Still Single at 38: Thoughts on Faith and Singleness

In church this morning, the preacher talked about loving the past, but loving the future more. This wasn’t the main point of his talk; just an aside really, but he said: “I want to see my daughters married – soon. I want to see grandchildren – not that soon, but I do want it to come.” For a single person, this could bring up a whole range of emotions.

I’ll be 38 this week, and I’m not (and never have been) married, so there is some sadness. Sometimes things are out of your control, particularly when other people are involved, but Isaiah 41:9 gives me great comfort. “I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are My servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you.” I’m still single; it doesn’t change that, but it does tell me I’m good enough for God.

I read a book once, “God is a Matchmaker” (written by a Godly man called Derek Prince). It gave some very good advice, E.G. to look at whether your prospective spouse relates Biblically to their parents and others, but the author also said this. “In the area of psychological problems, there are those who are mentally challenged or mentally handicapped. … There are also those who would be categorized medically as schizophrenic or even psychotic. Out of the depths of their struggles, they manifest insight and devotion at times that are worthy of saints. Yet for these and others like them, celebacy often seems to be the Lord’s plan.” This part has stuck in my memory because as a single person, I can sometimes think that of myself – that maybe there’s something wrong with me; that although God welcomes me as a Christian, maybe I’m not quite worthy to be married, but the Bible doesn’t say that. In fact, it calls both marriage and singleness gifts from God. Paul (one of my favourite Bible-characters) was single, and he wrote: “I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that. But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:7-9). Singleness is good. You can have a purposeful life as a single person, just as you can as a married person.

In another book I’ve read, “The Chase” (an autobiographical account of two newlyweds), it mentions the bride’s parents – how they prayed for their children and future spouses before the children were even born, which might sound admirable, but I’m really glad my parents didn’t do this. They’ve never put me under huge pressure, or had any expectations for my life that I know of. Maybe I would have achieved more if they had, or maybe I wouldn’t, and always would have felt like I didn’t measure up. Honestly, this morning has made me want to come home and just thank them for loving me as I am.

I know this has been a personal blog, but perhaps someone else in my situation might be helped by something I’ve said.

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Your Faith, Your Voice: Thoughts on “A Star is Born”

Have you heard about the film “A Star is Born”? It’s getting good reviews and I saw it at the cinema this week. I really got into the story and its main characters: A famous country artist goes into a bar to find this unheard-of singer performing a song. He hears the voice and sees her potential, but while he’s trying to draw her out of her insecurities, he has his own issues to deal with. It’s about the music industry; addiction; mental health … and it just highlighted a couple of things for me.

He sang a very melancholy song: ‘No one knows what awaits for the dead’. If you don’t believe in eternity – some rising to everlasting life and others to eternal condemnation (John 5:28-29), then not only do you not have an ultimate end to work towards (Philippians 3:10-14), you also don’t have God to help you navigate this earthly life. No wonder it’s a struggle.

My favourite moment of the film was a song one of them had written. “In all the good times I find myself longing for change, and in the bad times I fear myself.” If ever there was a line in a song that really went with a film, it would be that one. But if we believe in Jesus and are following Him, we don’t have to fear ourselves. We’re assured that our eternity with Him is secure. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:27-28).

One last point (and I hope I don’t give too much away here): There were several voices speaking into Jack’s life – words of hope, and words of derision. It’s the same for us, and I know when I’m vulnerable and low in confidence, derisive voices shout the loudest. How can we use our voice to make others’ lives better? Would you like your negative words to be the last ones somebody hears?

On Galatians and Joy

I’m currently reading a book about Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia. It explains how the Galatians were being tricked. False teachers wanted them to adopt Jewish customs and find security in their own efforts, rather than enjoying the freedom they had when they first put their faith in Jesus.

To the author, that’s real joy. He says: “I don’t mean being happy all the time – sometimes life is painful. But even in those moments we will find comfort in God.”

That quote was such a help to me. I think Peter pre-empted it when he said: “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9).

Believing in Jesus (whom I can’t physically see) gives me a deep-down assurance that all will end well. It doesn’t lessen life’s challenges or the grief that accompanies them, but Jesus is God-with-us and now that He’s in heaven, His Spirit comes alongside Christians to comfort us in those difficulties. That kind of joy is far better to me than being happy all the time.

For anyone interested, the book I quoted from is Tim Chester’s “Rediscovering Joy: The Dynamic Power of the Reformation in Galatians”.

Lavished

I’m not long back from a week away with the lovely Marilyn Baker and Tracy Williamson. Tracy’s deaf and partially-sighted, and because I’m blind and have recently been fitted with hearing-aids, it’s as if she’s the same as me, but the other way round. More than that, she makes me feel encouraged and I really like being around her. She’s just written a new book, “The Father’s Kiss”, which I’m reading at the moment. In the book, we’re asked to think about the word ‘Lavished’.

In my previous post, I talked about my friends’ daughter. I wrote a song when she was born about God’s great love that kept her safe and brought her into the world. The verse that inspired it (1 John 3:1) says: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God”, so ‘Lavished’ always reminds me of her as a new-born, and the love she was surrounded with. I remember her dad saying: “I keep thinking I’ll go home from work, and she’s gonna be there.” I can also remember how she made me feel. If I was despondent, and my friend came to sit next to me with this baby girl on her lap, just hearing her breathe would make me smile and think how God had blessed me.

If only we, myself included, would live our lives with that same passion. “I’ll go and do this today, and God’s gonna be there!” One interaction with our Lord – all it takes to make us smile.

God’s lavished love on us. Isn’t it good for us to lavish love on Him?

A Birthday Connection

Today is my friends’ daughter’s birthday. They lived in my hometown, which they left before she was a year old. These were friends who’d really helped me grow as a Christian and get to know God more. It was very sad to see them go: The first of my close friends to have a girl and I wouldn’t get to see her grow up, so I prayed. “Father, please let me hear her say something, even one word, before she goes.” That prayer wasn’t going to change the world. It wasn’t for anyone’s benefit except mine, but you know, it happened. One day we were in the car and her dad was talking, and she said “Daddy”; not dada, but the proper word “Daddy”, as clear as if you or I had said it. I didn’t hear her talk again until the family came back to visit, much later.

I wrote this just to encourage you to pray. It might be the smallest, stupidest, most selfish prayer you can think of, but what does that matter? If we really have a God who loves and cares for us, He’s going to want to spend time with us – to hear what’s in our hearts; what makes us happy or sad.

I believe in a God who wanted a connection with us so much that He came to this earth as one of us. At Christmas, we’ll celebrate Jesus being born into the human race. At Easter, we’ll remember that He came for one reason: To live a blameless life and to die spotless, so He could represent us before God the Father. When we come to God through Jesus, God’s able to hear our prayers and connect with us, and that’s really special.

Thanks for Sharing

I’d like to write about the night I became a Christian. Let me start with these verses from the Bible: “Surely you know that the people who do wrong will not inherit God’s kingdom. Do not be fooled. Those who sin sexually, worship idols, take part in adultery, those who are male prostitutes, or men who have sexual relations with other men, those who steal, are greedy, get drunk, lie about others, or rob – these people will not inherit God’s kingdom. In the past, some of you were like that, but you were washed clean. You were made holy, and you were made right with God in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). I love the thought that whatever you’ve done wrong, when you come to Jesus, He can clean you up and make you new – make you fit to follow Him.

That’s what the preacher talked about on 2 October, 1999. He listed various wrongs and one of them was envy. He told us: “Envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30). I wonder what would’ve happened if the preacher had thought: “There are sure to be people here tonight who struggle with envy. Maybe I shouldn’t share that verse. I don’t want to upset anyone.”

As it was, he did share it, and it was a shock because I knew I was envious. My sister was having driving lessons and as a blind person, I was extremely envious of her. I remember thinking if what he said was true, my bones must be well and truly rotting away. For the first time, I knew that hell was real and if nothing changed, I was on my way there. But that uncomfortable feeling? That’s what made me reach out to God in prayer.

At the end of the preach, as everyone else sang a final song, I sat in my seat and told God I didn’t want to come to Him just out of fear of going to hell. That seemed to me a weak thing to do. I had never known God in a personal way or heard His voice in my heart before, but when I said I didn’t want to come to Him out of fear, I felt Him reply: “Come because I love you.” It was totally unexpected and completely life-changing, as that’s when I started following God.

Jesus prayed to God: “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17). The Word of God is true and absolutely authoritative. I want to thank not just preachers, but anyone who shares God’s Word in any way: In songs, school assemblies, hospital or prison ministry … Please, never stop sharing the truth. God loves the people He’s created. His love is available to everyone, and the world needs to hear that.

Having my Say – “Home and Away”

You might have heard the Aussie soap “Home and Away” is supposed to have made history recently by introducing its first gay character. I was a big fan of H&A in the early days and have been watching it again in the last year or so. This homosexual teenager is only a guest on the show for a few weeks, thankfully, because I haven’t liked their approach. All his fellow-characters (even the older ones, who’ve made a stand in the past on moral issues) have made it very clear that homosexuality is part of who he is, and he has no choice in the matter. I think it’s very sad. They seem so afraid to offend homosexuals that they’re not prepared to let anyone have a different opinion.

As someone who believes the Bible, I know that in Genesis chapter 2, it talks about a man being united with his wife and the two becoming one flesh (Genesis 2:24). That’s how we were created to be: A man and his wife, not a man and his husband. The Bible goes into greater detail in the less quoted and less talked-about book of Romans. It tells us God’s revealed Himself to mankind through His creation; He’s plain to see, so people have no excuse for their wrongdoing (Romans 1:20). But because they ignored the greatness of God, because they didn’t honour Him or thank Him, He let them go their own way. They became immoral; women stopped having sex with men and had it with other women, and vice versa (Romans 1:21-27). When people dismiss the importance of knowing God, He takes a step away and gives them over to that lifestyle. It is a choice, and there is an alternative. People can honour God with their lives; show Him gratitude by living the way He wants them to live.

Personally, I think it would have made “Home and Away” much more interesting if Marilyn had struggled to accept Ty’s homosexuality. The fostering agency could have pressured her and John to accept it, but she could have genuinely felt (as she did with Irene’s surrogacy twenty years ago) that it was wrong to mess with nature. Wouldn’t that have made the storyline more balanced and given people something to think about?

Are you Afraid to Read a Book on Fear?

The endorsements describe this book as gentle and personal, and I would agree with that. Although I thought it might be helpful, the idea of reading a book on fear did make me a little nervous. Would it be too confronting? Would it shame me? But it did neither of those things.

This book aims to help you cope with persistent anxious thoughts. Chapters 3, 7 and 10 were my personal favourites. I think the part I’m going to remember most is: “Stay in today.” I do sometimes go down the path of worrying about my future, but Maria encourages me to hold onto what’s true here and now. “Breaking the Fear Cycle” is definitely worth a read if you struggle with fear and anxiety.

Fully Accessible

Here we are, at the biggest celebration of the Christian year. We remember that first day of the week two thousand years ago, when some women came to Jesus’ tomb and found His body wasn’t there. Two men in shining garments tell them Jesus is alive! Luke elaborates later in the chapter and says it was a vision of angels (Luke 24:22-23). They say: “Remember what He told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that He would rise again on the third day” (Luke 24:6-7). I had never noticed that before. I always imagined Jesus talked to only His closest friends about going ahead of them into Galilee (Matthew 26:30-32; Mark 14:26-28), but no; it was the women as well.

As a blind person, I hear a lot about accessibility. So many times here, Jesus sets out to prove how accessible He is. Two of His followers have walked nearly seven miles from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus (Luke 24:13), and unknowingly talked with Him on the way. They invite Him in for the night and with the scent of bread in their nostrils, as Jesus breaks it to pieces, their spiritual eyes are opened and they recognise Him. Jesus disappears and straightaway they do the seven-mile walk all over again, going back to tell their story.

As they’re speaking, suddenly Jesus is among them. “Look at My hands. Look at My feet. You can see that it’s really Me. Touch Me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do” (Luke 24:39). Bringing in the sense of taste, He asks for something to eat and they give Him a piece of broiled fish. Then He opens their minds to understand the Scriptures. I would’ve loved to have been at that Bible-study!

Jesus wants to fill our intellect and all our senses. He’s God-with-us, who wants everyone to have access to the forgiveness He offers. “You saw these things happen – you are witnesses. You must go and tell people that they must change and turn to God, which will bring them His forgiveness. You must start from Jerusalem and tell this message in My name to the people of all nations. Remember that I will send you the One my Father promised. Stay in the city until you are given that power from heaven” (Luke 24:47-49).

Jesus gave convincing proofs He was alive, appearing to His followers over a period of forty days (Acts 1:3). Then comes the end of Luke’s gospel, and the beginning of Luke’s second book – the book of Acts. As His friends watch, Jesus ascends to heaven before their eyes, and they’re told: “Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday He will return from heaven in the same way you saw Him go” (Acts 1:11).

* * *

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series, taking us through Jesus’ life in the gospel of Luke. Happy Easter, and if you’re accepting for the first time that Jesus died so you could be forgiven, welcome to the family.

Hope that Doesn’t Disappoint

Today we remember the sacrifice Jesus made for us when He died on that cross. I don’t think I could retell it in a way that would do it justice, but three scenes from this chapter stuck out to me.

Scene one: The Jewish hierarchy brought Jesus before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, since their Law wouldn’t allow them to execute Him (John 18:31-32). When he found out Jesus was a Galilean, Pilate sent Him to Herod – the ruler of Galilee. We’ve seen before that Herod thought at one point Jesus might be John back from the dead, so he already knew of His existence. Luke says Herod hoped to see Jesus perform a miracle (Luke 23:8), but it wasn’t to be. He plied Jesus with questions, but Jesus refused to answer. Then Herod and his soldiers started insulting and mocking Jesus.

Scene two: Herod’s dismissed Jesus and sent Him back to Pilate, who wants to release Him. The Jewish leaders aren’t having any of it, so they incite the crowd to shout for Jesus’ crucifixion. “They shouted louder and louder that He should be crucified, and eventually Pilate capitulated” (Luke 23:23). John tells us Jesus carried His own cross (John 19:17), but He had already been severely beaten. Perhaps He was too weak physically to continue carrying it because according to Luke, as Jesus was led away, the soldiers seized a man named Simon and put the cross on him (Luke 23:26). Simon came from Cyrene (a city in northern Africa), and Rufus and Alexander were his two sons (Mark 15:21). Other than that, we don’t know much about him, but I can hazard a guess that as he came into Jerusalem from the countryside, Simon hoped for an uneventful Passover celebration. He wouldn’t have wanted to be ramrodded by a bunch of power-hungry soldiers into the brutality of that day.

Scene three: Jesus is nailed to a cross, and two criminals to crosses alongside Him. Both criminals start out ridiculing Him (Matthew 27:44), but I guess one felt a check in his spirit. As the first goes on cursing, the second speaks up. “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong” (Luke 23:40-41). All that’s ahead for them now is death, but the God-fearing one seems to have some concept of something more. I imagine his eyes locking with Jesus’ as he pleads: “Remember me when You come into Your kingdom”, and Jesus famously promised he would join Him in paradise. It’s a wonderful hope – that even if we haven’t known Jesus for the majority of our lives, if we turn to Him in our last moments asking to be remembered, He won’t fail us.

When Jesus is the centre of your hope, you won’t be disappointed.

On Monday, I did my first-ever open mic night at the Cavern Pub in Liverpool (amazing to be able to say I’ve sung at the Cavern!). I sang my song:
“You’re the only one who satisfies completely;
You’re the only one who never lets me down” …

Sometimes I might feel let-down because I haven’t got the things I’ve been hoping for here on earth, but in reality, He hasn’t let me down. I’ve always got the presence of Jesus. He’s never going to leave me; He’ll never expect me to cope with life on my own. Do you have that hope?