A Legacy

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When I think about the word “legacy,” a couple of things immediately come to mind. One of the first is the title of a publication for an agency where I used to work.  I remember spending hours trying to format that publication.  The word “legacy” will always be associated with that publication as a result—for better or for worse.  As a twenty-something, I also tend to think of older generations.  Legacy sounds like something for people that are my parents’ or grandparents’ age.  It just doesn’t sound like something that really applies to me, the girl barely out of school and still referred to as a kid in many settings (though admittedly fewer and fewer as the years go by).

The past several years I’ve heard several fantastic sermons and read several blogs, devotionals, and Bible studies on leaving a legacy, forming a legacy, and so on. Hearing and reading those messages has made me associate the word “legacy” with things more powerful than grandma’s inheritance.

I think about the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:1-17).   I am utterly amazed by how perfectly the Lord pieced together that lineage, but how He did that with such ridiculously imperfect people.

I think about the race we’re called to finish well (Hebrews 12:1; 1 Corinthians 9:24; Galatians 2:2).

I think about the countless Bible accounts where godly men and women finished so poorly (Solomon, Moses, Judas, David…and so many others).  Similarly, I think about how God redeemed even the worst screw-ups’ legacies (Exhibit A: Rahab being included in Jesus’ genealogy).

But I also think about the countless godly men and women I’ve seen destroy their reputations, and the many men and women I’ve seen the Lord use to redeem legacies. It is truly amazing to me how God can use one person (or couple) to break generational sins.

Maybe you clicked on this blog out of boredom and you really don’t see how a legacy applies to you. Honestly, I’ve been there.  When any preacher introduces a sermon with something about a legacy, there have been times when I just want to roll my eyes.  It’s easy to feel like this topic is overdone and it’s easy to feel like it isn’t applicable.  How in the world could leaving a legacy apply to me? I’m not married and I don’t have children.  Currently my family tree looks like it’s about as big as it’s going to get.  While I pray that many of the generational sins tainting the color of that tree stop with me, I don’t see new life budding without those stains.  Right now I just see the sins stopping and then the tree being chopped down for someone to use as firewood.  What kind of a legacy is that?

It’s not one.

But it’s also a lie from hell.

Remember Matthew 12:49-50 (HCSB),

And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven, that person is My brother and sister and mother.”

Yes, biological family is a blessing from the Lord. Yes, God designed families.  But God designed an even more amazing blessing through a family of believers.

Don’t get me wrong, I love family.  Saying “good-bye” to my grandparents as a little girl was horrible for me.  The thing I wanted more than anything was to live in the same state as my family.  Since I was a little girl I’ve prayed for family.  Since I was a little girl that prayer continues to go unanswered.  Instead of drawing family closer or growing my family, it seems like more and more family members die or move away.  Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore the family I have, but I yearn for that to grow and for them to be closer.

God has answered the heart of that prayer though.  He’s provided grandparents, parents, siblings, and even children through His Church.  We may not look alike or share the same genes, but the bond and unity that lies within those relationships is something words don’t do justice.  It’s too much of a deep, beautiful experience to describe.  My heart still aches for biological family, but oh how sweet the spiritual legacy God provides.

So what’s your legacy? Who has the Lord used to bring spiritual life? For me, it would take more than a 700-word blog to list those that have gone before me in my spiritual family tree. Finally, who are you pouring into? The branches coming from mine are more sparse than they should be, but what an encouragement to see the ones I have blooming.

 

Tough Questions

TOUGH QUESTIONS

I don’t know what age deems you “the token single girl,” but it happened to me somewhere after college and has only solidified since.  I’ve only been in this role for a few years, but it seems to open the door for younger single women to ask tough questions.  There are three questions I get asked a lot by girls struggling with singleness.  Though I certainly don’t have all the answers, I’ve learned to polish my own convictions and experiences with these areas.

The first question is inevitably something like, “how do you endure Sunday School or church?” Sadly, this is a real and genuine concern.  There are a couple of choices, of course.  You can join the dreaded singles class and make an effort to get involved.  You can volunteer for any Sunday School position to avoid the singles class.  You can even ditch Sunday School and just go to the main service (with a buddy, of course…otherwise, it’s just as bad as Sunday school and you end up sitting behind a row of couples holding hands).  I’m not proud of this, but I’ve done all of these things at different points.  After trying each of these choices, I would encourage singles to invest in a singles class first.  Yes, that usually comes with some awkward moments and not-so-fun Sunday mornings, but it’s essential for people to attend and invest in order to make it better.  It also does really help to have some other singles in your life, even if they aren’t your best buddies at first.  After really making an effort with a singles group, go where God leads you (and that’s NOT back to bed).  God may want you to keep investing in singles and serve in a way that’s not teaching on Sunday mornings, but He could also lead you to teach.  I truly feel called to work with kids and youth, and am thrilled to do that on Sunday mornings.  I also think I have extra energy to give kids and youth because I’m single without kids.  Parents are with kids all the time, it’s nice to give them a break.

The next question that’s come up lately has been “have you ever thought about online dating?” Uh, yes.  Anyone that’s single (even teens) has probably thought about online dating.  Personally, I don’t have a problem with online dating (I do have a problem with many types of romantic interaction online, but meeting someone online in a safe way does not bother me).  I have a lot of Bible-believing, evangelical friends happily married from these types of dating services.  I just feel okay about being single (most days), so I haven’t really pursued or prayed about that option.  I have a feeling though that God won’t lead me down that path due to my perpetual trust problem.  I too often try to take my life into my own hands, which would be a tempting motive for me with online dating.  I would also advise women to be particularly careful about taking the role of the pursuer rather than the pursued in this form of dating.  I’ve seen a lot of young women’s self-esteem damaged by not feeling cherished when this role is reversed.

The third question is sort of loaded and could easily break off into sub-categories.  Girls often ask something like, “how can you stand being single for so long?” This question always kind of makes me laugh… well, if I was feeling content today, thanks for making me feel discontent and way too old to be single! But in all seriousness, the short answer is Jesus.  The long answer is Jesus, discipline, perspective, and gratefulness.

Jesus is the theme to each of these answers, but the key is relying on His strength, staying in the Word, and surrounding yourself with other believers.

Discipline revolves around Jesus, but specifically includes abstinence.  Something that inevitably comes up with single people is self-pleasuring and pornography.  In case no one else comes down on one side of those activities, neither of them is ever okay for a single person (or married person, but that’s another post).  There is forgiveness in Christ, but sex is designed to unite and these activities do not unite in the way God intended.  They distort, isolate, damage, and confuse.  In fact, I would take boundaries a little farther in this area.  I don’t know what hurts guys (I’m not one, I’m not married, and I’ve never lived with a male), but I do know that romantic movies and novels (even Christian ones) can often be stumbling blocks for women.  These may not need to be eliminated or even reduced, but I’d encourage any Christian girl to view these cautiously and in moderation.  Similar things to consider may be social media, imaginary wedding planning, etc.  It’s easy to create idols and fantasies with these seemingly innocent activities.

Perspective can come in a lot of different ways.  First of all, zooming out on your own life circumstances.  “I’m twenty-six, not ninety-six.” “I enjoy a lot of things being single, this isn’t all bad.” “My last friend getting engaged does stink, but it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me.” Perspective may also include listening to a married friend.  Chances are you’ll find out marriage isn’t a fairy tale.  A great way to gain perspective is offering to babysit the family you know with the most kids.  Marriage will quickly lose its glamour.

Gratefulness is the last point, but the most important.  A grateful heart will squelch any desire that seems impossible to endure.  Singleness is a blessing, look for the bright spots and write them down daily if you need to!

Valentine’s Day: a Day of Dread or a Day of Love?

While those in a relationship are often portrayed as romantic, boring, or dysfunctional, sitcoms show singles burning notes from their ex’s, spending the night in front of the TV with tissues and ice cream (and/or alcohol), or partying with fellow singles. (And by the end of the episode they often end up making up with their ex or in bed with a stranger.) Our society thrives on drama and Valentine’s Day seems to be the most dramatic of them all.

I’m sick of the pity party. I’m sick of the grotesque distortion of what God intended for love and relationships. I’m sick of a lack of commitment and lack of contentment. I’m sick of this “poor me” or “forget everyone” attitude.

I can only speak as a single, but I imagine loneliness in a relationship would be just as bad (or worse) than loneliness outside of one. However, singles are constantly reminded of their “state.” It’s almost like a disease. The hardest part of dinner with married friends is no longer what to order, it’s what to do when someone prays over the food. Your friends immediately grasp their partner’s hand and you shamefully wonder “is it better to hold my friend’s toddler’s hand (who just picked his nose) or the male waiter’s hand (who’s already refilled my water 3 times)?”

But why is our identify found in our sexuality?

No wonder the LBGT community is up in arms when the freedom that society’s declared for them is challenged by evangelicals.  If we didn’t distort sexuality in the first place, this wouldn’t be an issue.  Society bases its identity on sexuality.  The single is either a loser or loose. The married woman is boring or an adulteress. The married man is trapped or unfaithful.

The Bible warns us about this. We are told to “flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18 ESV). Sexual sins are dangerous. They’re inside us. They aren’t just our actions, they’re our attitudes. They’re our thoughts.

As a single, there is a temptation to embrace the attitudes and thoughts that society encourages, like bitterness and discontentment. I want to see singles thrive. I want to love like Christ calls me to love. I want to celebrate Valentine’s Day as much as anyone as I meditate on the love of Christ, the only perfect, all-fulfilling love.

So let’s celebrate marriage, celebrate singleness, celebrate unity in Christ, and celebrate love…the way God intended.