I chose to keep it all to one post.
However, given the brief treatment, if you want to dig deeper into anything I say here or have questions, Paul and I would love to answer them together in a future post. Drop me a comment!
When Josh Harris--author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, a book that contributed to the "purity culture" of my generation--publicly admitted that he was not proud of some of the directions that the purity culture had taken, I thought, "This might be a good thing. We might be able to have an honest discussion now about some of the purity culture's difficulties."
My hope turned to dismay when, recently, I learned that Josh Harris and his wife are divorcing and Josh no longer identifies as Christian. The purity culture discussion was just becoming another opportunity for #exvangelical and "deconstruction" advocates to rally.
But I still want to have the discussion and tell my own story of growing up in the purity culture--the good and the bad. So here goes.
Your gentleness has made me great.
Recently, my husband and I have been scouring through our marriage "garden" for weeds. Our marriage is fantastic; we've never argued and any disagreement has developed as an illuminating discussion, not a clash of wills. However, as we've read through Vertical Marriage by Dave and Ann Wilson, we've discovered a few weeds in our garden. They're not full-grown--we were barely aware of them--but we recognize their potential to take over our carefully-cultivated fruitfulness.
In the course of that weeding process, I have become intensely aware of my own selfishness.
Note: If you've experienced miscarriage and your emotions are different than those I express here, that's okay. I'm simply sharing my thoughts here for those who might be encouraged by them.
"I hope this isn't an offensive question," the woman asked. "And stop me if it is. What gifts have you experienced through this miscarriage?"
I immediately responded with excitement. God has been proving His love to me through this loss, and I wanted to share my story of gratitude.
I don't think the answer to the invisibility and struggle of singleness is focusing on the singleness. Yes, we need to affirm the real-life difficulties of singleness. Yes, we need to be more inclusive of singles in church activities. But even while we do that, we're highlighting that singleness is Different and Separate from "the rest of the church." So Different and Separate that we need to be extra thoughtful to include them.
The real way to affirm the singles? Recognize their gifts in the church.
When we learned that I was pregnant, I cried. My husband Paul held me in his arms and we prayed and thanked God, amidst overwhelming feelings of inadequacy, joy, anxiety, love...
After years of chronic pain and tick-borne illnesses, I had also been diagnosed with a Functional Neurological Disorder that involved non-epileptic seizures and periodic weakness and paralysis. I also faced debilitating panic and anxiety attacks--something that made me feel like everything was "in my head," even though I knew it wasn't.
Paul and I had questioned whether it was safe or wise for me to get pregnant, but after a year of marriage and many doctor visits, we realized that we trusted the Lord with the risks. We wanted to begin a family.
I was recently sharing coffee with two lovely ladies, one of whom was single, and she mentioned that she had found herself unexpectedly sharing relationship advice with a friend whose marriage was struggling. "I don't know why I feel I was qualified to share my opinion on what she should do. I've never even been on a date!"
Yet, when the other (married) woman and I heard what this single woman had given as advice to her married friend, we both agreed that her insight was Biblically and practically sound.
The sad part is, society says--and so many single women believe--that singles are "unqualified" to give relationship advice to their attached or married friends.
I utterly reject this lie. Here's why.
Today I am waiting. Waiting to know if my baby is still alive.
Paul and I prayed for this baby long before I saw the doctor's note: "Your test was positive. Congratulations!" I was so overwhelmed that when Paul prayed over me and our new little one, I sobbed on his shoulder.
My secret preferences for a husband were very specific, but I gave up those dreams because I did not want to encourage unrealistic expectations. God alone knew what kind of man was best for me, and I trusted Him.
Unknown to me, God took my secret list and the dreams I had given up to Him, and said with a gleam in His sovereign eye, "Daughter, you are about to meet my son Paul."
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.