Monday, July 30, 2007

You Probably Don't Have "The Gift of Singleness"

here is an interesting article from one of my favorite web sites, Boundless. i don't mean to be constantly plugging this site so i'm sorry if something is repetitious. this may not apply to all of you, but i have heard the "beautiful gift of singleness" mantra so many times and agree with this article about why it is wrong. i don't post this for anyone in particular, and like i said, it probably doesn't directly apply to most of you. the post-script at the end refers to comments on the original article, which was posted in the form of a blog at the link above. all the italics were in the original article; all bolded terms are my own. -nmt

You Probably Don't Have "The Gift of Singleness"
by Ted Slater on Jul 30, 2007

This topic has been hashed and rehashed for centuries, and I hesitate to bring it up again. I don't want to open wounds or incite contention. I don't want to hurt anyone or lead them to feel condemned.

For no particular reason, though, I found myself awake in bed late last night, wrestling with this issue. What is it? Who has it? Is "singleness" a gift? And so on. I believe the Lord laid it on my heart to raise it again in order to dispel misconceptions about it and to stir up hope and renew your motivations.

The term is drawn from 1 Cor. 7:6-9:

Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

It is clear that the "gift" refers to a freedom from "burning with passion" in order to focus all one's energies on serving others in a perpetually non-married state, unencumbered by the joyful responsibility of spouse and kids. I can't relate to this gift, but a few (such as Paul, Jesus, John the Baptist, "eunuchs," Manuel Arenas and others) were given this gift so that they might best serve God and others in that capacity.

So what is the "gift of singleness"? It is not singleness itself. If you find yourself single, you most likely don't have the "gift of singleness." Your state is a gift -- but only as much as life is a gift; it may sound harsh, but there's nothing uniquely special about your singleness itself.

The state of singleness is not a sin -- though some singles' motivations for prolonging it are sinful, and the temptations to sin sexually during an extended season of singleness are heightened, often resulting in sexual sin. Calling singleness a "gift" facilitates prolonging this season of sexual temptation, and that contributes to the problems of sexual sin plaguing single adults.

The thing is, just as singleness is not itself "sin," it's also not a "gift."

Too many people say, "If you are single, then you have the gift of singleness." That sounds cute, and affirms those who are single, but it's unbiblical and meaningless and unhelpful. It's just wrong. Again, Paul clearly says that if you "burn with passion," then you don't have the "gift of singleness" and you "should marry." Would Paul command those with the "gift of singleness" to reject that gift and instead pursue marriage? No, he wouldn't. And so "if you are single, then you have the gift of singleness" is pure unbiblical vapidity.

On the other hand, marriage and kids are gifts, things given to us by God and clearly considered blessings by Scripture.

God wants people married. I'm not a "marriage mandate" advocate by any means, but I do see how God expects people to marry. He's commanded it in Scripture (Genesis 1:27-28) and affirms it by putting into the vast majority of us the passionate desire to "know" (in a sexual sense) another person intimately. The only way that desire can be fulfilled in a God-honoring way is within marriage.

If you desire marriage, if you "burn with passion," then you do not have the "gift of singleness." If you burn with passion, take that as a sign from God that you should be preparing for married life. And if you're at a "marrying age," with the blessing of your parents or mentors, you are free -- even encouraged -- to pursue it. As Paul wrote, you "should marry."

(I can hear the complaints already, from women who are "older" and discouraged that they're still single, from men who continue to be rebuffed by women they pursue, by those whose careers inhibit their being able to be in marriage-minded relationships, from those who live in small towns or attend small churches where there are few options. While you're free to express your complaints below, my hope is that you'd instead try to dig into what Paul is saying in the passage of Scripture I referenced above, that you'd humbly and prayerfully examine your heart in an effort to determine what God would have you do now. My intention is to inspire hope -- if you feel that passion, then God is for you, and eager to conspire with you to bring about the end for which that passion exists: marriage.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

the office

no, silly, not the t.v. show. i mean MY office...the one that i live in for a third of every revolution around the sun. or, eight hours a day. so naturally i have plenty of thoughts and blogfodder (is that a word?) about this place of employment. due to my contract, i can't mention my employer or my coworkers by name, so i guess i just have to talk about other things.

well, the inspiration for this post, which was going to be entitled "paper clips," was the experience of running dangerously low on paper clips this morning. okay. i like paper clips. and i mean the new, shiny, smooth perfectly shaped ones, and not the old tarnished ones that smudge your papers and make everything scratchy. i also don't mean the ones with little grooves on them that tear up your paper.

the paper clips here come in little boxes, which i never knew, because when would anyone actually buy paper clips in real life? paper clips have always existed, and will always exist. they are like matter, which cannot be created or destroyed. at my house, we never gave a second thought to where they came from, or how they got into the bottom of the "organizer" in every drawer, haphazardly covered with more frequently needed household items. i never remember purchasing paper clips; we just took them for granted. because only a fool would buy what is always there.

so imagine my surprise when, as a newly minted state employee, i first had to go down to Accounting to pick up some more paper clips. i probably said something like "aren't those just in the bottom of the drawer here?" and not only are they ALL shiny and perfectly straight; they come in -- glory of glories -- a little box. now you have to understand that i really like boxes, especially little ones. it's mostly because i like things to be organized, and sometimes i wish i had more little things so i could get some little boxes to keep them in. (the other reason has a long scientific name that i can't remember now.) it's a great experience, now, to cut the paperclipbox so that it has no lid, allowing me to easily access those beautiful paper clips whenever the state of nebraska should require such a task.

oh yes. today i ran low on paper clips. it had begun to irritate me that in the little lidless box were not only paper clips of a uniform size and shape, but a variety of clipping tools in a variety of sizes and shapes. this could not be. so i made the short trip to Accounting to replenish. i kind of like going to Accounting, and not just because that's where i pick up my pay stub every two weeks. i like it because they are amazingly, frighteningly organized down there. except for the women themselves and the occasional plant or other desk ornament, everything in the room could neatly fit into a large grid, if you could superimpose a grid over your glasses or something, and look through it. everything is on a perfect horizontal shelf, perfectly arranged in vertical stacks, themselves perfectly spaced from other stacks. it's how i would imagine being in a computer, if that experience were possible, only more colorful.

and i am sorry to be so anticlimactic once again (i know, i was just building to something) but i usually can't get endings right, which always makes me want to write about endings to have some kind of closure, and to help obscure the fact that i can't write endings or at least distract you enough to make you forget. i don't think it's working today. so i guess that's where today's story ends. sorry, i was going to write more about my office but the paper clip part got too long and no one is probably still reading anyways.

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