I could sense something stirring in November. I wasn’t sure what I was anticipating, but I knew it would bring change. A major life event? Maybe an epiphany? A meaningful relationship? I waited, patiently, trying to sort out my surroundings, my environment, to see if I could deduce what was rumbling around inside my soul.

The moment of realization was smooth. Immense enough to be a climax but prolonged enough to settle into. It was one of those moments, when, upon peering over your shoulder to the past you can see the steps that lead you there, though at the time you felt like you were walking blindly.

The realization happened in timing that could be no more cliché. Arriving home on New Year’s Eve from my church’s youth retreat, I knew. I just knew. My conviction was too deep. I can’t go back now.

Damn those moments that bring your life to a new level of conscientiousness and responsibility.

The new knowingness that invaded my life was this: I have to play the game.

I have to play the game, not for myself but for my self that is all other humanity. I have to play the game, and I have to become damn good at it or else I might as well not try at all. I have to play the game, but I cannot lose myself in it.

I’ve been fighting against this for a long time.

To play the game means doing things I don’t want to do, being someone I don’t want to be, working for something I don’t always desire. To play the game means a sort of benign manipulation. Inauthentic flattery. Generous greed.

I’m mostly concerned about losing myself in the process. As an expert in numbing out and shutting down, the idea of creating a character to functionally play the game is almost appealing. But I’ve worked too hard to let myself dissolve in this process now.

Playing the game means strategy. Intentionality. Purpose. It means building myself to be exactly what is needed in order to affect change. It means living for something bigger than my life, my plans, myself. It means knowing that others will come behind me to pound on doors that were slammed to me. It means passing my momentum on to others who will carry change farther than was possible for me.

It means expanding the Kingdom. Expanding the Kingdom in the context of this world.

And in the end, it will be sweet.

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Hallelujah by MaMuse

Every time I feel this way
This, old familiar sinking
I will lay my troubles
Down by the water
Where the river
Will never run dry

Hallelujah Hallelujah (I’m gonna let myself be lifted, I’m gonna let myself be lifted)
Hallelujah (I’m gonna let myself be lifted)
Bye and bye
I will lay my troubles down by the water
Where the river will never run dry

It’s been said and I do believe
As you ask so shall you receive
So take from me these troubles
Bring me sweet release
Where the river will never run dry

Hallelujah Hallelujah (I’m gonna let myself be lifted, I’m gonna let myself be lifted)
Hallelujah (I’m gonna let myself be lifted)
Bye and bye
I will lay my troubles down by the water
Where the river will never run dry

There is a river
In this heart of hearts
With a knowingness
Of my highest good
I am willing
I will do my part
Where the river
Will never run dry

Hallelujah Hallelujah (I’m gonna let myself be lifted, I’m gonna let myself be lifted)
Hallelujah (I’m gonna let myself be lifted)
Bye and bye
I will lay my troubles down by the water
Where the river will never run dry

Where the river
Will never run dry
This river
Will never run dry

This won’t really be a book review. More like a collection of my favorite quotes from the book Singled Out: Why Celibacy Must Be Reinvented in Today’s Church by Christine A. Colon and Bonnie E. Field.

I have a memory of this book being advertised a few years ago in a Biola magazine, as the authors are Biola alum. Honestly, I was not attracted to the book… I probably thought something to myself along the lines of, “Lame. Another book for single people.” At that time I wasn’t exactly interested in the concept of singleness and the depth that it encompasses. But now, happily, I am.

While attending the Christian for Biblical Equality conference in Seattle earlier this year, I had the pleasure of attending a workshop session facilitated by the authors of this book. They began with their stories that were strikingly similar – as I believe still is for a lot of women attending Biola today – that they anticipated being married within a few years of graduation. But it didn’t happen. And it still hasn’t happened for them.

I appreciated the content of the workshop so much that I bought the audio recordings of both their sessions and their book. It didn’t disappoint. The book takes the reader through a brief history of celibacy in the church and in Scripture, positive and negative messages from both secular views and the Church, confronts the inadequacies of the current dialogue on singleness in the Church today, and seeks to expand our narrow definition of sexuality to be more holistic. Acknowledging that the book is not all-inclusive, the authors communicated at the conference that they desire this book to be a launching point for deeper dialogue about singleness in the Church today.

Grab a taste and see for yourself:

“We tend to refer to our singleness as a ‘season of life’: we cannot imagine it lasting forever. While Rolheiser does not try to persuade everyone to take religious vows, he does warn us of the dangers of being unable to view celibate singleness as a potentially permanent state. If we only think in temporary terms we run the risk of never fully seeing our lives as worthwhile and actually worth living.” (200)

“What would it mean, for instance, to radically reconceive our ideas of celibacy to empower Christian singles to live our lives fully for God without remaining in stunted adolescence, searching obsessively for a spouse, or wallowing in depression and self-pity?” (203)

“If you are single right now, you are called, right now, to be single – called to live a single life as robustly, and gospel-conformingly, as you possibly can.’” (quoting Lauren Winner, 209)

“What we need is another category: those who are committed to celibacy until God reveals a different plan for them.” (208)

“While we believe…that God wants us contented and fulfilled, we would argue that God wants us to be contented and fulfilled in him. If we are truly delighting ourselves in the Lord, he, not a potential mate, will be the desire of our hearts. Of course this doesn’t mean that we will necessarily stop desiring marriage, but it does mean that we will realize that a spouse will not provide true fulfillment.” (134)

“’A challenge of the contemporary Church is to claim a theology of sexuality that names, validates, and embraces the sexuality of singleness.’ One place to start is to realize that singles, like all humans, are sexual beings. Sexuality for Christian singles isn’t magically ignited when the wedding ring hits the finger.” (quoting Lisa Graham McMinn, 213)

“Sexuality, then, provides us with our drive to connect with others, for “our existence as sexual beings gives rise to the desire to enter into community, and thereby to actualize our design as human individuals. Sexuality, then, is an expression of our nature as social beings… This need to find fulfillment beyond ourselves it the dynamic that leads to the desire to develop relationships with others and ultimately with God.” When we look at it from this perspective, sexuality has a much larger purpose than simply compelling individuals to find a mate.” (213)

“As we consider the needs of single as well as married Christians, we must also recognize that there resides within all of us a need that will never be satisfied here on earth: a holy longing, as Rolheiser calls it, that ultimately should drive us to God. In contemporary American society we are used to thinking that every need that we have will be satisfied if only we work hard enough or pray hard enough, but the reality is that we all experience dissatisfaction. As Rolheiser reminds us, ‘It is no easy task to walk this earth and find peace. Inside of us, it would seem, something is at odds with the very rhythm of things and we are forever restless, dissatisfied, frustrated, and aching. We are so overcharged with desire that it is hard to come to simple rest. Desire is always stronger than satisfaction.’” (217)

“We are not asking God to remove the pain of incompleteness that we all must struggle with, but rather we are asking Him to use this pain precisely as it was intended: to draw us closer to him and to help create the empathy that allows us to be witnesses for him in the rest of the world.” (219)

I love stories. They allow me to see a more full picture of humanity – a unique glimpse of God and the faultiness of our beings. I see the glory of all humans were intended to be and the awful brokenness of who we are. Women’s Letters: America from the Revolutionary War to the Present offers glimpses into the lives and the stories of women in the United States since 1775. The words in this letter were written by one of the bravest women I know… and yet she invalidates and diminishes herself by revealing her belief that to be emotional is to be weak and feeble, and that emotions are something to be conquered. Commonality arises, as to this day, this belief is still entrenched in our values and in how boys and girls are socialized. In understanding what her words reveal through omission, I am also forced to confront the greater reality that the fight for women’s suffrage was fought primarily for White women. This is still a tension today, as women of color often feel they must chose between fighting against racism or sexism. As a White woman who is a follower of Jesus, I must stand side-by-side with all my sisters, and ask to be given the honor to hear their stories.

With American men overseas, the war offered American women new possibilities – not only for hard and important work, but also for political leverage. In 1917, Alice Paul and a group of suffragists started picketing the White House on a nearly daily basis, demanding the vote. The presence of these self-named “Silent Sentinels,” as well as their placards (“Mr. President How Long Must Women Wait for Liberty”) was a constant affront to Woodrow Wilson and an embarrassment before visiting dignitaries. In June of 1917, the first six women were arrested, and eleven more on July 4, on charges of obstructing traffic. Rose Winslow was among one group sentences to seven months in prison. After staging a huger strike – in which the women asked to be treated as political, not criminal, prisoners – they were brutally force-fed. The letter below is comprised of a series of notes smuggled out from the prison hospital to Winslow’s husband and her friends.

1917: December
Rose Winslow to her husband and to members of the National Woman Party.

If this thing is necessary we will naturally go through with it. Force is so stupid a weapon. I feel so happy doing my bit for decency – for our war, which is after all, real and fundamental…

The women are all so magnificent, so beautiful. Alice Paul is as thin as ever, pale and large-eyed. We have been in solitary for five weeks. There is nothing to tell but that the days go by somehow. I have felt quite feeble the last few days – faint, so that I could hardly get my hair brushed, my arms ached so. But to-day I am well again. Alice Paul and I talk back and forth though we are at opposite ends of the building and a hall door also shuts us apart. But occasionally – thrills – we escape from behind our iron-barred doors and visit. Great laughter and rejoicing!…

My fainting probably means nothing except that I am not strong after these week. I know you won’t be alarmed.

I told about a syphilitic colored woman with one leg. The other one was cut off, having rotted so that it was alive with maggots when she came in. The remaining one is now getting as bad. They are so short of nurses that a little colored girl of twelve, who is here waiting to have her tonsils removed, waits on her. This child and two others share a ward with a syphilitic child of three or four years, whose mother refused to have it at home. It makes you absolutely ill to see it. I am going to break all three windows as a protest against their confining Alice Paul with these!

Dr. Gannon is chief of a hospital. Yet Alice Paul and I found we have been taking baths in one of the tubs here, in which this syphilitic child, an incurable, who has his eyes bandaged all the time, is also bathed. he has been here a year. Into the room where he lives came yesterday two children to be operated on for tonsillitis. They also bathed in the same tub. The syphilitic woman has been in that room seven months. Cheerful mixing, isn’t it? The place is alive with roaches, crawling all over the walls, everywhere. I found one in my bed the other day…

There is great excitement about my two syphilitics. Each nurse is being asked whether she told me. So, as in all institutons where an unsantiary fact is made public, no effort is made to make the wrong itself right. All hands fall to, to find the culprit, who made it known, and he is punished…

Alice Paul is in the psychopathic ward. She dreaded forcible feeding frightfully, and I had to think how she must be feeling. I had a nervous time of it, gasping a long time afterward, and my stomach rejecting during the process. I spent a bad, restless night, but otherwise I am all right. The poor soul who fed me got liberally besprinkled during the process. I hear myself making the most hideous sounds, like an animal in pain, and thought how dreadful it was of me to make such horrible sound… One feels so forsaken when one lies prone and people shove a pipe down one’s stomach…

This morning but for an astounding tiredness, I am all right. I am waiting to see what happens when the President realized that brutal bullying isn’t quite a statesmanlike method for settling a demand for justice at home. At least, if men are supine enough to endure, women – to their eternal glory – are not…

They took down the boarding from Alice Paul’s window yesterday, I heard. It is so delicious about Alice and me. Over in the jail a rumor began that I was considered insane and would be examined. Then came Doctor White, and said he had come to see “the thyroid case.” When they left we argued about the matter, neither of us knowing which was considered “suspicious.” She insitied it was she, and, as it happened, she was right. Imagine any one thinking Alice Paul needed to be “under observation!” The thick-headed idiots!…

Yesterday was a bad day for me in feeding. I was vomiting continually during the process. The tube has developed an irritation somewhere that is painful.

Never was there a sentence like ours for such an offense as ours, even in England. No woman ever got it over there even for tearing down buildings. And during all that agitation we were busy saying that never would such things happen in the United States. The men told us they would not endure such frightfulness…

Mary Beard and Helen Todd were allowed to stay only a minute, and I cried like a fool. I am getting over that habit, I think.

I fainted again last night. I just fell flop over in the bathroom where I was washing my hands and was led to bed when I recovered, by a nurse. I lost consciousness just as I got there again. I felt horribly faint until 12 o’clock, then fell asleep for awhile…

I was getting frantic because you seemed to think Alice was with me in the hospital. She was in the psychopathic ward. The same doctor feeds us both, and told me. Don’t let them tell you we take this well. Miss Paul vomits much. I do, too, except when I’m not nervous, as I have been every time against my will. I try to be less feeble-minded. It’s the nervous reaction, and I can’t control it much. I don’t imagine bathing one’s food in tears very good for one.

We think of the coming feeding all day. It is horrible. The doctor thinks I take it well. I hate the thought of Alice Paul as the others if I take it well…

We still get no mail; we are “insubordinate.” It’s strange, isn’t it; if you ask for food fit to eat, as we did, you are “insubordinate”; and if you refuse food you are “insubordinate.” Amusing. I am really all right. If this continues very long I perhaps won’t be. I am interested to see how long our so-called “splendid American men” will stand for this form of discipline.

All news cheers one marvelously because it is hard to feel anything but a bit desolate and forgetten here in the place.

All the officers here know we are making this hunger strike that women fighting for liberty may be considered political prisoners; we have told them. God knows we don’t want other women ever to have to do this over again.”

Rest.

I always thought I needed 9 hours of sleep to be rested.

I thought it came from space to breathe, being at home, time to myself.

I thought I needed periodic vacations, occasional stretches of getting away for a few days.

I thought it came from balance. Of time, energy, resources, friendships.

 

But I think I’m realizing that Jesus brings us rest in the mess of life.

When I receive a phone call I think I just don’t have the energy to take.

When I hop from responsibility to responsibility and I feel as if I just don’t have anything more to give.

When painful situations arise, one after another, and I barely have time to seek counsel.

When I’m tempted to check out, numb out, sleep it away.

 

Rest comes from crying out to Jesus.

When I acknowledge his presence, he restores my soul.

He leads me on a path of denying myself, dying to my flesh, losing my life. All for the sake of the Kingdom.

And in the midst of the funk he provides rest. Brevity, comfort, and delight.

 

I thought I had to provide rest for myself. But he brings it to me.

in unexpected affirming words, prayer offerings, gentle shoulder squeezes, bursts of laughter, and

a knowing.

I know it will be a ‘good’ day when I wake up with this song in my head.

Every time I attempt to tell a friend about this video I end up laughing so hard I have a hard time explaining it. So it’s best you watch it yourself.

“I have no duty to be anyone’s Friend and no one in the world has a duty to be mine. No claims, no shadow of necessity. Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself (for God did not need to create). It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which gives value to survival.”

“Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his or her own unique treasure (or burden).”

“But in Friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality, a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another, posting to different regiments, the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting – any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples “Ye have no chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends “You have no chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others. They are no greater than the beauties of a thousand greater men or women; by Friendship God opens our eyes to them.”

– C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (made gender inclusive by yours truly)