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Whenever I read a description or participate in a discussion related to the oh-so-popular-in-Christian-circles topic of married v. single, something always leaves me squirming and dissatisfied. I may have finally pinned down the reason for this, but I’m not sure I can express it with any degree of eloquence.

One thing that bothers me is that singleness is almost always treated as a temporary condition. It’s usually a given that Christians will marry. Sometimes singleness is spoken of like a very long sickness that you must endure until you can be “cured” with marriage. I would, of course, be lying if I said that I have never thought of singleness like that. But lately I have been strongly considering and praying about the prospect of never marrying, and in some ways I find that a desirable future. The fact is, not all Christ-followers will marry, and I could very well be such a person. Granted, the odds indicate that most of us will marry, but God does not always follow statistics.

Another thing that bothers me in the topic of marriage/singleness is that many Christians like to talk about the great benefits there are to marriage. Not only is there the obvious (you get to have SEX!!!), but a Christ-centered marriage is a great evangelism opportunity, you have a (presumably) lifelong companion and best friend, it’s a reflection of the covenant between God and His people, it’s the foundation of the nuclear family that is the foundation of society, and so on.

But if you’re single … well, sorry, you don’t get any of those things.

What do you get? Um … I dunno. Something, I’m sure. I think Paul wrote about it somewhere. He liked being single, didn’t he? Yeah, I think he wanted everyone to be single. Haha, he was a funny guy.

The worst part of being single is that you can’t say any of this without sounding like a bitter spinster, even if you speak out of genuine concern for the issue (ok, even if it is with a twist of irony).

I really wish more people would speak about the benefits of singleness in Christ—ideally, those who are single themselves, or married people who can at least be honest about things they miss about being single. Although maybe it’s not practical, since as time progresses those of us who are singles will become even more of a minority, and it will just look like we want special treatment. Sigh. But then, I do understand that since most people will marry, that’s what gets the most attention. Also, the world has such a warped view of sex and marriage that I very deeply understand the necessity of addressing that within the church.

I just wish we singles could get a little more acknowledgment and encouragement is all—preferably some that doesn’t involve hearing, “Awww, don’t worry, it’s okay, you’ll find that guy someday!” I might not! That’s my whole point!

There are really a ton of perks with being single, but not everyone would agree with my idea of a “perk,” and I’m afraid that if I list them, I’ll look like I’m bitter, overcompensating, averse to marriage, family-hating, and so on. But I did anyway, months ago, and these things haven’t changed. Except to say that lately I have realized how God has gifted me with singleness (at least for the time being) as an opportunity to grow closer to Him. And NOT just in the sense of “relying on God so I can endure singleness until it’s over.” But God has given me so many opportunities that I do not think I would have had if I had not been single.

I must point out that in I Corinthians 7:7, Paul refers to both marriage and singleness as “gifts”—one for some, the second for others. And yes, he does not forbid marriage, but he does point out that marriage does bring its own difficulties, and singleness its own benefits in verses 32-35 (emphasis mine):

I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband. I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.

I know you can sigh and say yes, you’ve heard this passage a million times, it was written for a different time and place, you still hate being single, etc. etc.

Fair enough. I’ve been there. I’m sure I’ll be there again.

BUT. As I’ve grown in my faith and become closer to the Lord, the idea of a life devoted to Him and the ability to focus more on Him has become of greater importance. I don’t mean to bash marriage and say it’s less holy than singleness or that those of us who are single have a closer connection to Jesus. But it’s true that singleness can make it easier to focus on Christ, and that marriage, although a beautiful covenant established by God, does come with its own distractions and complications.

I should add that singleness is only less distracting if you are not focused on finding “the one” that God has for you. Not to say that you shouldn’t ever think about it, if you do want to get married someday. This is just another example of how you need to “let go and let God,” as they say. Please, trust my own experience when I say that letting go of such things makes worshiping, depending on, and learning more about God that much more special and rewarding.

But then, this applies to all believers, no matter their relationship status.

I am not trying to bash marriage. But if I said I still wanted to get married someday, I don’t know if that would be entirely true. And yet, saying that I don’t want to get married might also not be true.

I simply believe that people who are single and don’t want to be, should focus on Christ first and not be overly concerned with finding that other person, but concentrate on living a God-pleasing life.

Personally, right now I’m in a place where I no longer have any idea whether I am gifted for marriage someday or lifelong singleness anymore. But what I don’t want is anyone telling me, or making me feel, that my current / possibly future position in life is at all pitiable.

That’s all I ask.

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Hello, everyone. I hope you had a nice holiday weekend (those of you in the U.S.) and an excellent start to the week.

Very often God provides answers that I need to hear, not necessarily ones I want to hear, or ones that directly answer my questions. My last post was a plea for help and advice in figuring out how important physical attraction is in a relationship. Recent messages at church, my prayer time, blog posts from others, and insight from the Holy Spirit have yielded a number of answers—none of which answer my question per se, but are far more important.

Here they are:

1. If physical attraction to my Hypothetical Future Husband is my top concern regarding my maybe-someday-future marriage, then my heart is not in the right place, and I have bigger problems than that.

2. God calls us, as Christ-followers, to love without prejudice, discrimination, expectation, or selfishness. Whatever guy (or girl) enters my life for however long, I need to love him (or her) anyway, no matter how attractive (or not).

3. I Thessalonians 3:24: Faithful is He Who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.

Have a blessed start to your week.

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You guys, I’m in a bit of a quandary. Or probably a lot of a quandary, actually. I could use whatever input or advice you would be willing to give on this matter. But it involves me being publicly vulnerable in a way, which I hate.

So here’s the deal. Essentially, physical attraction: how picky are you allowed to be?

Here’s what I already know:

1. Physical attraction or appearance cannot be the basis of one’s judgment of a person’s character, beliefs, personality, health, intelligence, etc.

2. It also cannot be the foundation of a solid, lasting, Christ-honoring relationship.

3. It can also fluctuate.

4. “Looks can be deceiving” and “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover.”

5. Novels, movies (BOLLYWOOD, I’M LOOKING AT YOU), and TV shows are not real life, and not relationship examples to follow.

6. Henceforth, when I refer to guys as “unattractive,” I mean in my eyes and my eyes only. Beauty in the eye of the beholder, etc. etc. etc.

Sometimes I think I am a lot more visual than most other women. I know I’m not unique to all of history, but when I hear some story about the “conventional wisdom” of men being more visual than women in some way, it’s difficult to understand how womenaren’t. Maybe I have fewer female hormones, or maybe it’s because this particular piece of conventional wisdom is utter crap anyway. However it happens, it happens to me.

I’m single, and I want to get married someday. There, I said it. And like most other people, I want to marry someone to whom I’m physically attracted—after the other prerequisites such as spiritual, emotional, and intellectual compatibility.

Recently, I started thinking about this a lot, mostly because I started to try online dating again. I’ve kicked eHarmony to the curb and decided to try OKCupid, and so far it’s at least been fun and interesting, and I’ve gone on one nice-not-great-but-not-terrible-either date via that site. Here’s the deal, though: the only guys interested in me are either not Christians (and therefore not optional as future-spouse material), or are not in any way physically attractive.

This has been kind of a theme my entire life, both on and off the Internet. I’m attracted to guys who end up not interested in me, and I’m just not attracted to most guys who find me attractive. I am not talking about the classic “I’m attracted to jerks” dilemma or “why don’t nice guys like me?” I have been attracted to genuinely wonderful guys that just aren’t interested in me, and there have been total jerks who have found me attractive despite my lack of interest in them. For the sake of this particular blog post, I am ONLY talking about physical appearance/attraction.

Although I have a particular “type” that I prefer, I have found many different guys attractive, and I am completely reconciled to the fact that I may not marry someone who fits my ideal. And because I myself am not conventionally attractive, I already know I need to have realistic expectations overall.

Also, there is a “range” of how attractive I find someone, which I think I’ve talked about before. I don’t quantify it when I see someone, but for the sake of clarification I will use the 0-10 scale. Anything below 3 I consider “unsalvageable,” meaning that no matter how awesome he is and how compatible we might be, I just can’t get past how unattractive I find him. Anything between 3-4 and 6, and I will find him much more attractive on closer acquaintance, if he’s the right kind of guy. If he scores an arbitrary 7 or more, then he pretty much meets at least most of my ideals, so physical attraction is a given, although what remains to be seen is what lurks below the surface AND I AM TOTALLY AWARE OF THAT.

Now, I do try to have an open mind about it. The guy I went on a date with? Not attractive to me (to someone, I have no doubt; just not me) at all, but I went and had a perfectly fine time. But even when I try to have an open mind when I find guys unsalvageably unattractive, it still doesn’t change anything.

What bums me out is that if only guys I’m not attracted to are attracted to me, then I’ll never find someone I’m attracted to. I don’t know if it’s that unattractive guys find me more approachable, or if I’m sending out some kind of vibe I don’t even know about, or if I’m really actually just that unattractive myself and I should lower my standards. And even thinking about not being attracted to good guys makes me think, “I’m a horrible, shallow person and I don’t deserve nice things anyway.”

BUT AT THE SAME TIME, I’ve never met a married/dating couple that didn’t find each other physically attractive somehow. And most “how we met” stories involve noticing some good-looking guy/girl hanging around/pouring coffee/in the same church pew/across the cell block.

I’m basically asking the same question I asked a few weeks ago: Am I being too picky? Unlike last time, however, my conclusion is a resounding, “I DON’T KNOOOOOWWWW!!!”

Bethany’s advice has been, “Hold on to what you want, but keep an open mind,” and I think that’s spectacular advice that so far I haven’t been able to improve upon. This is where any input from you guys comes in: what you’ve learned through your life experiences, advice for me, scripture references, anything. And if you’re struggling with the same question, please do share that too.

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Unless you still live with your family (or a family of some kind), as a single woman you have, at some point, dealt with the issue of cooking for one. Although it can be a fun time to explore options and creativity and try new recipes with only your own health and taste buds to worry about, it can also get tiresome. Of course, you could eat out and get take-out for every. single. meal, but that gets quickly, ridiculously expensive.

I was doing some research to find ways to save on groceries that wasn’t the already-heard-fifty-times “Use coupons,” “Buy generic/on sale/in season,” and “Don’t shop when you’re hungry.” I found one great post on the site Wise Bread (which I had admittedly never read before) called, “Grocery Shopping for the Cheap and Lazy.” Despite its (honest) title, the advice is also good for singles, even if they are neither cheap nor lazy.

The article includes such gems as:

Sure, maybe I use too much salt and vinegar, but hey, it’s my palate, and if I want everything to taste like dill pickles, so be it. I’ll worry about someone else’s palate when the time comes.

Also, “Do not fear butter. It makes everything better.” I’m pretty sure I want that on a bumper sticker for my car someday.

Some of the advice is common sense: don’t buy things in bulk if you won’t use it all, and cook foods that will taste good as leftovers. Some of it is less conventional, but still makes sense: be sure to try ethnic foods and shop at ethnic stores, allow yourself one indulgent item that will make you happy to cook, and if you must drink, booze it up at home for cheaper.

Be sure to check out the entertaining article, and many of the links from it. You’ll learn something.

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Disclaimer: I discuss my political beliefs in this post more than usual. I’m not trying to argue any of them, I’m just using them as examples and illustrations and, as always, you are all totally free to disagree with me.

This is one of the few posts that I wrote for my personal blog that, after it was published, I thought, “Hey, I should share this with more people.”

If you’ve read my sometimes-sensical ramblings for a significant length of time, you know that I’ve waffled over the will-I-won’t-I get married, or do-I-don’t-I-even-want-to. After several church sermons, some prayer, and reading How to Avoid Falling in Love With a Jerk, I’ve decided that I do want to get married … eventually. Not next week, obviously. Not even next year. But definitely some day in the however-distant future.

This has had an interesting effect on my prayer life, how I see guys, how I see myself, my spiritual desires, and what I think I’m looking for in a life partner.

For one thing, after mentally rejecting a guy who is my polar opposite when it comes to politics (and economics), I began to wonder, Am I being too picky if I reject guys who significantly differ from me when it comes to politics?

I’ve casually mentioned before that I am really into politics and economics (especially the theoretical/principle side), and I have always been especially attracted to guys who share my libertarian ideas. And if they’re libertarian Christians, then hooooo boy—instant chemistry!

Now, I am particularly extreme in my libertarian ideas, and many of my beliefs are rare in general, and especially so for a Christ-follower. So if a guy who is extremely different from me when it comes to economics is still interested in me, should I just shrug off such differences and say “Well, we can agree to disagree?”

After thinking about this for a while, I came to several conclusions.

First of all, let it be known that I do not expect to marry someone who is as extreme as I am. I know that such people are relatively rare, and I’m completely reconciled to the idea that I’m not going to marry someone who agrees with me 100% when it comes to politics/economics. I’m not saying it’s impossible, I just know it’s improbable enough not to expect it. (Also, I’m not trying to be like, LOOK AT ME AND WHAT A SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE I AM! I HAVE NO EQUAL! BWA HA HA! Well, I mean, in a way that’s true, but … look, I’m just not trying to brag about it.)

I also know that a lot of people aren’t that interested in politics and/or economics. Which is also fine. And there are people who ARE interested, but not in a way that affects how they see the world. I am perfectly willing to concede that two people with vastly different political beliefs could create a very happy marriage, depending on how deeply those beliefs run.

However, my political and economic beliefs are right up there with my faith in shaping how I view the world and how I live.  Therefore, I can’t imagine being happy with someone who significantly differs from me when it comes to those things, because it affects so much about me—how I take in the news, how I perceive society, what I consider a social right/wrong, how I like to spend my time. This is one of those things where a little difference is well and good, but a lot of difference makes for complete incompatibility.

Allow me to excessively drive my point home by creating a secular, hypothetical example. Let’s say we have a casual vegetarian—maybe for her health or simply for taste preferences. That person is more likely to tolerate a common omnivore than, say, a strict vegan who is so because of her beliefs regarding animal rights. The strict vegan may cultivate a lasting relationship with someone who is a casual vegetarian, but she probably wouldn’t be able to marry, say, a hunter. They could say that they’ll “agree to disagree,” but ultimately these differing beliefs affect so much of their lives—not only what they eat, but what they wear, how they see the world around them, and how they spend their time. It’s unlikely that they can be easily reconciled. The more casual vegetarian, however, may be perfectly willing to accept hunting and meat-eating, because their “brand” of vegetarianism is not a deep-seated part of who they are.

Let’s say, metaphorically speaking, that I’m the meat-eating hunter—I may be able to forge a lasting relationship with a casual vegetarian, but any further differences beyond that is probably just not going to work, based on my set of values.

Maybe Hypothetical Future Husband Guy believes that government should be tiny, but should still have more powers than I think it should. Maybe he likes Sarah Palin way more than I do (read: at all). Maybe he believes in a Fair Tax, or that certain people should be restricted from owning firearms, or that some drugs should not be legalized. As long as we can agree on major things—smaller government = better, and free-market capitalism is the best economic system available—even if he’s not as enthusiastic as I am, that’s a better recipe for success than someone who subscribes to Keynesian economics and believes in high corporate taxes and strict gun control.

My conclusion: While “agreeing to disagree” on politics is the best approach when it comes to coworkers, friends, and family members, I don’t think it’s the proper stance for me when seeking a future life partner.

So no, I’m not being too picky. Well, I am, but reasonably so.

So what about you? Are there any non-negotiables or barely-negotiables that sound superficial but may actually be fundamental for a future relationship? Think about what’s really important to you—in a godly way.

I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who have real-life examples that would shoot down my inexperienced theories. I’m just waiting to hear someone comment with, “Actually, my uncle is a meat-eating hunter who runs down roadkill for fun and his wife is a raw-food vegan who doesn’t wear leather and they’ve been happily married for 30 years.” If you know of a couple like that, please share. I would love to hear that story.

Additional disclaimer: Just so we’re clear, I’m only talking about non-salvation related issues that truly are a matter of opinion, biblically speaking. Obviously there are things that the Bible makes perfectly clear are non-negotiable, such as the Christ-follower’s calling to marry only another believer and not be “unequally yoked.” I’m not talking about anything quite that serious and deep-seated. This is just good, clean, hypothetical fun.

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I was thinking about saving this for Friday Frivolity, but I don’t think it’s really all that frivolous.

I was cruising through my old Facebook “notes” (which are pretty sparse, considering how long I’ve been ON Facebook) and found this. It’s a copy of an email I sent to my mother years ago, when I was in college, after she claimed to have “given up” in trying to fix me up with someone.

I love my mother, but, contrary to the advice of many Christian resources (I’m looking at YOU, Boundless), I wouldn’t trust her to fix me up with anyone. Not that I don’t believe she has my best interests at heart, just that … look, it’s a long story, OK?

Anyway, we’ve had issues in the past with her trying to fix me up. Sometime in my senior year, she tried to talk up one of her nursing students, and then an employee of my stepdad’s car care center. At one point, I received this email from her:

Hi Em,

I have learned my lesson big time when it comes to trying to “fix you up”. So has Aunt Mar. Unless you send me a notarized statement saying it is Ok, I am out of the “fixing up” business. Love Mom PS, He is so dang cute though, and by the way, Jeremy at the Lube, is staying on to help when he is not at his new job. 🙂

After some thinking, I came up with a lengthy response.

From: Me
To: My mother

Subject: A Sincere Response, in the Style of Jane Austen

My Dearest Mother,

I sincerely and humbly thank you for your claiming to have learned this “lesson” as you refer to it. However, I feel the need to relate some details to you that may help to further clarify my frustration with previous matchmaking attempts.

While I, as much as any young woman, would not like to spend the rest of my earthly days with a man of unattractive features and slovenly dress, I am fully aware that this is not the first priority one must have in mind when selecting her future mate. Several things, for me, take precedence over physical appearance. The most important, with which I hope you agree, is that he be a sincere and practicing Christian. Due to the fact that Aunt Marlene cares little for the spiritual aspect of life, and is, in fact, quite hostile to it, I am sure you understand that because of this one criterion alone I feel I must disregard her opinion when it comes to single men. Though I treasure her as a close relative, I am inclined to ignore her when she serves as a judge of character, and am a bit relieved that she has given up her own matchmaking attempts and now, I’m sure, considers me a lost cause.

That being said, my second requirement for a good match would be one of at least average intelligence. However, a certain level of emotional maturity must also accompany it, for during the course of my education, I have encountered many young men who easily fulfill the first requirement, yet are alarmingly lacking in the latter. While I would also prefer to not be overwhelmed by the sheer genius of my gentleman caller / betrothed / husband, neither would I enjoy the feeling of knowing that I possess a mind far superior to his. This, of course, would breed contention and disrespect, neither of which are desirable in a marriage for anyone.

Yet another very important characteristic would be a kindly attitude toward his fellow man. An intelligent, virtous man may have a tendency to look down on others and consider them beneath him, or unimportant, and thus sink to rudeness and crassness of word and behavior. This is not to be borne, and thus I require a man of humble yet steadfast and sympathetic character. Found in this category, as well, must be a good set of manners–perhaps not always impeccable, but certainly gentlemanly.

Last of all is that infamous desire of any young woman to be matched up with a man of handsome features and excellent taste. (It is, of course, a desire not restricted to the feminine sex, for it is well known that men, on their part, prefer a lady of grace and beauty, as well.) This, however, must not be the first priority, and is only to be examined once the above characteristics have been achieved. Such proverbs that warn against judging “a book by its cover,” or the biblical verse of looking into a man’s heart rather than his “outward appearance,” have been proven time and again throughout the ages, and I believe it is not something to be ignored today. Of course, a man I may find physically mediocre is entirely different from a man I consider disgusting and repulsive, and that is something to be kept in mind. Very specific physical features, such as dark hair, generous height, and green or blue eyes, are merely what we call “perks” and not necessities.

In conclusion, I wish to say that should you find a single man possessing these above-mentioned characteristics, I would willingly consider him for a future, more intimate relationship. However, the use of such lifeless and unspecific adjectives to describe him, such as “nice” and “cute,” will always arouse my suspicions that he may indeed be those things—and nothing else. My list of traits is not exhaustive, and is certainly subject to differences in situation and opinion. I have not listed other important characteristics, such as the kind and quality of an eligible man’s family. Though important, such things are difficult to discern upon only a few meetings. All in all, I trust that you understand (and agree) that your daughter is a very special young woman, and as such, requires a similarly special match.

With All Love and Sincerity,
Your Daughter,
Emily

And after several years have passed, I’m happy to see that these views have largely remained unchanged.

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I have to be honest and say that I don’t really feel like updating this blog right now. In Adulthood 101, however, Lesson One is “Doing Things When You Don’t Feel Like It,” and I’m determined not to let this blog go into another overlong period of abandonment.

Posting is really easy when I’m content with my singleness, or when only one little thing is bothering me, or when I’ve had a Major Spiritual Epiphany and I want to share it. But when I’m just feeling down, when I think, “Hey, I’m single and not really liking it right now,” it’s hard to post.

I don’t want this blog to become a big fat whine-fest pity party, but I want to be Real, which means taking the bad with the good. (Thanks to Kristina for reminding me of this at choir practice on Sunday.)

So yeah, I’m not feeling the singleness-love right now, which happens, and that’s okay. Part of it is that I know three couples that are getting married this summer. (THREE. Just in the SUMMER.) Not that I’m not happy for them, it’s just … oh my gosh. It seems like a lot. Not only that, a couple of my friends are pairing off and dating new people. Not to the point of engagement—people tend to launch into the mentality of “OMG HOW MANY BABIEZ ARE U GONNA HAVE???!!!!???!!!!!!eleven??? LOLZ” … and I want to avoid that.

Anyway, all of that makes me feel a little more alone, because much of my single-related contentedness relies on a sense of solidarity with my other single friends, and every time one of them starts dating someone seriously, I feel a little bit of that being chipped away. That’s probably because of some deep-seated insecurity and lack of faith, or something else equally crappy. Actually, a lot of it is jealousy too, since even though I’m perfectly aware that I may be single forever, I’m not entirely reconciled to the idea, and I think “If that flawed person with all his/her idiosyncrasies can find someone, why can’t I?” (And I say that with all the love in the world.)

Unfortunately, I’ve been watching a lot of “House” online lately, which makes me feel a lot more pessimistic and hopeless in general. (Probably a sign that I should stop watching.) Last night I became convinced that I’m going to be a lonely, miserable, sarcastic, female version of House in 20 years—only without the limp and the pretty, pretty blue eyes.

… I’m sorry, where was I? Oh, right…

I think a lot of my negative feelings truly come back to a lack of trust that God has my best interests at heart and that everything is going to work out for the best, and He won’t drop the ball. Which is stupid on my part. As I said to Bethany earlier, “It does help to remember that God’s brought me through and to some pretty crazy/wonderful stuff so far, most of which I never saw coming.”

So … those are my singleness-related thoughts for today. I’ve felt better since starting to write this post, and that’s a good sign.

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