Stumbled across this gif the other day. Perhaps it’s not accurate for you, but it’s sure accurate everyday for me.
And it’s OK to say I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m also going to do everything I can to make it work.
Stumbled across this gif the other day. Perhaps it’s not accurate for you, but it’s sure accurate everyday for me.
And it’s OK to say I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m also going to do everything I can to make it work.
For a long time, sales was a mystery to me. I didn’t understand it. And every time I’d worked with a salesperson, I felt like I needed to take a shower.
But as I got more into business, you realize that the reason sales people give you the creeps is probably because they are bad sales people. With the good ones, you never know you’re being sold to.
The trick to good sales is meeting a need. If you have a product (or service) you’re selling, the person buys it because they want it to add value to their lives. With business to business, this usually means you’re helping your customers make money or save money.
With business to consumer, the motives can be a little more vague – maybe it’s a status symbol, maybe it’s something to save time. Regardless, they are hoping to get something out of it that they see as value.
So if you’re a sales person, he’s the basic process:
That’s it. Sales 101.
A Day is a Mini Lifetime – Zig Ziglar
The time you spend in a day is a microcosm of how you spend your life. Work is important and valuable, but is that how you want to spend your life? Even worse, is the time you (and I) spend on social media, watching TV, or distracting ourselves paying dividends?
When I look at the important things in my life, they fall under three categories:
Everything else comes below those. At times I’ll certainly need to do things with my time that aren’t in those categories. But when I’m tempted to leisure, it’s easy to ask, “Does this benefit my faith, my family and friends, or my purpose?” If not, maybe try doing something else. The way we spend our days is the way we spend our lives.
When you work together with two people, it’s often the default to assume you want the same things out of the project. The project seems like a good idea, so two people partner on creating something. But somewhere along the way, you realize that you’re ultimately wanting a couple different things out of the project.
One person wants to grow the company, one person wants to sell the company.
One person wants to stay in California, one wants to move to Indiana.
One person is in it for the money, one person wants to make a difference.
And this doesn’t have to just be a project or business relationship. Often the differences can occur in many other relationships (marriage being the most obvious).
No matter what kind of relationship you’re entering, it’s best to ask the hard questions before you embark. You want to know where the other wants to go.
Weekly, I consult with small and medium sized businesses. Typically, I talk to the business owner or manager since they aren’t large enough to have a full-time marketing person. At first they are looking for the marketing “silver bullet”. They want to know which channel (or channels) will provide the most money for them.
Besides the fact that there’s rarely (if ever) a Silver Bullet for marketing, they miss a key point: their company makes money when they help other people get what they want. Zig Ziglar has an old saying that goes: “You’ll get what you want in life when you help enough other people get what they want.”
So before I ever give them any marketing advice, I give them a little exercise to help them understand their customers better. I have them make personas of their customers. These are fictional representations of their ideal customer.
This may sound silly initially, but it forces them to put themselves in the shoes of their customer. What does their customer want/need? What are his or her passions and desires? What is their pain point and problem? So often we can focus on the features of our product or service (it’s shiny, goes fast, and has a 10 speed gearbox) when in fact it’s the benefits that we want to focus on (it makes me look good, I’ll feel safe driving it, it will save me money on fuel).
Ultimately, this process is just systemizing empathy. It forces us out of our mindset, into the mindset of others. And it doesn’t just work in business. Try this in life.
The future isn’t technology. It isn’t economics. It isn’t companies. It isn’t politics.
The future is the next generation. It’s the people 5, 10, 15, 20 or more years younger than you. They will eventually make decisions. They will make policy. They will decide how you get treated in the last years of your life. They will decide the condition of the planet.
A lot of leaders talk about the importance of investing in the future generation. But very few do it. If you’re not pouring into the lives of others personally, professionally, and spiritually, you’re not investing in your future.
When I was in undergrad, our school had a pet program they affectionately called World Changers. The idea was a great one. After all, if we can train people to change the world, why wouldn’t we?
But there were some fundamental questions that we always failed to address adequately. First, what does it mean to “change the world”? How much of our world do we need to change in order to make a difference? Does changing one’s community make a world changer? Or do you have to be the next Martin Luther King?
Over the years since I’ve graduated, I’ve been kicking around these questions trying to find an answer. Should we feel responsible for changing the whole world? In a world full of 7 billion people, that is ambitious at best and downright arrogant at worst.
Although I don’t know that I have the full answer to these questions, during the past few months, I’ve at least been able to clarify my thinking on these questions. Perhaps my discoveries might help you as you seek to change the world.
To start, I think it’s helpful to divide our thinking about world changing into two distinct categories. There are macro actions (starting organizations, raising capital, building orphanages) and micro actions (buying a homeless person a sandwich, listening to a friend who needs to talk, mentoring someone younger) that we can take.
When we think of “world changers” we tend to think of the macro solutions. We look at those leading organizations fighting human trafficking or other injustices and look to them as the real world changers. To be fair they are changing the world, and they are incredibly important.
But what about those of us who are pretty sure that we don’t want to start a non-profit? What about the doctors, lawyers, school teachers, nurses, fast food workers, and day laborers who are certain that they are not supposed to start a non-profit. What about those of us who are just trying to make ends meet and don’t have organizational skills that fall into the traditional world changing model?
For many Christians, the weight of going to work in the mission field or starting a non-profit can be crushing. They have big dreams of what they want to change on the macro level, but if they aren’t on a path to make those changes, they feel like they are failing. I also know older Christians who have given up on changing the world and work their job “just to make ends meet” but they are racked with guilt over failed dreams on the macro level. They never started a non-profit or marched to end human trafficking.
Yet nowhere in Scripture do we ever see God command us to go and start organizations. Nor are we commanded to get advanced degrees in philanthropy or counseling. Often this sense of failure that so many people feel isn’t from God, but rather from our own conceptions of what it means to make an impact. In a connected world, we have been taught to feel responsible for any injustices we know are happening, and it can be overwhelming. The task seems so great that many people get scared to even try.
Logically, there are only so many macro solutions we can provide in the first place. Every generation only has one or two leaders like MLK, and how many 501(c)3 non-profits can you really start? If everyone had their own personal non-profit, we wouldn’t have any real organizations! We’d just have a whole bunch of legal entities tying up our time and resources.
So by definition, not everyone can create a macro solution. Did those who didn’t create a macro solution fail? Is it impossible for them to make a difference without an organization?
I believe the answer is absolutely not. Not launching an organization doesn’t meant we failed at anything.
Somehow, I don’t think we’ll be judged on the number of organizations or the annual budget of our organizations. We’ll not be judged on how many marches we led. I don’t think God cares about those things by-and-large. “Thou didn’t start a non-profit now thouest are not within my will” is something God will not say to most of us.
On the other hand, we are going to be held responsible for the way we handle the micro opportunities we have to make a differences. The opportunities we have in our day-to-day lives to encourage, challenge, and edify those around us are some of the best opportunities we will have to minister. Giving a sandwich to a homeless person may be worth more to God than starting a $500 million organization if it’s the thing what we’re called to do. After all, our entire lives are made up of tiny micro decisions and actions that collectively make up who we are. It is these micro actions for which we’ll be held responsible.
For us this realization should be both incriminating and absolutely freeing. We should be free from the pressure of making huge decisions and the worry of creating and launching great movements. On the other hand, we should now feel incredibly responsible for showing love in the smallest ways to the people we bump into in our everyday lives. Whether it’s the kids in the school classroom, the coworker in the next cubicle, or the guy who works on the job site with us, we are responsible for the way we treat and interact with them.
I’ve worked with non-profit leaders who didn’t seem to understand this. Since they were leading large, successful organizations, they believed that somehow the rudeness and selfishness displayed in their personal life was of no consequence. However, leading a non-profit is just a job. The way we act and treat people on the micro level is what the New Testament is about.
God already started the greatest organization in human history. It’s called the church. And it is the responsibility of the church to take real steps to engage on a micro level. No matter your job title or vocation, you are responsible for loving people on a micro level that God puts into your path. If you happen to be involved in macro changes, that’s great too.
So the next time you feel a little guilty for working a regular job, ask yourself if you’re really loving the people you have direct contact with every single day. If the answer is no, there’s a good chance that your biggest wins will start there.
Finally, it’s important to understand that ultimately, all changes are micro changes. In the broadest sense, there is no such thing as a macro change. Sure, we can build organizations and change laws, but ultimately it’s the behavior of individual people that make up the changes. Your favorite non-profits are really tools that systematize fundraising and management to help people make their own tiny micro changes. When you build an orphanage, you need people to run it. These people who show up to work everyday to love kids who no one loves are making a multitude of micro investments everyday. The organization just gives them the resources to make that happen.
This is also why governments are (by-and-large) notoriously bad at making sweeping, large scale changes. Governments can’t function on the micro level very well. The private sector (including the church) is best situated to put people in places to make the best micro investments everyday.
Even major events in our nation’s history were kicked off by the smallest actions. Rosa Parks made a micro choice not to give up her seat on a bus. Thousands of individuals made the micro choice to follow MLK on his marches. For years, non-profits have served hundreds and thousands of meals to individual people. Each of those meals is a micro investment that together provide a macro solution.
So next time you feel like you need to change the world, start with the people you look in the eye everyday. Start with the people in your city, town, or even across your street. Ultimately, I believe those are the decisions you’ll be responsible for. If you feel like you still need to create a macro solution, then by all means go for it! But whether or not you ever try to solve a problem with a macro solution, know that you’re never off the hook for those micro investments. Whether you run a billion dollar organization or flip burgers at McDonalds, you’re always responsible for the micro differences you can make.
This blog has been quiet for a while. It’s not that I didn’t want to write, it’s more that I really didn’t know what to say. I’ve just needed some time to process through all the things that have happened over the past few months.
For those of your interested, here are some of the highlights of my last few months.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much good and not-quite-as-good stuff that has happened in the past few months that to write an entire blog post on it would be overwhelming.
However, here are some really valuable lessons that I’ve learned along the way.
I’m happier now than I’ve been in months. You see, I’ve finally found what I LOVE doing. And it’s not marketing per se. It’s working for myself and with my partners. Every other time in my life, I’d had somebody telling me exactly what to do. There were clear directions, goals, and to-do lists. And I worked well in that system. But I really hated it. Getting approval for everything I had to do, spending endless hours in meetings that didn’t need to happen, and all the other bureaucracy that comes with companies just wore me down.
I was miserable. And I didn’t understand how miserable I was until I got out from under it.
For me, finding what I loved wasn’t about finding that one thing that I wanted to do. Some people know what that is. I had no idea. In a sense, I still have no idea. What gets me up in the morning is the competition, the vision, the passion to help my clients and my businesses succeed. That’s what drives me.
So for me, what I “love to do” is far more abstract than I imaged it would be. I always thought I’d find that one thing I loved to do. Maybe it was play music, write code, write, make videos, or whatever. The truth is, I like all of those things. What I love to do is help other people. It just so happens that marketing is where I have a very strong skillset and success rate. And working for myself gives me the greatest bandwidth and opportunities to help others. There’s no longer a 9-to-5. I have the freedom to do what works best when it works best.
And on this journey there’s no guarantee that I will succeed. I believe that I will, but that is still to be determined.
The other beauty of working on your own is that you can help people without someone telling you to stop. In a big company, there are extreme limits on what services you can provide for free or a reduced rate. “We can only do this if they are willing to pay $x,xxx” was something I heard over and over. And to run a successful business, that is necessary. But sometimes just giving someone a hand really pays off. Teaching someone how to do something can change the way they think and will benefit them in the future.
On top of that, people trust you if they believe you have their best interests at heart. In my companies, I desperately want my clients to succeed. Of course I want to make money at it, but I always want it to be a win-win. If clients feel that I’ve “taken them for a ride”, that’s a huge failure on my part.
Do I always work for free? No way! I have no problem making people pay me if they have the money, and it’ll be a benefit to them. But sometimes the best thing is just to help out.
Here’s what Zig Ziglar has to say about that:
“You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”
I’ve found that this is the best way to do business.
In school, I was taught skills. I learned how to create balance sheets, write business plans, and other semi-useful skills. But I believe anyone can learn that. The people who I’ve met who are most successful have a different outlook on life. Rather learning a shortcut to save a few minutes, they try to learn things that change the way they see the world.
In the past two years, I’ve read more books than I read in the rest of my life combined. And virtually none of them were textbooks (sorry AU). Textbooks teach you things to memorize. The best books teach you how to think.
Finally, the biggest lesson that I’ve learned is that the things you think will make you happy won’t. Getting a job, making money, and being in a romantic relationship are all wonderful things, but if that’s where your hope and happiness live, you’ll never be happy. Let me rephrase that: Those will never provide you with real joy.
About six months ago, Bob Goff came into town and I snuck backstage to talk with him for 10 minutes. He said a lot that really stuck with me, but one of the most impact things he said was:
“I used to be afraid that I wouldn’t make enough money; now I’m afraid I won’t make enough difference.”
Money is a resource. I’m still learning to acquire it and manage it well, but ultimately I want to make a difference in my family, my church, my community, and the world. This was ultimately the challenge with working for someone else. I was stuck just existing. For me, that wasn’t enough. I needed to be free to make a difference when the opportunities presented themselves.
This post is a little disjointed, and I apologize for that. As this is my personal blog sometimes you just get my personal thoughts, (mostly) unfiltered and raw. I’m on a way different journey that I’ve even been on before. I’m excited for the opportunities ahead, and I’d lie if I said I’m never nervous. But I wouldn’t trade what I’ve learned in the past few months for anything. And there’s already some wonderful things on the horizon I’m excited to see begin.
May God direct your steps as he’s always been directing mine. And may we both learn what it means to live life to the fullest in Jesus.
The other night I went out to a local bar with some friends. It’s a small place here in town that offers country swing, two-step, and line dancing just about every weekend. The parking lot is full of 4×4 trucks and the clientele largely wear cowboy hats, boots, and flannel. Imagine a music video for a Brad Paisley song. That’s pretty much what this place is like.
I’ve been to this bar a few times with friends. It’s the spot where six months ago I had to take what little I knew about East Coast swing and Lindy Hop and try to make it work in a country setting. On top of this, I don’t have cowboy boots, so I wear some leather dress boots I picked up last year in California (Delta airlines actually ended up paying for them, but that’s a story for another day). And I drive a Volkswagen. No 4×4 here. I’m a total poser.
For those of you that don’t know, I’m not an incredibly gifted dancer. I’ve managed to get by throughout the years, but I still feel awkward and somewhat embarrassed on the dance floor. I really only know four or five different swings and dips, but I manage to string them together in a halfway coordinated attempt that almost looks good to the untrained eye.
At one point in the night, I found myself dancing with a friend of a friend of a friend. I’m pretty sure she knew less about country swing dancing than I did, but once you start with a partner you’re committed for the rest of the song. So I tried to make do and use my small repertoire of dance moves to survive the next five minutes.
About 45 seconds into the song, she looks at me questioningly and says, “Do you know how to dance?”
Now just to be clear, we had been dancing for all 45 seconds up to this point. I’d spun her around a few times and showed her that my skills were perfectly average. Now I’m no Fred Astaire, but I’m not that bad.
I stuttered some response about how I had “been dancing a few times, but I’m a little rusty.” Needless to say at this point I got even more nervous and the next four minutes were some of the longest of my life. No matter what I did, it didn’t seem to work. It was just awkward.
At the end of the song, I thanked her for the dance and proceeded to retreat to the table that our group had staked out for the evening. I tried not to think too much of it, and proceeded to dance with a few more people throughout the night. But I was slightly insulted and just a little hurt.
What she did to me on the dance floor is what I do to people on a daily basis. I have a PhD in criticism. If you’ve known me more than a few weeks, you’ve undoubtedly seen my ability to leverage criticism at everyone and everything. If you give me a situation and ten minutes, I can tell you everything that is wrong and what you need to fix it. I could level a building with my criticism, and I’m not proud of that.
I often hide behind the fact that what I say is accurate or “the truth” (now this may or may not be accurate, but I’d at least like to think I’m right some of the time). I took solace in the fact that I never (or rarely) actually “insulted” people, but instead tried to help them become better. It was (as we are so fond of calling it) “constructive criticism”. Somehow this made everything OK.
Studying business has a way to show you the gaps in everything. I immediately see inefficiencies and want to fix them. Before I got into business, I spent a good deal of time working in live production. Talk about perfection! In live production you only have one chance to make it right, so you do everything in your power to find and solve every problem from the start. You need to see everything that can go wrong and fix it.
This way of thinking is helpful when solving problems, but it’s poison when dealing with people. I’m just beginning to understand this. Knowing how to solve a problem is a powerful skill. But people aren’t problems to be solved. I mistakenly think that if I just tell people what is wrong with them, they’ll just go and fix it. Makes sense, right?
The truth is people are way more complicated, way more emotional, and way more powerful than problems. You can’t fix people the way you fix an automobile or solve a math problem. It just doesn’t work. No matter how much I want it to, it doesn’t. And I really want it to.
The main way people change is through relationship. It’s through mutual trust and friendship. And most importantly, it’s through encouragement. It’s through letting someone know that they are valued and important. People who know they matter, want to work to be better. People who don’t think they matter to you, don’t care what you have to say.
In college, all of my professors were interested in criticising my work. I’d get papers back with comments, suggestions, and criticisms of the work that I’d done. To be totally honest, I didn’t care. If it was a good grade, I’d just file it away and move onto the next thing on my to-do list. If the grade wasn’t so good, I’d go try and argue with the prof to get it changed. If that didn’t work, I would consider changing the way I did my work on the next project just to get the grade. Did I learn anything? Not really. In fact, I’d do just enough to get by and then get on to what I wanted to do.
But there were a handful of professors who actually cared. Everything I did, they saw value in it. Now to be clear, this doesn’t mean that I got an “A” on all those projects. In fact, some of those professors were tough, and I got some low grades on papers in those classes. But what they saw was the value of my work. They saw the kernel of brilliance buried in the bottom of a messy, disjointed term paper. They saw the makings of a fantastic essay in a piece of work that I’d just slapped together.
And they focused on that kernel. They pushed and pulled. They provide suggestions. But more than that, they encouraged. They knew what I was capable of doing, even when I didn’t see it. They knew instinctively that I would rise to the challenge they set forth, but that I’d need a little encouragement to get there.
Those were my favorite classes, and I still have good relationships with many of those professors. The work I submitted for those classes was some of my best work. I still think fondly of the topics I wrote about, the discussions we had, and the work I created.
Fast forward back to the bar. As I was about to leave, a friend asked me to dance one more time. So we headed out to the dance floor, and I again did my perfectly average dancing. At the end of the song she said, “Thanks for the dance. I like dancing with you.”
What!?! You actually like dancing with me? Perfectly average, perfectly normal me? To be honest, she might not even remember saying that line, but it stuck with me. In fact, I felt like a million bucks. That compliment makes me want to learn to dance better. I like when others like dancing with me.
That’s the difference in our lives. So often with my friends, at work, with my family, and even at my church, it’s easy for me to ask with judgement, “Do you know what you’re doing?” I doubt others. I criticize them. But virtually nothing good ever comes of it. Instead, I need to encourage. Encouragement (and not flattery – there’s a big difference) brings out the best in people.
I think part of my critical spirit comes from growing up in the church. The American church loves to look at others and criticize the way they act or don’t conform to our standard. But Jesus didn’t. He almost never offered criticism, and when he did, it was mostly at religious people anyway. He’s more interested in relationships than rules. He knows we’re broken, but chooses to see what we can be, not what we are.
Somehow when God looks at us, I don’t think he asks, “Do you know how to dance?” He knows that we don’t. But he knows that we’re trying.
Instead I think he gently whispers, “I like dancing with you.”
I tend not to write much about relationships. Perhaps it’s because I don’t feel like I’m qualified. Maybe it’s because I don’t feel like I have much to say that’s worthwhile. But today I do feel the need to address a topic that’s been on my heart lately. What I will attempt to do is to shed light on an issue I see in our culture, and point out some obvious flaws in our thinking.
A local church I’ve visited has a young adult (singles) ministry. I’ve often considered attending. It’s a wonderful church full of amazing people. And although I’ve never attended their young adult ministry, I’m already a little skeptical. What’s the problem? They named it Jeremiah 29:11.
For those of you not familiar with this particular verse, here is what it says:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11, NIV
I love this verse. It was written to the Israelites in a time when nothing was going right. They were being ruled by a foreign power. In fact, this particular chapter opens up with some context for the verse:
This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. – Jeremiah 29:1, NIV
Needless to say, the Israelite people had it bad. They were miles from home. They were being ruled by a foreign power. They had very little freedom. This was a time of great turmoil in Israel. God was offering them hope and promising them a future at a time when there was little hope to be found.
So why do I hate that a young adults ministry is branded “Jeremiah 29:11”? Think about the message this sends to young adults. Basically, “Sorry your life sucks, but at least God does have a plan for it.” Or perhaps a more accurate interpretation, “Sorry you’re single, but God has someone out there for you. Just wait and see.”
We’ve effectively equated a time in our lives that brings us the greatest opportunities with a time of some of Israel’s greatest sorrows. Furthermore churches often unknowingly equate a time of singleness with a time of sorrow.
Now I’m sure the church leaders and staff didn’t really think this through. And perhaps I’m reading way too much into it. Both of those are possibilities. But the deeper problem is that the American church looks at singleness as a problem to be solved, not a stage of life to be enjoyed.
Over the past few months, God continues to teach me to embrace singleness as a gift. The time that I have now will be some of the most important and impactful times in my life. I have incredible opportunities to meet new people, to invest in meaningful relationships, and become more like the person that God has created me to be. Simply put, I need to embrace this time and make the most of it. To do anything else would be to squander the time I’ve been given.
If you think about many of the major figures throughout scripture, many of them lived single lives. Jesus (of course), Paul, and John the Baptist are figures that immediately come to mind. And of course many people who got married also played a significant role in scripture. That’s exactly my point. Both marriage and singleness have their place. Existing in one stage does not disqualify you from anything. In fact each stage qualifies you specifically for different opportunities.
Our culture often talks about how marriage completes us. What we’ve done is idolize marriage and relationships to a point where we genuinely feel incomplete without them. The church has also embraced this attitude. I would suggest that this may be part of the reason divorce rates are so high (both inside and outside of the church).
We think marriage will meet all the needs we have. We think finding that perfect someone will make everything just right. Even the most realistic of us often know that there will be tough times, but we believe marriage does (somehow) make us whole. We believe that without it, we aren’t who we are supposed to be.
And as a result, I’ve watched marriages and relationships fall apart. As soon as the honeymoon is over, husbands and wives realize that they aren’t actually getting all their needs met. So they assume that they must’ve married the wrong person. “After all,” they say to themselves, “marriage is supposed to complete me and make me happy. So if I’m not happy I must be married to the wrong person.”
I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m bashing marriage. I think marriage is an amazing gift from God. My parents are still married after nearly 30 years of marriage. I have so much respect for both of them, and I’m incredibly grateful for the godly display of marriage they’ve been to me throughout my life. I’m so happy for my friends who have found someone to spend the rest of their lives with. I believe that marriage and sexuality are gifts God gives to us. And I believe we don’t need marriage to make us complete.
Someone much wiser than me once said, “If we aren’t content single, it will be nearly impossible for us to be content in marriage. If we learn to be content while single, we stand the best chance of learning to be content after we’re married.” I thought this was brilliant. I’d really like to give credit to whomever said it, but I honestly don’t remember where I first heard it.
Living as a single person is amazing. I’m not kidding when I say that I genuinely enjoy it. Sure, it absolutely has its challenges, but God continues to teach me lessons as a single adult that would’ve been impossible (or impossibly painful) to learn in marriage. Plus, I have a huge amount of freedom with my time, energy, money, and talents that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
Sometimes young married people (typically my age or younger) like to offer me advice on being single. I appreciate their intentions, but I’m generally not going to take their advice seriously. No offense. If you got married at 22, you have no idea what it’s like to be single at 25. And that’s not a bad thing. I yield to you in all things related to marriage. You have far more experience at marriage than I have. But when it comes to being single, please consider the fact that you may indeed know very little about living life as a single adult.
You see, singleness wasn’t your adventure. Marriage was. So embrace your journey, and I’ll embrace mine. If and when it comes time for me to get married, let’s chat. I’d love to know what you’ve learned.
Perhaps the worst reason I can think of to get married is to cure loneliness. I’ve been in friendships for the sole purpose of curing loneliness, and those didn’t work out so well. When you begin a relationship with someone “just because you don’t have anyone better to hang out with”, you’re missing the entire point of real relationships. That is the most selfish way to approach anything.
To be honest, the friendships I began with that mentality never worked out well for me anyway. I was disappointed, and I left others disappointed. More importantly, I failed to love and support them in a meaningful way. I was in the relationship for my benefit, and they were in the relationship for their benefit. And none of us really benefitted.
I can’t imagine trying to survive in a marriage based on mutual loneliness.
The Catholic theologian Henri Nouwen wrote:
“As long as we approach another person from our loneliness, no mature human relationship can develop. Clinging to one another in loneliness is suffocating and eventually becomes destructive. For love to be possible we need the courage to create space between us and to trust that this space allows us to dance together.”
I couldn’t agree more.
One day I hope to be married. I don’t feel called to be single, but if that’s the path I have in front of me, I’ll gladly accept it.
But I refuse to sit idly by and think my life only begins on my wedding day. Everyday is a day that I can’t get back. So many people choose to wait and wallow in discontentment toward their singleness. I talk to 30-somethings who would give almost anything to have their single days back – if even for a week. Somehow the grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence. But it’s really greenest where you water it. Whether that’s in singleness or marriage, I’m going to do everything I can to keep the grass green on my side of the fence.
Single people who love Jesus with everything are some of the most dangerous people in the world. They have the time, talent, money, and flexibility to make the world a better place. They have fewer commitments and greater flexibility with their lives. Deep down I believe these people scare Satan the most. They are undercover agents, lone rangers, and watchful vigilantes who are bringing love, hope, and light to world saturated in darkness. Idly waiting for Mr. or Mrs. Right is exactly what we should not be doing. Seeing singleness as a gift is the first step in becoming who we were meant to be.
Even Paul recognized singleness as a gift.
“I wish that all of you were [single] as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.” – 1 Cor 7:7-8
So maybe instead of Jeremiah 29:11, we should name our young adult ministries something like John 10:10 (I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full) or 1 Timothy 6:12 (Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called).
Somehow they just seem more fitting.