Funny how no one wants it.

Being single as a 33 year old Christian man is usually a good gig. The Lord blesses me greatly in giving me good solid prayer time, and the ability to study scripture and read, and to have friendships with few restrictions. I’m available to people at a level that most men my age simply can’t be, because I have no family to take care of. I wouldn’t often be able to blog at midnight were a wife expecting me to come to bed, or if I had a child who wasn’t yet sleeping through the night (as I’d be grasping sleep wherever I could).

Often, when I think about it, I enjoy my life as a single poverty-stricken pastoral wannabe. That doesn’t mean I don’t keep my eyes out for Christian women who might be good marriage potential, but it’s not the controlling factor in my life.

I have to say that because the Christian climate is often hostile to being a single Christian guy, especially when I date selectively (I only ask out people who I believe would be good wives and mothers, and for whom I would be a positive part of their lives… the last time I even asked someone for a date was a year or so ago). But the story I get from around me is that men my age should be married. People point to the overwhelming preponderance of women in the church, and how I have no reason to be single. I’ve even had people tell me how I should find a wife soon. And I would, but I really don’t know anyone who’d meet my expectations who is also single. Additionally there’s the fact that I want to be a pastor, and most Churches see a single pastor guy as a danger of sexual sin, so my chances of work are actually diminished by the fact that I’m not married.

If all that weren’t enough, many single Christian women seem scared I’m going to get interested in them and ask them out. It makes some uncomfortable, and others go so far as to preventively tell me they aren’t interested, whether there’s any danger of me actually asking them out or not. I try to offset this by self-depricating humor about my understanding that women aren’t interested in me, but then people worry that I’m sitting in a corner at night bewailing the fact I’m not yet wed.

And then there’s the fact that I have parents who like to wonder when I’m going to “settle down”, and start producing grandkids for them.

All of this is before we add in the sexually charged culture, and the fact that I do sometimes succumb to the pressure and talk about my own singularity.

I don’t think my bride is around the corner (if indeed I ever marry), but I don’t think the pressures on me from both within and outside the Church are going to let up either.

Yet singleness is a gift, and a valuable one. The Lord has provided me a time to think and pray for others, to study his word, and to put to death the deeds of the flesh in my own life without worrying that the shrapnel of my spiritual battles will harm my family. And I know that whatever reason God has for not putting a wife into my life, it’s a good one.

Because in the end, contrary to some people’s thinking, my life isn’t about the propagation of the species, but about glorifying God. I pray that the Lord will strengthen me to glorify Him more, whether single or married.

G’night and God bless!

Beauty in the Beastly

For some reason, I’ve begun to hear two different, but equally disturbing misunderstandings of orthodox Christian theology when it comes to self image. In the first place, when I affirm that I am in fact a beautiful person physically (which I believe myself to be) some people think that I am at that point lacking humility. At the same time, others believe that when I speak about my own sinfulness, and lack of inherent worth, that I must have an amazingly low self-image.

uchr_05_img0508.jpgIt’s an important question, especially in the world we find ourselves. I know far too many Christians, women and men, who find themselves subject either to a low view of their own beauty, or an unnecessary fixation on the physical. Both are to be avoided.
So I think I should explain what I mean when I say that a person ugly in their own sin, is at the same time beautiful physically and spiritually definitionally.

I also feel the need here to say I’m not aiming at some pseudo-psychological love fest. While I am going to say that everybody is objectively beautiful, I am not going to say that we are beautiful in the same ways. Indeed, some of the things we see as most beautiful in ourselves may be the most ugly.

Beauty
At the risk of being super obvious, I believe that God is beautiful. I think this is true in an absolute sense, and that if you see God for who He truly is, you could not help to worship Him. We can see that God is beautiful partially through creation.
In my role here as captain obvious, let me also point out that as a Christian I believe that humans are a special revelation of God. Genesis 1:27 tells us that we (male and female) are created in the image of God.
This means that God is revealed in us, the very image of the beautiful God. From this perspective, to call ourselves mainly ugly is a form of blasphemy, as it can claim that God is ugly. The determinative point of humanity is not that we are corrupt (which is true), but that we are made in the image of God. Thus definitionally, as a human, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. But this beauty is not based on your relative beauty when compared to other humans, but on the objective fact that you are an image of God. Our beauty is different from one another, but insofar as we are created in the image of God we are beautiful
I am handsome, simple fact. I cannot be arrogant in that, because it’s through my being an image of God, thus in the only comparison that matters (me and Jesus), I’m less beautiful.

The Beastly

l026a.jpgOf course, there is more to the Bible than that. We as the image of God fell into sin, and became subject to corruption. Some of that extends to physical beauty. Even the most beautiful person you can imagine is still less beautiful than what a perfected human looks like in the kingdom to come.
The reason is simple. Imagine a work of art damaged. Despite how beautiful the work might be, no matter how well it reflects a scene, the damage makes the art less beautiful. The same is true of us. When we fall, our beauty (all of it) is marred. In a sense, we are more ugly, because we are very beautiful as created, and the damage takes away from that beauty.

Sanctification: Beauty and the Beastly
This is where Christ comes in. When we are saved, God begins the work in us of perfecting that which once was marred. Indeed, many of the things we thought our beauty become revealed as ugliness, and are changed so that we can be seen as more beautiful; better reflections of a beautiful God.
Thus we do not have the right to call ourselves ugly, we are the reflection of a beautiful God, and thus objectively beautiful whether anyone sees us that way. God sees us that way, because in us he sees the image of Christ, the image of God. Thus whether any woman ever deigns to see my handsomeness, I am. Whether any woman is ever called a supermodel and makes it to the cover of a magazine is immaterial, she is beautiful.
We work to maintain beauty, we may diet, we may go to the gym and use various beauty products, but Christians do it differently. It is not primarily to make us look more like the world’s idea of beauty, but to reflect the beauty of God.
Similarly, we cannot be arrogant about it. We see beauty in ourselves and others as an image of God, not something to compare ourselves or others to. Ideally, we come to rejoice in the beauty of others as they reflect God.

Online Reading

Calvinism: Mark Dever continues to ask where all these Calvinists came from.

Geo-politics: Phillip Yancey, quoting eminent theolgian Lamin Sanneh, points out (no doubt contraversially) guilt and projection concerning Christian history.

Harry Potter: I’m almost glad I’m nowhere near a book store tonight.

Books: Here’s an interview with Dave Harvey, who wrote “When Sinners Say I Do”

Property: SOCAN believes that hairdressers should pay to play music in their salons. I wonder if I’m feeling good about that cause I’m balding?

Romance Can’t Fulfill (it’s good, but it’s not God)

So, today I was rolling pennies (ah the joys of working retail), and watching a Gill Deacon rerun on the CBC (Yay, Public Broadcasting). This episode seemed to be focussed on the relationship thing, and despite the fact I wrote a bit on  it recently, I figured I should react openly to it (though now people may rightly call me “obsessed”)Probably the most objectionable part I found was the segment on the dating service for people already married (yes, you’re reading that correctly, a site dedicated to empowering philandering), called Ashley Madison. I feel bad giving the link there…

But when the interviewer asked its creator about the reason for the morality of it, he simply started to talk about feeling “unfulfilled” in marriage. Now, I’m not married, but I can guarantee that in any earthly relationship, at some point you’re going to feel unfulfilled because both members of any relationship besides the one with God are sinners.

The second segment, I believe, was a little more enlightening. It was about the Canadian documentary, lovable, which consists of interviews of several people who remain single/never marrieds in their 30s, 40s and 50s. It chronicles the sense of loss, and in some cases failure of being single at these ages and not wanting to be.

What was interesting to me was that the director seemed to hit the nail on the head when he alluded to the need for romance in relationships. He pointed out that there were often other things at play in most instances of romantic love, that can lead older singles to discount great people from the dating circle because they don’t give you the hormone charged high that you got in your teens and 20s. It’s an unrealistic high (that if you keep, will probably have you on Ashley Madison 10 years after successfully marrying).

To put it in religious terms, one of the most prevalent idols in modern times (and especially in my own life) seems to be the desire for romance rather than love and family. Romance is good and noble in its proper place, but it is not going to fulfill you (that’s Jesus’ job), and it isn’t even the center of a good marriage (Jesus is that too).

This is not to say that I don’t seek romance. Quite the opposite, I am even using online dating services like Plenty of Fish (free, but I don’t recommend it, there are a lot of nuts there….. like bloggers who talk to themselves in public), Christian Cafe (pay service that at least limits to self-described Christians, if you ever join it, send me a message, it’ll make me feel less like I’ve wasted my money), and eharmony (the cadillac of singles sites, but too rich for my blood beyond the trial period).

But in the end, as a single in my 30s (33 in 2 weeks), who desires a family greatly, it’s clear that Christ has to be the center, or I’ll end up following the world in placing too much on my wife and kids if God ever blesses me with them. It’s a hard struggle, but a necessary one, as no false gods will fill the role only the one true God can. In the end they are worthless in comparison to Him.

Growing Up

Again to reiterate my fundamentalist credentials, I was listening to the Albert Mohler show today, where he was talking about the general degradation of fatherhood in the modern west.

I have to say, I can see where he’s coming from, but I think he has missed one of the major constituents.

Last weekend we had a retreat, where I came to the conclusion that I am, for all intents and purposes a 32 year old boy, and I think that I am actually largely normal for society.

While many of my friends are married with kids, I think there’s a clear movement in society to a point where men are simply made to accept less responsibility. Honestly, there’s an attraction in being less responsible as it means I can have all the fun I want and avoid any pain.

I’m generally told by marketing that it is okay for me to keep buying more and more expensive toys, and waste my time on video games and sports fandom. I’m supposed to live with a girlfriend, maintaining my freedom to leave her if things get too messy, yet still have as much sex as I can. I’m even supposed to be willing to let my someday female partner become a primary breadwinner, in the interest of empowering women, of course.

that’s if I ever marry. I can remain a single man, simply getting and discarding female companionship as I need, but staying with a girl I like for as long as I like without actually comitting to her. (as an aside, this means marriage is in that sense a method of saying to her “I’m not ever leaving you, and I love you even when you aren’t lovable”. It’s difficult to imagine how my fickle heart could make such a promise stick without marriage.)

All of this means something very negative, though, if we fundies are right, and God created families to be difficult though profoundly joyful reflections of Christ. As a man, I am called to love a wife as Christ loved the Church (dying for her if necessary, being kind to her particularly when she doesn’t deserve it), and to raise children who love and feear the Lord. A very tall order, and a scary one, but one that promises incalculable joy.

But for that I need to grow up. I need to become a man that would be a good husband and father, even before I know the woman I marry (if God ever blesses me that way). If I am to reflect Christ in a marriage, I have to reflect him as a single man first, and it’s hard to imagine how I can do that while piddling with World of Warcraft and Battle for Middle Earth II (both quite good games in themselves)or spending every waking moment following the adventures of my favorite sports team. Those things are good in moderation, but if they get in the way of being a real man of God, they’re honestly bad.

It’s time I grew up, and I guess I need to sometimes repent of good things to attain better things.