Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Myth Buster #2: Being single is the cause of loneliness

I often hear people who are single complain about how lonely they feel and say marriage would fix their feelings of loneliness. I understand because it's actually quite common for single people to go through feelings of loneliness and it's easy to blame feelings of loneliness on being single.  Over the years I've also observed a trend of people going from one dating relationship to another just because they don't want to be "alone" while believing it is better to date somebody, anybody, even if that means getting involved in a bad or unhealthy relationship or caught up in a situation where morals and convictions are compromised.  I don't know much but what I do know is that if getting involved in a relationship with somebody causes me to compromise my moral and ethical convictions then that person is not the person for me.  However, if that person encourages and inspires me towards my moral and ethical convictions they're a keeper.  I also know that if I think marriage is the cure for my feelings of loneliness I set that marriage up for failure and if I get married to show "how much God has brought healing into my life" and "how mature I am" then not only am I not mature enough yet but I'd be getting married for all the wrong reasons.  

So if being single is not the cause of our loneliness ... what is? 

We haven't yet realized the gift of solitude.  Learning the art of solitude vs being alone is a lot easier for the introvert than it is for the extrovert but here's a challenge for all of you who are extroverts.  I mean, many introverts compromise on some of our boundaries when we make the choice to go out and socialize when we would really just like to go home and read a book. Yet the extrovert will rarely spend time in solitude.  For some of us the idea of going out to see a movie alone or hanging out at a coffee shop with a book instead of with a good friend seems torturous.  The idea here is to learn how to enjoy the simple things in life while in solitude.  I think, for some, this would be a hard transition to make but not impossible.  So I have a couple of challenges and if you're just crazy enough perhaps you'll take me up on this challenge. 

Can't remember the last time you were single? 

If you can't remember the last time you were single and you know the person you are dating is not right for you then maybe it's a good time to set a year apart to be single.  Yes, you heard right. I challenge you to be single for a period of one year.  The challenge is not just to be single for that one year but to dedicate that year for personal growth while learning the art of solitude. What do I mean by the art of solitude? Find a good book to read, commit to reading one chapter of that book each day.  That isn't too difficult when most books these days a chapter is like 4 pages. Find places to go like your favorite coffee shop or the beach or your favorite chair at home and read that chapter.  Being in solitude doesn't mean that you have to remove yourself from civilization and it doesn't even have to mean ignoring the people around you either.  It doesn't have to be reading a book.  You can just as well set out to go watch a movie by yourself.  I know, what a concept it is to spend a night out at the movie theatre by yourself.

Tired if being alone? 

The greatest challenge to experiencing joy in life is learning to be content in whatever season we find ourselves in.  Learning to be content in a season of singleness can be difficult but not impossible.  I'm not talking about the lowering of expectations or withdrawing from community altogether and becoming like a hermit but chances are if you are tired of being alone you kinda do feel like a hermit. Set out to do one activity one day a week.  Take a book with you and go to your favorite coffee shop and strike up a conversation with the stranger siting close by or set out to go watch a movie at the movie theatre by yourself.  Find an activity you enjoy and allow all your senses to take in the environment around you.  Find a group of people and socialize.  A good mix of both men and women would be best.  If you have the finances get yourself a pet like a dog.  Dogs can be a good companion to have and when you don't have anybody at home greeting you when you walk in after a difficult day at work you can bet your dog will come running.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Myth Buster #1: Single people are irresponsible

I find it interesting that the only people who say that single people don't have any responsibilities are usually people who are married with children.  Of course, they remember simpler times.  They remember when they were single, going out partying, and doing whatever they wanted.  Now that they're married they are held accountable to their spouse and they have children to take care of.  They can't just decide to spend a Friday night going dancing at the clubs and even if they wanted to go out socializing with a few friends they'd have to find a sitter and that's not always a possibility.  Setting up play dates for their children makes things a little easier because at least you do some socializing but usually that socializing is centered around their children. In fact, it's a rarity you find married people socializing with single people so it's not surprising to me when you find a whole lot of people with a whole lot of assumptions about single people... because they remember their life before they were married.  Responsibilities change as we get older.  For some, these responsibilities include married life with children.  Responsibilities change when the season in your life changes.  Changed responsibilities doesn't always equate zero responsibility.  It is true that when you're single and in your early 20's maybe your only responsibility is to your education and that part time job you have to pay for your education.  Married life is supposed to signify getting rooted in community, settling down and having a family, and no longer living life solo while the single life is supposed to signify freedom and doing whatever you want whenever you want, not having any roots in community, and living life solo.  

It is true that currently the season in my life I don't have much to be responsible for.  I have my job and ongoing education to be responsible for.  I have my personal life to be responsible for.  I am accountable to my own actions and behaviours.  I have the responsibility to pay my rent and my bills on time.  I am accountable to my employer and supervisors at work.  I am accountable to patients who walk into my first aid room, those who's life may very well depend on my first aid treatment, and to the people who certified me to be in that position and so I am accountable to keep my skills up to date so that I can give the  best level care possible.  Being rooted in community does look different for the single person vs those who are married but that doesn't mean a single person is not rooted in community and as I've just stated above a single person will have responsibilities.  It just looks different.  Even if I wanted to, it's not that easy to just pack up my bags and leave town whenever I want.  

Over the years I have noticed there are people who are happy in their singleness and making every opportunity to take advantage of that season in their life.  Then there are those who are not happy, not satisfied, not content, and very depressed and blame everything on being single.  They say being single is the reason for their unhappiness, loneliness, and depression.  They are the ones who usually say, if they were married all of their problems would just go away and they would be happy.  Your happiness is not dependent upon other people and the problems you have today will not change magically when married.  In fact, a lot of the problems that exists when single unless dealt with, will most likely follow you into marriage which will only make your marriage that much more complicated.  Not dealing with your problems before marriage may even be what will slowly break apart your marriage and lead your marriage to the growing statistics on failed marriages. Your problems going into marriage then become not just your problem but a problem that also becomes your spouses because your life is no longer just your life.  

Those who are happy or at least content in their singleness are doing something different from those who are not content.  Here are 4 things these single people do differently:

1. Make a home for yourself

This doesn't mean that going on all kinds of adventures is now off limits.  It just means there is a central place that you live from.  It means, that when you are done travelling the world there is a place to go home to, a place you can kick up your feet and find rest and say, ah ... I'm home, home sweet home.  Make a home for yourself and be creative!  There are many ways you can create a home for yourself and you don't have to wait for marriage to invest in a condo or a townhouse.  It takes a certain kind of income and financial security in order to invest in a condo but not impossible. 

2. Invest in your career

There are advantages when being single.  You have greater freedom to make choices.  Why not use that freedom to make good choices.  You have more time to invest in your career and in your education.  You can go out every night and party, that is your choice.  However, the other choice is to invest in your career. Many single people today are making the choice to invest in their career and if there is time and money available they'll go out on a Friday night and party with friends.  

3. Get a pet: a dog or a cat makes for good companionship

For the most part cats are independent.  You can give them water, fill their bowl up with food and train them to use the kitty litter.  They don't need affection and do relatively fine alone.  A dog however, they need community, they need and crave affection, they do not do well when left alone.  When you are single and come home to an empty apartment you can feel alone but after a difficult day at work being greeted by a dog who's happy to see you it's guaranteed the day just got a little better.  In fact, many people view their pets as family and have adopted their pet as their child.  You have to keep them fed, you have to provide them with nurture, you can't neglect your pet.  You have to take them out for walks and heck socialize with other pet owners.  You have to provide your pet with a home.  In some ways taking your dog to the dog park is like setting up play dates for your dog.  I know it sounds silly but any pet owner who's single knows what I'm talking about.  I don't fancy turning myself into the cat lady so when the time is right I'm getting myself one dog.  

4. Get rooted in community 

Join a social club or get involved with a bible study group.  Meet with friends on a regular basis and don't live life solo.  You can live life solo but we need community.  And here's part of the myth buster.  Single people may not always feel like the third wheel.  I find it's only the married people who feel the single person feel like the third wheel.  If a married couple invites a single person to their home occasionally for dinner it adds to the enjoyment in life.  Occasionally I'll go have dinner with my brother and his family or my sister and her family. I'll enjoy the company of my brother and my sisters and all my nieces and nephews.  Find ways to get rooted in community and keep in touch with your family.

Myth buster #1: Single people are irresponsible 

People will say that single people don't have any responsibility or don't know how to take on responsibility. That may be true for some but not for every person who's single.  If you have a job, if you have to pay the bills and pay for rent, and if you have to care of a pet you can't just leave them alone for any length of time. All of these are responsibilities.  Being single does not equate lack of responsibility or lack of being able to take on responsibility. It's also true that people who are married could very well be irresponsible and not capable of taking on responsibility. The point here, is that marriage does not mean that one is more capable of taking on responsibility than somebody who's single.  It also doesn't mean that married people can't be irresponsible themselves as if marriage proves they have greater capacity to take on responsibility than somebody who's single.  What it does mean is that responsibilities are different.  The responsibilities are different and looks different.  The fact of life is, some people are responsible and some irresponsible. Marriage doesn't prove one's capacity for taking on responsibility... what you do with your life whether single or married children or no children will prove ones capacity for taking on responsibility.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Redefining Singleness

I can recall the summer before my first year of Bible College.  At the time I was 19.  I was siting in the office of the church secretary having a conversation with a few people about my plan to attend a Pentecostal Bible College. I remember vividly what an older lady in the church said to me.  I was taken a little aback by the advice I received from this one older lady who was also the mother of the senior pastor.  

her advice, 

"when you go to bible college find a pastor to get married to 
because there is no place for single women in the church,

What she didn't realize and perhaps many others didn't realize or even know is that throughout my teen years I secretly struggled with same sex attraction.  At a very young age I began to struggle with a growing conflict between my faith and emerging sexuality.  At the age of 14 or 15 I began a mentoring relationship with my youth pastor and his wife.  Their home was like a home away from home, an oasis in the middle of a desert. I was a difficult child and a troubled teenager from a troubled home environment.  Much of how I responded and reacted to my environment was learned behaviour.  I've since matured, have processed through a lot of the pain I had experienced in childhood, and have come to experience a level of healing from past hurt that blocked my ability to form healthy relationships.  It's been quite the journey.

As a child there wasn't much stability.  I was hurt in almost every relationship/friendship and was the target for bullies.  I went to three different elementary schools because of the intense bullying I had experienced and was never capable of cultivating good friendships with my peers at school.  Even if a friendship or two were forming I would be torn away and whisked to another school where I would have to somehow find new friends and re-adjust to a new school environment.  So by the time I entered high school I was depressed and often thought of suicide.  I hated most people and held others at arms length including my own family. The only two people to truly gain insight to my heart and inner life would be my youth pastor and his wife but because experience told me that everybody will reject me... (because 99 per cent of the time that became true!) I would sabotage every good thing that would come my way.  I would sabotage every good friendship and every good opportunity to create a better life for myself.  

In the mentoring relationship I had with my youth pastor and his wife I began to feel for the first time in my life that I was valued and worth something to somebody... 

I didn't feel lovable but how could I if I really didn't know how to receive anything good.  It was like my heart was this bottomless cup.  It didn't matter how much love would be given because I was incapable of receiving anything good and blocked myself off from every good thing in the attempt for self preservation and self protection. And because I didn't know how to receive there was nothing in me to give.  I was walking around spiritually barren unable to receive or to give anything truly life giving.  I think my youth pastor and his wife were very intuitive when it came to my unmet emotional needs that stunted my ability to form healthy relationships. They became a model of love and of what a healthy relationship looks like.  Last year I had a short visit with them.  They modeled love, vulnerability, they were real and authentic.  The same people I knew way back when were the same people I saw last year but with added life experience.  I know I'll never be able to re-pay them back for all that they have done for me except to hope that I might be able to impact the lives of others in the same way they had impacted mine.  They were the first people I told about my secret struggle with same sex attraction.  They were also the first to model love and acceptance without compromising their convictions.  

So by the time I was about to head off to Bible College I was accepting the fact that marriage might not be in my cards. Strangely though, the idea of living a celibate life wasn't something I viewed as a curse.  I still don't view a celibate life as a curse.  This isn't to say that I made some sort of vow to be celibate.  I am committed to living a chaste life in Christ.  I was committed to this going into bible college and it's a commitment I still have today.  This is a choice I made because of my faith and because I do believe that biblical marriage is between one man and one woman.  I have since grown to accept the things I cannot change but I ask every day for God to give me the wisdom to change what I can change and to allow Him to bring about the transformation in my life that He desires for me.  I am content in knowing that the complete eradication of same sex desires/attractions will probably never happen.  That isn't my goal anyway.  My feelings and attractions are not what defines me and it certainly doesn't control my behaviour.  I came to see the Christian life as not saying no but rather of saying yes.  Yes to fruitful relationships, yes to a fruitful life, and yes to a life full of adventure, yes to life! Yes to a relationship with Jesus Christ above all relationships today and above all of what might be for tomorrow.     

For the last few years I've been wearing a white gold 
wedding band on my ring finger.  

Sometimes people ask me if I'm married or why I'm wearing a wedding band on my ring finger.  It's not usually a subject for light discussion so I usually say for religious reasons without going into too much detail.  I know some people think I might be a little weird in doing this but there are times I need a physical reminder of my commitment to being faithful to Jesus and committed to this life long journey of becoming the woman that God intended me to be.  It is akin to that commitment of being in relationship with that one person.  Before I went out and bought this ring I was praying about it.  I didn't want just any ring.  I wanted one that had significance and meaning.  I wanted a ring that really spoke to my commitment as much as possible.

Though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith -- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire -- may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.  ~ 1 Peter 1:6b-7

Purity, Holiness, Sanctification: The colour white:
And that is what some of you were.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ~ 1 Corinthians 6:11

Fidelity, Faithfulness, Commitment: The wedding ring:
Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her
There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the valley of Achor (trouble) a door of hope.
There she will respond as in the days of her youth,
as in the days she came up out of Egypt.
In that day, the Lord declares, you will call me 'my husband'; 
you will no longer call me 'my master.' ~ Hosea 2:14-16

17 years ago I made the choice to be single with a purpose.  For the next few blog posts I'll be writing about the single life, the cultural divide between single women and single men, and embracing life and joy while single as well as the challenges that are experienced both culturally and in the church. 17 years ago I made a commitment.  Today I view that commitment differently then when I had originally made that commitment but in some ways my views are still the same.  It's not that my commitment isn't one where there isn't an openness to one day getting married.  

It's just my life is not placed on hold until that day comes.