Never Been Kissed

I realize that being 30-something years old and never having kissed a woman makes me odd. I mean really, most people have their first kiss around what, 13 or 14? Most people lose their virginity before they are legally considered adults. However, the majority of the time I don’t really notice this. It just isn’t something that commonly has a major effect on my life. There are times, though, that it becomes oh so readily apparent in my mind, and I feel like… so many things. Sometimes I feel like I’m missing out on something important in life. Sometimes I feel like I’m less of a man (really, sexual experience is a major basis for manhood in our culture). Sometimes I just feel like I’m less… like God just forgot about that part of my life… that part of who I am, maybe?

Since I started following Christ I haven’t had an easy time with singleness. I’ve been looking for a wife, praying for a wife, preparing for a wife for the past thirteen years. I tried taking a few years (six actually) to just focus on God and hope that he would bring me a wife in his time. Then I started looking again. Women seem to have an easy time rejecting me as well, and that hasn’t helped at all. Constant rejection can easily get under your skin. Make you feel like there’s something wrong with you, and I have to admit that I’ve felt this way many times. A friend of mine just posted a picture on facebook, a meme that read: even if I had a million reasons to leave you, I’d try to find one reason to stay.

My experience tends to be the opposite. Even if I give a woman a million reasons to stay with me, she always finds one reason to leave. When I started this blog, and for the past month or so, I’ve actually been doing fairly well with this. I haven’t been focusing on the flaws. When I asked out not-Sarah, I really thought she was interested. Honestly, she surprised me with her rejection, and that’s a first. I’d gotten to a point where I didn’t automatically expect to be rejected, and  I think that was a very healthy place to be. I don’t think I’m there anymore. I realized this last night when I was talking with some friends. It’s not that I’m focused on any particular woman or rejection, but I realized that I’ve come back to a place of bitterness where I’m struggling to see any kind of virtue in women in general, and I don’t like being there. It’s not a fair place, and it’s not a happy place, and it’s not a particularly lovable place, or a particularly loving place.

I thought that I was out of this for good, that I had dealt with the pain and the bitterness and let them go… given them to God. However, one rejection and I’m right back there again. I’m not ok with that.

One of the most important reasons that I want to find a wife is the spiritual growth that I know comes from being a husband. I see it in all of my married friends, and this is something that I want. Of course, I also want to make out with someone. I want to have sex. I want someone to spend lonely evenings with. Someone to love and take care of, and someone who will love and take care of me. However, spiritual growth is more important than all of these. While I still want it, and I still struggle with lust, and with pornography from time to time, sex has become steadily less important to me as I get older. I don’t know if this is something that comes naturally with age, or if this is something that comes from consistent self-denial. At the same time, the spiritual growth and relational aspects of marriage are things that I want more and more as I get older, and things that I feel myself missing more.

Ultimately, as much as I don’t really believe it, I have to admit that I’m back in a place where I wonder if perhaps God doesn’t have someone for me. If perhaps I’m meant to be alone, or if there is something about me that simply makes me impossible to love. Cognitively I know that I don’t actually believe these things, but right now I feel like they’re true, and as I’ve said before, feelings are incredibly powerful things.

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Bible Study Blessings

So, today involved getting up at 5 am again for our floating bible study. I’m going to be honest, I really hope we don’t keep that particular time. I can get up that early, and I will get up that early to study the word with this particular group of guys, but I don’t think I will ever like getting up that early. That being said, I have to see today in juxtaposition with the bible study a week ago.

Last Tuesday I was over-tired, apathetic, disconnected… I made no real effort to contribute anything of import in the bible study, and I spent the rest of the day avoiding God. Last Tuesday was a pretty completely crappy day. Today was kind of an awesome day. Even though it was early, the bible study was great! We got into the word pretty deeply, and I thought and learned… and wrote yesterdays blog post about what I thought and learned (at least in part). After the bible study today I did some reading, and then did some writing, and the worked for most of the rest of the day.

I had a good, productive day. I spent time with God, instead of running away from him, and my life reflected that… at least I think my life reflected that. Certainly I was tired for a good part of the day, that’s what getting up at 5 am does to me, but it wasn’t a grumpy, frustrated, easily tempted tired. It was a blessed, refreshed, enjoyable tired. The kind of tired that lets you curl up with a good book, or with a good friend to watch a movie and just enjoy relaxing.

Like I said, I have to juxtapose today with last Tuesday to really see the extreme difference that God makes in my life on a daily basis. It’s a difference that I deeply value, and that I long for. The answer? Focus on him every day. I also met a new acquaintance today. Let’s call her Cindy, she was supposed to get married a few days ago. Supposed to being the key word. She and her fiance broke up a couple of months ago, and she’s pretty obviously still really hurting over it. We talked for a little bit, but we both had work to do.

I have to admit that I feel for Cindy. I didn’t ask why she and her fiance broke up. I’m curious, well… I’m a curious sort of person, but I don’t need to know, and I don’t really think she needs to tell me. It was clear that she was trying not to talk about him, even though she still wanted to, and I get that. I’m a person that generally wants to deal with things, face my pain or my fears, and move on immediately. Sometimes that’s a good thing, but sometimes I think it’s not. I wonder if this is why God has me single right now?

I know that I’m afraid of getting hurt again, and normally I wouldn’t let that stop me from doing something, but maybe (at least sometimes) it should stop me. Perhaps the reason that God wants me single right now is that I need some time to heal. Time that I don’t want to take, that I’m naturally disinclined to take, but that I need to take. I think I’ve mentioned before that I can be an old, stubborn bastard sometimes, and I find that God often has to whack me on the head with a mallet and scream in my ringing ears before I’m willing to listen. It’s something that I’m working on, but it part its something that I value. Not the mallet and screaming part, that would be stupid.

However, often our greatest strengths and our greatest weaknesses stem from the same traits. I generally don’t give up, at least not easily. I keep trying, even when it is clearly pointless to do so, and I have a very hard time letting goals/desires (and people) go. This means that I’m always ready to love someone, that I can forgive pretty much anything, that I’m there for my friends when they need me, and that I’m always ready to help if asked. It also means that it takes me a long time to see that I’m going in the wrong direction, that I hold onto relationships that I really need to let go of, that I’ll keep trying and keep failing at something I have no chance of succeeding at. It’s both one of my best qualities and one of my worst. This is often true of the things we value about ourselves.

Desiring Singleness Part 2

I had a comment today that I’m fairly sure was intended to be encouraging, and it generally was, but I also think that the commenter did not entirely understand what I was trying to say. This may be because I did not effectively clarify my meaning, or it may be that the commenter was not sufficiently careful or thorough in his reading. It is also possible that the post that was commented upon assumed that other posts had been read, which the commenter had not read. I do this fairly often, mostly because this blog is my own record of my thoughts, feelings, fears, desires, frustrations, and intentions, and so I assume that my own knowledge of myself will be sufficient in reading these posts. However, that isn’t always going to be the case.

When I talk about ‘desiring singleness’ I do not mean that God would have me pursuing someone and I would rather that he would have me be single, nor do I mean I want to want to be single, regardless of what God has for me, nor do I mean that I have given up on finding someone, even though I believe that God would have me find someone. What I mean is that, at the moment, God has me single and he has made clear that he wants me to remain that way for a time. What I want is not to ‘desire to be single’ as opposed to ‘desiring a committed relationship’, but instead to be content with where God has me, whether that is singleness or marriage. This is what I am struggling with at the moment, and what God is working on in me. I am seeking to be satisfied in him, and that is not easy because it means giving him my wants and desires, putting his intents above my own.

There are theologians who will argue that anything we enjoy is sin. This argument is much less common now than it was a hundred years ago, but it still exists. However, I don’t put much stock in this argument. However, the opposing argument, that everything we desire is clearly God’s will for us, also has little justification in scripture. God’s will and our desires are sometimes the same, but this does not mean that they are always the same. Sometimes what God has for  us is exactly what we desire. Sometimes, God gives us our desires, but only once we learn to desire him more. Sometimes, God works in us to change our desires and teach us what he intends for us to desire.

I think that I am currently in the second place (not entirely sure), and so I am currently seeking to be content with and in God, instead of insisting that my desire is paramount. If and when God chooses to bring someone into my life, then it will be because that person will draw me closer to him, and because I will draw that person closer to him. A mutual seeking after God, and a mutual encouragement towards God is important in any relationship. This is what is means to sharpen one another, and this is what husbands and wives should do.

There was also another point in the comment that I want to address, because it is a very common mistake in the Christian community. The commenter made the comment that our primary purpose as Christians is to make disciples. This is based on the ‘Great Commission’ most commonly argued from Matthew 28.

Let me first say that making disciples is one of the most important tasks that we as Christians have, and it is one that I take seriously. I am always happy to share my faith with anyone who wants to hear, and I make a practice of discipling those who are seeking a strong relationship with God, who are struggling with their faith, or are seeking to understand themselves. However, as with my post on the cross, this is an area of the faith that we tend to exaggerate for our own benefit. Our purpose here is to please God. As with the cross, we often confuse the means with the purpose. We are here to please and to glorify the Godhead, and making disciples is one of the primary means by which we do this. However, the same question can be asked here as of the cross, if sharing my witness with someone did not, for some reason, glorify God, then should I do it?

Of course not. Unlike my post with the cross, this has a practical example. A few years ago I ran into a man who believed that his purpose in life was to witness to Satan. He argued, contrary to scripture, that Christ’s death clearly covered the sins of Lucifer as well, and thus that if he could convince Lucifer to repent then Lucifer could be saved. However, clearly Lucifer is the enemy of God, and nowhere in scripture are we given the barest inkling that he is even capable of repenting. Thus, witnessing to Lucifer does nothing to glorify God, and hence it is not something that could be considered a part of the Christian purpose.

In and of itself, this example shows that our purpose is not simply to make disciples (or witnessing to Lucifer would be a part of the plan). However, as I said above, making disciples (and we should not separate evangelism and discipleship) is the primary means by which we achieve our central purpose, which is to glorify the Godhead. As with my post on the cross, confusing the purpose and the means can have important consequences (such as spending your life trying to witness to Lucifer).

Desiring Singleness

I know that I need to be single right now. I’ve mentioned this several times in previous posts. I need to be single, and I need to be content being single, and I need to want to be single. However, today I didn’t. I’m really not sure what it was, it wasn’t even a particular woman, but all day I just wanted something. I wanted someone to walk up and kiss me, to hold me, to tell me that she loved me, and to tell me that she admired me. I just wanted someone. I gave this to God, several times… or at least I tried to. That helped some, but the desire was still there, and this is my struggle right now.

I want to be content. I want to be happy. And there are days that I am completely content to be single. However, that wasn’t what I was made for. I know that, I can feel it my bones, in my heart, but I also know that it’s a desire that I need to let go. Not to give up on, I think I’ve made that clear. Even on those days where I’ve been completely content in my singleness, I’ve still known that it wasn’t going to last, but I need to let the desire go, to learn to be satisfied without it.

I struggled for a good part of the day with the feeling that no-one could love me as well. That is to say that there is something in me that is simply unlovable, undesirable, and that no-one will ever get past that. The feeling that I’ll always be the second choice, the ‘nice guy, but…’. I know that this comes from the way I was raised, and I can see the way that its been reinforced by the relationships I’ve sought out, and I honestly know that it’s not true… at least, I know that it’s probably not true. The feeling though… yeah.

Feelings are powerful. Much as we laud the reason (more than we really should, honestly), feelings are often more powerful in our lives. I know that there are people who love me, but I rarely feel that love. I know that I have good qualities that would make me a very desirable man, but I generally don’t feel desirable. The difference between knowing something and feeling something is pretty hard to overstate (not that it can’t be overstated… seriously, you can overstate anything).

David Hume once wrote that “Reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.” I teach an ethics class and my students have to interact with this quote, so its safe to say that over the years I’ve seen just about every interpretation (good and bad) that you can draw out of this statement. Honestly, I generally disagree with a lot of Hume’s reasoning. God is real, man is not inherently good, and his passions do not lead him to inherently good ends. However, this quote… it has legs. Even if we don’t like it, the fact is that we are generally driven by our passions. Our feelings run away with us… our reason rarely does.

We use reason to justify our desires, good and bad. We use reason to be effective in our desires, but we aren’t driven by our reason. It’s the same way with our feelings. We feel things, we have gut impressions, and we use our knowledge to help us understand them. However, no matter how much we ‘know’, those feelings are powerful and lasting. They aren’t easily changed, and even when they do change, we keep trending back towards the original feeling, and we have to maintain the change that we’ve made in our lives.

I think… well, I hope that I’m in the process of changing the feelings that I’ve listed above. I’ve been trying to change them for a long time. Trying and failing. I have no doubt that God can change them, but God generally takes his time to work in us. Free will and all that balagan. It takes time to change, and the more deep-seated the thing that has to change, the longer it takes and the more it hurts. I have a feeling this is going to be a long, frustrating summer. Still, I think it will be a good summer in the long-run. The dawn only follows the darkness, right? Well… that’s what I’m holding onto right at this moment, anyway. Hopefully, tomorrow will be a happier day.