Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Singleness and Spiritual Gifts

I was going to write nothing for this Valentine's Day and let the silence speak for itself. But instead, I'm afraid I'll be pulling off the old cliche of writing about singleness on Valentine's Day because I'm single. Not because I'm not content with my relationship status, but because I am.

Most people, Christians and non-Christians, fall into the trap of agonizing about their singleness and how to best (and most expediently) end (or, dare I say, "solve") it. So many books have been written for and by Christian singles about waiting for the right person, being the right person, and letting God write your love story because so many people need to hear these lessons There's also plenty of bad advice packed with unhelpful or outright false cliches about singleness, often originating from the lie that marriage or family is the ultimate goal for all Christians. I'm truly blessed to have so many friends who aren't always trying to set me up or share Biblical wisdom for marriage with me as if I needed help.

No, for the past few years I've fallen more towards the other extreme of being too comfortable with my singleness. I don't know of any Christian books for that. I took the fact that people almost universally tended to fall into the trap of idolizing relationships, which I considered myself to have escaped, and fell right into the biggest sin of all: pride. I wasn't so weak as to be enslaved by my passions and feel incomplete without my "other half"! I was a whole person! And besides, relationships were hard and painful. (It was easy for me to say this because I'd had a 100% failure rate with mine) Being single was so much better; to think I would ever throw it away! This attitude began before I was really trusting God with the direction of my life and continued in a milder form afterward.

Obviously I don't think this way anymore. Last summer God chipped away at my pride and fear of "drama" until after a good deal of soul-searching He got me to admit that maybe, possibly, someday, I could get married. Doing so was almost painful and He had to drag me figuratively kicking and screaming away from my prideful pedestal. Marriage still isn't looking likely anytime soon, and I'm fine with that, but this admission was another step towards letting God guide my life instead of myself--trusting Him with my future as One who knows best instead of whatever I can come up with. Seriously, my future plans are pretty lame: work as a software engineer, live in a tiny apartment, drive an electric car, listen to cool music. That's pretty much it; nothing to be excited about, no transcendent significance. And the possibility that my singleness might end someday helps remind me to make the most of this time of freedom while I can.

Until then, I'm content. Whether I remain single for one year or ten, I'm learning to see the extra time, freedom from concern, and ability to live extremely cheaply as gifts to enjoy and use in service to my God. I'm not incomplete. I'm not lacking anything I need. If you are single this Valentine's Day, please hear this: you are not the least bit less valuable or lower in status for it. Don't let anyone make you feel otherwise.

More generally, every gift, even one considered a "curse" by most people, has the potential to be abused. If we only pay attention to the gift and how cool it is--if we get greedy with it--and forget to thank the giver, then we've missed the point. This also applies to the other spiritual gift I'm pretty sure I have, knowledge.

Unlike with presents you get once and keep forever, spiritual gifts from God are continuous things--you only have them when He is actively giving them to you. The fact that the word used for the Spirit in the New Testament, pneuma (πνευμα), also means "breath" is a nice illustration: the working of your spiritual gifts is like God breathing through you. Some nights at Bible study the secrets of scripture seem to be plainly laid out before me, other nights I can barely make any headway and have to rely on everyone else. It's a gentle reminder that this wealth of knowledge isn't my own.

Whatever your spiritual gifts are--preaching or serving or administration, whatever that means--I hope you realize just how great they are and how not-your-own they are.

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