Singleness, enjoyed or endured?

Young couple holding hands with sun-flare.

Recently I was out with some friends, and the conversation made its way to dating, types, set ups, dating advice, and dating activity etc… (insert space for awkward silence… no, not really). Being a single 36-year-old female and a pastor I get lots of questions around dating and singleness, including questions like, “are you like a female priest?” To which I laugh out loud and say, “most definitely not!” But usually the question is, “why are you still single?” Some people can’t believe it, and others wonder if there’s something wrong with me. Others asked if I have ever been married, to which my answer is, “no.” Then others go on to ask, “are you putting yourself out there? Are you out meeting people? Are you online?” and many other questions. Plenty advocate internet dating,  which I don’t personally feel comfortable with – maybe I am old school.

However, I have travelled parts of the world, interact with plenty of people and been on dates but not yet found the man I want to spend the rest of my life with. Some might say, “come on, seriously? You have been single for 18 years!” Others say surely its time to settle, or maybe what you’re looking for is just unavailable.

Let me say the path I have walked is not for everyone, but it is my journey and it is not for the faint hearted. I have seen two seasons of my single friends and family get married and have children and now the last of the third season of friends heading towards relationships and marriage now. This is not an unusual, uncomfortable or disappointing conversation. I am well accustomed to these conversations as I have navigated this season over 18 years and I feel like I have something valid to say. I have been exceptionally blessed over the season of singleness. I have many abundant friendships that have brought multiple blessings to my life, learnt how to build great friendships and I know what it means to be a friend. In the process I have learnt a lot about myself, and believe it has been in preparation for a great relationship and marriage to come. I believe that I am still single because of God’s timing and purpose. This belief is a liberating one and sets you free to live life to the full, learning to navigate and embrace every season.

Here are five points I think can help you navigate the journey of singleness however long or short your season might be.

  1. Enjoy singleness. You often here this from married people, but I am telling you, embrace this season – there is more to be enjoyed in your single years however long or short. It’s a precious time. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven.”  Don’t endure it but enjoy it and embrace the purpose of it. Serve God while you can with the time you will never have once you’re married!
  2. Be a great friend. I encourage you to develop healthy friendships with existing and new friends.   This prepares you for great relationships as being a good friend is essential. Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man who has friends must show himself friendly.”  Learn what it is to be friendly, how to be selfless, what it means to be generous, how to resolve conflict and be a forgiving person. This is a great platform for a healthy relationship and marriage.
  3. Don’t settle. Compromising and settling leads to disappointment. Patience and faith are rewarded. Trust me, I have seen it. Do coffees, dinners and meet and connect with people.  Remember dating is not a commitment to marriage, it is an opportunity for you discover more than just chemistry.
  4. Pray. Pray for your future partner, for their character, integrity and for your family to come. Don’t cease praying.
  5. Stay in pursuit of Jesus. Keep your eyes fixed on Him. Run towards God and as you both do, your paths will collide. Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favour from the Lord.” The word “find” in this text means to stumble across, not hunt down, or search like you’re looking for lost keys, but to stumble. In God’s perfect time, season and purpose you will stumble across each other, but stay in pursuit of Jesus and obtain favour.

The season of singleness is different for everyone. Just remember, it’s a journey, so learn to enjoy and find satisfaction in relationships with the people around you. Remember singleness is to be enjoyed, not endured.

Be Bold, Ask, I dare you.

Ever had someone beat around the bush with you in asking for something? Recently I was engaging in a conversation with my nephew, and I could sense that it was coming to a particular request. However he danced around the idea for a couple of minutes, hinting at it, talking about it. How often have we approached God like this? Talking about it, whining about it, complaining about it, or hoping God gets the hint?

I eventually asked my nephew, “would you like something from Aunty Ree?”. “Yeh” he shyly responded,  I watched the grin and expectation increase, as he looked at me with his hope filled eyes, then finally asked, “Aunty Ree, can you please buy me something”.

Luke 11:10-13 says,

“Here’s what I’m saying:

Ask and you’ll get;

Seek and you’ll find;

Knock and the door will open.

“Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in.

As an aunty I was more than happy to give him what he wanted, but I wanted him to confidently, comfortable and boldly ask, instead of hinting at it. I said ‘yes’ to his request, and watched as he excitedly and in shock replied, “really? When we get what we ask for, we are often surprised or even shocked, when it should be expected and encourage us. But for whatever reason we forget how good and generous God is.

What are you asking God for? Let me encourage you, what ever you need, quit dancing around it and hinting at it, and bring your request to him. Do so confidently and boldly knowing that “He knows what you need before you ask, and wants to give to you” (Luke 12:30). Be Bold, Ask, I dare you.

 

In the middle…

After many thoughts and conversation about seasons, a friend of mine reminded me,It takes faith to step out, but it can often take more faith to stay. It was a statement that has echoed over the past couple of days, as my reality. Faith is the great beginning, but staying in faith is harder. One word from God moves us to action in faith; we share that with others, and it’s here the excitement and expectation begin. We step out in faith; with people are around us, cheering us on, creating an atmosphere of faith, excitement and energy. This is where we start; we start with the end in mind, the finish line. There are people yelling and screaming with greater faith, expectation, excitement and passion. We can see ourselves living the dream like Apostle Paul says, finishing the race, crossing the finish line, and with satisfaction, revelling in the glory of the moment.

I am not sure what you’re currently in the middle of, or what you’re looking forward to the end of, but maybe you started this year with a goal in mind, losing weight, reading your bible, attending church or maybe stepping out in faith in the area of finance. Whatever it is, we have all been there but somewhere between this glorious end, and the excitement of the beginning there is the middle. What feels like the middle of nowhere, the middle of somewhere, the middle of here and there. It is in the middle where there is a silence, no atmosphere, excitement or passion, either from those who were there at the start or you. It’s the middle where reality kicks in, and where the loudest voice defines your end. It is often where people get discouraged and give up or walk away.

So what is the loudest voice in your life? The two most common are theirs and ours. However John 10:27 says,my sheep hear my voice. This is our advantage, we can hear His voice. The voice of God is in the middle, often a voice of comfort, encouragement, affirmation, affection and peace. Unfortunately all too often our voice, our mind, speaks loudest when in the middle. It requires intentionality, great faith and self-discipline to turn down the volume of the voice in your head, to actively hear His voice, and by faith, to bring your voice into alignment with His.

It is here where you decide between the pain, the pain of self-discipline or the pain of regret. I believe God wants to you to finish what you started. Your bible plan, financial plan, your faith step requires you to stay faithful in the middle, hear His voice in the middle. To remain with greater faith and expectation. Don’t live in the pain of regret from stopping or quitting. Luke 11:28 says, Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it! Let the loudest voice be His, defining your beginning, middle and end.

“Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end.”
Hebrews 12:2

Opportunity Knocks

Everything that I have read or heard about ‘opportunity’ has been focused towards ‘taking it’, ‘seizing it’, ‘and making the most of it’. Even scripture says “Make the most of every opportunity… ” (Ephesians 5:16). No pressure. But what if I told you that not every opportunity that presents itself should be taken?

Now don’t get me wrong, the decision to take an opportunity can be a great thing, actually it’s how I started out in ministry. But how do you know if you should take an opportunity? Our decisions are influenced by our personal will, which is influenced by our emotions and thoughts, which can lead us astray.

For me, this season of my life and ministry is one of waiting and trusting God with my future. Honestly, it’s easier said than done and probably the most frustrating emotional experience I’ve been through to date. I am filled with vision and a sense of purpose, but I find myself waiting. And I don’t understand the season or its length, or what ‘it’ is that I am waiting for exactly. I have a dream in my heart and over time I have been offered many roles and responsibilities in organisations, churches and ministries. To the shock of a few I have taken none of them, not because they weren’t great opportunities or with great people, but purely because I sensed that this wasn’t ‘it’.

But what is ‘it’? How do you know what decision to make when you don’t know what ‘it’ is? Not knowing what ‘it’ looks like. Waiting for the unknown can be a frustrating experience for the soul. Yet I am filled with certainty in my spirit that when ‘it’ comes, I will know what ‘it’ is. But for now, I can tell you I know what ‘it’ is not, and I come to that conclusion with no regrets, which allows me to live out the mission I find myself in now.

This is an individual journey and discovery of obedience and decision-making, however there are filters you can use to decide if the opportunity in front of you is to be seized, or not. Here are the filters I use to make decisions when considering an opportunity.

1. Pray. The Spirit of God in me is often the clearest indication. I get a check in my spirit I can either shake or heed. Ps 32:8 “The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” Just like you, I have made mistakes when I have gone against the check in my spirit and I have paid a great price. We often learn from past mistakes and recognise this over time. The comforting thought is, “His eyes are on us,” despite our mistakes or when we end up off track.

2. Does it lines up with the will of God for your life? God reveals His will through His Spirit and His Word. Ps 119:105 “His word is a lamp unto my feet.” It may not be a floodlight revealing all that is ahead but enough for you to see the now or next step. Let His word guide you.

3. Wise counsel around my life. I have mentors and leaders that help with perspective, wisdom and advice. Prov 11:14 Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers. Make sure you have these people in your life, as many mistakes can be avoided by asking people who have walked the journey ahead of you.

With all that in mind I decided not to take the role that was offered. After working through these three steps, I concluded it didn’t align with where I sense I am assigned.

The decisions we make determine our destiny and any short-term decisions have to be weighed against long term goals. Not every opportunity is an opportunity to be taken. Your alignment becomes your assignment. Pray and chose wisely and if you make a mistake remember God is God of your past, present and future. In Acts 7-9 it tells the story of Saul who thought he was doing the right thing. God found him and brought Ananias into his life to point him in the new and right direction. Trust that God has your life in his hands.

I have come to realise the faith journey is one of decision-making with wisdom, obedience and patience. Hebrews 6:15 “Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised.” So I wait for ‘it’ in expectation, of the fulfillment of the promise.

As scripture says, “Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do” (Ephesians 5:17). Walk in alignment with the Spirit and His Word, and with wise counsel you will walk into your assignment

Pace yourself, don’t compare yourself.

When I first competed in a triathlon, the experience was a thrill and a challenge that I enjoyed. Yet I walked away unhappy with my finish times and placing. During the race I was in the pack and trying to keep up with the front-runners. It was so taxing and I felt more fatigued than usual. After being overtaken by a few people I became so frustrated, disappointed and discouraged that I wanted to quit. It’s no wonder I felt exhausted, I was comparing myself against those who had clearly been racing much longer than I.

Determined to improve, I picked myself up a multi sport watch so I could track my progress in pace, distance and time while training for the next event. It turned out to be a wise decision and I worked hard in training to improve on my personal best. Then when it came to race time, I was not comparing myself to others who ran beside me, but rather I ran according to my personal best pace in each part of the race. Wow! What a difference! I knew where to push myself and what my strengths were and the way I completed my race was no longer impacted by those around me.

I realised that by watching competitors around me, it only distracted and discouraged me from the game plan I had been working on. But when I raced  according to the pace setter on my watch, it positioned me in the best place for me. In that race, I did my personal best in each leg of the race and worked to my my strengths. I love competition and am competitive by nature. I believe there can be a healthy sense of competition, but it can be dangerous when it becomes unhealthy competition.

Leader, let me encourage you to know yourself in ministry. Train for your game plan, to achieve your personal best and not to simply race against the rest. God has a plan for you, your life and ministry. He is your pace setter. Discover what His plan is, then pace yourself according to His pace, work hard and finish the race. Don’t get trapped in the comparison game. Comparison will only rob you, leave you dissatisfied and kill the joy you have. As 2 Corinth 10:12 says “.“…But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” Don’t compare your journey to others, just run your race. Train hard, work hard, enjoy life and ministry and reap the rewards.

Gal 6:4-5 MSG “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.”