Loneliness as a Reminder

“Does it get better when you’re married? The struggle with loneliness and feeling hopeless?”

My single friend, who was approaching her 30’s, texted me those questions late one night. She had recently had a bad break-up in which she lost the potential of a husband, a good friend (his sister), and her church small group. They both went to the same small group and he told her maybe she should look for another one if she was going to be so emotional about the break-up. Who wouldn’t be feeling hopeless after that?

I didn’t want to lie to her. “No. It doesn’t really get better.”

Let me explain. Sure it gets better in the sense that you have a companion, the ability to start a family, and potential for some great sexy time. But the struggle with loneliness? No, that doesn’t necessarily go away just because you’re married. We all crave to be known in ways that no human being can ever know us. So whether you’re married or not, whether you have tons of friends or just a couple of good ones, whether you are popular or flying under the radar, you will be lonely.

When you are turning to your husband, to your friends, to how well known you are for your satisfaction, it’s easy to fall into the trap of loneliness because you have taken your eyes off of the only who can truly satisfy. Maybe for a while these things can keep the loneliness at bay, but it will only be a matter of time until you either lose them or they fail you. And then the loneliness settles in.

This is something I struggle with even as a married person. At various points, I have found myself bemoaning the fact that I don’t have any friends who actually care about me. I watch all of the single people I know who have several intimate friendships where their friends actually hang out and call them and wish them Happy Birthday. I just don’t have a friendship like that in this season of my life. Maybe it’s because most of the people my age also have young children and are just trying to survive. And the ones who are still single don’t seem to view me as friendship material. Or maybe I am not putting myself out there enough. It doesn’t really matter why, because I have talked to those single girls that I am so envious of and they can be just as lonely as I am. The grass is not greener. You can be lonely and feel hopeless with the best this world and the people in it have to offer you and you can be lonely with the worst.

But thankfully, we don’t have to stay that way. Every time I experience these bouts of loneliness, I always find myself on my knees crying out to the God who sees me. And he reminds me of all the ways I am not alone and never will be. The worst can come my way: loss of family, loss of friends, loss of possession, but I will never lose my God. Hope is always within sight, if I choose to look towards the source of it.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

– Romans 8:35-39

Dreaming Single

“I was talking to a friend of mine and she was telling me about her dreams for the future. She turned to me and said, ‘So, what are your dreams?’ I didn’t have an answer for her. I guess I don’t have any dreams.”

This was from a conversation I had with a single friend of mine recently. It broke my heart. It ended on a more encouraging note after I prodded her a little more on what her dreams might be and we came to the conclusion that she didn’t have to wait for a man to really start dreaming and asking the Lord what to do with those dreams.

It’s a huge problem within the Church. I don’t have the answers as to why, but the ratio between godly women and men is alarmingly unbalanced. Where are all the godly men? I watch my single friends approaching their late twenties discouraged and unwilling to dream. It hurts too much to dream about things like marriage and children when the likelihood of a godly man appearing in their life seems impossible. For some, careers become their passion and their dream. Some choose to serve God on the mission field and devote their lives to serving. But what about the ones who dreamed of marriage and children?

If this is your dream, I am not writing this to tell you that “nothing is impossible with God” although it is true. I am not here to tell you that God will send you the right man, if you just wait. I am here to tell you that God desires to use you for His kingdom right now.

I know an amazing woman, now approaching thirty, who recently adopted her first daughter from Haiti. She has always had a passion for the children of Haiti and didn’t let the lack of godly men stop her. She is unmarried. Will her pursuit of her dreams to love and have children of her own destroy a future of marriage? Perhaps. But she was willing to go after her dreams in unconventional ways. She is providing for and serving the least with the means God has given her, with or without a man to walk alongside her. She didn’t listen to the fairy tale of “one day my prince will come” and faced the harsh reality that there may never be a prince with boldness and bravery. She waited for a husband and realized he just wasn’t there. And then she chose to live her life in motion instead of frozen in time. She chose to start living at least part of her dreams, trusting God with the rest of her heart. Trusting that God would shape her desires to line up with the desires He has for her future. And if that includes a future husband, praise God! And if not, praise God for the daughter she is raising to be loved and cherished and known by a mother and the Father of heaven.

My challenge to the single, Christian women of our generation is this: start dreaming again. Don’t give up hope on having a husband, but don’t let it slow you down. You are made for love!! Love that is so much more than sexual love. A selfless kind of love. A kind of love that gives sacrificially and fulfills you in ways that no man could ever fill. As a married woman to a phenomenal, godly man, I can attest that not even he can fulfill me the way  that selflessly serving and giving of myself for the Lord fills me. If you have been frozen and given up on your dreams, I am praying God will begin thawing out your heart again for His kingdom and the work He has for you right now!

Often times we talk about how God will give us the desires of our heart. I think we confuse what the desires of our heart truly are with what the desires of our flesh are. I believe that the deepest desire of our heart is to be righteous and to be like Jesus. There is a reason we feel so invigorated and full of life when we choose to sacrifice and love selflessly like Jesus did. If we are walking in step with God, He fulfills that deep desire and brings forth the righteousness that Jesus has given us. It is a glorious thing to behold when women (single or married) shine like the Son.

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will act: He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.”

Psalm 37:4-7

Images

Sex with an actual person, that is right there with you, is a mysterious and wondrous thing. This post is directed more towards those who are married, but I do believe single people could benefit from it as well.

One thing I have noticed since getting married is that it takes a lot of practice to bring my husband and I’s sexual experiences together back into my mind. I have to fight my way to get to that place. And that is the place I want to be. Why? Because if I don’t fight to focus on him, then I will focus on something else whether I like it or not.

It is horrifying to me how easily my heart can stray, but it also reminds me of just how weak I really am.

I only have answers and theories on some of the questions I am about to ask. But perhaps it will give us all pause, examining what images we really are letting into our minds and how it can affect our future.

Why do pornographic images and scenes that I viewed years and years ago brand themselves in my memory, fighting to push to the surface, when I can’t even remember how old I was for most of the momentous points of my childhood?

Why is it that I find it so much easier to focus on other people having sex than my husband and I?

I do have an answer to that one. And I think it applies to most all women in this day and age. Viewing pornography can subconsciously start to become your ideal of what a woman should look like. Most women struggle with self-image in some form or another, so it is easier to think about someone else in place of ourselves than to think of ourselves. The self we so often criticize and pick at. The self that we don’t view as perfect.

Why is it that I remember other people’s experiences better than my own?

I have thought about this a lot. It truly is awful how the images I have filled my mind with in the past seem like they may never truly go away. I will always have to be on my guard. I can never take it back. What I can do is fill my mind with other things that I choose to think on instead.

Have you ever prayed during sex? I do. If you haven’t and you struggle with images that shouldn’t be there, then pray. There is no better cure.

As to why I have a difficult time remembering my own experiences, it is actually a beautiful conclusion that I have come to. Each sexual experience you have with your husband is new and entirely different than the last. Our bodies are continually changing, making each experience as different as you want it to be. It also leaves no room for you to hold on to a past that you can never go back to. The inability to remember a sexual encounter in such vividity is a blessing in disguise. God willing, I will never live in the past, but enjoy the present with my husband.

Instead I will focus my mind on what seems to be an ever-shifting image of my husband. I am not dependent on specific memories to be “in the mood”. The mood is created as we go.

Images. What images are you holding on to?

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

–          Philippians 4:8 (NLT)

Communication is the Key

I had some feedback on a recent post that got me thinking about how masturbation has affected my marriage.

I won’t lie to you, my past struggles haven’t damaged my marriage significantly. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I was able to explain the things that I like more easily to my husband. To put it bluntly, we have a great sex life.

But I don’t think the real reason for our great sex life is because of my experiences with masturbation.

A friend told me a few weeks before she got married that she had never masturbated. I wasn’t too surprised, but did wonder how that would change their sex life. Apparently, not much at all. According to her and her husband, they have a fantastic sex life and it was great from day one. If masturbation was the key to having a great sex life, then how could this be the case?

Communication will drastically change a woman’s ability to enjoy a sexual experience with another person. If you communicate well, things typically go well. If there is miscommunication or a lack thereof, things come to a screeching halt.

Masturbation cannot fix a person’s inability to communicate. In fact, it will probably cause you to enjoy your own touch more than your husband’s. Let’s face it, masturbation is easier than communicating to a man that doesn’t always understand the female mind.

This friend of mine probably didn’t know much about her body and how it worked sexually, but before she got married and started having sex, she asked questions; lots of questions. She became informed and she learned how to communicate well with her spouse. If you can’t communicate, it doesn’t matter how much you masturbate as a woman, you probably won’t enjoy sex like you could.

I hear it said a lot that masturbation is necessary for people to explore their sexuality and to be ready to have a sexual partner. It just isn’t true. Putting aside what you believe about how right or wrong it is, masturbation is not a necessity for a woman to have a good sex life. However, good communication skills are.

As a married, Christian woman, I will be completely honest: although masturbation didn’t ruin my marriage or even cause many issues, it could have. My husband didn’t know exactly how I would like things from the very beginning. Sex has always been good because of communication, but it has gotten better as time goes by because he knows me, not because I know me. Like everything else in marriage, sex is better when you’re both being selfless, not selfish.

Single and Masturbating

“When I get married, things will be different.”

I wonder how many women think that marriage will solve all of their problems when it comes to their struggles with masturbation. It won’t.

I won’t lie, marriage does make things easier. But if you haven’t started facing this area of your life with Jesus before you get married, you will face the same temptations and desires that you had before. Marriage might bury the desires for a time, but they will resurface at one point or another.

The same rules apply in marriage as it does in singleness. You need to confess to someone, you need to be in prayer and have others praying for you.  You need to use wisdom to avoid situations that make it harder on yourself. But there is one catch. You now have a husband who you have to confess to as well.

I know not everyone believes that masturbation is a bad thing. And perhaps you are married and you both masturbate and everything is fine in your marriage. I actually would love to hear your thoughts on it. But for my husband and I, there is no room for masturbation in our marriage.

Most people know Paul’s views on marriage. I used to always laugh when reading how he thought it best to stay unmarried unless you are burning with desire. I had plenty of desire, marriage was obviously for me. And it was. But I know things wouldn’t have turned out as well as they have, if I hadn’t given my sexual desires over to Jesus before I got married.

I still remember what it was like to be single, and I know how difficult it can be. Especially because once you have experienced pleasure in that form, it is particularly hard not to want it again. I am not trying to say that if you are still masturbating sometimes, you aren’t ready for marriage. But what happens after you give into your desires? Do you shrug your shoulders and say “oh well, I will just try to forget about it.” Do you beat yourself up and promise never to do it again only to give in the next week?

Or do you pray about it, confess it, and work on how to prevent it from happening again? If this is your answer, you are on the right path. This is the same line of thinking you will have to use when you have rough times in marriage. Your sex life may not always be what you want it to be, and you will have to choose to use the same self-control you learned as a single woman, pressing on when you fail, and making every effort to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

As a single woman, you have the ability to shape and form the wife you want to be for your husband. Take the time to allow Jesus to mold and shape your character now, so you don’t have to be reformed later.

Porn within marriage: A wife’s perspective

I have always told my husband that if he ever struggles with pornography or masturbation during our marriage, that he can tell me.

Several months ago, God decided to test that statement.

My husband sat me down and told me he had something serious to confess to me. I already had an idea of what he was going to say, but was hoping it might be something else. He told me that a few months back he had looked at pornography. I think the natural instinct within me would have immediately lashed out at him, cried, withheld love, but instead the Holy Spirit took over. I forgave him.

Some people believe that you shouldn’t tell your spouse everything. In some regards, I think that is true. I don’t need to share unkind thoughts that I should keep to myself. I should watch what I say. But when it comes to our sin, I don’t think that is something we can keep from one another. It inadvertently puts a barrier between us.

My husband was telling me how it affected him before he confessed to me. It took him months to finally tell me. At first, he thought that I didn’t really need to know and it wouldn’t be helpful. But he kept thinking about it and praying about and realized that there were too many moments over that period of time where he found himself not being able to be fully honest with me. He also felt like he couldn’t tell his mentor what had happened in case it somehow got back to me. He knew that it was putting stress on our relationship.

He also shared with me that his mind had been preoccupied with thoughts about sex in general and it was making things more difficult for him.

At first, this piece of information hurt. I do everything I can to take care of my husband, and he always tells me that I couldn’t do anything else for him! In other words, I am a wonderful wife!

So why was he still struggling with thoughts about sex and why had he needed to look at porn? The realization: sex is much more than just a physical aspect of our lives. I of all people should have known this. There is a mental aspect that no husband or wife could ever satisfy. We are battling the sinful nature, and if we are not equipped we will always fail.

My husband has only looked at porn that one time since we have been married, but every now and then he asks me to pray for him because he realizes his thoughts are in places they shouldn’t be. It is my joy to pray for him about this. My desire is that he would never feel like he couldn’t share something like that with me.

I will admit, it is easier for me to hear things like this because of my past struggles with porn. I know what it is like. I know the way porn hooks your mind and doesn’t want to let go. It invades your thoughts until you give in. Because of knowing this, it is easy for me to pray for and forgive my husband.

For those who have never viewed porn, be thankful but don’t be judgmental. There is a God in heaven for that. Your job is to forgive and pray. Your husband may be depending on it.