He is not Enough

I am probably going to step on some toes today, but this is something I've been struggling with for several years. I cannot recount all the times I've heard elements that lean towards one or two thoughts. First, the concept of running to God, and second, Jesus being everything we need.

Now, before I go any farther, let me point out that those two statements are true, but how we apply said truths can be a bit ... off, shall we say. I think they tend to be off not because they are untrue, but because of the hurt that accompanies them.

The Connemara, Ireland, 2007

Run to God

A piece of advice circulating among my Christian friends: "Run as hard as you can to God, and if you find someone keeping up, introduce yourself."

This is advice is primarily directed at Christian singles, and while it sounds lovely, it hits wrong somehow. I wish I could explain it other than it hurts when I hear that statement, and my hackles go up. Part of the reason is because I have run towards God, but rarely can find anyone keeping up (doesn't that sound arrogant!). Intelligence is something I value, even as I value the ability to debate, to reason out, and to explore the depths of actions. It's actually fairly easy for me to see two sides, and because I want to best understand an opposing side, I research. It might be surface research, but it gives me enough to understand the other side's reasons. Sometimes, I agree with them.

To tell me to run to God, and introduce myself to whoever keeps up is at best rude, and at worst detrimental. It is rude in one aspect because I can basically ignore all those I past, and believe me, it is hard not to use my intelligence to harm people. We are to help build one another up.

On the other hand, it is detrimental to individuals, because it implies that we can find someone better up ahead. Why stop and talk to this individual keeping up with us when we can push harder and maybe meet someone a little better down the road?

Pursuing godliness is something each Christian must do, but it is best done in a community, hence the reason we have churches. In a community of fellow believers, we build one another up, encourage one another, and challenge one another, or, at least that is the ideal. Life isn't a race among individuals, but the challenge of steady runners who pace themselves, but have little or no competition. Granted, even in a normal exercise run, competitions arise, but it's friendly. As we pursue God, we need to remember to slow down occasionally and run with those beside us.

He is Enough

Out of all the pieces of advice circulating among Christians, I think this one annoys me the most. There is no phrase that will get my inner snark out faster ... well, there is another phrase, but it goes along with this idea as well.

The concept is that Jesus is enough. If we don't have a spouse or at least a significant other, Jesus can be that person. He is the father to the fatherless, and our bridegroom. I tend to hear these lines directed more to women than men, but I could be wrong. For me, the words once again sit wrong, but I'm unable to explain why other than it doesn't sound right, and the inner struggle begins.

I have questioned if I am a good Christian because the fact that I want to marry. If Jesus isn't enough for me, am I not running after him hard enough? If I ran harder, would I be able to introduce myself to someone who is keeping up? What about God giving us the desires of our hearts? Does the desire to marry mean it's not from God, if I can't accept Christ is my everything?

Deep in my heart is an aching loneliness that nothing can fill. It's not a God-shaped hole, I can assure you, but it is a loneliness that comes from wanting someone who isn't there. The only thing I can compare it to, in my life currently, is the loneliness I feel when I think about my grandparents. My Mommom loved frogs, and we had several frog related items including salt and pepper shakers. Whenever I see frog-themed items, I think of her, and wish she was there to share in the amusement. She isn't, and I feel lonely at that knowledge. It's that's sort of loneliness I describe when I say I feel lonely. I long for companionship and love, and to be quite honest, Jesus isn't enough. He cannot put his arms around me; I cannot see his face when he laughs; I cannot sit at the table and discuss a plot point in a book. I long for the companionship that comes from two people choosing to spend the rest of their lives together.

To say that when Jesus is enough for my life, I will find my husband hurts like no other comment can hurt. It cuts straight down into my heart, because I know that the two desires are not same. It's like saying that when one friend is enough, you will find another friend. I love the relationship I have with my Creator, but he is, and will always be, my Creator, not my parent, not my sibling, not my best friend, not anything else but my Creator, and that is powerful enough for me to explore.

See, I know that I will love my Creator more tomorrow than I do at this moment. I know that he will be bigger tomorrow than he is today because I will know him better tomorrow. To suggest that he isn't enough for me, therefore implying that I'm not married because Jesus isn't enough at the moment, completely ignores the fact that he is enough at the moment.

Sacrifice upon Sacrifice

By advising me to run after God, and to allow Jesus to be enough in my life, implies that I can do more. For someone who routinely tests in the INTJ personality spectrum, that is a dangerous suggestion. For the majority of women in the world, it is dangerous since it implies that marriage is some sort of magic potion or some sort of reward to those who have made it.

I can't run to God and make certain he is enough, and therefore find my husband. I have been, and it doesn't work. There is an aspect of life called serendipity. Part of the reason I enjoy writing and weaving so much is the routine: I do this then this, and this will happen. I enjoy the surprises that come from creativity, but the predictability is in itself eye-opening.

I think, in the long run, the best way to advise singles is to dance. It implies having a good time. We can change partners as the need arises, or sit back for a little while and watch others dance. There are always more who can come, and while some might pair off, it doesn't mean that the fun has ended. Life is meant to be enjoyed. We are not in a race, and our Creator created us to be social beings. He wants us to enjoy the life given to us so we can encourage others around us.

If you're single, especially if you're a single woman in conservative Christianity, relax. Live life, pursue your own dreams and desires. Find out who you are, and how God has gifted you. Develop those gifts and share them with others. Understand that the ache of loneliness might remain with you for a long time, but it is a pain we can survive, and our ache might be the point of connection with another lost soul in desperate need of encouragement.

If you're married or dating seriously, back off. What worked in your life will probably not work in another's life. Singles are individuals who know ourselves better than you do. Don't offer advice without taking into account how that advice might affect your single friends. Be especially careful posting pithy sayings on walls or e-mails. Be careful of your assumptions as well - not all singles want to marry, and not all over the age of thirty have given up on marriage.

For those of you who married young or at least in the traditional time frame of before twenty-five, be very, very careful how you speak to single individuals you meet. There are few words that annoy more than the glib, "I'm so thankful I waited," from someone who married at twenty-one. Your wait wasn't all that long. I'll be thirty-two later this year. Even if I met my husband today, marriage probably won't happen until after I turn thirty-two. Waiting ten, fifteen, twenty years for marriage, especially when the desire is a deep ache in your heart, is not easy. For those of us who want to marry, the ache may never leave, and we accept that fact. We rejoice with you, but it doesn't mean we want your advice on how to be single.

The church is made up with individuals trying to follow God while living in the world around them. Sometimes we fall, and sometimes we unintentionally hurt others. Life is like that, but we need people to remind us that we've done something dumb. I hope you can learn to dance, and allow the music and the excitement to carry you through the aches and pains. Jesus may not be everything you want, and that is all right. He wants us to love him for who he is, not for what he can give us, or what he can do for us. He wants us to dance with him, and have a conversation.

So dance, and enjoy the life you've been given.

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