I am rather behind in my regularity when it comes to writing here, something I blame partially on my inability to make time and partially to lack of decisiveness when certain topics grab hold my thoughts. Therefore I am delivering a rare triple treatise, each third a topic I have been pondering within the last month.
In my present line of work I have plenty of time alone, with little to do but my duties on the job. So I fill my listening libraries with a variety of podcasts; some for pleasure, some for growth, and a couple for both. One of the podcasts I have recently picked up is the Bad Christian Pod(cast), hosted by Matt and Tobey from the band Emery and their pastor friend Joey. While they may come across as unfiltered and childish, there is an important message behind their antics; one of openness and accountability. On one of the podcasts the guest was an ex-porn star who was freed from a miserable life in the adult film industry and found redemption through Christ’s love. While a story of reconciliation is always a joy to witness, it was something she said about facing the shame of her past that really stuck with me.
In her mind, she had nothing to be ashamed of about her past. Her story is not one of guilt, for guilt is a weapon used by Satan to make us doubt our worthiness for salvation, but one of redemption. To be ashamed, to her, was to come before the cross as Christ hangs there for her (our) sins and say it is not enough. Christ’s mercy and love has eradicated the sins of our past, present, and future before God, who are we to question it’s value? There is no shame in our failure, for we are human- born with a sinful nature, and no condemnation if we accept the gift of salvation for what it is- free.
Yet we often balk at this gift of freedom when we consider what it truly requires of us. Freedom from sin doesn’t mean we are free of all responsibilities, rather we now have hope that our sin and suffering can amount to more than just a mountain of shame to overcome. For within our sins and the suffering we face is a purity, one of grace that covers our iniquity. Yet we are tempted to face this purity as a removal of what makes us who we believe we are (our human identity) instead of embracing it as the fulfillment of who we were created to be (our spiritual identity). All it requires of us is to come before the cross and acknowledge we need nothing else, for to live is Christ and to die is gain.
At my church the recent sermon series has been on marriage, with an emphasis on what the meaning of the “For Better” clause is within a Christian union. However this past Sunday the emphasis was on Paul’s admonishment to the Corinthians about the beneficial nature of staying single (1 Corinthians 7:25-40). As the church in Corinth faces the “present crisis” and “impending distress” Paul offers his opinions on the difference between marriage and remaining a “virgin”. Here I found myself questioning several points of my pastor’s sermon. First, what is this “present crisis” and/or “impending distress”? Most scholars believe it is either a reference to Paul’s belief that the end times were just around the corner or to the growing persecution of the Christian church. Either way, these can be seen as very situational factors. Second, why is Paul seemingly so against marriage? To Paul, having another’s best interests to worry about would cause overwhelming strain on the Christians in Corinth, causing their faith to falter under the rising persecution and hardships. He would rather see them remain single as a precaution against unnecessary pain, as the hurt of losing a fellow believer is hard but if one were to be romantically attached the resulting grief may become unbearable. Finally, is there really a modern application to Paul’s message for my current situation in life? Perhaps, but it doesn’t quite come out in my mind the way my pastor may have envisioned it.
The primary advantage of being single as a Christian is that our journey towards Christ is less burdened with external worries and concerns. When we have just our own spiritual well-being to attend to, we are more focused on our path in life. Conversely, as a married person we now have the additional interests of our spouse (and children) to shoulder and uphold. This largely separates us from a straighter path, as we must strive to bring our families with us on our spiritual journeys, taking on the weight of their suffering on top of our own. To illustrate this point for you visual learners, see below:
As you can see the path for those within a marriage is less direct, as the pull towards one’s spouse not only proves to be additional concern but sometimes even a distraction. Now I admit these might not be perfect illustrations, but I hope you see where I was going with them.
However I find myself in a bit of a predicament for while I am single, I have reason to believe this may not be the best status for me to remain. I am a very externally motivated person and when I have the well-being or best interest of another within my responsibilities I am more likely to perform tasks and handle myself with a greater sense of purpose and accountability. This better version of myself surfaces during coaching, instructing, and serving, leading me to believe that perhaps had I a permanent responsibility toward another’s well-being (read- a spouse), my motivation to stay on top of my game would be even greater. Now this isn’t to say I am a natural slob and have little drive to be a responsible adult, but rather to emphasize my belief that I am one better suited to place the needs of other’s above my own, in other words- to be a servant. In fact, I often find the most fulfillment when I am using my gifts in the service of others, this has become apparent to me in the recent years as a particular strength I was given. So while I am to be content in my present state of singleness, for the need to pursue my Savior’s will for my life is ever present, I have little intention of putting off seeking a spouse. This is an event that will happen when the timing is right, something I can only hope I am truly prepared for yet anticipate for the understanding that it can bring out within me what is best for those around me.
Revival of the Spirit
Lately I have been drained: physically, mentally, and even more so spiritually. As weekends become increasingly more erratic for my sleeping habits, I find myself taking opportunity to attend to my physical needs over tending to my spiritual health. This has increasingly created situations where I am mentally active yet physically tired and spiritual stressed. This personal brand of insomnia (since this often happens when I wish to sleep) has struck multiple times over the past couple weeks, forcing me to take stock in my current priorities. In previous months, my responsibilities as a soccer coach and player would take precedent over other areas of my life. Now that those responsibilities are all but over I find the void left behind daunting. I must admit that the physically active me is a happier me, yet it also draws me away from the mental sharpness and spiritual growth I had relied upon in the past.
It is my hope, and upcoming aim, to redeem these inadequacies by this year’s end. Not only am I nearly the final ceremony for a Bible study on biblical manhood but I am in the process of putting together a “Man Plan” to outline my goals for the fulfillment of my role as a Christian man and future husband and father. While there may be many aspects of my life I can improve (and honestly who doesn’t have something they want to improve about themselves), what needs to become my primary focus is my relationship with my Lord and Savior. Once I am able to return to following in His footsteps, the path for my life can progress in a beneficial manner I myself could not decipher. However this understanding comes with one tremendous pitfall, I am prone to think I am capable of achieving this on my own. It is accountability I need more than anything now, whether it be through friends, family, or a mentor. So I challenge anyone who reads this that is acquainted with me personally to step up and ask me where I am at and what I am doing to pursue this goal of spiritual revival. I promise to response as honestly as I am able, even if there’s is nothing new to tell. For it is my desire to always be able to share something I have learned rather than to just shrug and say “I don’t know”.