5/10/14

hey, Marrieds...listen.

One time I watched an episode of Say Yes to the Dress where the girl dress-shopping told the cameras, "I'm 23, so I'm getting married pretty young." 

I don't think I was holding anything in my hands, but if I had been, I would've thrown it in the air and shouted "OPA!" because even though I don't know what that means, I think it's celebratory.

I don't think I've ever heard anyone in my own life say that 23 is young to get married. It seems like the age to get married, or maybe even to have already been married for a couple of years. Is that a Christian thing? Is that an American thing? Is it a human thing?

I will be 27 this fall and I'm pretty single. (By "pretty single" I mean I am pretty and I am single. That's actually not at all what I meant, but I'm going to stick with it.) I don't know about you who were or are single, but I have been given so much advice/been told so many things because of my singleness, and it can wear a person down. Usually I just smile and say "thank you" or nod like I agree, but here's what I really think about all the well-meaning singleness comments.

If I had a husband for every time I've been told one of the following, I could have my own TLC show:

1. "Being single is a blessing; you can use this time to prepare yourself for marriage."
That's very true. Andy Stanley (whom I respect and admire) recently did an entire message about this very topic. However, please show me the place in Scripture where Jesus tells us that our goal is to prepare for marriage. I recall Him telling us to go into the world and make disciples of all nations, and I recall Him telling us to love Him with all of our mind, soul, strength, and heart and to love our neighbors as ourselves, but I can't quite remember a time when Jesus tells us to change, transform, polish, and refine ourselves for the sake of our future mate. Could you point that out to me? I'll wait here.

2. “I wish you could date my son. He needs a good woman in his life.”
This is incredibly kind, and I'm flattered that you think so highly of me. However, my responsibility is to be a good woman. Your son’s responsibility is to be a good man. My responsibility is not to fix him up or help him mature, and his responsibility is not to wait around until he has a reason to mature. Relationships make all of us grow and mature in different ways, but I’m not waiting to grow and mature until I find a man, and I’m not interested in a man who is waiting to grow and mature until he finds a woman.

3. “He seems nice.”
“He’s married.”
Okay, cool. However, notice, I said, “He seems nice,” not, “Do you think he’d like to spend the rest of his life with me in a committed, monogamous relationship?” Contrary to the enormous sign saying “I’M MEASURING EVERY MAN I MEET AGAINST MARRIAGEABLE STANDARDS” that must be plastered to my forehead, I do not measure every man I meet against marriageable standards. My first thought is not, “Would his complexion complement my kitchen towels?” I am not a starving lioness on the prowl for a wounded wildebeest. I view people as people, not for what their potential relationship to me could be.

4. “I’m praying for a man to come into your life.”
I absolutely know that you who are married with kiddies have experienced a life joy that I have not yet, and that you want me to have that same happiness. However, maybe I don’t want a man to come into my life right now. Relationships don’t solve problems. In reality, they create problems. They can be so fulfilling and life-giving, but they also take work. So I will give you something else to pray about, because I have plenty of things in my life I need Jesus to help me work on without adding a whole other human being onto the list.

5. “As soon as I decided I was okay being single, my husband/wife came along!”
That is awesome. I love when God works that way. Isn’t it fun? However, God does not always work that way. I have been in the “okay with being single” stage of life for roughly seven years now. Men have come in and out of my life. I’ve dated a couple of them. I haven’t married any of them. I've been single longer than I've dated. So please don’t present an attitude of contentment as a magic formula to find a spouse. Every person on earth should work on cultivating an attitude of contentment regardless of what stage of life they’re in, and for no other reason than to be the complete and whole and confident person that God has created them to be.

6. “My husband/wife and I have been thinking about who we could set you up with.”
It’s so encouraging to know that people (other than my mom and her best friend) care about the details of my life! However, maybe you could just have dinner with me instead of trying to come up with some stranger man to have dinner with me. I spend more of my time wanting friends than boyfriends. And if you and your spouse need something to think about, I have lots of other problems you can do some brainstorming on, and let me know what you come up with.

7. “Someday some guy is going to be very lucky.” / ”Someday you’ll make some guy very happy.”
I'm very flattered by your confidence in me. However, maybe not. Maybe I’ll never get married. Maybe I’ll run an orphanage or a halfway house or a dorm full of college students or a church. Will they be very lucky? Will I make them happy? Is my small group lucky to have me? Or my family? Or will I still never reach my full potential because I’m not a wife? My giftings and personality traits were not put in me to make a man happy. They were put in me to serve this world, to glorify God, and to point people to Jesus. That is my ultimate goal, not to make a man happy.

All this to say: Do I want to make a man happy, raise kiddies, and have family portraits in our backyard wearing blue jeans and mismatching white shirts? Do I want a partner in ministry, someone I can support and who will support me and be my companion on this journey of life?

Absolutely I do. Some days more strongly and unavoidably than others.

But there are also a great many other things I want, involving my career and my community and my family and my friendships and my abilities and my character. 

So let’s not focus on one thing and pretend it makes up the whole.

5/5/14

hey, Church...listen.

We switched over the way sermons are uploaded onto the church website a couple of months ago. I had to create new usernames and passwords, and one Sunday between services I walked one of the sound guys through the new procedure.

"Go here," I pointed, "and type in the username, 'Production Team.'"

"Wow," he said, "you make us sound important."

I blinked. "You are important," I said. I then resisted the urge to grab him by the shoulders, look him in the eye with tears in my eyes, and say, "Do you understand?"

Who decides who's important?

Is the worship leader the important one? Because the people who control the mix of the band and who put up the lyrics of the songs are just as key to leading worship through music as the guy playing the guitar up front.

Is the speaker the important one? Because the people who get up early to make good coffee and greet me with smiles and make me feel welcomed speak a message to me long before I get to the actual sermon.

Is the graphics guy the important one? The video gal? The one who prints the bulletin? Because more people come to church through the invite of a friend than through the snazziest, classiest, coolest promotion.

I've done a lot of different things in the church. I've manned the projector when the songs were on transparencies. I've folded a lot of bulletins. I've led small groups and been in small groups and written for small groups. I've been up front, I've been way in the back, I've been on the stage, I've been behind the scenes, I've picked up trash, I've come in early and stayed late, I've sung and I've listened, I've been paid and I've volunteered and I've not volunteered but been forced to do things anyway because my dad's a church-planting pastor.

I have yet to find one job in the church that is more important than another. One position that is more important. One person who is the most important.

My friends who lead and volunteer in their missional communities are important. My friends who are on staff at mega churches are important. My friends who work secular jobs but generously give and show Jesus' love to their coworkers are important. Know why?

BECAUSE YOU ARE THE CHURCH.

I don't care what you do or where you do it. You are the Church. I don't care if you're in your office cubicle or preaching a sermon from a stage. The building doesn't make someone or some task important. The fact that you carry the Holy Spirit around with you wherever you go and can be a living, breathing example of a God who lives and breathes as well...that's pretty important.

I love the local church that gathers together on weekends, but that is not the definition of the Church, and who does what in those corporate gatherings on the weekend does not determine importance.

You are the Church.

You, you, you.

And you are important.