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What is important in a relationship? Chapter 1 of 10 – Why it is okay to be single…wait…what?

Before I write anything on this topic, I must offer a disclaimer: I am only human. My views are not universally constant, and to be totally honest, I am still figuring this relationship thing out. I just have a few ideas, small and big, that might be workable for others, so I want to present them. Feel free to hear me out, but if you think you have it all together, go ahead and move along. If you’d like. 

Well, here is something I haven’t done before; a self-help series! I want to offer you, as the blogger, some tips that might help in the topic of dating and singleness. These, as previously stated, are not umbrella concepts. They are just concepts I’ve mulled over in my own relationship, and hopefully they, in some way, might have some sort of application to your life, single or not! I have ten tips, and I will present each of them over the next few weeks, hopefully ending on December 31st, so you can start a new year with your significant other, trying some new things. 

Today, I will present my introduction, and my first tip!

Introduction: Dating is a weird aspect of human life. We dance around people of the opposite sex, hoping to impress them with some odd cocktail of pheremones, eventually to commit only to them, get married, and procreate. Why in the world do we do this? It makes no sense at all sometimes, until we go back to the beginning of time, and look at the world’s first couple. In the Bible, Adam was the first man, and he was alone – one man to name every animal on Earth. That job seems massive, right? God decided that no animal would do any good for Adam as a partner, so he created Eve (from one of Adam’s ribs – SCIENCE!), and Adam finally had a partner suitable for living with. God said that this partnering of Adam and Eve was good, so all was well with the world upon this pairing. I think if you were to look at the triune Godhead (Father, Son, Holy Ghost) and the very first relationship on Earth, you would probably begin to see that it was okay to be in community with others, whether in a romantic sense or otherwise. I think God desires for us to have companionship. It doesn’t have to be romantic, but I think we need to establish that perpetual isolation is not the best option. We must pursue interpersonal relationships with other people, and I think personally that the way we think and feel will improve because of more interaction. In this series I will probably focus on the romantic side of a relationship, but hopefully, you will find that some aspects I’ll discuss will transfer over into the world of friendship as well! All relationships are important, whether good bad or otherwise, and hopefully these conversations will help us understand that a little better. I want to discuss some misconceptions about relationships over the next few days, and hopefully provide insight that might bring you all some peace, new understanding, or reaffirmation of an idea that you already had! Are you ready, because I’m not! This will be fun. 

1. IT IS OKAY TO BE SINGLE. Really. I promise. 

This post goes out to all of the friends and strangers that – like me, have felt struggles to feel right in their singleness. For the longest time, I couldn’t deal with being single. All of my friends were pairing off, and it seemed like I would move to a place of “Old Maidhood,” in which I would just be a crazy old single friend that no one wanted to be around anymore. I felt lost, and I felt lonely. It felt like, without a girlfriend, I wouldn’t be able to make it. I moved from affection to affection, seeking some sort of satisfaction, but never experiencing any. It was really hard to look at my friends who were in relationships, and honestly, I just felt like sitting alone was the only thing I could do in peace anymore (totally counter-intuitive. If you feel lonely, don’t go be alone. That does no good. Just for what it’s worth), so I would try to do that. What I didn’t realize at that time was that it is okay, sometimes advantageous, to be single. (Let me throw in another disclaimer: I am no longer single. I’ve been in a committed relationship for over 3 years, and I couldn’t be happier! I just know that this relationship only started after I came to understand the benefits of singleness, so I feel as if I must bring forward the idea that it is indeed okay to not have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Just for what it’s worth.) Being single has several benefits, but for time’s sake, I will choose three:

1. Singleness can, on occasion, be beneficial for ministry efforts.

This is very much a contextual idea, but if you think about it, Jesus and Paul were both single. I think Paul especially was confident in his singleness, as it allowed him issue-free travelling, with no responsibility to provide for a family while on mission. This fit his ministry well, as he traveled all over the known world, sharing the Gospel with anyone who offered an ear. It is reasonable to think that this kind of travel and punishment (several jail trips, numerous other persecutions), would have been very exhaustive/damaging to a family, so it was better that he was single.

It is not always better to be single while doing ministry, as there are benefits to doing mission work alone, or in partnership (Going to save that idea for another post). As I mentioned earlier, I think singleness fits in many ministerial contexts, if you feel called to a ministry that requires singleness for effectiveness, I would encourage you to pursue that lifestyle. It may lead to a freedom and effectiveness in ministry that you might never have imagined. 

2. Sometimes it is okay to spend time just getting to know yourself. 

Let’s be honest – do you really feel like you know yourself? Do you? When you are in a relationship, your significant other will learn things about you – small things, sometimes things you didn’t even know – that may spark some very interesting conversations/arguments, and if you don’t know things in your life that are stumbling blocks or quirks that would cause relational problems, then you should probably take some time by yourself to learn about those things. No human on this Earth is perfect, so we all could probably use a time of reflection to figure out things that we don’t like that might be in our control. Our significant other should love us for our imperfections as much as our good qualities, but we can’t expect them to be perfect either. Our responsibility is to become the best us that we can be, in order for our relationship with our future significant other to be even more special, and even more successful. 

3. Dating for the sake of dating is not the best method for success. 

Dating is fun. I get it. Seriously though, don’t date unless you have prayed about it and prepped for it. Dating is a prep for a life together, so if you date and break up many times, then I would venture to say that you would struggle eventually with a lifetime commitment like marriage. Playing games with a person’s heart is unfair to that person’s future spouse. You can only imagine what that young person is going to go through after you break up, so it would almost be better if you never dated in the first place. I am not saying that not dating is the best option, but I am saying that you need to be very careful with the heart that you do decide to pursue. If a person is willing to put their feelings in your hands, then it is your responsibility to hold tight to them, and respect them, whether or not they end up in your possession or not. If you are not ready to handle a commitment like that, then you must make sure that your priorities are in the right place. Singleness is not a bad thing in this context. Until you are ready, wait. Pray. Think. Let the Lord work in your singleness, and pursue Him in all other aspects of your life as well. When you do that, you will find that He will bless and honor your relationships in a new and vibrant way. 

Singleness is just fine. Isolation and loneliness are not. Seek out community with other people, and let the Lord work in your relationships, and if all goes according to His plan (it will), then you will experience exactly what He wants for you, which is best. Sit tight, and hold onto Him. That’s all that matters. All of this relationship stuff will happen on His timing. I hope you all will learn to become the best you, and things will improve in all aspects of life! I hope this blog held at least a little insight. If not, tell me now, and I’ll discontinue the series. If it did hold some worthwhile ideas, let me know, and I’ll keep it going! Thanks for reading this far, and I wish you the best as you look through some of the muddled thoughts that I like to present on a page. God bless!

Tomorrow’s post: Five Ideas for Application in Relationships. 

See you then! 

Jesse

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Beautiful Words

Since I am in a haiku mood, I thought I would write a cycle called “What is beauty.” It took me a while to write this, and since it is late, I ask that you grant me a reprieve for anything you find particularly egregious. Thanks for reading.

What is Beauty?

Is it a social construct

or open for change?

 

Beauty is not on

the outside but within you.

Embrace what’s inside.

 

It is not defined

by someone else from outside

it’s up for debate.

 

Beautiful is not

new or pretty or showy

it is heart and mind

 

Beauty is thinking

It is moving to action

love epitomized

 

It is in small things

like roses, smiles, and hugs; moments.

little ideas

 

Big dreams, successes,

failures, and in between, all

can be beautiful.

 

I tell you all this:

If you think that you’re ugly

you are wildly wrong.

 

You are beautiful

Just as everyone else is.

Embrace confidence.

 

Find someone who loves

you for who you really are.

Not for an ideal.

 

When you find people

that you want to spend moments

with; make memories.

 

You will then see what

beauty truly is, and that

is no lie; truly.

 

Beauty is no joke.

It is not a thing messed with.

Beauty is our dream.

 

We desire beauty

like milk, keeping us awake

at night, pushing us.

 

So we go on; restless

wanderers in faithless chase

after an ideal.

 

Beauty lies within

the sacrifice of a Dad

who sent baby Boy

 

To die hard for us,

a lamb to the slaughterhouse

all for salvation.

 

That is the beauty

we seek. A life with the Son

who came to save US.

 

Young Carpenter, hung

on a wooden stake for me.

Because of His love.

 

So I sit in my

ineptitude; pondering

the grace that abounds.

 

This is beauty also.

The love of a father, too

great to comprehend.

 

I guess beauty lies

in all things, big and small; we

just have to find it.

 

Birth, Death, and all things In-between.

Human mortality is a weird aspect of life. When someone goes, the people they leave behind are always on their backs. They are forced to think about how one day someone was there, and now they are not. The most disturbing thing about this sad event is the idea that it is so regular. I’ve got news for you, every person who has stepped foot on Earth has left. It’s unavoidable, sadly. I heard a quote some time ago (I forget who said it) that really put this into perspective: “We as humans are dying from birth. When we come out of the womb, we begin a race towards death, whether we are ready for that or not.” When people have to contemplate their impending “doom,” they begin what really is one of the most intense varieties of existential crisis possible: did I live my life to the fullest? Did my time on Earth go down as a waste, or will my actions be remembered as worthwhile? These questions are what inspired me to blog today, as I am in the middle of such a time.

This weekend, I went to a funeral. Not just any funeral, one for a friend who lost her life earlier than she should have. Well, by my opinion anyway. She was an eighteen-year old senior in high school, and was killed in a tragic car accident on October 19th. This girl had potential. She was prepping for college, and a pretty vibrant adult life, only to be stopped by a man who couldn’t put away his phone to drive twenty minutes. Understandably, everyone was shocked. A lot of people got really mad, a lot of people were really sad, and just about everybody had to take some time to work through this problem. This was a weird week for me. I have lost friends at young ages. I can think of five or six off the top of my head that went before they should have, but none of them hit me quite as hard as this loss did. It may be that I was a lot closer to the situation this time around, or maybe it was compassion for the family of this young girl. I’m not really sure, and honestly I don’t think I’ll ever know. This loss just hit me like a ton of bricks.

As I went to her viewing, I really started to think about the reality/inevitability of loss and how beliefs can change the responses of people around the situation. I watched people who were notoriously anti-religion question how a “God who was so just would let this happen to a poor girl,” or people on the other end of the spectrum who were incredibly hopeful, saying that eternity for her would be a time of great peace and wonder in Heaven. Responses were all over the spectrum. I understand all of them, oddly enough. I’ve had days where I really question what God’s plan is for loss like this, and I’ve had days where I just need to drop to my knees and have faith. I have learned that in these situations, reliance on God is a lot better than questioning Him. I think to a time where I was reading about Job, a man who lost everything. Instead of cursing God, he had faith. He questioned why this happened, as any human would, God put him in his place, and then he began the process of embracing the plan that God had for him. It is hard to think that God is using loss, but I can confidently say that loss almost never ends in a way that destroys someone. Every time I have experienced loss, I have come closer to God. Death puts you on your knees, and helps you to see reality more clearly. Death helps us to understand the importance of life, and the importance of eternity.

As we gain this perspective from loss, we see the need for hope. We see the need for something to hold on to, something to lean on. I would submit to you, the reader, that the best source of hope is in Christ Jesus. You can stop reading now, if you feel like this is so greatly going to offend you. You may have other coping mechanisms, but I feel pretty confidently that this one is pretty great. If you do decide to keep reading, however, I would really appreciate it. When it comes to loss, or really any other aspects of life, leaning on Jesus has its advantages. Having an infinite source of hope provides a sense of security that doesn’t come otherwise, Having a source of hope like that can allow us to walk through our lives without fear of the future, because we know that there is a security in our eternity. As I looked at the girl during the viewing, I remembered that she was a Christ-follower, and a passionate one at that. She was gone, and I believe firmly that her soul is in Heaven for all of eternity. Knowing that brings me a great amount of peace.

With the understanding of death and its inevitability, we must pursue a full life. We are not given an excuse to live like fools,  but I feel like we must pursue God and ask Him to use us to the fullest before we go. We must live, laugh, and love, and make sure that we don’t have regrets when we leave this earth. Carpe Diem, or seize the day, is the phrase that comes to mind as I contemplate life. My hope is that when we leave, we are known for having lived a vibrant life, full of passions and excitement, and a hope that can only be found in Jesus. When I die, I want people to see how God used me throughout my life, and how His power impacted the people I was around. I hope that people will see me as someone who lived and died well.

Existential debates are okay, everyone needs to understand what they are doing. I pray that as you see life and loss, you will become more aware of your own existence and how to live better. As you look at a grave, you see a date of birth, and a date of death, with a dash in-between. As cliche as it may sound, the dash in-between those two numbers may be the most important aspect of a tombstone that isn’t discussed. My question for you as the reader is as follows: when you die, what will the people you left say about what you did with your dash? Will it matter? When you are in eternity, what will the people on Earth remember you by? I remember Heather for her tenacity, and for her passion about the different elements of her life, mainly for her faith. Will people remember you for what you did, or what God did through you?

Food for thought:
I am responsible. Although I may not be able to prevent the worst from happening,
I am responsible for my attitude toward the inevitable misfortunes that darken
life. Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the
quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the
gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure
the most precious gift I have – life itself.
” – Walter Anderson.