Conversations with a pastor
Steve Carter, the pastor of Rock Harbor Fullerton, is 32 years old and has been married for eight years. My conversation with him was twofold. We first spoke about dating better and seeking God in the process. Then we began addressing those glaring observations people made about the church's treatment of marriage and the lack of inclusion many single people feel. Here are his thoughts:
1.First focus on the why of marriage, and then focus on the how. As someone who's been attending Christian churches throughout my life, I will admit they haven't always been clear as to why marriage is important. The reasons they've given for marrying have shifted over the decades, and rather than being guided on this subject, I felt I was left to form my own conclusions. What A Year In Marriage Taught Us About Love
In response, Steve spoke about "the abstinence craze," that filled churches in the 1990s, and ultimately led to many premature marriages. "You had pastors who were saying, 'Just wait! Sex is gonna be awesome once you're married!' And abstinence is still important," Steve explained, "I'm not trying to undermine that. But the result of focusing on it so much is that you had all these kids who were getting married for one reason: to have sex. In the process, they missed the whole point of the Gospel, and their marriages were falling apart."
The abstinence craze was then followed by a strong emphasis on the harsh realities of marriage. Pastors would discuss the commitment, sacrifice and difficulties of the marital union. "It's not going to solve all your problems, and it doesn't mean you'll be having sex all the time," some pastors warned. "Why Won't my Partner Have Sex With Me?"
As a result, many Christians felt discouraged and unsure of what they wanted. "Now, we're finally moving back to the message of the Gospel and how it equates to marriage," Steve says. "Marriage is an opportunity to live out the reality of the resurrection, so in dating, look for a partner that allows you to live out that reality and model what Christ did for the church."
2. Think about who you are, as opposed to what you don't have. Just as career and talent are not true markers of identity, neither is relationship status, though we sometimes can forget that. Steve talked about the curse in the book of Genesis that was put on mankind after Adam and Eve sinned. "The passage speaks of how guys will find their identity in their career and in the sweat of their brow, while women will find their identity in the men that they're with." 15 Best And Worst Careers For Love
It's a struggle many are prone to, and in light of that struggle, Steve's ultimate goal is to get single people to remember who they really are: children of God. It's not about what you do or who you're with; it's about who you are in Christ. When you get discouraged about being single, try and focus on that reality and how it defines you more than anything else.
3. Ask yourself: "Is my goal to get married, or is my goal faithfulness and obedience to God?" As the overall age of marriage has been steadily rising for the past few decades, it can be difficult to watch the years fly by, as many continue wrestling with their unmet desire to find love. Rather than being consumed by it, Steve suggests taking it to God and asking him to show you what he wants for you right now.
He also encourages single people to embrace the freedom they've been given at this stage in their lives, and use that freedom to consider how God is working and who he created them to be. "How has he wired you? What are you passionate about? Rather than waiting for Mr. or Mrs. Right to appear, be empowered to live the life you've always wanted to live and trust that that person is going to come along in the midst of it." When It Comes To Love, Would You Let God Decide?
4. Remember that Jesus came to save you from your sins, but he also came to restore you and make all things new in your life. (Hint: This includes your dating life.) For single people in their 20s, all that talk of seizing the day and being empowered sounds like a healthy approach. But what about those in their mid 30s or early 40s that have never been married, yet are still strongly hoping to be?
"In that situation," Steve says, "I would try to help them discover if there are certain underlying things that have gotten in the way. For example, fear of commitment; past relationships they still need to heal from; an imbalanced pursuit of career over everything else."
It can be scary to take all of this to God, but perhaps the reality of not doing it is even scarier. "It's all part of the freedom we receive in Jesus, and it all goes back to the gospel," Steve says. "If dating is a part of your life that's broken and in need of God's redemptive grace, he wants to work there, and he wants to make it new." 10 Ways For Single Women To Treat Themselves In 2012