“My friend Jess is a beautiful, single blonde girl who has been a missionary in Italy for 10 years and is the same age as me. One day, an Italian woman, let’s call her Mamma Carmen, came up to her with a little charm necklace that had a picture of a saint on it.
“What’s this?” asked Jess.
(Cue in accent of Italian mama who doesn’t speak much English)
“A necklace for you. A picture of Saint Anthony. “
“Who is Saint Anthony?”
“Isa the patron saint of lost things.”
“And what have I lost, Mama Carmen?”
“Oh, you know sveetie. “
“No I don’t know. What is that I have lost?”
“You losta your husband.”
“Mama Carmen, isn’t that usually the saint you pray to for a lost sock or car keys-things like that?”
“Yes, but not for you. For you, pray to him for husband. More important than sock.”
Mama Carmen’s Formula:
“Lost Husband + Praying to Patron Saint of Lost Things + Ten Hail Marys= 1 wedding, 5 socks, 2 spoons, and 1 bracelet you thought you gave to your friend Jill.”
I had my own formula concocting conversation with a ministry leader of mine a few years back. Let’s call her Emily. The conversation looked like this:
“Kate, do you remember our babysitter Joann? Well, she went through a season of really struggling with being single like you are going through. She cried and battled and finally brought her burden to the Lord. She let go.
Two weeks later, she met her husband. And he looks just like Ryan Gosling. “
I said,”Emily, I am really happy for Joann. But she is twenty freaking years old.”
“So? What does that have to do with anything?”
I respected and loved this leader, but I just couldn’t brush the comment off this time.
I said “I have had a decade longer than her of wrestling with God over this issue. In all my wrestling, I have had several seasons where I have been content as a single person, embracing the thought of God as my husband. But often, those seasons fade, and I’m struggling again. It is a cycle that happens. I don’t think God laughs at my cycles of frustration. I think he understands. I think He wants to meet me there. “
Emily continued to argue with me, saying that I really just needed to let go, insinuating that it was really my own fault that I was still single.
I said, “Em, please understand me here. If you had a friend who was not getting pregnant or who was having multiple miscarriages, someone who had been struggling with barrenness for fifteen years, would you say to her ‘If you just trusted the Lord more with your barrenness, he would give you a baby.’ You would never say that! You recognize how much she is mourning that loss, and so you careful with her words. You don’t want to hurt her even more by making her feel like it might be her own fault.
Well at times, I feel barren. Not only barren in my childbearing, but barren as a lover as well. I don’t have children or a husband, and so I really have no immediate blood family at all. Please, please, be sensitive to this barrenness in me. Please don’t tell me that I have done something wrong in not letting go, and the result of that shortcoming is my barrenness.”
I know that sounds pretty heavy, but it is how many of us feel at times.
In the very thick book of popular theology that is not actually in the Bible, a book I like to call “First Assumptions” , we have this formula:
“Not letting go=being single.
Letting go= being married. “
I would say 90 percent of Christian singles have had this formula given to them in one way or another. Most of them dozens of times. Almost every time I mention writing my book on singleness, single people give me some kind of version of this story.
Most of us, when we first heard this formula as a young person, grabbed our journal and bible and went to a quiet place. We turned our sweet young faces to heaven with tears in our eyes and said “Lord, I let go. I give my husband to you.”
Do you know why we were saying this? Because we wanted a husband. And according to the formula, if you wanted a husband, you had to let go of him first. So we were letting go of him in order to get him.
Quite ironic, isn’t it?
And yet over the years, when that formula didn’t work, we started cringing when someone told us we just needed to let go. Maybe we couldn’t put our finger on why it irked something deep inside of us, but it did.
I have a theory about why it frustrates us so much. At the root of this formula is the idea that all single people have done something wrong and all married people have done something right. Married people, I know you probably never meant to make us feel that way, but it is the nature of that formula.
It kind of reminds me of the story of Job. Here is the formula we can get out of his story.
“Tragically losing everything+wife that is pissed+hideous carbuncles all over your body+annoying friends telling you that you must have done something wrong to deserve this+being totally frustrated and not getting why you’re going through this+God’s booming voice telling us humans that we don’t know nothing and He doesn’t fit in our formulas and boxes+ praising God even through horrible circumstances and singing “Blessed Be Your Name” = even more stuff than you had before.”
Sound familiar? (Except for the carbuncles part, hopefully.) That story is one of the oldest in the bible. One of it’s lessons? Don’t make formulas. Meet Him, wrestle with Him, praise Him even when you don’t understand, but never, ever, put Him in a box.
As Donald Miller said, “As much as we want to believe we can fix out lives in about as many steps as it takes to make a peanut-butter sandwich, I don’t believe we can.”
Sh*T Presbyterians say. Ohhh man.
Check it out:
Catedral de Sal de Zipaquirá (Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá): Near Zipaquirá, Cundinamarca, Colombia.
“Prayer is as natural an expression of faith as breathing is of life.”
“At another airport I went to, a humongous bodybuilder spent his time in the terminal doing ferocious push ups right beside me. I tweeted about it and folks told me to prove it with a photo. Not likely. One of my rules for twitter is never snap photos of people who can snap you. And this guy could have broken me in half like a thin blogger branch.
But in all the responses from people asking me questions about the terminal B2 bodybuilder, one stuck out. It was different than the rest, but is something I am growing familiar with.
I call it the “Jesus Juke.”
Like a football player juking you at the last second and going a different direction, the Jesus Juke is when someone takes what is clearly a joke filled conversation and completely reverses direction into something serious and holy.
In this particular case, when I tweeted a joke about the guy doing pushups, someone tweeted me back, “Imagine If we were that dedicated in our faith, family, and finances?”
I was fine with that idea, I was, but it was a Jesus Juke. We went from, “Whoa, there’s a mountain of a man doing pushups next to the Starbucks at the airport,” to a serious statement about the lack of discipline we have in our faith and our family and our finances.
I don’t know how to spell it, but in my head I heard that sad trumpet sound of “whaaaa, waaaa.”
And that wasn’t even a bad Jesus Juke. I didn’t mind that statement at all. That guy seemed fine. I’ve heard much worse. I once tweeted about going to see Conan O’Brien live and how big the crowd was. Someone wrote back, “If we held a concert for Jesus and gave away free tickets, no one would come.” Whaaa, waaaa.”
Bahaha. Here’s the rest.
Man do I love Jon Acuff’s writings/thoughts. They always crack me up/make me think (sorry I’m having a major backslash day). In this post he continues to share the saaad effects of Jesus Juking. Another great quote “I’ve never met someone who was “juked to Jesus.”