Whether you are 15 or 50, looking for love or a friend or just threading water today, the following can be helpful and hopefully encouraging or amusing:
- Have a life! Have something to do that you are passionate about! Something that keeps you busy, challenges you and will be enough at times when you don’t have someone to share with.
- Spend time with the right person. There are many wonder women and super men out there but they may not share time and space well with you. Find the ones who care about you!
- Pay attention to the details. Red flags, signs from above (or at least friends and family). I have observed many a wonderful person walk past or away from a person with great poetential and chase after a train wreck of a relationship.
- Share your time and interests. Not everything but something. Spending time together is easier if you can do something together that you both enjoy
- Know when to “give space” and also when to fill “space” if your friend isn’t available. Many of the most interesting people are also people who may not be available at all times. That’s ok. Enjoy them when they are home.
Have a blessed day!
It is never static. Whether we are religious or not, even in the times we feel most settled in our beliefs, things are always shifting. As we head through time and space we are renovated by circumstances and experiences, by people and relationships and we are constantly, gradually being altered. Immobility is a myth.
Inevitably most people of faith will face a crisis of faith. Chances are you already have, maybe a few times or a few thousand. This may consist of only a handful of moments when questions rise up and then quickly subside, or a sustained season of heavy doubt that lingers. It might be a subtle eroding of some small things you once felt were true but are no longer sure of, or you may have had the very bedrock of your belief system pulled out from beneath your feet, leaving you in free fall.
And when we go through these faith-shaking, soul testing times, we don’t go through them alone. Yes, we experience doubt and deconstruction in a profoundly solitary way, but since we also live in intimate relationship with people who love us deeply, they too end up sharing that road with us, often as reluctant, unsuspecting participants.
This is for all those surprised passengers along for the terrifying, disorienting ride and for those who seem to be driving.
One of the greatest tensions a marriage, family, or friendship can ever face is one member’s evolving spirituality. Most commonly, someone finds their once iron-clad, orderly religion suddenly in doubt and they gradually (or quite quickly) become less rigid and more open to new ideas, even other faith traditions. They might begin to dissect the creeds they once accepted as givens or start looking at the Bible differently or even question the very reality of God. Yet the reverse also happens quite often too. A person who previously espoused no religious beliefs, suddenly and dramatically comes to faith and finds their entire worldview turned upside down literally overnight.
Yet regardless of the actual scenario, the fallout in these relationships is shockingly similar. There is quite often a palatable sense of betrayal; the feeling that someone has changed the rules in the middle of the game, leaving the other to play catch-up and to try and find their new place in a relationship with someone they no longer feel they know quite as well as they did before. An invisible, yet very real barrier often goes up between people and their cherished bond becomes presently strained.
Here are some things that are helpful to remember when navigating this changing spiritual season with someone you love, from either side of the divide:
For those loving someone in the change, remember:
1) This is not voluntary. Faith is rarely as much of a choice as it is a conclusion. People don’t often go through an existential implosion willingly, but after a great deal of denial, struggle, and grieving. For your loved one, this is them telling you where they are; what their living and studying and praying and questioning have yielded right now, regardless of whether or not it saddens or terrifies them. Try not to see them as the cause of this crisis, but as the recipients of it.
2) This is not about you. Yes, you are probably impacted greatly by your loved one’s changing spirituality and yes, it’s likely sending all sorts of stomach-churning ripples through your life, but ultimately this is about their journey and the authentic contents of their hearts which they are vulnerable enough to share. That is a gift. Resist the temptation to focus on your reactions to their revelations, and listen first. This is first and foremost their faith story, so let them tell it.
3) This is not your responsibility. In a well-meaning but panicked, knee-jerk response, you might be tempted to try and convince your loved one to feel the way they once did, to believe what they used to; to try and talk or will them back to where they were when you met them—but this is impossible. These are spiritual things and you, as flesh and blood cannot do spiritual things. And try as you might you can’t push or pull them back to where they once stood. Listen, ask questions, offer your perspective, and pray, but don’t saddle yourself with altering their or anyone else’s spirituality. That is far more than you are asked or qualified to do.
For those whose faith is changing, remember to:
1) Let people catch-up. You’ve probably been wrestling with these things for a lot longer than you’ve talked about them with people. Those close to you may have seen this news coming for a while or it may have blindsided them like a runaway truck, but either way they haven’t known as long as you have and to the depths that you have, so you have to be patient and give people time to process this and to make up some of the rugged ground you’ve already covered on your own. Kindly wait on them.
2) Tread Lightly. This is especially true if you have abandoned certain tenets of your shared faith tradition. Your newfound liberation from ideas or concepts or systems feels freeing now, but these may still be sacred to your loved ones, and your joy may feel like a slap in the face. Do your best not to make them suddenly feel inferior or wrong or unevolved for believing what they believe. Simply and gently convey your perspective from where you now stand, but be extremely sensitive to the fact that they are standing somewhere else, and it matters dearly to them.
3) Cut yourself some slack. You probably feel a great deal of guilt (either internally or from your loved ones) for pulling what feels like a spiritual bait-and-switch, but you know that isn’t true. You know the road you traveled to get here, what you’ve wrestled with, how fervent your prayers have been, how diligently you’ve searched, and how long you’ve been struggling. These are the biggest questions of this life and you’re smack dab in the middle of it, so give yourself a break if the answers are elusive or different right now than they’ve been before.
And for both of you, remember:
The story isn’t over. You are each a work in progress, and where you are now, most certainly won’t be where you will find yourself a year or five or thirty years from now. Being in a relationship with someone else is about walking alongside them as they travel the long journey, and about weathering the difficult places and adverse conditions that trip takes you to and through.
If you can help it, never make someone else feel guilty for what they now believe or no longer believe. We each have a unique testimony that we can’t change even if we wanted to. Try not to make a moral judgement on the faith convictions of another person. The roles could just as easily be reversed one day. Then as much as now, mutual respect, great gentleness, and real compassion will carry you through things you never believed you could endure together.
Whether or not you find agreement on anything else right now, agree to try and love one another well in this. Regardless of what is changing or will change in either of you, strive to let that be the rock you cling to together.
Sometimes….I wonder…I observe…It seems…..
Sorry! It is challenging me to START this post….I want to be sensitive but it isn’t my style. I need to be tactful but I don’t know how…So, here goes
*DO YOU HAVE A PLAN? (for dating, working, for serving, for growing…..)
- Are you committed to doing it right (til the end)?
- Will you stick with it regardless of setbacks?
- Will you be satisfied with the result?
- Are your expectations realistic?
In the Bible, Acts 19:11 and following, there is a story of the “Sons of Sceva”. These men observed the miracles that Paul performed and wanted in on the action. But they did not understand what they were doing. They did not have a commitment to the action, did not expect setbacks, had no goal or expectation of satisfaction beyond immediate gratification. And they were beaten and fled naked into the streets…..
Do you have a plan? That’s right! A plan? Does your life (including dating) glorify God? When you meet your soul mate, will you commit? Can you handle setbacks (there will be many)? What is your goal? Will you be satisfied and content with results of your choices?
By this, they wilt knoweth that ye are my disciples; if ye throwest the greatest shade.
-Jesus, The Wishful Thinking Translation
Sometimes I can be a real jerk; selfish, petty, arrogant, sarcastic and mean—and that’s on my good days.
And although I should (and usually do) internally despise my profound jerkiness, far too often I find myself outwardly defending it, justifying it, even celebrating it.
It seems as though social media has hardened us all into professional posturers; less apologetic for our nastiness and more openly defiant in it. We begin to almost revel in our malice instead of repenting of it. Where we once viewed these hateful traits as fertile ground for personal renovation, we now see them as moral virtues to be flaunted and applauded.
As someone daily immersed in the public discourse over matters of faith, I feel a heavy sadness seeing the cruelty which now seems standard issue for Christians; the sarcasm, snarkiness and venom we so regularly wield with our words. These are the wildly mismatched accessories for a follower of Jesus, which we’ve all somehow convinced ourselves actually fit. When we publicly skewer someone or one-up their insult or shame them silent, we feel quite proud of ourselves; morally vindicated even if nothing in our conduct gives off the slightest whiff of the goodness of Christ.
Sure, these attack strategies that we employ in order to deflect criticism or avoid meaningful dialogue or sidestep deep reflection often accomplish their intended tasks, they also pretty much urinate all over our public testimony as well, in the process.
That’s because most of us now really cherish winning an argument over reflecting Christ’s compassion and humility. We’d rather put people who oppose us on blast, than love and pray for them.
We have become far too comfortable in our own viciousness and diluted ourselves into worshiping a false Jesus, who somehow is cool with the sheer jerkitude we daily dispense in his name.
Ironically, we regularly unleash all manner of verbal awfulness upon people and then dare to wonder why they reject faith or run from the Church or avoid us like a root canal.
The more time I spend on this planet and the more I seek God, the more compelled I am to simply try to see individual people, to listen to their stories, and to treat them well. So often I witness my brothers and sisters out there in the world wagging their fingers and spewing hatred and beating their chests and tossing insults from a distance, and I just want to grab them and shake them and say, “Can you just try to be a decent human being? You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.”
You can’t berate anyone into belief, you can’t simultaneously be both sarcastic and sincere, and you can do anything good in a person by treating them horribly. If you win an argument and your words leave someone feeling less than human—you’ve lost. If you shout someone down or shame them into silence or ridicule them, you simply haven’t loved them as Jesus would and no amount of tap-dancing with the facts or stretching the Gospels stories will change that.
A few quick ways to practice a decidedly non-jerk spirituality:
Don’t mistake social media for conversation. What transpires on timelines and profiles and comments sections is not dialogue. It is at best, a volleying of separate monologues that doesn’t allow the necessary elements of recognition of tone, real-time course correction, and nuance. If you can’t speak in person, the words that you begin to type to someone, hit backspace and pause until you come up with something more redemptive.
Have some Jerk-alarms in place. In the speed and emotion social media generates, it can be difficult to notice how we are really coming across. I have some great people in my life; people I respect, who won’t shy away from giving me hard words when I need them. They tell me the truth even when I’d rather have something far less invasive and far less honest. Good friends let you know when you’re being a jerk, so find yourself some and then listen to them.
Talk to a person, don’t play to the crowd. I see so many Christians who respond to public calling out with an equally public, yet usually more vicious response. Fueled by the easy high of Retweets and Likes, we all end up from time to time sucked in, caught up in the adrenaline-injected moment, and briefly forfeiting our souls to gain some social media kudos. It’s a bad play every time. Seek private, direct conversation as often as you are able, and resist the buzz of the atta-boys from a choir of acquaintances.
Use sarcasm sparingly. Seriously. We have become so comfortable with tongue-in-cheek, half-hearted speech that many of us have lost the ability to be genuine, to be humble, to be dignified. I’m as guilty as anyone, but I’m continually resisting the temptation to remain in that lazy, insincere language. Sarcasm is a place you want to visit now and again, but no place you should live.
When in doubt, shut-up. Note: A response is not always necessary. Questions do not always need to be answered, false information doesn’t always need immediate correction, and uninvited personal attack doesn’t always require a defense. When Jesus was falsely accused, mocked, and beaten on the way to his wrongful execution, he was simply silent. In response to the manufactured drama that we face every day, shutting-up may be the most sacred and faith-affirming thing we ever do.
Practice ruthless self-examination. Hold on to the very real possibility that you could be wrong at any given moment; that you could be misinformed or misguided or just plain terrible. We who follow Jesus, need to be more adept at our own personal inventory than in identifying the mess of others. The first place to look for jerky behavior should always be in the mirror.
Repeat. This is a moment-by-moment process that we’ll be in until our very last breath. When you think you’ve arrived—keep going.
Friend, both you and I will most surely miss the mark here and much sooner and more frequently than either of us would like, but we can’t let that keep us from being relentless and steadfast in our search for a better version of ourselves with which to face conflict and discord and opposition.
If we’re truly looking to share our faith and reflect an accurate picture of Christ to the world (and not just win the Internet today) we’ll do the painful, repetitive work it takes, and we won’t be satisfied until we’re more in his image than we were yesterday.
May you and I pursue the elusive, difficult, but so very Jesus ministry—of not being a jerk.
*Incidently, this also works extremely well for non-religious folk. You too can seek compassion, kindness, decency, and understanding, and beautifully de-jerk your life quite well…………John Pavlovitz
Ever wish you had the answers to a test before you walked into the classroom? Maybe some of you did have the answers, but you better keep that to yourself. I took some really hard tests during my time in college.
And if you spent time in college you remember review days. The professor would walk into a class full of students (some of which I had never seen) and give some insights about the impending test. Miss review day, and it would be foolish to expect a passing grade.
But it never failed. I would follow the guideline. I would study the handout. But on the day of the exam, the professor would put the exam on my desk … and there it was. A foreign formula or equation. It wasn’t in the notes. It didn’t show up on the study guide.
Looking back, I realize something … the teacher did not intend for the study guide to be comprehensive. It was simply not possible to include everything from the required readings, class notes and lectures.
The same is true with the church and marriage. I am grateful for the foundation the church gave me in regards to marriage. It was a good study guide. But there some things on the test I did not learn until marriage began. So, I am going to give you some answers to the test that some of you might not expect to see. I grew up in church. I spent most of my time with Christian people. I was told much about marriage. But these seven truths about marriage I never heard in church.
1.) Sex is a gift from God. Explore It.
Make no mistake … God created sex. But through the years, God’s people allowed Satan to steal this gift. Without a fight.
God created sex. If you’re married, explore this gift to the fullest.
I was never educated about sex … and I grew up in a Christian family. My framework for sex was built by my friends and the movies I watched. Big UH OH. The cloud of lies formed during my teenage years still hinder me from enjoying the fullness of sex.
It is time for God’s people to take back the gift of sex. The lies surrounding it are ruining lives and marriages. If you are married, here’s a challenge. Explore sex. Explore the fullness of it. Pray for sexual intimacy with your spouse.
Parents … it is time to stop allowing Satan to define sex for our children. Educate them. Start early. The average child is exposed to pornography at age 11. Eleven!! And many parents wait until high school to have “the talk” with their children. At that point, you are not building a foundation for sex. Your’re trying to destroy a foundation Satan has already built.
Church leaders … I am convinced of this. The situation in our culture today is too urgent to allow parents to override you here. Talk about sex. If parents refuse to educate their children, you do it. Do not let Satan beat you to the punch. A false understanding of sex is destroying young people. It is destroying our nation. It is destroying the world. And we are doing nothing!
Sex is a beautiful gift created by God for a man and a woman that have vowed to spend the rest of their earthly lives with one another. If you are married … open this gift and enjoy the fullness of it.
2.) There is more than one person out there for you.
Soul mates are made … not born. I am not sure where this idea of soul mate originated, but it is false. Maintaining a healthy relationship is more about commitment than perfection. Every person on earth has imperfections. And the reality is we could spend our lives with more than one person.
Tiffani (my wife) is not perfect. There are nuances about her that frustrate me. But I realize these frustrations are really a result of my imperfections. I love her so much. And I love her more every day. I am committed to her.
I meet too many young people waiting for something that is not real. “I just couldn’t marry her because she smacked her food.” “He just wasn’t the one … he had this weird twitch when he smiled. But I know my soul mate is still out there. I just have to keep looking.”
Or you might have just missed him or her.
What if God does not want you to find a perfect person, but an imperfect person that will draw you closer to Him? What if God desires you to marry a person with flaws to expose yours? What if God wants to teach you the value found in committing to one person forever, not the exhausting pursuit of searching your entire life to find the perfect person?
Soul mates are made … not born.
3.) The first year of marriage is hard … really hard.
What have we done? Are we going to make it? Why is this so hard? All questions I asked myself many times during my first year of marriage. We were arguing. We were fighting. It was really hard. And every day I thought something was wrong. I thought we had a bad marriage. Nobody warned me about the first year. But take this as a warning … the first year of marriage is difficult.
If you are in the first year of marriage and thinking about giving up … congratulations. You are now … married!
But let me encourage you … things get better. Every marriage has struggles. Yours is not unique. Don’t give up. There are better days coming. Your marriage will get better. Do not walk out. Nothing worth having comes easy. If you walk out now you disqualify yourself (and your spouse) from years of joy.
4.) A spouse does not complete you.
I hate you, Jerry Maguire. You brainwashed a generation to believe a lie. Spouses do not complete people. I bought this lie, and it wasn’t until I let go of any notion my wife could fill some void that I was able to truly love her. Until then, I was always frustrated. I expected Tiffani to do something she was incapable of doing.
If you are empty, broken or insecure, and you believe a spouse is the silver bullet to your problems … buckle up. Marriage will be a bumpy ride. Only God can fill those voids. You will never be able to enjoy the beauty of marriage if your spouse’s job is to complete you.
You can’t experience joy in your marriage if your spouse’s job is to complete you.
5.) Marry somebody with similar goals, dreams and passions.
Marry a Christian, yes. But I would go even further. Marry somebody with similar passions and dreams. Now, I understand this breaks down at some point. People are not machines. No two people want exactly the same thing in life. However, if you love foreign missions and your potential spouse hates going overseas, some tension will arise.
Synergy is extremely important in a marriage. If your spouse has the same vision as you, they will understand your struggles and support your pursuits. They will encourage your walk. They will be empathetic. There is much power in two people doing life with the same goals, dreams and passions for life.
6.) Marriage is not for everybody.
Paul talks about this in I Corinthians 7. He tells the church at Corinth to remain in their current situation. If unmarried, then stay unmarried. If married, then stay married. He later says this …
So then the person who marries his fiancee does well, and the person who doesn’t marry does even better. 1 Corinthians 7:38
Even better? I never heard that in church. Maybe it is time for God’s people to accept the reality. God has not called everyone to marry. I talk with young men and women that are consumed with finding a spouse. And most of the pressure comes from … US. The church. Once a person reaches mid-20s, we assume they have a fatal flaw if they aren’t married.
“Bless your heart. You are almost 30 and not married? I know this must be hard!?”
Shame on us. I am worried many failed marriages are the result of Christians pressuring people into something God did not design them for. Marriage is holy and good, but it is also possible to follow Jesus without a spouse.
7.) The wedding day is a lie … don’t buy it.
I love weddings. I love officiating them. It is a rare moment where I get to make a divine proclamation that forever changes the status of two people. Powerful.
But in an increasingly individualistic, “me” culture, weddings create a potentially dangerous situation. “Every girl lives for her wedding day.” It is all about the bride and groom. Everyone looks at them. Encourages them. Congratulates them.
Don’t buy the wedding day lie. Marriage is not about you.
Many couples buy the lie of the wedding day … it is all about me. But marriage is at odds with this mindset. A successful wedding day is one where everyone serves you. A successful marriage is one where you serve your spouse. The wedding day is a day where the spotlight is on you. Marriage has no spotlight. The wedding day is about saying a bunch of words that most couples never take seriously. Marriage is about putting the words into action. The wedding day is joyous and celebratory. Many seasons of marriage are about persevering and not letting go through the storms.
Embrace your wedding day. Prepare for it. Celebrate it. But do not make the mistake of believing the lie. After your 20 minutes of fame, the spotlight is gone forever. It is no longer about you (and this is a good thing … you will see).
What are some truths you have discovered about marriage the church hasn’t taught you?
Frank Powell is a minister at the Campbell Street Church of Christ in Jackson , TN and ministers to College and young Adults..