Tuesday, March 18, 2008

All the Men You Don't Marry - Book Excerpt

(By Carolyn McCulley)

I was once told - by a man - that if a man didn't treat me like a queen, I should kick him to the curb. As well meaning as this advice was, not every man is going to treat me like a queen. Most men are going to treat me like a sister or a friend. So either I kick a lot of men to the curb, or I had better come up with a plan for all the men I don't marry - the third point in the heart issue list.

Ironically, it was a man who showed me how. Years ago I was critically evaluating a man in a conversation with my friend and small group leader, Doug. I explained the cryptic actions of this other man, which I then pronounced as "creeping me out." I thoroughly expected Doug to agree and even to laugh with me. But when I finished the end of my long tale, there was a customary pause at the other end of the telephone. I waited, my smile fading.

"I'm wondering," he said kindly, "how you would define 'creeping me out' in biblical terms."
"Ummm," I replied cautiously, "I guess I mean I'm irritated by him. I don't understand his actions or motives."
"Uh, huh," he said, waiting for me to put two and two together.

"I'm not the only one who feels this way though," I added. "A lot of other women feel this pressure from him, too."

Hellloooo! Now you've added gossip to self-righteous criticism!

"Uh, huh,"
he repeated.

I had better shut up.

I was digging myself into a hole in this conversation. As always happens when we sinfully judge others, we end up condemning ourselves. After Doug patiently revealed to me my self-righteous attitude (and I repented of it), he asked me another memorable question.

"One more thing - I'm not hearing where you are concerned about this brother being conformed to the image of Christ," he said gently. "Have you thought about that? If he is offending you or these other women, why hasn't anyone kindly brought that to his attention so that he can grow up and change?"

Doug has always been good at asking me the tough questions! During our conversation, he not only helped me see my sinful, critical attitude, but he also revealed to me my worldly way of thinking about single men. His question ultimately revealed that I was thinking of single men in three categories: Potentials, Just Buddies, and No Ways, with each meriting different treatment. That's too many categories. There's just one for believing single men: Brothers, and consequently, they all deserve the same treatment. Maybe one day a Brother will initiate a relationship to find out if the Lord would be moving him into the Husband slot. But until the words "I do" ring out from the wedding altar, he's still my Brother and potentially someone else's husband.

My job as their sister in the Lord is to encourage and support these men, not to categorize them and treat them accordingly. James 2:2-4 reveals our tendency to show partiality:
"For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?"

My paraphrase is: "For if a fine-looking young man without a wedding ring comes into your assembly, and an awkward, plainer man in outdated clothing also comes in and you pay attention to the good-looking man and say, "You sit right here in a good place...." while you say nothing to or cut short the conversation with the less attractive man, have you not then made distinctions among them and become proud women with self-centered ambitions?"

We will stand out from our culture if we are consistently kind to everyone we meet, not just the Potentials. Not only that, we will stand out to a truly Godly man who observes this impartial kindness in us. In doing so, we reflect our Saviour....

Matthew 12:46-50
"While He yet talked to the people, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. Then one said unto him, Behold, they mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak to thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother."

The first concept I note here is the humility of Jesus in calling a broad range of sinful people His family. We have been adopted into His family because we are fellow sinners reconciled to God through what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross. Thus, by grace we are enabled to do the will of our Father in heaven. The second concept I take away from this passage is that this is how I can relate to each of my brothers. I can point them back to the will of our Father, thereby helping them bear fruit that glorifies God. I've found that I can apply this concept in three ways:

~ Observe them. In order to be intentional as a sister, I must take note of the men the Father has put into my life, from colleagues to Bible study members to church friends. It's fun to observe the men we're interested in, but it takes effort to study and take note of other men. If we resolve to observe all of our brothers, then we easily can do the next two steps.

~ Encourage them. It's not always effortless to do the will of the Father, especially in our current culture. But how refreshing to the soul it is to receive a word of "well done." There's a fine line between encouragement and flattery. If you are faithful to encourage many men, especially in the hearing of others, you will not confuse anyone about your intentions. For me, these two steps require that I shut my mouth in group contexts and sit back to study what God is doing at that moment in the men around me. Often I will find many things to comment on later - from hearing a more reserved man bring up a good point in a Bible study, to seeing a busy man offer to help someone move. Encouragement keeps people from growing weary in good deeds. Let's be faithful to look for these reflections of God's grace in these men's lives and to comment on them as we see them doing the will of the Father.

~ Seek to see them conformed - not to your preferences but to the image of Christ. This is what Doug was encouraging me to do. It's not so much of an active process, but an active concern. Our motivation should be care and concern when someone is not doing the will of the Father and to humbly bring what we've observed and our questions about it (not judgments) to our brothers.

It's tempting as singles to simply avoid the people who irritate us or whose sin or weaknesses always seem to spill out whenever we're around. But that's not carrying a concern to see our brothers (and sisters) in the Lord grow and mature in Christ. If there's something we don't understand or that offends us, we should ask kindly about it, motivated by an understanding that we don't know or see everything related to the situation. We should also trust that the Holy Spirit is the one who brings conviction for change; so our observations should be initially and continually in our prayers.

Galatians 6:1 says, "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted."

-- Excerpted from,
"Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God With A Hope Deferred,"
by Carolyn McCulley, Crossway Books, 2004

1 comment:

Laurel said...

That is powerful stuff! And it's definitely applicable across the board. Thank you for the challenge.