Friday, December 29, 2006
Not by Bread Alone
Continuing my study of Debbie Maken's Getting Serious about Getting Married: Rethinking the Gift of Singleness, I have been looking at the fifth chapter, "What We've Been Taught". She opens with a story:
Suppose a young woman showed up at a church starving to death...The last thing we'd say is, "Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God"...To abuse Scripture in such a way would contradict God's own design as our Creator to satisfy hunger with food...Sadly we often refuse to employ the same logic when it comes to the hunger of singleness.
Any of us who have dealt with singleness and at all struggled with it will not argue that the church often replies with "radically inflated, politically correct, feel-good answers" that fail to get to the bottom of the upset people feel. Often the real issues are ignored as the church teaches that "marriage will just happen if only you'd stop worrying about it", or asks you "Is Jesus not enough?", or suggests you consider "are you called to singleness?" (quickly followed, almost immediately, by "So are you called to the mission field?").

As much as I initially liked the analogy, I have to disagree with it too. The hunger for food and the "hunger of singleness" just are not the same. Without food, we will die. The desire for marriage and a family, while causing people turmoil and upset, will not cause us to die. Life can indeed carry on without it and, until that day, we just need to learn to live with it.

Most of us in this situation do not feel called to a lifetime of celibacy which would makes things much easier. I try (and I stress that I try - I do not set myself up as someone who always gets this right, it being much easier to say than do something) to remember that singleness is the gift for today, and today is all I need to worry about. Maybe tomorrow will be different but, as I wrote a few days ago, we are commanded not to worry about tomorrow.

Leslie Ludy wrote of her sister-in-law, Krissy:
She didn't put her life on hold simply because she hadn't yet met her future husband. She gave herself to serve others, and lived a radiant, peaceful, vibrant life - content with where God had her. One day, someone asked Krissy if she felt she was "called" to singleness. After a moment of thought, Krissy replied, "Today I am."
And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
Deuteronomy 8:3

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  posted at 14:49  

At 30 December, 2006 01:51, Blogger thekingpin68 said...

I like your article. I think that there are Christians out there that are neither content being single, nor are they blessed with a special person. I also think that some of them are living within God's will obediently, but not perfectly of course.

I have been in the Christian community for a number of years and have never met someone special. Genesis 2:18 states that it is not good for a man to be alone and in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 7 it notes that each man should marry his own wife to avoid immoralities. The Apostle Paul was single and content as he wrote in 7:7 and therefore many Christians seem to assume that a Christian will either be blessed with a mate or be content. I think that is too simplistic of an idea. This is where theodicy (the problem of evil) is important and I reason that I am neither blessed with a mate, nor content and that is God's will, at least for now, and there is no guarantee things will change. God is still good even when he wills things that hurt us because his motives are pure, and plans good.

As Christians we are dealing with a much smaller pool of people to choose from compared to most in society. God seems to often work within circumstances and I believe that he can find each Christian person a mate if it his will, but we are not sure what his exact will is often. Is singleness a gift? Perhaps for some Christians who are single, but suffering obediently would seemingly be God's desire for us.


At 30 December, 2006 05:03, Blogger Jessie said...

Hello there, Keziah. I found you from Sherrin's blog.
This post caught my eye, because I recently discovered this book via the internet, and read a review of it on Boundless, and have had mixed thoughts concerning the author's points. Granted, I have not actually read the book, only the snippets I could find on Amazon, and the review, but while I was agreeing with the points I found that she made in the Table of Contents and throughout what I was able to read online, part of me also was rejecting them... She challenges the oft-repeated phrase of "Jesus is enough for you"... but should it be challenged? Isn't it in Christ alone that we can ever find true satisfaction and contentment? Isn't it Christ who will not only give us the desire for marriage, but also cause us to be content when we need to be (since He commands us to be content in all places, times, and situations); and in His perfect time and way, according to His perfect will, provide just the perfect, sin-stained spouse we need? And isn't in Hm that we will also always need to find our satisfaction after He grants us our desire for marriage?
We too easily set ourselves up for failure when we start thinking that if I only was married, then I'd be content. Then I'd never worry about anything. Then it would be easy to trust the Lord!
But when we do so, we have wrongly shifted our view of the source of satisfaction from our Perfect, Eternal, Heavenly Bridegroom, to a fallen, temporary, eartly one.
I agree that God loves marriage, that God intends it for most of His people, that it is a good thing; but I also know (whether I remember to practice it is another story!) that I am to be content where God has me now, that He knows every dream of mine, and that He has all goodness and power to give me exactly what is good for me. I don't always, no, I never! know what is good for me. But He does. And He is controlling everything in my life. I can trust Him with every single one of my hopes and dreams, and know assuredly that He will fulfill every one that is good and pleasing to Him, and will even bless me more abundantly than what I know to ask for.
So I recognize that I have a longing for something that is good and godly; it is something that God is in the habit of giving to His people; and I even believe it to be His will for me at some point in my life. I have my hopes and plans and dreams- and timetable!- but God has His, and it's infinitely better than mine! He is the One "calling the shots" and I know He hears my prayers and will answer them in THE VERY BEST way. Just pray that I will remember that and trust Him, especially when "everyone else" has exactly what I've been praying for, and it seems like God isn't working anything out for me at all. That's when our knowledge gets put to the test. Pray that I'll pass the test ahead of me!
Sorry for "venting" here and posting such a long comment, but it's been good to think through this. I'll be praying for you too!

At 30 December, 2006 23:21, Blogger Keziah said...

Russ and Jessie: Thank you to you both for such thoughtful comments. You are welcome to vent here anytime!

I think, as with many things in the Bible, there are two ideas that need to be held in tension with one another - firstly, that true contentment can only come from Christ and secondly, that it is not good for man to be alone and that it is right to desire marriage.

I think that this comes down to the attitude of the heart. Marriage can become an idol and if it is seen to be the way of achieving happiness and completeness, then this is the wrong reason to desire marriage. At the same time, marriage has been given to us as an example of the relationship between us and Christ and as a close form of fellowship and companionship while we are on earth.

We need to be careful to maintain a proper perspective on this - living in light of eternity.

(Jessie - you are welcome to the book when I am finished with it. It actually belongs to a friend from North Carolina so it will be a bit closer to home!)

At 01 January, 2007 21:17, Blogger Captain Sensible said...

A few thoughts occur to me here:

First, I think the point Debbie Maken is making is that we must be careful not to take one line out of Scripture and misuse it. Singles are often told we should be content in all circumstances, but Paul also included hunger in that:

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (Philippians 4:11-12 NIV)

Does that mean that if someone turns up at our door that is hungry we shouldn't worry about feeding them, but instead tell them to be content in their hunger?

I am also not convinced by this -- I woke up single today and therefore I have the gift of singleness today -- new, new interpretation of the gift of singleness! Sure this is very philosophical, but doesn't the same thing apply to toothache?

In a similar vein, the idea that just because a situation is so, it is therefore "God's will", is erroneous. For example, perhaps the person waking up with toothache would be best advised not to seek dental treatment? After all, the toothache is God's will, isn't it?

I also have a problem with the "Jesus is all we need". Jesus isn't all we need, as that would be contrary to God's design. God has created us to need food and shelter. He has also created almost all of us with a need for a spouse -- after all, His desire is for godly children, is it not? So, if God wasn't all that Adam needed before the fall, why should we imagine that "Jesus is all we need" now?

Let's also be very careful with 1 Corinthians 7:7. This was traditionally (ie pre-The Living Translation in the 1970s and The Message -- both of which are "interpretative" versions of the Bible) understood to mean a "gift of celibacy". After all, Paul seems to be talking about being free from the desire for sex. To confuse this rare gift of celibacy with the widespread, circumstation singleness that we see today, seems to be the root of a lot of the confusion we are seeing today on this issue.

Rather than being a "gift" from the Lord, it seems much more likely that protracted singleness is actually a "gift" from our culture, where singleness is on the increase. So instead of attempting (and usually failing) to find contentment within a situation that is clearly contrary to the creation mandate to be fruitful and multiply, wouldn't it make more sense to challenge this very new Christian theology of contentment with singleness, and return the Body to the biblical blueprint for almost all of our lives: marriage. It's actually very good stewardship of our bodies, as Debbie Maken points out in her latest article on her blog, which can be found here:

At 27 March, 2008 04:18, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Debbie
I guess I struggle with being single and wanting to be married because I haven't been able to find any friendships. A girl who I referred to as my best friend, hurt me very deeply, and since then, it's been hard for me to trust people again. I don't even have a church that I attend regularly, either. In a way, I've become disillusioned with church and the denomination I've grown up with, so that probably has something to do with it. However, other churches I go to don't seem to have solid singles groups around that are closeby. It's kind of discouraging, really. I like being single if I have something worthwhile to do with my time. I would love to know and be known by people, but people have hurt me so many times that sometimes I don't even think it's worth it to put myself out there. Anyway, being single is really not a bad thing, if you're comfortable with it. If God gave me a ministry to work with, perhaps I would feel more contentment as a single. Great Christian community is very difficult for me to find. Are there other people here who feel the same way?

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