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One reason it is difficult to trust God with relationships is a lack of confidence or distrust in the opposite sex. Christian singles may be hitting the same barriers to marriage as those with a worldly mindset -- hesitancy to commit, lack of viable choices in partner, a desire to establish wealth and possessions first -- but here's the honest truth: Christians need to have a radically different perspective about the opposite sex, dating and marriage. Consider Corinthians 5:17-19:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
Several months ago, I was stunned by one Boundless Line reader's response to my blog. He said, "It's obvious there's a lot of woundedness here." Each sex feels wounded by the other. Women feel slighted because the men they believe should be asking them out either won't take a risk or seem uninterested in committing to a relationship. Men are frustrated because the women they'd like to get to know either won't give them a chance or send them mix signals. Our first reaction is to blame others. "I'm doing everything right. It's him/her who is holding up the process!"
I recently heard some great advice for getting along with people who naturally irritate you. When this person says something that irritates you, instead of assigning motives (I know she said that to boast or I know he said that to manipulate), pour in as much grace as possible. Choose to be compassionate and look for what is really going on beneath the statement (Maybe she's feeling insecure or maybe he feels I don't trust him). Perhaps your reaction wasn't appropriate or was fueled by your own past hurts.
Focus on the Family promotes the Love and Respect conference. The central idea of these conferences is that women need love and men need respect. This is a breakthrough concept for married couples. However, single men and women are motivated by these same responses. As a woman, are you seeking to respect the single men you know or are you tearing them down (even just in your mind)? As a man, are you looking to care for the women you know or do you cast a suspicious eye on them, afraid they'll get the wrong idea? As singles, we have not been very successful in cultivating an attitude of love and respect. I have experienced a love and respect dynamic in micro-settings, and I believe it's the best start for a healthy, godly relationship.
Part of trusting God with relationships is discerning how He would renew our minds and make us new creations. If we're not seeking this with all our hearts, the ministry of reconciliation -- particularly between the sexes -- will fail. If Christian relationships, and the way we go about them, were radically different from the world, it might send a message to the world about the reconciliation offered in God through Christ.
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Comment by RF:
Thanks for your series on this topic. It's good to be reminded of how to prepare now for the possible future mate. It's a good opportunity for me to practice openly respecting the men in my life: my dad, brothers, team leader, etc. not to draw them to me but so in the event of a marriage, I'm not learning by trial and error.
Comment by Leah:
When this person says something that irritates you, instead of assigning motives (I know she said that to boast or I know he said that to manipulate), pour in as much grace as possible
Yeah... I try to give people the benefit of the doubt as much as possible. It can actually be hard when you have non-Christian friends bagging someone out heaps and then you try to suggest that perhaps it's not as bad as it looks... your friends are like "What on earth? Why are you sticking up for her?" But it's a good thing to keep in mind.
Comment by Tami:
I like Eggerichs' "Love and Respect" book (I assume it's the same one the conference is about? The FOTF logo is on the back cover). I wish there was a version for not-yet-marrieds. It would be so much more helpful than some of the other Christian "dating and relating" books out there, because we could learn a lot about communicating with each other without expectations or assumptions. A lot of the more recent "Christian dating" books seem to just take NYT bestsellers, remove the curse words, and put in some Bible verses.
And of course, being for not-yet-marrieds, he'd have to change the names of his communication model, or cut the "S" off of "CHAIRS"...
Comment by ColinPedicini:
I agree mostly with the opening sentences in this post. Here's my take on the issues having read the whole series thus far:
1) I agree that it is a lack of confidence in the opposite sex that frustrates relationships these days, sometimes before they've even begun. My own observations bear that out: I've seen men afraid to commit but when they do ask they get shot down, and women who claim that they want nice guys that treat them fairly but don't choose them (even if the man is genuinely interested).
2) Along these lines I'm always amused when I get "I wish my boyfriend was more like you." FYI: I don't drink or smoke and can't be around smoke or in bars (health reasons going back to birth). I don't know what to make of that. The same can be said for "why don't you have a girlfriend?" or "are you engaged yet?" (not kidding!)
3) I am an undergrad history major at a secular university that is known as a party school, fairly close to Mexico. That culture permeates everything here. It has gotten to the point where I don't feel comfortable telling folks I just met that I'm 21...as I don't want to defend why I don't party every night. The usual guess I get for my age is 26-28, with the oldest being 32. (!)
4) Most of the counseling I have so far on this falls into one of two categories: Don't worry, as Jesus is enough, or that it will happen eventually. This is deeply disturbing to me...as I've seen other men get the same thing but the women suddenly gain social status when they start "dating."
5) As I've grown older, I've noticed there are almost no ministries for single men, and the college ministries don't hold together very well. I've only been a Christian for about the last year and half and as such never really "grew up" in any specific congregation, and thus never fit in with the high school youth group. As a college student I've noticed lots of womens' ministries and couples' ministries, but none for the singles.
"Part of trusting God with relationships is discerning how He would renew our minds and make us new creations." How do Christians do that, in an age where it seems even the adults are not willing to provide adequate counsel? In such a case as this, does it seem as though time is the only answer here, or am I missing something?
Comment by AdamSloope:
Nice...a simple thought seems to be very powerful.
Christian dating looks a lot like the world...
I think that in itself is a problem. I've spoken to one girl who basically said it is unlikely that most men are after God's heart and she still is bitter and hasn't forgiven the guys in her past that have hurt her. That puts me in the dark. I think as Christians we should be quick to look at ourselves instead of pointing the finger at the world. I've spoken to several guys who are petrified to risk getting rejected by a woman therefore leave the girls to settle for less than what she needs in a Godly man because non will step up. I think if we really worked on our relationship with Christ more our relationships with others would be different. Christian dating relationships should not look like the world because both make and female in this relationship are dieing more and more to themselves and being conformed to Christ's image daily.
Comment by CourtneyP:
WOW... this was right on time, today I was talking to God about really putting His Word into action in everyday life.My dad is one of the greatest men alive(I Love my DADDY). He is an example of a Priest, Provider and Protecter of his family by respecting and honoring him even the more, i am getting in great pratice for the future LOL:)
Wow... This is right on time, Today I was talking to God about putting HIS Word into everyday life.My Dad is one of the greatest men alive.( I Love my DADDY). He is a great example of a Preist, Provider and Protected of his family. Respecting and honoring him in a great way,is what the Bible requires and also great pratice for the future :)
Comment by Athena:
Adam Sloope said:
>>I think if we really worked on our relationship with Christ more our relationships with others would be different.<<
I absolutely agree. The analogy that mirrors spiritual discipline is physical discipline. If I don't work out for an extended time, I gravitate towards unhealthy foods like junk food or something fatty. However, after a workout, I want to drink more water and eat something cold and light, like a salad. Just like the act of exercising changes your diet naturally, so our focus on God and trust in Him will transform our attitudes towards the opposite sex and hopefully start the process of healing for both sides.
About Adam's statement, I concur -- great point. Reminds me of what Spurgeon said about "the straight stick". Though technically Spurgeon was referring to compare the words of others up to the "straight stick" of God's truth, we do well to compare ourselves not to others, not to the world, but to Christ! Good reminder. :)
Comment by brx:
Awesome Suzanne! I should have read this pt5 before I replied to part 4. Yep, I'm sure you're going to be getting married soon!
I was just listening to Chip Ingram of Living On The Edge/Walk Thru The Bible this morning where he pointed out that we need to own our issues and take responsibility by pursuing vulnerable fellowship to get help in becoming transformed and renewed in Christ. God has definitely transformed Chip into a great teacher on Biblical attitude, lasting relationships, and communication by allowing he and his wife to struggle through many issues.
May your sincere heart come across so well in all your communication modes!
Comment by Childlesssinglewoman:
Colin - Be encouraged. You really do sound like a great guy, and your wife is going to be very blessed one day...which brings me on to two of the points you made.
You sum up almost the entire problem in your last two points:
"4:Most of the counseling I have so far on this falls into one of two categories: Don't worry, as Jesus is enough, or that it will happen eventually..."
Do you hear the message this is giving you? Basically, they are saying "don't search for a wife". They are saying you don't really need a wife because you have Jesus (as if Jesus intendes to be anybody's spouse!), or just let it "happen" ie. without any conscious effort needed on your part. (Just what single Christian women need! There aren't enough men to go around anyway, and the ones that there are, are effectively discouraged from finding a wife!) Both of these views you are receiving are wrong in my opinion, and you should seek a wife in a purposeful and God-honouring manner. After all, who would ever say that you don't need a job because "Jesus is all you need", or that if God wants you to you work, you should just "let it happen" and not search for a job? Why we apply this "logic" -- if I can call it that -- to marriage is beyond me.
You also say:
"5) As I've grown older, I've noticed there are almost no ministries for single men...I've noticed lots of womens' ministries and couples' ministries, but none for the singles."
Bingo. Actually it's men in general that are criminally neglected by the church as a whole. The men in churches -- both single and married -- are not discipled, and there is little or no effort to reach out to the men in the world. This has dire consequences for everyone: for the single women that need husbands, for the body that is trying to fight a spiritual battle with an army of girls, for the world where generations of men are being neglected, AND for the single men who are not receiving the spiritual fathering they need and are being emasculated.
But anyway, I am sure it won't be long before you find a lovely young woman to marry - if you are proactive and purposeful about it. May God bless your search.
Comment by rachael:
"instead of assigning motives [...], pour in as much grace as possible."
Thank you for this good relationship reminder. It would be fruitful if we could apply it to all types of relationships and interactions. We don't always know what might is happening in others' lives.
Comment by RobertJEspe:
I am curious what you have in mind when you say you want the church to reach out to men more?
Ministries available to single men in my church: music, nursery, Teaching Sunday School (to all ages), youth worker, cleaning, usher.
Colin, try going to your pastor and tell him you want to serve the church. Say you have time to do one thing well, and ask him to place you where the church has the greatest need. He'll find you something, and it will probably stretch you.
Comment by Kit:
Colin--You said, "As I've grown older, I've noticed there are almost no ministries for single men, and the college ministries don't hold together very well. I've only been a Christian for about the last year and half and as such never really "grew up" in any specific congregation, and thus never fit in with the high school youth group. As a college student I've noticed lots of womens' ministries and couples' ministries, but none for the singles."
I would both agree and disagree with you. In my experience, singles' ministries do exist; however, they are nothing more than glorified off-line dating services. I'm 24; the one and only time I dared to venture into the "Christian meat market" at a local church, I was shamelessly hit on by men twice my age. It was rather scary, and I haven't been to a "single's ministry" since. It didn't seem like much of a "ministry."
The church is failing young people in this regard. Why do we status separate at all? I too have been frustrated when at church, when I would like to attend a certain Sunday School, only to find it's a "couple's class" or a "mid-40s" class or a "childless" class, and feel out of place. On the flip side, the "singles" class is rather scary, as the discussion generally lacks in intellectual stimulation and you come out having been dazed by desperate men or women (a gross overgeneralization, I know, but it happens a lot...).
In the 'real world' people are not 'separated' into singles, men, women, couples,etc. You don't go to work and see the "couple's lunchroom." Why do we not foster relationships cross-gender and cross-"status" and cross-generational? That is what the body of Christ should be. I don't think heaven is going to be compartmentalized.
Comment by SethM:
Robert...this may come off wrongly and I hope it doesn't. Take a look at that list you just said and go through each job telling me whether you would equate it as something a man or a woman would seem to be more likely to do. That will give you your answer. I'm not saying that's a right attitude but I have no doubt it has a large effect. You'll also notice that your list of available things for men is small.
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