“I’m thinking about starting a blog,” I said to Diane. I was painting her nails at her house.
“Oh, what about?” she asked.
“Singleness in the church,” I replied as I opened the next color.
“Oh yeah?” she said, interested. “I was single until I was in my 40’s.”
I pried further and found out much of her story. Diane was born with cerebral palsy, and she assumed she’d never get married. Then in her early 40’s, she met a man who asked her out. He also had never been married. Five years later, when Diane was 46, they shared their first kiss at their wedding.
The part that struck me about her story was not that Diane and her husband Clinton had spent their single years serving the church and loving God (though they had); it was not even that Clinton proposed, knowing that Diane would be in a wheelchair someday (which she now is).
What stood out to me was that neither Diane nor Clinton lowered their standards as they waited for God to bring along their spouses. When Diane was single, she had rules for herself that involved things like, “I won’t pursue a man; he will have to pursue me.” And Clinton had determined before he met Diane that he would kiss only his wife.
Through five years of dating and engagement, they never asked “where is the line of appropriateness and how close can we get to it?” They, EVEN THOUGH THEY WERE IN THEIR FORTIES, asked, “What is the opposite direction of the line, and how far can we run from it?”
When my younger siblings realized (when I was in college) that I was old enough to have a boyfriend and didn’t, they started in with, “Why don’t you lower your standards, Charity?” “It’s too much to expect a boyfriend that actually showers.” “How do you expect to ever find someone if you refuse to date inmates?”
Yes, they were teasing me and taking scenarios to the extreme (those are just the most politically correct ones I’ve posted there). But the thought was one that niggled at me louder and louder as I exited my early twenties – and then my late twenties. Wouldn’t it be easier to find a man if I had lower standards, I wondered?
Yes, it would be easier. I’m sure that I’d find a man without too much problem if I said yes to every man on Tinder who offered to corrupt me, went clubbing regularly, and moved in with roommates who allowed men to stay the night. I don’t know much about dating, but I’m a quick learner, and I could take lessons from my friends who can’t seem to stay single for more than two weeks.
But in reality, even after giving up my lists, I can’t give up my standards. I’m not going to turn into a different person so I can attract any old boyfriend, I’m not going to start having sex outside marriage, I’m not going to go fall in love with someone who has vastly different values than I do.
This is because God calls me to certain standards in the Bible. For instance, He instructs Christians to marry Christians (2 Cor 6:14), He tells me to marry a man (if I do marry) (Matthew 19:4-5), He calls me to obey Him even when I don’t immediately understand why.
But He doesn’t just tell me this and leave me to figure it out on my own. In the Bible, He also tells me about Jesus.
Jesus came to earth to live a perfect life (I Pet 2:22). That means He never relaxed His standards, even once. He wisely cut through the religious crap of arbitrary standards (Matt 15:9) and still managed to live a life that didn’t displease God even once (Matt 3:16-17). That couldn’t have been easy!
Surrounded by sinners, Jesus could easily have said, “What the heck? It doesn’t matter if I make out with a fair maiden behind the mule barn. Everyone’s doing it!” or “I deserve a girlfriend because I haven’t sinned in 30 years.”
Just as Jesus didn’t relax His standards to make His life easy, He also didn’t relax them to make His death easy. Not once did He run away from the stress, torture, shame, and lies that led to His death on the cross.
Instead of lovingly keeping His mouth shut, He could have shut Pilate’s mouth (Matt 27:12-14); instead of submissively being beaten, He could have beaten His captors with one word to the angels (Matt 26:53); instead of quietly dying a criminal’s death, He could have let us all die at the hands of a just God (Rom 3:19-24).
But He didn’t, because His job was to uphold the perfect standard needed to get into heaven (2 Cor 5:21) – to get ME into heaven.
When I’m tempted to ignore the biblical standards or the convictions of my conscience in order to make it easier to get what I want, I remember this: even though I may not easily get what I want in this lifetime, Jesus’ resurrection makes it extremely easy to get what I need. He’s already done all the work (I Pet 3:18)! Now I don’t have to do anything, making me thankful for three things:
- God provides standards for me, so that I don’t have to live by arbitrary or religiously- or culturally-mandated ones (2 Tim 3:16-17).
- Jesus has already met all of God’s standards and applied His perfection to me so I won’t be separated from God forever for my sins (my failures to meet His standards) (Rom 4:22-24). Because of Jesus, God forgives me.
- The Holy Spirit works in me daily, spurring me to respond in love to Jesus (I Cor 2:10-14). So instead of flaunting the fact that I’m getting into heaven despite my sin, I endeavor that much harder to show my thankfulness by loving and obeying God.
This brings me back to Diane’s story. All those years, when she refused to call men on the telephone – even for something as simple as asking for rides – she was loving her future husband. And when Clinton determined to kiss only his wife, he was loving Diane before he even met her.
Those standards were, of course, convictions of their consciences and not necessarily biblical mandates; but the point is, by purposely living in love and obedience to God, they were loving their future spouses without even realizing it.
I must therefore conclude that sticking to my standards – to God’s standards – is the best way to go.
So when my siblings tease me, or I’m the only un-coupled person in the group, or I face another birthday without a boyfriend, I cling to the truth in Psalm 25:3a: “No one who hopes in you [God] will ever be put to shame” (NIV).