Wednesday, July 06, 2005


Freed to give

For most of my life, with half of that time spent as a professing Christian, I've been an unhappy single guy. There was nothing wrong with me that meeting Miss Right wouldn't cure! In the meantime, while I waited for her to come on the scene, there wasn't much point in undertaking much of anything. After all, I wasn't going to be single much longer. To tide me over, I hung out with a series of friends, many of them women. Although I think I was a good friend to each of them, it wasn't the greatest state of affairs. It was ironic that I wanted to marry so badly, but yet I was evidently unwilling to commit myself to anything beyond friendship.

Thus, when my last "buddy" went and found herself a husband, I was left largely high and dry insofar as companionship was concerned. I'd found a good church a few months before that, but I was new there and hadn't had time to make any close acquaintances. Besides, pretty much everyone there was married and had full schedules to boot. Although I'd shifted gears towards hanging out more with other guys, they were by and large too busy to hang out with me very much. (The fellowship I enjoy is very good indeed, but it mainly consists of the occasional Sunday lunch or evening dinner.) Since I was accustomed to being able to hang out and spend lots of time with this or that friend, this came as something of a culture shock to me.

In a sense, I'd left one peculiar situation only to enter yet another. I loved to give to people, to spend time with them, to encourage them, but now I was largely cut off from that. Given that so much of the present work of the church is to love our neighbors, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ, it was difficult to understand why God was providentally hindering me from getting the kind of companionship I needed so much.

Then, not all that long ago, God graciously allowed me to understand the issue at stake. The problem was with a word: needed. Yes, I'd been feeling as though, as a middle-aged single guy, I was missing something, and that I had to have that something before I was going to be whole. So what's wrong with that picture? Quite a lot. Although I wasn't wrong to desire or want companionship, whether through friendship or marriage, mine was not just a desire: it was a "need", a "need" which in my view my relationship with Christ was simply insufficient to satisfy. The bottom line: God had short-changed me, and the companionship of fellow sinners was the only way to make up the deficit. Thus, I'd made the good and right desire for companionship into an idol, a thing to be coveted.

So, what's to become of a guy like me? Well, not a lot of good if I'm left to my own devices, but I'm glad to report that God had other plans for me. In the course of time, He's taught me through the Scriptures with the aid of much trial and error that human companionship is good and right to want, but the only companionship I need is already mine if I have come to trust in Christ! In fact, I am already complete in Him by His grace, and have need of nothing else.

One thing I'm starting to realize about my past behavior is how much I'd put my trust in my friends. Often, when confronted with a difficult situation, I'd call a friend before I'd bother to call upon the Lord. Now, it's good and right to have a trusted friend with whom to talk, but it's not right if that relationship takes priority over your relationship with Christ, as was sadly all too commonly the case with me.

Up to this point, this year has proven to me my best year so far. After so many years wasted on desiring what I lacked and being unthankful for the much I had, I feel free. Rather than people being a means to ease my loneliness, I am free to love them as I ought. Although God has not yet seen fit to bring me Miss Right or even a close buddy with whom to just "hang out", I feel myself to be more free than ever to do what I ought to do towards those around me: give of myself. If this is the lesson that God would have me learn from this season of relative isolation, then I can say without equivocation that I am thankful that He's taken me through it.

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