And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me." Luke 9:22-23.
Sometimes I am challenged by a piece of Scripture. It will jump out at me, as if I am reading it for the first time. Over the course of my life, I have read the Bible through, several times; I know that I have read each verse. Such is the marvelous mystery of the Word of God, living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.
I was reading this particular set of verses in response to several conversations I've had recently. If you've been with me long (especially for Single Minded Mondays) you will know that I have been learning a lot about how singleness fits into God's plan for me, forever, or not, is for Him to say, not me.
It is tempting, when learning something from God, for me to try to universalize it. If it is good for me, it must be good for everyone, right? Obviously, this is not true of singleness, just as it is not true for marriage.
I'm a talker. It's hard for me to keep my excitement about what God is doing in me to myself. As a result, I am often faced with opposition. There has been nothing in my life and convictions which has inspired the level of opposition which I have experienced in the last few weeks.
The conversation will often go this way: I will be talking with someone, sharing some of my thoughts and I will mention that I might not get married. I can be melodramatic, but I try not to be here. Often, this person will contradict me, assuring me that I will marry. Other times, they will tell me that I would be making a reasonable choice not to get married if that is what I want.
It is amazing how this thread travels through the conversations that I've had recently, but it is equally amazing how this theme pops up in the majority of my conversations, period. I talk a lot about what I want. Even when I pray, I often find myself coming to God with a wish list. For a long time, that list included a future husband. Slowly, I am learning to let go of my list, as I pray, and forget about my desires as I focus on the subject of my deepest ones: the Lord.
God has not changed my desires, He has made me realize that they are nothing in comparison with Him. This is where verses which have made me squirm in the past start to make more sense:
"If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple." Luke 14:26.
In view of God, everything else pales.
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:8).
In regards to singleness, I hear Psalm 37:4 quoted often: "Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart." I get this backwards so often, failing to truly delight myself in the Lord. This verse is not describing a transaction, rather, a path of joy. It is not about the desires, but about God, as it always is.
I have read many dating books from a Christian perspective, and met many people who have said: "If you desire to be married, it is God's will for you." I cannot agree with this. I have known too many women and men called to hard things, against their desires and against their inclinations. I have watched God do mighty and great works in them. I have known these people, and read about them, and quoted their words in Scripture.
Where is the self-denial, the cross, in having my desires always met?
Additionally, where is the remembrance of my humanity? The realization that though I'm walking with God and loving Him, I don't always know what is best for me. Desire has led me to dark and sinful places before. While it can be a tool of God, it can also be a tool of evil.
Just because I desire something, doesn't mean that I should have it.
Marriage is a good and holy thing, a gift. But like all gifts, it is not always easy to receive, temporary, and not given to everyone. In these ways, it is like the gift of singleness.
The Lord has promised to wipe all tears from my eyes when He brings me safely into His holy Kingdom. In that day, I will no longer struggle against a sin nature which now resides within me, I will be one with the Father, and with His Bride. There, I believe, all of my true desires will be fulfilled.