Tag Archives: Jesus

How To Be Single In Public

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I don’t exactly blend in with the crowd. I have a huge bushy mustache, borderline albino skin, and hairy legs à la Bigfoot. So you can imagine how going to a restaurant by myself on Valentine’s Day might have felt for me, the only single guy in sight. Like a Sasquatch hunt, and I’m the furry creature in the corner. Strangers staring wide-eyed, wondering if it could really be true — and if they should shoot me.

OK, it wasn’t that bad.

I’ve actually been practicing for a couple years — being single in public. It’s part of my journey to loving the single life. Every week or two I take a one-man field trip to Salt Lake City, where I grab coffee, tour a museum, hike the foothills, or wander around the cemetery (not creepy at all). I’ve learned to love going out on my own and yet being part of something bigger — the bustle and beauty of the city. As much as I love being with people, going solo every once in a while has helped me not only embrace being single, but also being SEEN as single.

This is light years from where I used to be. Back when I was nervous to go anywhere in public (except maybe the grocery store) without at least one friend to mask my singleness. But over the years I’ve learned that most people are too busy wondering what you’re thinking about them to give much thought about you. Ain’t nobody got time to scrutinize your love life (except trolls on the internet, of course). Nobody’s judging you for being single in public — even if you’re a mustachioed yeti, like me.

Besides a surge of starry-eyed lovers, Valentine’s Day wasn’t much different from any other day when I venture out on my own. After a few minutes, I even put down my beloved iPhone — the single person’s safety blanket. Instead, I enjoyed my meal, made eye contact with people, and brushed croissant crumbs from my mustache. You know, the usual. I also took a moment to appreciate being single — to thank God that I’m loved, even when I’m by myself, when people SEE me by myself. There’s freedom in those moments, when you realize your worth isn’t tied to anybody but Jesus himself.

That’s the important part. Remembering who you are in Christ: whole, redeemed, significant. A single person in a big love story. Even in a sea of strangers, there’s Someone who calls you by name and loves you beyond measure. So, go ahead. Go public with your singleness. Tell the world “Table for one.” Buy a movie ticket (singular). Take a trip and don’t feel like you need to explain where your friends are. Being single in public isn’t as bad as you think — it just takes a little practice and a lot of perspective.

And an iPhone doesn’t hurt!

You’re Single? You Must Be So Lonely

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FAQs

OK, I admit this doesn’t usually come in the form of a question. I hear it from reliable sources: “Oh man, Bryan must be so lonely. He must go home at night, crawl into bed, and just watch TV.”

Truth is… Sometimes I go home at night, crawl into bed, and just watch TV. But that’s not because I’m lonely. It’s because I’ve had a long day and I need to vegetate — preferably with Funyuns and Mountain Dew in hand.

On average, I’m alone from about 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. — and that’s because I’m unconscious.

That’s the way I plan it. Several years ago, I decided to stop “being single” and instead to THRIVE in singleness. A top priority was to spend time with people. I couldn’t turn into the old man surrounded by cats (although that sounds delightful). I needed to be surrounded by people — those who could encourage me, challenge me, and sanctify me — and I could do the same for them. Community. That thing churches talk about but nobody really knows what it means or how to do it.

Here’s what it means to me: Spending time with married folks in their homes (i.e. inviting myself over for dinner). Being around their children — learning their names and talents and dreams. Having people over for my famous enchiladas (one of two meals I know how to cook). Spending a little extra money to visit friends who live far away. Staying up late or waking up early to Skype with friends in funky time zones. Saying yes to as many things as I can: birthday parties, barbecues, or helping people move.

Community turns the caricature of singleness on its head.

However, even with all that work and intentionality, sometimes I do feel lonely. But I don’t chalk it up to being single; I chalk it up to being human. Everyone feels lonely from time to time, including the married among us. They feel it when they’re grieving or battling cancer or having marital problems or wrestling with their own thoughts. It just happens. I think that’s where we need to correct people’s thinking: the experience of loneliness is for everyone, not just single people.

Of course, being the person I am, whenever I feel lonely I’ll always remind myself what Jesus said: “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He is Emmanuel: “God with us.” God with ME. These are things I need to remember. If God uses the experience of loneliness to bring truths like this to mind — to remind me of his love and faithfulness and closeness — then heck, maybe I need to feel lonely a little more often.

Singleness Is Like Marriage

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Obviously, we could talk about the millions of ways singleness is different from marriage. But I’m a “big picture” kind of guy, and one way to keep an eternal perspective is to focus on what single people and married folks have in common. Not only does this help me relate more to my married friends, but as an added bonus, it also helps me to be content in my singleness. So, without further ado, singleness is like marriage because…

You have to work at it.

There’s so much talk of working on marriages, but so little talk of working on singleness. Part of the problem, of course, is that singleness is viewed as a temporary state on the way to marriage, where the “real work” begins. But in much the same way marriage does, singleness requires time, effort, planning, prayer, and maybe even counseling. If it looks like your singleness will last awhile, it’s worth asking, “How can I do this well?” We can’t expect things to fall into place without putting in the hard work. We don’t expect it with marriage; we shouldn’t expect it with singleness.

It comes with blessings.

Marriage comes with (ahem) benefits. Aside from sin-free sex, there’s also a measure of security, the hope of children, and the honor of being a living metaphor of Christ and his people. And yet singleness, too, comes with blessings. (Although, if you’re watching too many romantic comedies, it may be harder to recognize them.) Being single affords some of the opportunities Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 7:32 — a chance to focus on “the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord.” Single people can minister in ways that require time and energy that married people simply don’t have. That’s a real gift.

It comes with challenges.

If we’re honest, I think married and single folks actually share many of the same challenges. The sins we often associate with single people — lust, discontent, and selfishness, to name a few — are just as real (and dangerous) for husbands and wives. These are things we fight against, not as married or single people, but as CHRISTIANS. The challenges may look different on the surface, but the root sins are the same.

God approves.

Some religious people have elevated marriage too much, deeming it the epitome of happiness, or even worse, godliness. Others have allowed the pendulum to swing too far in the other direction, idolizing singleness. In recent history, of course, the former has won out. (Recruiting offices at monasteries don’t get much business these days.) But one path is not nobler than the other. Single people will learn lessons that married couples never will, and married people will learn lessons that single people never will. We’re all in the business of glorifying God. Whether single or married, if you’re living a life that honors God, then he approves.

It’s temporary.

And here’s where I get really theological. You see, along with companionship and procreation, marriage exists to be a symbol of God’s faithfulness to his people. Jesus said, “in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Matthew 22:30). That’s because in the next life we’ll all be married to HIM. The shadows will give way to the greater reality, and we’ll see what earthly marriage represented all along: the joining of Christ to his people. This means that singleness, too, is a temporary state. All of us, whether or not we are married in this life, look forward to that final marriage described in Revelation 19, where we become the collective Bride of Christ.

Review: Happiness

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Book Reviews

When I decided to launch this website, I knew Randy Alcorn’s new book Happiness would be a must-read (and must-review). I don’t know if Randy knows this, but he and I are kindred spirits. First there was his book, Heaven, one of the happiest books I’ve ever read, and parts of which I’m sure were taken telepathically from my own brain. (Kindred spirits, you know.) Now there’s Happiness, which is a fitting “sequel.” Also, thanks to Randy, I’ve got tweets lined up for weeks. (No, seriously. Pretty much 90 percent of my tweets for the next few months will come from this book.) Here are my main takeaways from each of the four sections:

Our Compelling Quest for Happiness

If happiness is the one thing ALL people desire, and the one thing only God can ultimately provide, why aren’t churches talking more about it? In part one, Alcorn gives evidence from throughout Church history that happiness is something that saints have always, until very recently, pursued and preached. But he’s also careful to define his terms so that readers understand that the only kind of happiness we should pursue is that which results in glorifying God. That is, we won’t find true happiness in sinful pleasures (or GOOD pleasures that we’ve turned into idols, such as relationships), but we can — and should — seek happiness in God and the gifts of his creation.

The Happiness of God

This section tackles one of the most neglected attributes of God: his happiness. It didn’t take long for Alcorn to convince me that the Triune God is happy in himself and his creation — and that believing this is vital to understanding our own happiness. Many churchgoers imagine God’s default demeanor is one of anger and disappointment, which affects our worship. Alcorn asks us to imagine how our lives would look (and how the world would see us) if we knew that the God we serve is happy. Then we’re given evidence from Scripture that God is, indeed, happy — and he delights to make us part of his story.

The Bible’s Actual Words for Happiness

In what Alcorn calls the most important section, he takes us through passages of Scripture that use the Hebrew and Greek words for happiness, letting the Bible build its own case. One main point here is that these words should often be translated “happy,” but translators and publishers are fixated on the more traditional word “blessed.” We’re comfortable with the SOUND of Psalm 1 (“Blessed is the man”) and Matthew 5 (“Blessed are the poor in spirit”), but we can easily miss the MEANING of the word “blessed” in these contexts: HAPPY! Alcorn takes us through dozens (out of hundreds) of verses where the original languages denote happiness, making it clear that it’s one of the Bible’s most prominent themes.

Understanding and Experiencing Happiness in God

This section could be called “How To Be Happy.” It includes Scripture reading, prayer, corporate worship, repentance, forgiveness, service to others, gratitude, and a focus on our future hope. Now, these are strategies we already know. But with what we’ve learned in parts 1-3, we start to see these not just as things we ought to do, but things we should delight to do. When our DUTY becomes our DELIGHT, Christianity starts to look and feel the way it should: a religion of joy.

This book is a commitment, weighing in at more than 400 pages. But it takes about that long to debunk the myths surrounding happiness. In both the church and the culture at large, happiness needs to be redeemed — it’s demonized by churches, hijacked by prosperity preachers, and misunderstood by unbelievers. With the Bible and Church history on his side, Alcorn puts happiness back in its rightful place and gives us permission to pursue it as an integral part of our walk with God — a God who himself delights with us.