I've been having a ton of conversations with people about relationships and being single these days. Even last week's sermon at church revolved around the topic of sex and relationships. It is clearly apparent, that when you look at modern society, romantic relationships play a huge role and take a huge chunk of our attention. Sex (of any kind) is clearly wrong outside of marriage. However, dating is another issue. I can't help, but wonder if what we are called to do is be a little more counter-cultural about relationships.
Today, dating seems to be all about the trial run. The guiding mantras seem to be, 'date around to find out how compatible you are with each other', 'have sex to see if you are sexually compatible', 'date a lot to see what's out there', and 'move in together to see if you can stand each other.' All of them seem to be marriage without the marriage. People grow extremely attached to each other, depend on each other as if they were each others' spouses, do everything that should only be reserved for married couples, then, walk away when the meter runs out. This sort of practice would not have been accepted even 50 years ago and here we are, calling ourselves progressive by handing out our heart to people we have strong feelings for without considering the implications. Heartbreak in our lives becomes normal and expected. Pain from relationships become a check point in which you can say you are living a "normal" life. And if you are one of those people who choose not to get into a relationship, there is the belief that you are either weird and no one likes you or you have a commitment phobia with a ton of underlying issues (which may both be true).
Relationships seem to define one's self worth. In modern culture, singleness is not honored, nor is it valued.
I live in LA. It's a city where the social scene is the night life and where most people don't know how to relate to each other when the sun is out (unless if they are on the beach). Usually, alcohol is required for people to be able to exchange conversation with each other without getting awkward. The places where less meaningful dialogue is required, the better the place is in the city. That way, we can just engage in the physicality of it all and be seen in the scene. I hear it so many times, but it seems much easier to hook up with someone, then have a real conversation with them after since you've already been somewhat intimate with them. Something about this just doesn't seem to be right. On the other hand, its like every other city in that people seem to frantically be searching for Mr. or Miss Right or jumping from relationship to relationship. Most people either seem to be searching, dating, breaking up, or getting over a break up.
Recently, I've been thinking a lot about what Paul meant when he said to the Corinthian church, (1 Cor 7:8-9) "Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion." Normally, what people conclude from this passage is that there is a test for people to see if they are called to get married. If they want to have sex, then they are called to marriage. If they don't want to have sex, then they aren't. Once this distinction is made clear, they rest in that knowledge instead of going further with what God was saying through Paul. From that point on, they go through life with one eye on God and the other looking for "the one."
There is a big problem with this because this, for many people, gives an excuse to idolize relationships more than they love God. They put so much hope in the potential of a relationship that it distracts them from fully trusting God with their entire lives. Their incessant need to find "the one" takes them up and down on an emotional roller coaster that whenever they meet someone that might fit the bill they quickly go through their own checklist to make sure that the person is sane, has a fully functioning brain, and that all their body parts are in tact. They quickly go into acceleration mode to filter the guy/girl through the crazy filter and then decide to pursue the relationship. Then they date and give everything they got (mind, body, time, energy, and hope) into the relationship and when the relationship doesn't work out, they become sad and devastated. This belief that since we are called to marriage, we should always be on the lookout JUST IN CASE we end up meeting our soul mate makes it seem as if the search for the one is something that we are called to do that we spend more time seeking for the perfect person instead of becoming that person ourselves. We lose sight of God in the middle of any crises where we meet someone and the relationship doesn't seem to be progressing as we think it should. We don't trust God with our future spouse, because we've determined that because we have the desire to get married, we shouldn't feel like we need to give it up. The reality is, God called us to not have ANY idols in our lives; including the hope of meeting and marrying our future spouses.
Later in chapter 7, Paul writes that time in this life is short and that we must not waste our lives. Then he goes on by saying, "32 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband." This clearly reflects that God certainty values marriage and deems it so good that He is willing to share your heart, your time, and your devotion with your spouse. What he isn't saying is that anything before marriage should look even remotely close to this. One thing that must be clarified though, is that God doesn't say that we are to consider our spouses as holding equal weight in our lives as God, but that there is a clear order that God is always primary, and if we are married, our wives or husbands are always primary above all things beside God. That means if our work gets in the way of our marriage, we are committing sin against God. If our children are of more importance than our spouses, we are committing the sin of idolatry. If our freedom is greater than our spouses, we are committing the sin of selfishness. In all things, minus the supremacy of God, are our spouses greater.
Immediately after, he says, "35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord."
God calls us to have an undivided devotion to Him!
Before my most recent relationship, I had been single for almost 7 years. After my first girlfriend nearly 9 years ago, I decided to be wiser with my next relationship so I devoted myself to being single. I went on mission trips, did church work, and lived a fairly good life. I felt as if I was ready to start dating since I have been single for so long. I read hundreds of books on relationships, marriage, and communication to understand the dynamics and what it would take to have a successful relationship. Although I do think that I was certainly more mature in the relationship, I look back towards the beginning of it and find myself realizing that even in my singleness, I had a divided heart.
When I was single, I was never really single. My heart (although not fully) was always set on finding the future Mrs. Chang. I would consider some women that crossed my path and put them through the filter and only because I was so picky, did I not date so much. If I wasn't as picky, I would've probably been a serial dater jumping from relationship to relationship. What I realized after reading 1 Corinthians 7 was that having standards and being picky don't determine whether or not your heart is divided. What determines whether or not you have a divided heart is whether or not you are always hoping to meet that person. You know if you are hoping to meet that person when every decent person that you encounter becomes a potential candidate to be the future Mr. or Mrs. (insert last name here). You think you have to play the odds because you really don't trust that God will bring the right person into your life. In essence, you think you have to do it since God isn't big enough to orchestrate such a grand event. This often happens when we forget that He created the universe and holds it in the palm of His hand.
You should be OK with being single for the rest of your life and enjoy God in that state before you go off and start a life with someone. When you are OK with being single, no man enters your mind. But more than being OK with being single, one must love God more than the relationships that they could be missing out on. As for me, even though the relationship status on my Facebook account read "single", the relationship status on my heart said "it's complicated". If you really trust that God is good, that He provides, and that His timing is perfect, then you will stop looking around and simply look up. When you look up to just enjoy God, God will work out all of His magic and bring about everything that you want. When you hope more for a relationship than you hope more for God, you commit an idolatry of the heart that is hard to distinguish and extremely difficult to let go of. However, when you let go, the feelings of liberation and joy abound as you find yourself trusting God in every aspect of your life since He is good enough to provide and trustworthy enough not to bring you harm. That is the essence of the undivided heart. A heart that trusts in God so much that any potential anxiety of the future or something the world says we should have is something we trust that God will provide as we learn to just love Him for who He is.
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