Ask MRP!

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Dear MRP,

I’m having a hard time understanding why people call singleness a gift. I have to say that I am not all that thrilled about having this gift. I’m in my late thirties and have been single for most of my adult life. I deeply desire marriage and children but am perplexed as to why God would give me a “gift” I don’t want. I try to trust Him but at the same time, I wonder if I should just accept what He’s given and not expect anything more.

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Receiving a gift is supposed to be a guaranteed moment that is packed with joy.  You expect to be happy, to have your heart gladdened by the sight of an unexpected act of love. So it is a weirdly somber experience to receive a gift that you don’t want. And this gift is from the Lord, which can make you feel disappointed and conflicted.  But I think the key to understanding God’s gift of singleness lies in the perception of the word “gift”.

The apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 7:7 (The Message), “Sometimes I wish everyone were single like me—a simpler life in many ways! But celibacy is not for everyone any more than marriage is. God gives the gift of the single life to some, the gift of the married life to others.”

Paul wasn’t referring to “gift” in the sense of an object of delight given to someone. But rather, he meant as a skill, a capacity to excel or endure in a process. For the duration of our single season, God grants us what we need to flourish in that environment and handle all that may come with it. Author Tim Keller wrote in his book, The Meaning of Marriage, “In his writings, Paul always uses the word, ‘gift’ to mean an ability God gives to build others up. Paul is not speaking, then of some kind of elusive, stress-free state…Paul may very well, then, have experienced what we today would call an ‘emotional struggle’ with singleness…Consider, then, that the ‘single-calling’ Paul speaks of is neither a condition without any struggle nor on the other hand an experience of misery.  It is fruitfulness in life and ministry through the single state. When you have this gift, there may indeed be struggles, but the main thing is that God is helping you to grow spiritually and be fruitful in the lives of others despite them. That means a single gift is not just for a select few, and it is not necessarily lifelong, though it may be. It may be a grace given for a finite period of time.”

​And since this singleness may last for only a season, ​I ​don’t think th​at means you should ​stop ​cease seeking God for marriage. “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him.” Matthew 7:9-10 (NLT)​ ​He is a good Father who knows the desire of your heart and desires to give you good gifts, including the gift of marriage.

And while ‘gift’ is defined as an ability in the Scripture,  marriage and singleness each come with their own brand of joys. Both states give license, creativity, and course to enjoy varying facets of the life God designed.

I hope this blesses you. Praying for you as you learn to embrace​ and value​ your gift in this season.

– Jen @ MRP!

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Hi MRP.  I am about to turn 35 and I am seriously discouraged about my prospects at getting married.  I feel like I have done everything to put myself out there.  I have asked friends and mentors to introduce me to people.  I have never turned down a blind date.  And at the insistence of a close friend, I tried online dating and have been doing it on and off for several years.  I feel like it has gotten me nowhere.  The last guy I dated through Match I thought was the one – he seemed like a great match and everything seemed like it was going perfectly until he suddenly told me that it was over.  It was heartwrenching.  I am tired of going on first dates.  I am tired of being hurt.  I know that sitting on my couch waiting for someone to show up at the front door probably won’t work, but then I feel like I have tried everything already.  Should I take a break or is that giving up?  The time is ticking!!  Help!

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Dear Seriously Discouraged,

I think what you’re going through involves weight and wait.

First, let’s talk about the weight  of a letdown.

It is a special kind of hurt when our best efforts result in battered emotions.  And the Lord understands this pain well for it’s written, “Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12 The Message). Imagine your heart laboring to keep faith renewed and a mind hopeful while cinder blocks of disappointment pile on. Like any object under enough strain, the heart will become crushed, sick, and weary.

Rest is restorative for the weary. Which is why I think it’s OK to take a breather from dating. Spend time with God and recover from the bruises. Let Him remind you of His love, purpose, and plan for you.  Hang out and laugh with good friends. Let them remind you that rich friendships and sisterhoods make days sweeter.  Do and discover fun activities by yourself. Be reminded of the joy that comes with accomplishing a self set goal.  A break from dating is only a comma in the story, not a period. Once you feel refreshed and your heart is rested, by all means, let your love journey begin again.

Now, about the wait for marriage.

Sometimes, singleness can feel like you’re living in a waiting room without a clock. No digital ticket counter. No calendar. There is no chronological instrument to tell you when your time in the waiting room will be over.  And that makes waiting even harder.

But it is encouraging to know that while we live linked to literal, biological, and cultural clocks, God doesn’t.  And since time is of no consequence to Him, neither are any of its constraints, snags, or limitations.  His answers never arrive decomposed or rusted, but brilliant and shining.

“So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit.” (Galatians 6:9 The Message)

Don’t become disheartened by how long you’ve been waiting or another birthday on the horizon without an answer. Where we see days, He sees His design. Trust that His design for you includes His best at the best time.

I pray that this encourages you in your walk and wait for love.

–Jen @ MRP

Have a question you want to ask??  Email modernruthproject@gmail.com!  We want to answer your questions!

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Dear MRP, I have been dating this guy for one month and I really like him!  We have a lot of things in common and things are heading in the right direction.  However, last week I went over to his house for dinner and within five minutes of being there, his dog bit me!  Totally without provocation, he just leapt up and bit my hand hard enough to break the skin and cause bleeding.  So now, do I continue with the guy when I know that if we got married, it would be me or the dog?  Is that unfair to even ask?  I don’t know what to do!!

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Ouch! I’m sorry about that. A dog bite is definitely not the best way to begin a romantic dinner.​ ​But ​what weighs heavier to me ​more than the question of whether this ultimatum will threaten​ ​the relationship ​is if this incident revealed more about the guy than his temperamental pet.

In the early stages of a relationship, we tend to wear shiny masks, highlighting only our brightest features. But sudden stressful events like an unexpected dog bite crack the shell and show what lies beneath. How did the guy handle the incident? Was he attentive to you? Accusatory? Apathetic? Did you feel considered or cast aside? And do you feel comfortable continuing the relationship, based on his reaction​?​

Your relationship is young so there’s a lot to work out and work on before it gets to marriage. Once you both get to know each other better​, I think the choice between you and the dog will be a simple one.

Praying for God to guide you as you decide.

Jen @ MRP

Have a question you want to ask??  Email modernruthproject@gmail.com!  We want to answer your questions!

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Hi MRP!

I’m 26 year old lady, I recently broke up with my 3 months boyfriend, reason being that; He came to me told me he doesn’t love me as he think he should have, and furthermore he said he don’t see our relationship going forward so we separated.

It’s hurts, coz he was a good guy a full time Christian who loves God, and right now I feel like I’ll never find one like him, I belive n have faith in God, but emotionally I’m devastated, sometimes it get hard so much that I call him not to ask him to get back to me but just talk, though deep inside me I wish he could just call and say whatever he said it’s not true.

Now I’ve just registered to online singles just trying to close the gap n forget about him!!!

Any advice for me!???

please help

God Bless you, Miss L

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I’m so sorry you’re going through this heartache. A break-up is such a painful and emotionally exhausting experience.  And unfortunately, there is no shortcut to get through it. So while an online dating site is a great choice, I don’t think you should join one just yet.

Give yourself permission and time to grieve the end of this relationship first.  It’s OK to cry. It’s OK that you feel hurt.  Surrendering your heart, the most valued piece of yourself, to someone else is a beautiful and big deal. So big a deal that after a heartbreak, emotional convalescence is necessary if complete healing is to take place.

Complete healing may mean letting distance and space exist between you and your former boyfriend. Continual contact with him can only exacerbate your heartache, reminding you of what was and what is no longer.

Take time to pray and rest in the comfort that God sees your pain and He’s with you in it.  “God is close to the brokenhearted and He rescues those whose spirits are crushed” (Psalm 34:18).

This break-up may feel especially raw since your former boyfriend sounds like a great find, the one who got away.  But as great as he may be, great God-fearing men are not extinct. J  Proverbs 16:9 says, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” God is the Author of your entire life and that includes your love story.  The one who is for you will surely not get away.

Once you feel that you’ve gotten over this relationship, online dating awaits your profile!

I pray that this helps. May the Lord grant you peace, healing, and comfort as only He can give.

-Jen

MRP readers, any additional thoughts, encouragement, or advice for Miss L?  If you have a question you want answered, please email modernruthproject@gmail.com!

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Hi MRP! 

I need your advice!

At work there is a guy who I think might like me. He sometimes smiles at me and has said hi to me in the office. However, because I am really shy I have not initiated anything, it terms of a conversation. He works in a department from me, but I have noticed him in the canteen. My main concerns are that I don’t know if he is Christian, and he looks really young, like he might be in his twenties. I am in my late 30’s.

Also I am scared of making a fool of myself; as in the past I thought guys have liked me and been completely wrong. So I am holding back in the present situation; my shyness maybe interpreted as me being unfriendly when that is not the case. 

Please help!

God bless, E

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Hi, E! Thanks for your question!

As a fellow shy butterfly, let me say that I completely understand your reticence. It was Hard with a bolded capital H to break free from my bashfulness. It still is at times. And that makes what I am about to suggest to you a little surprising:

Talk to him.

A dating book I once read had a challenge where I needed to talk to five men I didn’t know a week. Five! It was daunting and the most I made it to was one and a half :-). But the point was to begin to feel comfortable talking to someone, regardless of circumstances.

There’s a chance that he may just be a friendly coworker. And there’s an equal chance that he does have romantic interest in you. The only way to discover the truth is to have a conversation. I know you are fearful of misinterpretation and winding up with egg on your face. But it doesn’t have to be something overtly flirtatious or romantic, especially since you work together. It can be something very mundane and ordinary. Like if you’re in the canteen, “Hey, do you know if they have any [insert favorite beverage or snack] left?” Or something work-related, “What do you think about the new [insert office machine]?” Sometimes, enough small talk pieces can build a springboard to lengthier chats.

If he does turn out to be younger than you expected and if romantic interest is clear, I don’t think that should be an immediate deal-breaker. He may be mature beyond his twenty-something years. Or it could turn out that he is a very young-looking 37!

And now for his faith in Christ. It may seem upside down to place this at the end of my answer. But I think the bigger issue at play is interaction.

In Luke 5, when Jesus dined at the home of a tax collector and with other societal outcasts, the Pharisees were aghast. One commentary says they would have stayed outside of the house since eating with sinners was contaminating in their view. But God Himself remained in the thick of this relationship building meal. He ate, laughed, and spoke to those who were worlds away from the religious aristocracy.

The answer to whether or not he’s a Christian should absolutely determine any further romantic development. But it should not sever further conversation. If he is not a Christian, continue to talk to him and interact with him in a friendly manner. You may be the way he is introduced to Christ.

I pray that this helps you in your decision. May God guide you and give you strength, peace, and reassurance.

Ask MRP!

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We’re starting a new series here called Ask MRP, which will be led by Jen!  If you have questions you want answered, feel free to email us at modernruthproject@gmail.com!  We’ll respond to one a month!

 

Hi MRP!  I have been dating a guy for about three months.  There are so many positive points about him!  He goes to my church, he’s kind, he has a ton of friends and is close to his family, and he has a good job.  But I’m just not attracted to him!  I know looks aren’t the most important thing, so that’s why I’ve kept dating him for three months now.  At what point do you just call it quits, though??

MRP: It’s completely normal to be affected by physical appearance. After all, sight is one of our God-given tools to help us make decisions. For example, that’s why we’re drawn to the fresh brightly colored fruit in the produce section and back away from moldy bread in the bakery. And while you’re affected by this guy’s looks, I can see that you don’t want it to be too huge of an influence. It is very wise that you’ve placed higher priority on the heart factor than on the hunk factor. Proverbs 31:30 (NIV) says “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Physical beauty can fade with time, trauma, and tragedy while godly character and faith are lasting.

How severe is your lack of physical attraction? Is it completely nonexistent or do you see a small spark brewing? I believe physical attraction is a lot like a flower; it can grow. However, there must be a seed of something there in the first place. I would encourage you to pray and ask the Lord for direction and guidance. As you spend time with the guy you’re dating, go beyond the surface and see what lies beneath. Have talks and activities that can reveal his goodness, values, and passions. The fruit of these conversations may help you decide.

What do you think?  Do you agree?  What advice would you give the questioner?