Category Archives: Singleness, relationships, and sexuality

The gifts of singleness

flower-heart-gift-food-happy-birthday-textile-1050892-pxhere.comWe all need to hear these truths sometimes:

  • You don’t have to be perfect to be loved.
  • Marriage isn’t a reward, and singleness isn’t failure. They are both unearned good gifts.
  • You don’t have to be ashamed or scared of sexual desire – sex is a good gift too.
  • You’re not needy for needing relationship.
  • The world needs your contribution. Seek first the Kingdom.

Whatever your relationship status, celebrate the good gifts God gives: singleness, marriage, sex, talents, community, and grace. Read more about how I’ve learned these lessons in Part 1 and Part 2 of my guest posts on Corey Farr’s blog.


Relational Rulers

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They say I have my father’s nose,
My grandpa’s eyes,
My mother’s hair.
Could it be that my behind’s
The only thing that’s really mine?

~”They Say I Have…” by Shel Silverstein, p. 75 of Falling Up

Why did I start with that funny poem about family resemblance? Because today we’re going to read the very first poem in the Bible, and it talks about how we resemble our Heavenly Father.

This year we’re on our journey of discovering God, but as we do so, we’re also going to learn about ourselves and our place in this world that God created.

Last week we talked about how God created the heavens and the earth. And we stopped reading in Genesis 1 right at the point where he created humanity.

Today, we’re going to zoom into that moment. This is the first time our kind shows up on the scene. Creation stories of many cultures are intended to tell us about who we are as humans, our place in the world. And I’m sure you have all noticed from watching your favorite movies or series, or your reading favorite books, that the first time a character is introduced, we learn something essential about who they are that will affect the rest of the plot line. So today we get to focus on humans. Who are we? What is our place in this world God created?

I’ve given it away in my sermon title for today: “Relational Rulers”. Let’s start with relational.

Relational

Let’s read Genesis 1:26: “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.'” Woah. Stop there. Where is this “us” coming from? Who is talking?

We have a few hints. First, God is speaking. The Spirit of God is also present, because in verse two, “The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters”. Later, in John 1:1-5, the Bible tells us that Jesus was there too.

In Genesis 1:1-4 we read last week:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.

John uses “the Word” to refer to Jesus. John deliberately echoes the language of Genesis by starting his gospel with “In the beginning”.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

Next, John echoes the language of God speaking the words “Let there be light” and bringing life by talking about Jesus as the Word, life, and light.

Through him all things were made, without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

So today, many Christians understand “Let us make mankind in our image” to refer to God as the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, which we call the Trinity. This is one God, but with three persons, each distinct from each other.

This God has forever been in relationship. For example, there has been a father loving a son and a son loving a father forever. So when John later says that “God is love” he’s not just exaggerating to make a point. Loving relationship is actually what defines who God is.

The Trinity sounded like a stale theological doctrine to me until I heard what Michael Reeves has to say. He points out that if God were a solitary God as in some other religions, he might have created us because he was lonely. He might have needed someone to love him, worship him, serve him. That kind of God would be inherently needy, capricious, and have infinite desires that would be impossible to please. Have you ever known a parent or a teacher or a friend like that?

But God doesn’t create us because he is lonely. God has always been in relationship. God doesn’t need any of us to fill any lack in him. Instead, God creates out of an overflow of the love in the Trinity. How freeing this is for us!

Now, maybe the impatient child in you is asking, ugh, why are we talking about God! I wanted to get to the part about me! But this is about us. This is the God whose image we are made in! So we somehow resemble this God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We see this in the very next verse, verse 27:

So God created mankind in his image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.

This is the first poem in the Bible. How cool!

Right away, it mentions that mankind is made male and female – distinct, yet both equally human. It mentions these two because God created male and female for relationship. And out of the overflow of the love between male and female, they create new life. Do you notice already how we reflect God’s image?

We will talk more about how this applies to our relationships next weekend in honor of Valentines’ Day. But what I want us to note is that we reflect the God who is love. So we are made to love and have relationships.

Rulers

This sermon is about Relational Rulers. We’ve talked about how we are Relational, so now let’s talk about how rulers. And no, I don’t mean meter sticks!

Let’s read verses 26 to 28 in full (emphasis mine).

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.

“So God created mankind in his image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.”

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth [so far that part is the same as what he said to the birds and fish – but now we get] and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

The concept of ruling over, subduing that’s unique to humans. And it’s clearly part of the image of God, because God says that’s why he creates us in his image. That’s his purpose in doing so.

We’re different from what we rule

He has made us different from the animals and plants, the birds and fish that he wants us to rule over.

We don’t really see other creatures doing work. Yes, they do the basics they need to find food, a mate, and shelter. But they don’t develop things. We have developed language, culture, families, towns, nations, disciplines of knowledge, fields of work… we have been creative workers. God has given us capacity to think, to create, to feel, to be creative. God has given us the tools we need to do the job he’s assigned us of ruling over creation.

We read part of Psalm 8 last week, but I want to read the full Psalm to show us how he explores the position God has honored humanity with (emphasis mine):

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Do you hear the language there of being “crowned” like a king? That’s not an accident, because we’re actually exercising the authority of a king in that ruling.

Reminders of the king’s rule

Last week, we discovered that God is like a king, assigning roles in his kingdom to each part of creation. Now, this king is delegating authority over that kingdom – to us!

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King from carved East African chess set

In Bible times, kings would also set up statues in parts of their kingdoms that were far away, where people wouldn’t get a glimpse of the king himself, and they would call those images of the king. They were reminders of the king’s rule over that territory.

It reminds me of how in Tanzania, all government offices and even all businesses must have a framed photo of the President hung at the top of the wall. This is a reminder that this territory is under the authority of the government of Tanzania.

So when the Bible says we are “the image of God” it means we are like statues that remind the earth of God’s rule. Interestingly, later in the Bible, God will tell his people that they must never make idols or statues, which he calls “images” of him – because he has already made images of himself in us!

How do we rule? Delegated authority not tyrants

The way that the Psalmist celebrates our position or the words “rule” and “subdue” might make us think that we can exploit creation and do whatever we want with it. That’s unfortunately what we’re seeing the consequences of in our politics and environment today. But in Genesis 2:15 we get another picture of what this ruling looks like: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it”. It’s about caring for, kutunza in Swahili. Our rule should be caring, not tyrannical, because we’re ruling on behalf of a loving God.

God the king gives us authority to rule, we don’t rule on our own authority. We don’t deserve our position, as the Psalmist reminds us. It is a gift.

If you had a farm in the countryside but you lived in Nairobi, you probably would have someone to manage it. Or suppose you owned an apartment complex. You might appoint a property manager. That person has a lot of authority on the farm or with the construction team or the renters, but only because they represent your authority, and it is understood that they are carrying out your wishes.

We are simply stewards and managers, we are not the owners. In fact, we are owned by the same God who owns creation.

Jesus reminded people of this when they came to ask him a question about taxes. There were some people who wanted to trap Jesus. In Mark 12:14-15, they asked him, “Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?” It’s as if some Kenyans under colonization were saying, it is right to pay taxes to the British or not? The Jews hated paying taxes to their colonizers, because it was like accepting that the Romans had a right to rule them. But if Jesus said they shouldn’t pay the tax, he could be labelled as an anti-government rebel. Continuing from verse 16, Jesus said,

“Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

And they were amazed at him.

pxfuel.com(4)Give to Queen Elizabeth what belongs to her, what has her face on it, what her Central Bank created. But you and I – we don’t belong to any power on earth – God created us, and God owns us all.

We should not rule over animals, plants – or over other humans – like tyrants. God’s image is stamped on us all.

Can you imagine how history would look like if we believed our job was to care for each other and care for our environment? If we remembered that God owns us and we owe everything to God? Can you imagine what our world would look like now?

Jesus shows us how to rule

Jesus wanted to help us imagine that reality. It’s not just that Jesus talks about the image of God. He actually is the image of God himself. Colossians 1:15 calls Jesus “the image of the invisible God”. That is why when he came, he talked so much about the kingdom of God. Like the statue reminding people of the king’s authority, he was trying to establish the kingdom of God on earth, showing people what that looked like.

Jesus didn’t finish establishing God’s kingdom on earth, but when he comes back, he will. Then, we will be rulers with him over a new creation, a new heaven and a new earth.

We were created to work

In the meantime, God wants us to participate in establishing his kingdom on earth. That sounds very spiritual. But what does it mean for us?

When God tells us to rule, he’s really telling us to work. That’s what God’s rule looks like. How does Genesis describe the king’s rule of setting up creation? Six days he worked, and the seventh he rests. This is a pattern he later prescribes for humans. God’s orderly, creative, good, and sustainable work is a pattern for our own. Our work is a way that we reflect God. This is our original calling as humans.

Sometimes this doesn’t feel like a high calling. Sometimes our work environments are frustrating. We think we need to go into ministry or missions to really serve God and do something spiritual, or at least escape the stress we’re dealing with. It’s true that our work has become more difficult as a result of sin. But even before the fall happened, God created us to work.

We know this deep down, because when you have a productive day, or when you come in from a sweaty manual job, you feel good. There’s a sense of satisfaction in accomplishing something. There’s also a sense of alienation when you’re unemployed and don’t have any self-employment, because that’s not the way things should be.

God intended us to participate in caring for and developing his work of creation.

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Mural from Burkina Faso

As relational rulers, our relationships and our work aren’t just what we do to pass the time and survive. We’re not animals. We’re image bearers. All of us have a call from God in our families, in our workplaces, in our relationships to demonstrate who God is.

Now, agricultural work is the most basic type of work, but I also think we can apply this to other forms of work. Which of these could apply to your field of work?

  1. Steward the earth
  2. Sustain life (farmer, stay at home mom, baker)
  3. Bring order (administration)
  4. Bring justice
  5. Communicate truth
  6. Show compassion
  7. Think and reason
  8. Create beauty
  9. Build from or develop raw materials
  10. Heal

Share with someone else how you reflect the image of God in your work. Then ask them to pray for one way you want to bring God’s kingdom in your work this week. Your work can include school, caring for family, cooking, or anything productive you will do this week!

This sermon was originally preached at Abundant Life Community Church in Kenya. For the previous week’s sermon, click here. The next one I preached was on the Exodus, available here.


Why am I still single?

lonely woman walkingAnother Valentine’s Day is here. Which means, for the third year in a row, I’m speaking at a Singles’ Dinner on campus. It’s that day of the year when we might ask, “Why am I still single?”

It’s easy for this question to lead us into self-pity or peppy platitudes. But here are some answers that I’ve found empowering and real.

When we ask, “Why am I still single?” we can actually be asking three different questions.

  1. Why me? Is there something wrong with me?

FOMO on the 14th can make it tempting to throw our own party – of the pity variety. We invite all our insecurities to dance around in our heads long past their bedtimes: “I’m still single because I’m unlovable. I’m too __. I’m not __ enough.”

These fears aren’t baseless. We probably have irritating quirks. We may have unresolved trauma. We may have messed up in the past. We’re certainly a work in progress.

In other words, there is definitely something wrong with you – and me.

But that’s not why we’re still single.

Think about it. There are people who got married at 22 with at least as many issues as us. There are unmarried people nearing 40 who would be great catches. I was editing a book by one such lady this week when the realization hit me: Marriage isn’t something we earn by being the good girl (sorry, purity culture) and singleness isn’t some punishment dished out to the deserving.

A spouse is a gift from God. The first man literally fell asleep and woke up next to his dream girl. He didn’t do anything to seduce or earn Eve’s love. She was a gift. Every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17) – including a good spouse (Proverbs 19:14).

This is the essence of Christianity, honestly. Something is wrong with all of us. But our generous God loves us. He gives us all gifts we don’t deserve and can’t earn. That’s grace.

When we look at our lives this way, we can flip the question. Instead of pointing it at our lack, we can point it at our abundant blessing. “There is something wrong with me – so why me, God? Why did you choose me and love me and bless me?” We can turn self-pity into praise, scarcity into abundance, griping into gratitude. Why me? I may never know the answer, but boy, is it a happier question!

  1. I’m frustrated and I can’t do anything about it!

Sometimes, when we ask the question “Why am I still single?” what we actually want is to vent about everything conspiring against our #couplegoals.

Inevitably, someone misunderstands. Instead of offering sympathy, they give us advice… of varying qualities. They start telling us everything we need to change and do differently. It sounds to us like basically that it’s our fault for still being single because if only we followed the magic formula, we’d be out of this “stage” already. It feels like blaming the victim – because we played the victim card, and they didn’t play along.

But what if we asked the question they’re trying to answer – and instead answered it for ourselves? What could we realistically do to pursue a relationship or marriage? Instead of moaning helplessly, this question empowers us to create an action plan!

At least it did for me. Besides pouring out my desires to God in endless journal entries, I was pretty much passively waiting for Prince Charming.

Then I read a productivity book for work. It said that a vague task overwhelms us, but knowing the next concrete step motivates us. Maybe I would stop ruminating if I started doing something about it.

I realized I didn’t know much about dating, so I learned more. Watching TEDtalks on flirting? Researching the availability and security features of dating apps? Checking out library books on dating? That was doable.

I realized it scared me: enter exposure therapy. I faced my fears and made an online dating profile. I quickly deleted it. Then I pushed myself to rejoin, chat with people, and eventually meet up.

It turns out online dating is still fairly taboo among Christians here, so most people were just looking for hookups. I slipped back into venting about why this couldn’t work: I work remotely, strangers on these apps might just be looking for a green card…

But what could I do? I decided to take an asset-based approach. I might not know many eligible guys, but plenty of older mentors seem concerned about my dating status. The next time someone asked, I said they could set me up or pray for me. I figured I might meet people I could trust who shared my values.

The learning and troubleshooting has continued. Along the way I’ve collected some ridiculous stories, met some wonderful guys, and learned a lot about myself. I still get frustrated, but I feel much more confident and empowered.

If you’ve felt trapped and overwhelmed, maybe it’s time to channel that frustration into action. Looking for your next step? I recommend checking out Henry Cloud’s How to Get a Date Worth Keeping.

  1. Is there a reason I’m still single?

The final way we can ask the question “Why am I still single?” is to find out the purpose for which we are still single.

I mentioned earlier that a spouse is a gift from God. Singleness is too (1 Corinthians 7:7). Just like other spiritual gifts within the church, singleness is meant to build up the church “body” or community.

How has your singleness enabled you to learn about yourself? Have you gotten to travel more for work, pay off loans, develop hobbies, or learn contentment over codependence?

How has your singleness enabled you to love others? I’ve been able to offer rooms to housemates and visitors, support friends in crisis, and celebrate with family.

How has your singleness enabled you to serve God and the church? I’ve been able to pour extra time into preaching, writing, and presenting at conferences. I’ve gotten to focus fully on seminary and work without balancing family responsibilities.

I’ve written more about this in a previous blogpost, but suffice to say, our singleness is significant, right now.

So maybe part of my purpose in still being single this Valentine’s is to encourage someone at that Singles Dinner. Maybe they need to know that they’re no less deserving of marriage, that they can do something about their singleness, or that their status is a gift too.

Who knows? In any case, if you’re throwing a pity party, I don’t think I can make it.

 

Update posted 22 February 2020:

As I think about it, there’s one more way to ask this question: “Why am I still single? If only I had or hadn’t done __.”

This way of thinking is when you say to yourself, “I shouldn’t have broken off that engagement. I shouldn’t have turned that person down. I shouldn’t have taken that job which would limit my options. I shouldn’t have focused on my career or my education or my personal growth.”

Maybe it’s true that some previous decisions were made poorly. But what have they led to? Who have you become because of the lessons you learned? What might you have missed out on? Are there ways you could still capitalize on these experiences to heal and forgive and grow? Are there ways you can have grace for yourself?

And maybe you had good reasons for those decisions. It wasn’t so much that you were saying “no” to marriage as that you were saying “yes” to something else. You chose to forgo stability for the fulfillment of following God. To be the authentic self that had been stifled in that relationship. To be present where you were instead of investing in long distance. To uphold your values and standards instead of compromising for convenience. To let that person go because you couldn’t give them what they needed.

Sometimes, it helps to remember that we’re not helpless. We rationally chose singleness for good reasons, or we’ve learned from it anyway.


Human (spoken word video)

Sexual harrassment threatens to make us beasts and objects, but we’re human. I share my journey of healing and forgiving. Performed live at Slam Africa.


Someone to come home to (spoken word video)

A third culture kid dreams of finding a soul mate who understands where she comes from, but realizes there’s only one ultimate home. Performed live at Poetry Spot Kenya.


A Sweet Season of Friendships

LJTA1516[1]Since my support systems crumbled a year ago, God has been rebuilding my community. A friend recently texted me: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19). Focusing on gratitude today opened my eyes to God doing a new thing through a sweet season of friendships.

When my support systems fell apart, I worried I was too needy to be good company. I asked for help anyway. One friend let me show up on her couch for tea whenever I needed. Another listened just the way I like. My family picked up my frequent phone calls. I was reminded that real friends want to hold you when you’re weak and support you when you’re a mess. Caring for your needs isn’t a burden. The vulnerable risk of asking friends for help opens us up to the grace of love you don’t deserve.

Over the summer, I had the chance to visit the US and Tanzania. I reconnected with old college friends and mentors, relatives, my dad’s Tanzanian colleagues, and missionary families from childhood. My communities have always been transient, so home is people more than place. There’s something special about people who have watched you grow up, who know your family or your formative years. They ground you in who you are and where you come from.

Last year, I adapted to other people to try to preserve relationships, losing some of who I was in the process. Recently, I’ve been privileged to find people I can simply be myself with. Whether it’s celebrating in silly costumes with relatives, playing “Hannah Jeopardy” designed for my birthday by a college bestie and brother, or clicking with a fellow Third Culture Kid, I’ve felt the freedom of being known and loved as I am.

After a season of receiving lots of support, it’s been empowering to support others and focus beyond myself. As several friends have been grieving dashed hopes in their love lives, I’ve been able to relate and comfort them with some of the comfort I received. Sewing a present for a friend or acting like an honorary bridesmaid has also refreshed my joy in giving.

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In the wake of relationships ending, making new friends has been healing. Isn’t it encouraging when people like spending time with you? I’ve returned to places with sad associations and made new memories. A new friend whose personality initially triggered me has prompted me to process past hurts and make peace. I’ve randomly reconnected with acquaintances, hosted game nights, and gathered groups to explore a Nairobi bucket list. God has also blessed me with depth in existing relationships, making plans for sleepovers and road trips. It’s a hopeful season with new friends to meet, new places to see, and new adventures to be had.

I’ve gotten back in touch with some best friends from past seasons of my life lately – doing henna with a childhood friend, sipping “tea of amazingness” with an old housemate, or messaging a high school friend on facebook about her upcoming wedding. Though we haven’t kept in touch consistently, these moments affirm the connection we had. They say: “Our friendship still matters to me.”

For a couple years, I’ve been praying for mentors. God answered that prayer in this season. Connections I made earlier bore fruit as I reached out again or seemed to hit a groove. These godly people given me permission to rest, taught me how to teach theology, or said just what I needed to hear about ministry.

Friends have also given me hope for my future. As a single extrovert working remotely overseas, I need social support to stay sane. Laughing and talking all at the same time with the Kenyan ladies in my Bible Study made me think, “These are my sisters.” Last month my workplace officially hired a dear colleague. Side by side at our desks and at a conference, we have shared a new depth and companionship that makes me think, “I could stay here.”

Friendship is beautiful. Friends tell you you’re worth loving when all you have is weakness. They give you the honor of loving them when they wonder if they’re lovable. They want to spend time with you just as you are – even when years have passed. Friends hold up kind mirrors to who you are and celebrate together at what God has done in your lives. They ground you in where you’ve come from and give you hope for where you’re going.

Which friends can you be grateful for today?


Emotional Maturity When You’re Seeking Support

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CCO Public Domain

Last fall, I had several panic attacks as I broke up with my boyfriend. My housemate suddenly moved out days later. Our church plant had a dramatic leadership crisis.

I prayed to see what God was teaching me. Flipping through my journal, something caught my eye. I’d prayed to grow in emotional maturity in 2017. What did I do that for?!

Being in these relationships taught me emotional awareness, communication, and empathy. When these relationships ended and I needed social support, God also faithfully used these difficulties to grow my emotional maturity.

Just as maturing into an adult involves taking responsibility for my physical well-being, emotional maturity means taking responsibility for my emotional needs. As a single extrovert who works remotely in a foreign country, I intentionally seek out social time to maintain emotional stability. When I moved to Kenya post-college, though I wished people would reach out, I learned to initiate since I’m organized and need company. I developed a baseline of regular social events on my calendar and a list of friends to call. Unlike with college friends or family, I had to schedule two weeks ahead so Friday night I wasn’t disappointed when everyone already had plans.

This time, I had to initiate my social support. I didn’t have panic attacks when I was around people, so I scheduled something social every day. Once, someone cancelled on me and my housemates weren’t home. I felt panic rising, but I picked up the phone. My friend didn’t answer. I called a second person, a third. Finally the fourth person came over. It wasn’t my friends’ fault they couldn’t be there for me when I needed. I had to persevere to get the support I needed. (I realize this can be too much to ask in some mental illness situations).

When I felt unloved during this difficult time, I questioned my worth to others. But I knew how self-pity could turn me inward to nurse my pain alone. I countered with truth and love. I stood up to my insecurities and reminded myself of all the other people who loved me. I realized their comments reflected more on other issues than who I was.

It also took courage to reach out for social support. My boyfriend and housemate were both suffering from burnout and personal issues, which made me feel my needs didn’t matter in comparison. So when those relationships ended, I worried my friends wouldn’t want to be burdened with my neediness. I felt vulnerable receiving rather than giving comfort and advice. I reminded myself that real friends don’t resent you for struggling, but care about you. I accepted being needy for now. I stepped out, trusting my friends would welcome me for tea and a hug.

Even when you reach out, people may not know how you like to be comforted. I had lost two close relationships. So, I could Skype my best friends and family, who knew just what to say but were in a different time zone. Or, I could reach out to friends next door who didn’t know me as deeply. I sometimes had to explain how I wanted them to comfort me. For instance, I tried going to a life coach, but later realized I needed counseling, and looked elsewhere for that support.

Needing someone to talk to also didn’t give me license to unload indiscriminately. I felt overwhelmed by my concerns about our church plant, but given the culture and my demographic, the pastor wouldn’t respond well to me. I didn’t trust myself to confront him in a godly way either. To avoid spreading gossip and dissent, I couldn’t talk to my church friends. Finally, I called pastor friends at other churches for advice, who persuaded me it would be biblically and culturally appropriate to talk to a church elder. I learned to process my feelings with the appropriate people.

So far, maturing emotionally has been more painful and exhausting than I expected. Often God allows and uses difficult times to shape us into his image. Romans 5:3-4 says, “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” As I look back, I thank God for how my heart is growing up and hope in his continued goodness.


Sex & Relationships: The Bible’s Story (Audio)

We’ve all heard the “thou shalt not”s. But we need a richer story about sexuality to live by as Christians – and the Bible has one. Whether married or single, discover the good purpose God has for you. You can listen to it here.

Originally presented in a chapel service of Africa International University in Kenya.


Singleness is a Gift. Really.

For Valentine’s a year ago, my then-boyfriend treated me to a fancy dinner and my favorite flowers.

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This Valentine’s, I had the gift of singleness. Does this one come with a receipt?

Since I had no plans this year, I accepted a last-minute dinner invitation as the opener for a panel of married couples advising a dinner for young professionals. God prompted me to share about the gift of singleness. As I did, I became genuinely grateful.

I’m not saying singleness is a gift out of breakup bitterness or pessimism on the state of marriage. In fact, in the last year my social circles have totally changed. Now a third of my friends are married with kids and another third are in serious relationships or married. So I understand the perks. Someone asks how your day was. When you move your best friend comes with. You can host male classmates or couples for dinner without it being awkward or inappropriate.

But I’ve also listened to my friends’ struggles. Their wedding planning stress, their in-law drama, the longings their partner can’t fill. Plus all the sleepless nights once they have babies.

There are a lot of benefits to being single. I have more time, fewer responsibilities, and only myself to take care of. So I’ve invested in my own growth: gone to counseling, climbed Kili, and run a half marathon. Without a wedding or kids’ school fees to save up for, I’ve given money to causes I care about and paid off my student loans.

Singles really do have freedom. I had no spouse to consult when I up and moved to a new country for the Africa Study Bible job, no kids to take on the plane or leave home as I traveled to conferences across Africa. I got to live with my family during their last years in Kenya. I’ve invested in friendships, taking cheap and crazy trips to visit old pals around Europe.

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Ultimate tourist selfie while visiting London friends

Single people can make invaluable contributions to God’s kingdom by devoting themselves to ministry. Imagine how much Jesus would have worried a wife: “Foxes have holes, but I was born in a manger and haven’t had a home since!” Or Paul: “Sorry honey, I know I never write. I used up my papyrus sorting out Corinth again. Don’t worry, it was just the usual 39 lashes.” Ruth built King David’s and Jesus’ genealogy because she chose a poor and bitter mother-in-law over a husband from her homeland. Then of course, there’s the virgin Mary.

I’ve also been privileged to focus on these kingdom callings in this season. If I had a family, I doubt I could juggle writing and launching my book, a Masters degree, coaching African authors, and kick-starting youth ministries at our church plant.

Singleness is also helping my future ministry. If I get married, I want to remember this time so I can reach out and include other singles.

Still, sometimes I worry that I have to choose between following God or marriage. What if by pursuing all these dreams I intimidate potential suitors? I mean, who wouldn’t want a wife who’s a public speaker and author on gender equality? And why does God call me to places I’m least likely to meet someone? Go from a small college with less than 1% straight Christian guys to a seminary full of straight Christian guys who are all married. Work in an office by yourself via Skype and email. Seriously?

But I don’t want to be the servant entrusted with an investment that I buried in the ground. I want to be faithful with the gifts God’s given me – including my singleness. My joy is in following God’s call, so I trust that if marriage is part of his plan, it will be down that same path.

In Matthew 6, Jesus reminds us that we don’t need to worry about tomorrow. God feeds the birds and clothes the flowers in beauty. Our Father cares even more about us and he knows what we need. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

So, I told the young professionals, singleness is a gift. Don’t waste it away hunting for a husband. Seek the kingdom, and enjoy the adventure.


Love’s Take on Valentines

Love's Take on Valentines