I have been known (at least in my own heart) to have a chip on my shoulder criticizing how churches operate: Why do all the pastors sit together instead of spreading out in the sanctuary? Why aren’t the pastors mingling with strangers? Why don’t those worship leaders go hangout with a loner in the back? And so on. But at one-point years ago in my grumbling to God about church operations, He so kindly reminded me that though I am not paid to do so, I am a part of the body…so if my heart is so strong in reaching out to people, why am I not the one doing exactly what I think they should do?
Writing about singleness is certainly not my idea of a good time, but I suppose that is just the reason to do it. I have been single for 31 years, and while probably the first 21 or so I was praised for my focus and not being distracted by the opposite sex, I have now spent the last decade feeling the pressure. Thankfully (and one of the reasons I was encouraged to write this e-book) I have had the joy of experiencing a lot of healthy community over the last decade and, quite honestly, I have put in a lot of work along the way to receive that blessing with an open heart.
Praying for a relationship, or not praying for a relationship - I don’t believe that’s necessarily what moves the heart of God. I think what moves the heart of God is pursuit of Him.
As Christians, we are all stretched to grow and mature in our faith, but we aren't meant do it alone. We need Christian community to encourage and challenge us.
At the same time I was raiding the candy store with my friend, there were two significant life lessons my parents were emphasizing back home:
eat food that is good for you, and pray about everything. I did not enjoy either lesson at the time. You see sugar was delicious, vegetables were disgusting, and prayer was a boring waste of time, but I felt constant guilt to do it.
As a quiet young girl who tried her hardest to say as little as possible, Colossians 4:6 encouraged me to make use of my words and be intentional. This shifted my perspective. Instead of doing my best to use as few words as possible, I started to view my speech as a way to point others to Christ.
As an unapologetic optimist, I used to assume the best about people which made me an unfortunate judge of character. Sometimes I honestly couldn't identify fake friends from real ones. But the sarcastic words? The little insults? They were the hundred paper cuts that eventually made me bleed.
I had to learn the hard way that not everyone likes Ashley. And some people never will.
For as long as I can remember, my biggest insecurity has been my quiet personality. I’m not overly talkative, I’m not super outgoing, and I’m not the life of the party by any stretch of the imagination. Don’t get me wrong - I love to have fun. And the friends who know me well have plenty of stories. But I remember coming away from so many parties and get togethers beating myself up for not saying enough. I felt like I had nothing to offer in group situations and wondered if people really wanted me there.
Being in my 20s, I’ve had more of a mixed friend group and have been trying to navigate these sometimes murky waters. At times more successfully than others. I find that when I talk to guys I can be at a loss for words, afraid of giving them the wrong impression, and even avoid being caught in a conversation with them. To narrow it down, my friend and I both found ourselves becoming increasingly awkward and rude.
Our culture gives us this unfortunate idea that we have to perfect ourselves. To truly be successful you need to eliminate all of your weaknesses. You need to hold your own. You need to keep it together. You need to be a completely well rounded person.
But how boring, really.