Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Spinster?!

I have put off posting the following for several months. I don't really know why, perhaps I feared that some who read it may take it the wrong way, but some of those to whom I have verbally explained this have taken it the wrong way as well, so I guess a few more won't hurt. ;) As many of you know, I spent this past summer in Africa. While there I fully expected the Lord to confirm in my heart and mind His call upon my life concerning foreign missions. He did as I expected. He also exercised another call upon my life that was wholly unexpected and, I regret to say, unwelcome (at first). The change of heart I experienced as I have come to accept this call is a testimony of God's amazing grace in my life, and it is simply to the glory of my God that I share this testimony.

During routine morning devotions in the African bush I was reading in I Corinthians chapter 7, and this is what I read:

Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

I want you to be The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.

If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry—it is no sin. But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well. So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better.

Immediately after completing the chapter, feeling the conviction of the Holy Spirt in my heart I turned to the verses that speak of marriage as a good thing. As it says in verse 6, each has his gift of God, and I was sure that my gift was and would be marriage. All of my life it has been my greatest dream to one day raise a family of my own, just as my parents have raised their family. It never before had crossed my mind that I would not experience that pleasure. But here it was, staring me in the face, the possibility that I might end up a spinster, at the will of God no less!

What to do? What could I do? Technically, I could do nothing, it was the conviction of the Holy Spirit after all, but I tried, I tried desperately. (Note: Do not try this at home.) I blatantly ignored the clear and powerful voice of God, and I speak this to my shame. After about three days of that, I was a wreck. Sullen, discouraged, negative, snappy to my teammates, mumbling toward my leaders, wishing that I could spend my days alone, and craving a decent night's sleep. I was assigned to the second hour of prayer closet that day, and after praying for everything else I could think of I was stuck. Me and God in the middle of Africa. Actually, let me correct that, rebellious me, and God, in the middle of Africa.

Within half an hour I had given it up. I should have known God would get His way, that happens to be why we call Him God. I didn't like the agreement we had just made, but I was going to have to live with it, or I would never get a good night's sleep again! Over the next few days, as the Spirit continued to work, I began to see the strange beauty of His calling. Don't get me wrong, it was still the most painful thing I had ever experienced, but I was beginning to see the beauty beyond the pain.

The pain isn't all gone yet. I don't think it will ever completely disappear, as I am learning that pain seems to be a natural part of obeying the Lord. I still have questions, like, "Is this forever? Or just until I fully accept it? Then will You free me from this call?" I have been praying for increased grace to leave the questions, and their answers, to Him, and to accept what He has given to me and revealed to me at this time, knowing that it is the best. It is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, especially considering that some of the people closest to me have refused to believe that God has really called me to singleness, and make it even more difficult to trust in His sovereignty. Others though, have supported me and encouraged me, and for them I am so grateful.

Each day is still the struggle that each of us know as 'taking up our cross.' For myself, my cross has been extra heavy and cumbersome lately, but each day as I press on in taking up that cross it becomes increasingly easier to bear. For now, and always, I rest in the strong and sure arms of my Saviour, the only One in whom I find true fulfillment, and the only One to whom I ever want to look for that fulfillment. As you bear your cross, whatever it may be at present, may you too look to Jesus and find all the strength you need to be sustained.

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