Part Five: Love and Matchmaking

March 7, 2010 at 1:34 am (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness, Worship) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

Nathaniel and Lauren each arrived at college quite certain that they would not meet their future spouse there.  Two weeks into the semester they had met and both were beginning to have second thoughts.  Long before the first semester of her freshman year was over, Lauren had measured Nathaniel by her list of character qualities and found him to be exactly what she’d hoped for.

Thus began an epic four-year purity battle.

And when she should have had friends rallying behind her, helping her “keep” her heart and focus on the Lord and serving others, many were traitors, firing cupid’s love-darts behind her back, making suggestions, asking questions, “helping” her to snatch the pen from the Lord’s hand and write her own love-story.

Sometimes I wanted to grab shirt collars, knock heads together and shout the rebuke that these well-meaning friends needed to hear.  Perhaps I’m a little over-dramatic, but few heard Lauren’s heart weeping and bleeding as she struggled to gain control over her desires.  Few saw her weariness and tears the way I did as she struggled to tie each dream to the altar and burn it in worship to Almighty God.  Few knelt beside her on the battlefield, as she bowed her head, too tired to get up and keep fighting for focus.  It seems like a pretty story, reading of her four-year struggle and final triumph in giving up at the marriage altar, but the struggle wasn’t pretty.

In fact, as I watched, I made a solemn promise to myself.  “That is never going to happen to me!”

Ladies, never make a promise concerning something that is entirely out of your control.  You will assuredly break it.

I thought that if I was careful enough, guarded enough, chaste enough, no one would ever have anything to question, tease, prod or poke me about.  Apparently there is no such thing as enough.  I gave it my level best, but found myself harried at every step.  Everything from questions, teasing and “help” regarding particular guys, to unsought “sympathy” and “encouraging” prophecies of coming marital bliss were flung at me under a cover of smiles and nods.  Much of the time I felt entirely bewildered.  What in the world was I doing to make people say such nonsense?

The greatest part of the difficulty lay in treating my brothers with love—while being questioned or teased about them.  The self-protection in me wanted to push them all away as harshly as possible and save the remaining scraps of my focus.  Ah, but to do so would not be loving.

What was awkward has proved for my good in forcing me to search out godly responses (at which I don’t always succeed).  Perhaps you’ll appreciate the results of my dilemma.  *

Love your enemies

The fact is, sometimes when you’re fighting a purity battle, those well-meaning matchmakers feel like enemy forces.  “Friendly fire” they call it when your team is shooting you up, but the bullets whistling around your head hardly feel friendly.  Friend or foe, God’s call is for you to love them.  (Luke 6:27)  The fact is, most people who seem intimately interested in your romantic status probably are interested because they appreciate you.  They want to see you happy (which they’ve decided means married—or at least hopelessly in love).  And sometimes, they honestly just don’t know what else to talk about.  A gracious woman attains honor.  (Proverbs 11:16)  Learn to think and answer graciously because, I promise, the situations never end.

Accept what is said as intended in love.

1 Corinthians 13 says that love believes all things.  Commentaries suggest this means “believes the best.”  Giving folks the benefit of the doubt will hardly harm them, and will actually protect your heart from frustration and bitterness.

They say:  “I don’t know what all the guys are thinking.  If I had a son, I’d be sending him to talk to your dad.”

I think:  “Since you don’t, how pointless is that to suggest?  Besides, I’m glad you don’t have a son.  I wouldn’t marry any son of yours anyway.”

A proper response:  Recognize that this person just expressed confidence in me as a person of character as well as someone they would appreciate joining their family.  That is the Lord’s grace on my life and I should be encouraged that His hand is evident in me.  Probably no verbal response is necessary and no mental reflection should be enacted.

Turn sympathy into a chance to praise the Lord.

Paul told the Thessalonians “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all things.  This is God’s will for you.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)  As women who want to do God’s will and bring Him glory, we should take every opportunity to proclaim the Lord’s goodness.

They say:  “You’re not married yet?  Well, you’re so (insert flattering comment) I’m sure there’s an amazing man just around the corner for you.”

I think:  “People have been telling me that for years.  How do you know what’s just around the corner for me?  It could be ten more years of singleness.  Besides, what does (insert flattering comment) have to do with deserving an amazing man?”

A proper response:  Accept that this person is meaning to be kind, then declare the Lord’s goodness.  “The Lord has been really blessing me with opportunities to serve Him as a single woman.  I know He’ll do what is right and good.  He has always been good to me.”

Refocus the conversation on the Lord.

Paul wrote to the believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit, making the most of the time, teaching and admonishing one another with Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  (Ephesians 5:15-21)  Sometimes a conversation simply needs to be nudged back in the right direction.

They say:  “So, is there a special man in your life?”

I think:  “Define special.  When there’s someone special enough to be considered special, I’ll let you know.  You’re not special enough to be privy to special information.”

A proper response:  Accept that this person is interested in my life and doesn’t want to miss anything exciting that’s happening.  *without the eye roll, Abigail*  “You know, I’ve really been learning a lot lately about what the Lord wants from me as a godly woman…”

As you trail on about the encouraging things you’ve been learning and how you’ve been learning to love the Lord and keep your eyes on Him, your interrogator may do one of two things:  be encouraged and uplifted or sink down in a chair with their chin sagging on the floor—never to ask you questions like that again (we hope).

Answer a fool according to his folly.

Proverbs says to “answer a fool according to his folly.”  (Proverbs 26:5)  Some questions aren’t anyone’s business.  Some don’t deserve the dignity of an answer.  Some don’t have an answer.  Just because it was asked, doesn’t mean it requires your reply.  Indiscretion on another’s part doesn’t require indiscretion on your part.  Impertinence needn’t be satisfied.  I recommend the shrug as a very effective tool for expressing “that’s none of your business, but you don’t know any better, I suppose.”

They say:  “You know what?  Something’s missing from your house today.  Where are all your suitors?”

A proper response:  *shrug*

Some suggestions don’t even deserve a serious response.  You can pass them off and move on to other topics.

They say:  “You don’t have a boyfriend?  I have a very handsome grandson you should meet.”

A proper response:  “I’m sure you’re proud of your grandson.  How long have you lived in AR?”

Some can simply be made light of to relieve embarrassment.

They say:  “So, Abigail, when are you getting married?”

A proper response:  “Oh, I’m thinking next May.  Of course there are some minor details to work out before then.”

Sometimes you should pass the buck.

They say:  “So, how many of these young men are head-over-heals in love with you?”

A proper response:  “Maybe you should survey them and find out.”

Like water off a duck’s back

After you’ve answered, you should refocus on the Lord and forget about it.  My biggest weakness is a festering frustration due to the “helpful” people in my life.  I over-evaluate everything, assuming their nosiness is caused by something I’m doing wrong.  Do I look like I’m pining away for a husband?  Am I acting like I’m “in love” with so-and-so?  Do they really just think I’m like that—from one guy to the next?  It doesn’t matter.  Be pure before the Lord.  That’s well-pleasing to Him.

Are you the enemy?

From the other side, if you’re the nosey matchmaker, I’d like to challenge you with a few thoughts.  You may think you are expressing love, encouragement or care for a person.  Beware lest you are actually adding to a load of frustration.  You may be aiding and abetting the enemy.  Anything that you do which encourages another person to become distracted from whole-hearted devotion to the Lord and from selfless and unselfconscious love for their neighbor is actually fighting against their best interests and the Lord’s glory.

What is she supposed to do about it?

What are your motives in the questions you’re asking or the suggestions you’re making?  Remember that if you’re speaking to a young lady, there’s not a lot she can do when it comes to taking initiative.  Nor should she be particularly encouraging attention from a young man who has not been approved by her parents.  You may be usurping her parents when you appear to offer your blessing to something they have not blessed.

On the flip-side, if you think she may be too forward or is encouraging attention, you may have reason for questioning.  Encouraging attention without intent or without parental blessing is false advertising.  If your questions are intended as a gentle rebuke, you should be clear in explaining your perceptions and concerns—please don’t leave her to her own deductions.  If you aren’t clearly encouraging her to keep her heart pure you may appear to condone a “defrauding” situation.

What are you encouraging?

Scripture tells us to encourage one another and build each other up and to consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.  (Hebrews 10:24)  If you’re encouraging distraction from the Lord, you’re actually tearing down the very things you should be building up.  If you’re encouraging young ladies to be discontented, you are like Aaron, who knew better even as he built a golden calf from the Israelites’ most prized possessions.  (Exodus 32)  Love is encouraging each other to worship the Lord.

Are you usurping?

If you know something she doesn’t, you may be usurping another’s place to tell her.  Perhaps her parents want to talk to her about a situation and know her heart.  Perhaps a young man is pursuing, but she doesn’t know—to protect her in undistracted devotion to the Lord.  If your desire is to “be the first one to know,” check your attitude for selfish motives.  Be very careful that you do not reveal secrets.  The would-be bride in Song of Solomon warns the town maidens not to question her about her admirer.  “Do not arouse or awaken love before its time!”  (Song 2:7)

Are you gossiping?

Scripture warns against being busybodies and gossips.  When you’re playing the “matchmaking” game, are you being a gossip?  Why is the information you’re asking important to you?  What do you hope to accomplish by it?  Are you going to tell others?  Why would you tell others?  How will it build you up and encourage you to focus on the Lord?  How will it encourage a young lady to focus?  Does it build up the body of Christ?

Love extends through every relationship at every time.  Whoever you are, whatever your situation in life, you should be practicing love—sacrificial love.  Your words and actions should be guarded by love—love for the Lord and love for your neighbor.  Jesus says if you cause one of His little ones to stumble, it’s a grave offense!  Purity isn’t a check-list of dos and don’ts—it even includes what we encourage in others!  We’re to be examples in purity and love.  We’re to think on things that are pure.  We’re to love from pure hearts.  Keep the Lord first.  Love your neighbor.  That guards purity.  That is worship.

Part One:  Love and Purity

Part Two:  Love and My Heart

Part Three:  Love and My Brother

Part Four:  Love and Marriage

Part Five:  Love and Matchmaking

Part Six:  Love and Today

*  The examples I shared are all  things that have been frequently said to me.  I’m not advocating the thoughts I expressed as being either pure or loving, I’m just being honest.  I still need to work on accepting what is meant in kindness.  If these don’t represent your responses, you may appreciate hearing how someone else thinks—especially if these are the kinds of things you have said to others.  If these examples are expressive of things you’ve said or done, I’m not trying to pick on you—just trying to give you another perspective on what you may be (unintentionally) accomplishing and challenge you to consider your motives—are they pure?  Are they bringing the focus and glory to God?

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He Has Told You What is Good

February 8, 2010 at 10:17 pm (Articles, God's Will, Godly Living) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

(From Micah 6:6-8)

You may not agree with me on the issue of God’s individual will, and if not, I challenge you to sincerely consider and evaluate and I welcome your feedback.  I’d always encourage you to be like the Bereans, searching the scriptures to see if what I write is true and, if so, accept and obey it.  For any believer, God’s word must be the first authority in every part of our daily lives and this passage certainly reveals what God requires.  With that in mind, I hope you can enjoy and discuss this passage with me.  During my search for “God’s will” I also found the book “Decision Making and the Will of God” to be very encouraging and a Biblically responsible and balanced treatment of the subject.  I highly recommend it to anyone who desires to please the Lord.

I am a firm believer that God speaks today.  That He makes known His will to those who seek Him earnestly.  That He reveals to the obedient exactly what He wishes them to do.  And I am a firm believer that those who love Him, obey.

But I don’t believe that God keeps secret what He wishes us to do, or leaves us confused and struggling to seek His will from a baffling set of circumstances, impressions and interpretations.  As I looked into the pages of scripture, I discovered a distinct lack of commands or encouragement to look anywhere else for God’s will.  No descriptions of a Map-Quest set of directions revealed mysteriously in the inner workings of each individual’s heart or mind or a maze in which we could easily find ourselves lost, randomly bumping into others, never knowing when we might hit a dead end or a fork in the road that we might miss or a flower along the path that we might pass by if we don’t pray enough.  The scriptural presentation of God’s will distinctly lacked the feel of an obstacle course that we might not make it through if we don’t hold our breath just right and just keep plowing ahead—in sincerity.  Those who received direct revelations from God didn’t appear to be searching for them and I couldn’t discover that they had been commanded to do so.  Instead, I found this phrase imbedded in descriptive commands—“this is God’s will for you.”  Each of us has an individual path down which the Lord will lead us—His word is the guiding staff by which we can be assured what is right.  We are to please Him, to obey Him and to be wise.

Lauren and I became fast friends shortly after meeting—when she was nineteen and I was sixteen.  Three years later she was slogging through her senior year of college as a history major with a few basic desires:  be done with college, get married and keep a home.  The only problem was, none of these were options at that time.  As she struggled with desires that seemed out of keeping with the visible future and her parent’s goals she considered everything from teaching, to grad school, to working in a coffee shop.  That’s when we decided to look together at God’s will—as revealed in His word.  Both Lauren and I believed that everything we were required to do was spelled out in God’s word, and everything that happened in our lives was filtered through the loving hand of our Father.

For Lauren, her desires matched up with the things she was learning in scripture—the goals God has for His women.  But her parents had goals for her as well, and her peace of mind came from knowing that God’s will was for her to submit to her authorities.  To rejoice in all things.  To give thanks in all things.  To be pure.  To seek to be like Christ.  She wasn’t expected to probe into the secret workings of God’s sovereign will or read and act on circumstances—she was only responsible to do what she knew to be right within the confines of what were available options.  The object lesson from my end was priceless as I watched Lauren take every thought captive to the Lord, give her dreams and hopes to Him in prayer and simply seek to please the Lord—even as the Lord was working behind the scenes to fulfill her desires.  As we stewed over creative plans to compromise with her parents, I knew what she did not: that my brother hoped to claim her has his wife.  Before she even graduated God had provided for her to have both a husband and a home—to her parent’s delight.

Some time later I found myself in a place of confusion and anxiety, caught between what seemed to be two choices—reason appeared to favor one while surprising circumstances pressed the other.  But even as the two choices seemed to press me, I was given a glimpse of my finite view of circumstances—how partial is my view!  What I interpret as one thing could have a completely different appearance to someone else—and how could God contradict Himself?  Knowing that the only solid footing I had was in God’s word, I was driven to my knees time and again, searching for answers to how I should think, feel, speak and behave.  As I pleaded for answers and sought to please the Lord and keep my heart pure, the scriptures came alive to me, packed with powerful pictures of God’s character and goals.  I found what I was looking for: not as a blueprint of my next fifty steps in life, but as principles which could guide me through any valley as expressions of my Shepherd’s rod and staff.

The prophet Micah spells it out clearly after a long wondering about “God’s will.”  “How shall I serve Yahweh?  With what shall I come to Yahweh?  Shall I come with burnt offerings?  With my first-born?  With what?”  And the answer?  “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does Yahweh require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.”  (Micah 6:8)  We can ask all kinds of questions and we can invent all kinds of ways to serve Yahweh, but if we want to know His will, it’s simple: He’s told us what is good—what He requires.  In His word.

Do Justice

Simply stated, to do what is right.  Always.  God is proclaimed throughout scripture as just.  His character will not allow Him to do anything but what is purely right and righteous.  As redeemed daughters of Yahweh, we are to be of the same character with Him, that we can’t do anything but what is right.  That is doing God’s will.  How do we know what is right?  God’s word reveals what He abhors, what He condemns and what separates us from Him.  We must keep our hearts and hands pure of what displeases God.  If we want to know what is just and righteous, we must look to the God revealed in the Bible.

Love Kindness

Also translated “goodness” or “mercy,” God desires for us to love what is both good and benevolent.  Justice reaches only so far, but where justice leaves off, kindness takes over.  It was justice that required death for sins, it was kindness that died and wiped them away.  God is both just and merciful and He desires that His people demonstrate His kindness.  How do we know what is kind?  Again we see God’s mercy revealed through His word, with exhortations for us to follow in His ways with hearts of compassion—knowing that we, too, have been treated with compassion.  True compassion seeks to know what is best for someone else, and offers it freely.

Walk Humbly with your God

First note the personalization—your God.  God wants to be our God and us to be His people.  That we humbly own Him as Master is the purpose of scripture—the first step in doing His will.  If we desire to walk with Him, we must humble ourselves because He is opposed to the proud.  (For some practical ideas here, see “Beheading Ye Olde Beast”)  And we must walk beside Him, faithful to be with Him, to listen to Him, to converse with Him, to learn from Him and to keep in stride with Him.  Scripture gives us countless examples of men and women who “walked with God”, fellowshipping with Him intimately—and obeying His word.  These are the true worshippers which God is actively seeking.  How can we obey Him if we don’t know what He wants?  How can we expect to do God’s will if we don’t know Him intimately?  Modern Christianity seems to insinuate that we’ve got to find His will somewhere else, since His word doesn’t detail every decision we are to make.  I ask, where else could we go?  Our lives must be filtered through the truth of God’s word.  When the future seems unclear and the decisions in our pathway appear foggy, shouldn’t we go back to the basics—study God’s word to understand God’s character and commands and make our decisions fit into that grid?  How often do we suppose that we know what God’s word says about a topic—only to discover how little we know about God’s word?  And where His word is silent, still we can find what pleases Him revealed in principles that guide and guard our hearts.

Condensed, God wills for us to belong to Him, to walk beside Him and to learn to imitate Him.  How do we make this happen?  Perhaps you caught a repetition of theme.

Another friend was running crazily, her life a mass of busyness, her thoughts a tangle of confusion.  “What does God want me doing?” she cried out in frustration.  As we talked I discovered that, in her motions, she rarely found time for reading God’s Word.  “I think there’s an answer to your question,” I offered, “But you’ll have to make some time to read some passages.”  As she studied this one she shared parallels with me that blew my mind—all of them coming back to one central theme: “Abigail,” she finally said.  “I think God’s will is for me to spend time in His word!”

“When all else fails, read the instructions,” we joke.  In our quest for God’s will, don’t we tend to complicate our lives, pursuing shifting, elusive dreams under the guise of “God’s will”?  Then what happens when they fall through?  Who failed?  Me or God?  Is it still God’s will, even after I failed?  Is God faithful if I thought this was His will and, well, it didn’t happen?  Did His will change?  Did we simply have our wires crossed?  God becomes as shifting and elusive as our emotions, our dreams and our decisions, as subjective as our inner impressions and as subject to change as our fancies.  Even the apostles didn’t claim (or perhaps, blame?) “God’s will” for every decision they made.  “It seemed good…” we read.  “It seemed good…” and they searched the scriptures.

We have a huge advantage over the prophet Micah—he had the five books of Moses, and perhaps some histories of the priests and kings and the writings of the scribes and prophets.  The apostles had the Old Testament and the words of Jesus.  We have the whole scriptures, bound in leather, with gilded pages and time-tested translations.  We see more of God’s working revealed than any other moment in time—because He’s been at work longer.  I’m a firm believer that God still speaks today.  That He makes known His will to those who seek Him earnestly.  That He reveals to the obedient exactly what He wishes to see done.  And I am a firm believer that those who love Him, obey.  Jesus came not to do His own will, but the will of His Father.  Jesus was the Word—the distillation of God’s will.  We don’t have to wait, to sweat, to weep, to pray to discover God’s will for us.  We can know we are doing His will.  We find it revealed for us in timeless clarity.  Boil it down and the practical application is to hear and obey His word.

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Love is a verb

June 2, 2009 at 6:55 pm (Flowers of Thought, Love) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

flowers-of-thought-2

The following entry in one of my old journals–nearly five years old–turned out to be a convicting reminder of the simple practices of love.  In five years, I fear I have not greatly improved in this area at all.  Yet, God is faithful to remind me–even through the medium of my own pen.  –Abigail Joy

I need to exert more effort in loving by:

*Not talking about myself

Esp. accomplishments, things I think I did well, funny things I did or said, speech contests, things I have written, things I have made, things I want to do.  Instead I will ask questions about others.

(This will allow others to have the glory instead of trying to gain it for myself)

*Taking time to think positively

Instead of allowing myself to dwell on negative circumstances, or other’s negative traits, I need to intentionally look for the potential good and for good qualities

(This will raise my estimation of others, make treating them with respect easier and lower my own self-righteousness)

*Taking time to serve

Esp. small unnoticed things for which I won’t be thanked and tasks that I dislike.

(This will turn my mind from my own agenda and make me less resentful when asked to go out of my way for someone else)

These three simple things should help make me more loving by fostering patience, kindness, humility, gentleness, service and endurance and should help eliminate angry outbursts, grumbling, sudden selfishness, taking offenses, rudeness, impatience and envy.

Love is a verb.

I must take action!


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