12 Questions Concerning My Gift of God’s Varied Grace

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:10-11

In this context, Peter is addressing using God’s gifts of speaking (teaching) and serving.  As I read these verses, however, it occurred to me that these are not the only gifts God gives believers.  According to Paul, singleness and marriage are also gifts from God (1 Corinthians 7:7).  With that in mind, here are twelve questions I believe 1 Peter 4:10-11 begs me to ask of my singleness, one of my gifts of God’s varied grace.

1. Do I view my singleness as a gift of grace?

Singleness is not a lack-luster stage of existence, nor does it mean there is something about me that needs to be fixed.  It is a gift from my heavenly Father who knows how to give good gifts.  As a gift, then, singleness should be received with thanksgiving.

2. Am I using my singleness, or am I wasting it?

Singleness is valuable and should be used to help advance the Gospel.  It highlights the fact that God alone is enough to satisfy my soul.  It paints a picture of child-like trust and dependence on Him.  However, singleness can be squandered by fretting away the hours.  A single person consumed with worry or preoccupied with marriage will not be able to fully use their God-given singleness.

3. Am I using my singleness to serve others, or myself?

Singleness is more than fulfilling my whims: traveling where I want, buying what I want, keeping the hours I want. It is not a chance to complete a bucket list (although there is nothing wrong about trying new things and seeing new places).  Singleness is primarily a chance to “secure my undivided attention to the Lord” and serve with a freedom I may not have later in marriage (1 Cor. 7:32-35).

4. Do I desire marriage so that I may serve others, or serve myself?

If I desire the gift of marriage, I need to understand that I serve in that as well.  It is not so that I will have a husband to do the yard work or give me companionship or make me feel completed.

5. As a single woman, do I see myself as a steward of God’s varied grace, or as someone who is being deprived?

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) God has called me to himself and planned out my works that I should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)  If his power has given me all I need pertaining to life and godliness, I am a poor testimony to His goodness if I go through life as if he hadn’t. (2 Peter 1:3) As a steward, I am content with what my Master has given me, and aim to use it so that it will multiply dividends for his use.

6. Do I appreciate that marriage and singleness do not surpass the other as gifts of grace, but are simply varied expressions?

Pride wants self to feel that it has a harder time than others or that its service is better.  However, God has appointed to each person the events that will sanctify them in his service.  I am not made inferior or superior by my relationship status.

7. Do I treat my gift of singleness as seriously as Scripture says I should treat the gift of speaking?

Singleness should mean more than the ability to lounge in my yoga pants, eat ice cream, and binge-watch Netflix. It is also more than a prep-period for marriage. It is a time to practice putting on the full armor of God, to be ready to share the reason for the hope that is within me, and to fight the good fight of faith.

8. Am I living out my singleness in my own strength, or the strength that God supplies?

Whether married or single, each Christian must admit that the grace and strength that life requires comes through Christ alone. If I can’t even guarantee my own next breath, I cannot presume to walk through singleness on my own terms and in my own strength.

9. Am I using my singleness to glorify God, or myself and my freedoms?

My Instagram is a good indicator of whom I am glorifying.  Is it full of my accomplishments and adventures or wine nights out with the girls? Or, is it often silent because I am visiting shut-ins or tutoring inner city kids?

10. Do I desire marriage so that I may glorify God?

Desiring marriage is not wrong.  Like all desires, however, it must be examined.  If I want marriage because it will complete me, I set my marriage up for heartache.

11. Do I believe that all dominion belongs to Christ? Do I submit my desire and pursuit of marriage to that truth, or do I complain and strive against His gifts?

Christ is in control of all, even my singleness.  This should free me from worrying that I messed up my life because I blew my chance somewhere.  It frees me from scheming and trying to manipulate events so that I get my happily-ever-after.  Christ’s dominion enables me to find rest in him, even as I pray that I may someday be married.

12. Is my strongest “Amen” that Christ is over all and glorified over all?

The answer to this question reveals whether my priorities are in good order, so that my attention and devotion to him will be undivided.

The Heart of a Single Woman’s Home: Lies and the Truth (blog series part 2 of 8)

As I mentioned in the introduction post (read here) of this series on the heart of a single woman’s home, several lies about myself as a woman and as a homemaker wreaked havoc on my heart.  These lies still tend to rear their ugly heads now and again, but by the grace of God, I am not overcome by them. It is not as if I never struggle now, nor that I don’t foresee struggling in the future, but that God is faithful.

One lie I took to heart was that I was not attaining full womanhood because I was unmarried and childless.  I felt others believed it about me as well.  The second lie was that any home-making on my part would just be an imitation of “real” home-making.  You see, I was the fairly conservative good girl growing up. I had my hope chest and learned how to cook, sew, clean, and decorate, yet I felt there was this cultural “rite of passage” into womanhood that I couldn’t achieve, both in secular culture and Christian culture.  I had an idealistic picture in my head of what my homemaking should look like.  Being single and bouncing around apartments every 5 or 3 or 6 or 11 months didn’t fit anywhere in that picture.

I began to believe I had been given second best. I grew to resent doing the “manly” tasks out of necessity.  I felt overwhelmed with balancing a heavy teaching load that followed me home, maintaining a home, running errands, paying bills, and finding time for ministry. I felt that I was viewed as living in roommate limbo-land, not reaching full maturity until I had a family of my own.  I questioned whether my work in the home was legitimate since I wasn’t engaging in the sanctifying work of submitting to a husband and raising children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.  I heard testimonies time and again that being a wife and mother was the most sanctifying experience these ladies had encountered. Being a wife and mother was simultaneously the hardest thing they had done, and also the most beautiful and fulfilling.  A married woman could live out the beautiful reflection of the Gospel with her husband. I didn’t hear anyone say that about singleness.  I felt left out of that element of beauty, that witness, that sanctification.  I began to wonder if my witness and sanctification were second best as well.

The truth is that I was prideful and jealous. I was comparing my reality with the romanticized versions in my head and on social media. I really wrestled with Pinterest and wanted to make my home look perfect in an attempt to validate my efforts in home-making.  I was confusing homemaking with a product that looked like a well-laid out home with good recipes, cleaning know-how, and hospitality tips. Nothing is wrong with any of those things, but the truth is that the validation of my work in the home needs to come from God.  In this way, I am freed from worrying how popular culture or Christian culture viewed me or my home.  I have the ammunition I need to fight from alternating between “If only there were a man here who could do this” to “forget men, I can do this myself” to “but don’t appear too self-sufficient because that might scare them away” to “I don’t think I can do this after all”.

Here is an example of God showing Himself in the midst of one of those times from a journal entry dated 6/11/14, the almost 1-year anniversary of living in my own house:

“Tonight I find myself guilty of great sin. Yet, I also find my great God forgives, gently instructs, and breaks my proud heart with such kindness that I find any tears of remorse must find themselves equally mixed with tears of happiness in my Lord’s goodness. What is my crime?  I have not believed God’s works kind; I have doubted His faithful words that he hears my desires and fills them; I have willfully neglected the truth that I am one whose face need not be covered in shame.  I have instead chosen to dwell in my discontent on the idea that the life and work God has given and the blessings He has bestowed are not good. I have worried in mortification over them instead of rejoicing and delighting with thanksgiving.  But praise God that he has given me His Word to read freely.  His Spirit, instead of shunning me, stays to faithfully convict and then comfort my heart.

“The Lord is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works. The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.  The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.  The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on Him in truth.  He fulfills the desire of those who fear him, he also hears their cry and saves them. Psalm 145:13b-21

“And as if that were not enough – God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every  good work. 2 Cor. 9:8”

Through her writings, Helen Roseveare, a single missionary to Africa has encouraged me in the sanctification that comes from serving God as a single woman. She wrote about one similar encounter with God in her book, Give Me This Mountain:

‘You are doing this work for me, and I have seen all you have poured in, of heart and soul; I know.’ So He breathed peace into my striving heart – the same old message, but ever new.

Another deep truth I have learnt, and one we can all cling to, is that God is personally interested in us as individuals and that He will engineer our circumstances and daily lives so that He can thereby make us like Jesus… through them, we may be drawn closer to Himself.

Therefore He showed me, with a gentle smile, a smile of reproof perhaps, that I had taken so long to learn, a smile of deep love that I truly wanted to learn, that I was ‘acceptable with God,’ and this could only mean that I was in the centre of his will.  Certainly this could be no ‘second-best’.

I have come to realize that making a home looks different for me than for others – even other single women.  In His great goodness, God is the designer of all and is pleased with the faithful, trusting obedience of His children whether he has called them to singleness or marriage.  The Father of Lights, who gives good gifts, does not give second best.  His will is good, pleasing, and perfect.

Those who look to Him are radiant, their faces are never covered with shame. Psalm 34:5

(Up next: Some examples of what different aspects of home-making have looked like in my life and what God has taught me through them.  First on the list: time and money.)

Saturday Song: The Church’s One Foundation

Summer weddings are getting their start today… at least in my circle of friends.  Today marks the start of two marriages and celebrates the anniversary of another.  Next Saturday marks the beginning of another new marriage.  With all this in mind, The Church’s One Foundation has playing in my mind.  Marriage is a covenant of faithfulness that reflects the great mystery of Christ’s love for the Church and the Church’s response to her Savior.  So a wedding between two believers is doubly happy.  It is a celebration of the love two individuals for each other that is held together by and points to the greater love of the Almighty God for all believers.

Here is an arrangement with two verses of the hymn and one verse of Fairest Lord Jesus that I included at the end.

The Church’s One Foundation_Fairest Lord Jesus

V1.

The Church’s one foundation

is Jesus Christ her Lord,

She is His new creation

By water and the Word.

From heaven He came and sought her

To be His holy bride;

With His own blood He bought her,

And for her life He died.

V.2

Elect from every nation,

Yet one over all the earth;

Her charter of salvation,

One Lord, one faith, one birth;

One holy Name she blesses,

Partakes one holy food,

And to one hope she presses,

With every grace endued.

V3.

Though with a scornful wonder

Men see her sore oppressed,

By schisms rent asunder,

By heresies distressed,

Yet saints their watch are keeping;

Their cry goes up, “How long?”

And soon the night of weeping

Shall be the morn of song.

V4.

The church shall never perish,

Her dear Lord to defend

To guide, sustain and cherish,

Is with her to the end

THough there be those that hate her,

And false sons in her pale

Against a foe or traitor,

She ever shall prevail.

V5.

Mid toil and tribulation,

And tumult of her war,

She waits the consummation

Of peace forevermore;

‘Til with the vision glorious,

Her longing eyes are blessed,

And the great Church victorious

Shall be the Church at rest.

V.6

Yet she on earth hath union

With God the Three in One,

And mystic sweet communion

With those whose rest is won.

O Happy ones and holy!

Lord, give us grace that we

Like them, the meek and lowly,

On high may dwell with Thee.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.  Ephesians 5:22-32