My Single Brothers and Sisters (A Single’s Manifesto Pt.2)

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The beauty of living in community is seeing that I am not alone, and that there are many others like me. As I journey through the present as a single person, this is exactly what I see!

I believe with all my heart in the rewards of journeying through community! Still, we are all unique individuals, and these differences can be sources of tension. I believe though, that community is worth fighting for.

If you’re a single person reading this, please take note that while this manifesto, in some points may be specific to my own community, I hope you will think of ways to journeying well in your own community. And I hope you find some comfort knowing that I, too, am part of your community, albeit virtually.:)

If you’re a married person reading this, I hope you gain some insight from this and find ways to journey lovingly with the singles in your life.

This is the second part of my Single’s Manifesto. Read Part 1 here!

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ATTITUDE TO OTHER SINGLES

As a single person, I will seek and create opportunities to build healthy relationships with fellow singles in my community. My primary motive will be to foster sisterhood and brotherhood among us, knowing and understanding that first and foremost, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.

While I am aware of the fact that some singles have paired up and found their spouses here in this community, or of the fact that some singles here are intent in looking for possible future lifetime partners (let me clear: nothing wrong that!), I will not fall into the trap of constantly evaluating and relating with men based on what their potential relationship to me could be like. I will treat single men in the community with respect and accord them with honor, whether I find them attractive or not, or whether they find me attractive or not. 

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With three of my most favorite single lady friends in the planet.

I will seek to be a sister to my fellow single women, offering encouragement, support, love, and counsel. I will take their hand (literally and figuratively) and find mutual encouragement in the fact that the Maker of the Universe is sufficient to provide for all our needs. I will share my longings and heart stirrings to my sisters, but I will not whine, nor complain, but set an example of speaking words of life and hope for the present and the future.

I will be a source of affirmation both for my brothers and my sisters. I will be a “dream-releaser,” someone who can motivate my brothers and sisters to pursue and discover the passions God has placed in their hearts. And while it is true that this period of singleness may be temporary for most of the singles, I will help my fellow singles (as I hope they will do the same for me) see this period of singleness as a gift to be cherished, more than just a transitory phase to the married phase.

I will remind us that while marrieds are blessed in ways singles are not, we singles are also blessed in ways married people are not. We must see and appreciate these blessings as unique and even better, in a way.

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Here’s one way we’re blessed: We can travel! Whenever, wherever! That’s a huge win in my book.

I also commit to protect myself and my fellow brothers and sisters from insensitive remarks and teasing that may damage relationships. I will do this by not encouraging prolonged teasing within the group, nor from other people, especially from marrieds, no matter how well-meaning they may be.

I will look to the single people in this community, especially those more advanced in age, as people of a special kind of wisdom, and therefore I will seek their fellowship and counsel. And I will honor them for the way they have faithfully obeyed God.

Yes, God loves me.

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The Divine is reaching out to me.

There are those moments, when you are so desperately and acutely aware of your own hopelessness and inability to please God.

Why am I so love-starved? Why am I so forgetful?

You’d think that growing up in a Christian family, working in a missions org, and studying in a seminary where I read and study the Bible every day (something I never imagined I’d ever do, to be honest) would cause me to not forget the very basic, fundamental truth that God loves me no matter what.

Why am I so inclined to think that I am worthless, that the things I do are insignificant, that I do not have purpose? 

Have I (yet again) started believing lies?

It’s a self-destructive mindset, one that is a result of the fall — I know this much. This, I realize now more than ever, is one of the devastating results of sin. It hurts me too. My own sin hurts me.

And why do I almost always tend to believe that I have disappointed God? This is me right now: burning with the most miserable feeling of embarrassment at being a disappointment to God.

But then…

He reaches down and reminds me of nothing short of His… love.

He reached down last night, as I prayed and mulled over my shame and struggles.

He reached down this morning, in Theology class as we discussed and reflected on Propitiation and the Hypostatic Union of Jesus’ Two Natures (of all things!).

He reached down at Chapel Time today, when kuya Craig, one of the Professors, exhorted us, “We need to be reminded of this, and we need to hear this: ‘God loves you.'”

It is so simple, and so profound, and so true.

I may have failed people. It’s okay, God loves me.

I have hurt others. Still, God loves me.

I am not who I think I ought to be. It doesn’t matter, God loves me.

I believe I have disappointed God. That is not true, and God loves me.

The Divine is reaching out to me, and yes, He loves me.

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Kuya Craig at Chapel Time.

 

Things I want to tell the Married People in my Seminary

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So this last term, I had a class called Christian Marriage.

I enjoyed it! My professor is an excellent communicator, knew the material really well, and used real-life experiences (most of which are his own, which are mostly hilarious) as illustrations.

And because the class is called Christian Marriage, and because majority of the student population of IGSL are married, naturally, majority of the class was composed of married people. And because most of the students lived on campus with their own families, a lot of the married couples attended the class together. So they basically got to attend a two-hour weekly Marriage Seminar.

Then there are the singles. The singles, a small fraction of the population of the class. It’s like they didn’t know what to do with us, so they just dumped us into the class. But maybe I’m just being cynical.

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We are just a few of the single population of IGSL. We exist!

So I sat there in class, listening to my professor talk about marriage problems and how to relate with the in-laws, trying my hardest to relate to the interesting, but unrelatable topics. Some of my single classmates had given up altogether trying to relate and simply went to class just for attendance.

And like these fellow single classmates, there are some things I wish I could tell the married people / teachers / curriculum-developers / whoever-is-in-power-and-in-charge-of-the-courses here in seminary:

  • Why does it seem like everyone assumes that all the singles want to get married? Marriage is good, I get it. But singleness is also good. I don’t hear enough of THAT here.
  • Why not have a Christian Singleness / Celibacy class?! It’s a brilliant idea, if I may say so. Or okay, fine, so I might concede that there are certain topics about marriage I need to learn about, for future reference in the ministry. In that case, the class should be renamed Christian Marriage and Singleness. It would be divided into two parts: the first part would be a combination of Marrieds and Singles, and in the second part, the Marrieds and Singles would have their own classes.
  • This two-part class would be great, especially when it came to discussing some topics like sex and sexuality. Yeah, sexuality from a single person’s perspective – there’s an idea! It would also eliminate awkwardness from the marrieds and singles.
  • Speaking of which, I wonder why the marrieds assume that we know nothing about sex? Why treat us like naïve children as if we won’t be able to handle the discussion about sex? Seriously?

WHY GO THROUGH ALL THE TROUBLE?

The other day, one of the people-in-authority here said she read my Single’s Manifesto, and she commented that we did use to have a Christian Singleness class. But then they thought, Oh they’ll all get married anyway, so let’s just scrap that class off.

I was genuinely saddened when I heard that.

Because I don’t think we hear enough of the perspective of single ministers / missionaries, if at all. Already, in many cultures, singles are deemed less qualified to minister. This seminary, this unique place of learning, could’ve been that place where this notion could be challenged and examined, or at least this could have been the place where a conversation about this could be started. Sayang.

Also, I know how the desire (take note, desire!) for marriage can be enslaving. This desire… it can possess you, control you, and rule your thoughts and motives. It creeps in slowly, subtly, until it has grabbed ahold of you. Then it starts suffocating you.

I think communicating that not being married is also fulfilling can be liberating! And it doesn’t mean eliminating all longings for marriage. I know I still dream of marriage someday.. It’s just claiming the freedom of knowing that singleness and marriage are equally good and fulfilling in their own ways.

Last but not least, it would communicate that they value the singles. I’ve heard it said once or twice that the community here wants to be sensitive to singles. Well, this is one way of putting your money where your mouth is, methinks.

All this to say: I just wish for an avenue, a safe space for authentic communication of these really relevant issues. 

“Well, why don’t you start it?” some of you may say. Well, my impact won’t be as great as when it comes as a mandate from the authorities / leadership, will it?

ALL THAT BEING SAID, in no way am I saying that the people in my seminary are complete jerks to the singles. And I hope you don’t walk away cynical of the Christian community consisting of married people. We are not all insensitive. But I think, I believe, we can be more sensitive.

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I am Loved to the Skies (A Single’s Manifesto Pt.1)

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In this last term of my first year in seminary, I had a class called “Christian Marriage”.

The class was dominated by couples attending the class together. While I found the class interesting, I think what I appreciated most is my teacher’s effort to make the conversation relevant to the singles such as myself, although I think more can be done about this.

(Because until IGSL* comes up with a class called “Christian Singleness / Celibacy,” profs will be left with the awkward responsibility to try to make the class relevant to single students. But that’s another blog post for another time.)

Going back: so while the couples did their married couple-centric assignments, we were tasked to come up with a Single’s Manifesto, which I actually really enjoyed writing!

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ATTITUDE TO MYSELF

As a single person, I embrace my identity, and it is this: that I am someone of infinite worth, a precious child of the Ruler of the Heavens, formed intricately from the womb, whose paths have been determined before the hinges of the world were in place, and who God Himself went down to the depths for and who He loved to the skies.

I will, only by the everlasting grace of God, live in this Truth moment by moment.

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I recognize and celebrate how God designed me as a unique Person: as someone with specific legitimate needs which ultimately will only be met by God, but which God allows to be met through other legitimate ways. I will not apologize for my needs, but be open to the ways in which God will choose to meet these needs.

I will strive to take responsibility for my own words, actions and choices. I will remind myself that in almost everything, I have a choice to make. However, I will understand the consequences of my choices and take myself to task regarding these. I will seek ways to grow in making wiser choices progressively.

I will seek opportunities to develop my talents and skills, knowing that this is the best way to honor God and steward these things. By committing to hone these talents, I am celebrating God’s unique design of me. Moreover, I commit to dedicate these talents for the sole purpose of glorifying God.

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I will be patient and gracious to myself, knowing that God Himself is patient and gracious with me, and that this is one way of loving myself. I will be kind to myself, because I understand that a lack of grace for myself is an indication of pride.

I will look at the present with joy, knowing that the only Person ever whose love for me is the purest, strongest, holiest is with me, has always been with me and will always be with me.

And I will look to the future with a calm, joyous assurance that this same Person has a plan and path laid out for me from the beginning of beginnings.

Whether this plan includes another human being I shall join with in marriage or not will not shake my faith, will not steal my joy, nor will it make me paralyzed with fear, because God Almighty is with me.

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*IGSL = International Graduate School of Leadership. My current school.

 

The Jewels I am Meant to Wear

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Photo taken from hitchcockmadrona.com

I am a ballerina in a Jewel Box.

I am a ballerina in a Jewel Box, a Jewel Box filled with clutter, trinkets from years gone by, plastic ornaments that look pretty but ultimately lack real value, glass accessories that sparkle but are actually fake.

I have accumulated a lot of sparkly things in the course of my life, some genuine, but mostly faux. I’ve kept these things around me, in the Box that is my life, and held them close.

I have collected quite a few of these faux  jewels – unnecessary commitments, some high-maintenance relationships, pursuits I didn’t really have the heart for, dreams I thought were mine but were actually imposed on me, loves that I thought should be mine…

In themselves, they might be good. They are good, but not the best for me.

So God took away some of them by bringing drastic changes in my life. It hurt, oh how it hurt, to let go of these things I have held on for so long.

I was crouching in a corner, clutching these, yelling and putting up a fight, and God lovingly, but firmly pried my fingers off. He took away one thing at a time. Oh, how it hurt.

He took away these pretty gems, and for a long time I crouched in the corner.

But my tears finally abated, and my sobbing finally ceased, and I saw… and then I saw the most wondrous thing inside the Jewel Box that is my life: space.

Now, with some of these things forcibly taken from me, I have space. For the first time in a long time, I finally had space to breathe, to think, to sing, to dance!

And I looked around the Box, and saw what jewels were left, and what jewels God placed –  commitments to hold on to, relationships worth strengthening and fighting for, pursuits that resonate from my heart, and dreams that ignite my passions.

I see now how God took away all the other gems from my Jewelry Box to show me that there are certain gems I am meant to wear. There are certain gems I am called to wear. There are certain relationships I am meant to build. There are certain dreams I am meant to pursue. There is a love that would be especially mine.

Other people may look better with the gems I desperately clung to… but I have my own set of Jewels God specifically shaped and prepared for me.

And you, dear reader, you have your own Jewels you are meant to wear.

The Way He Sees Me

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Last week, February 26, I turned twenty four.

I’m not sure if it’s the even number, but for the first time I actually finally feel like an adult. But as I look back on the past year, I realize that I did do a lot growing up on my twenty-third year.

It was painful, it was difficult, my heart was wrung many times over until it felt like not a drop of blood could make it beat again, but somehow I kept going. It was purely God’s grace, nothing more.

Here are some of the lessons I have started to learn:

PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION

I had a birthday eve ritual. It began when I started in college, when I was about 17 or 18. Every night, before my birthday, I would do some reflecting, which was really a personal guilt-trip session. I would review and reflect on the past year, and always end up chiding and scolding myself for not doing more, not being more, not being enough. I would guilt myself so badly, and then at the end of the “reflection,” I would console myself with the thought, “I can do better this year. I can accomplish more.

But now I am learning to enjoy the journey and trust God in the seasons He puts me. I am learning to embrace who I am at this moment, knowing that He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it. I am learning that in this lifetime, I will never be perfect, and God loves me all the same.

Also, my need for a sense of accomplishment only brings frustration. But when I am making choices from a place of trusting in what Christ accomplished on my behalf, I feel more relief and peace.

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I AM WORTHY. I AM IMPORTANT. I AM VALUABLE.

I’m not sure when I began to believe the lie that I was not worthy, but somehow, I did. People hurt me, I have been judged and compared, I didn’t measure up, I didn’t accomplish enough, and all these somehow pounded and cemented in my heart and mind this vicious, cruel lie. And so my default interpretation in most situations is that I am not worthy, or important.

Now I am learning to embrace and live out my Identity, and it is this: that I am someone of infinite worth, a precious child of the Ruler of the Heavens, formed intricately from the womb, whose paths have been determined before the hinges of the world were in place, and who God Himself went down to the depths for and who He loved to the skies. I will, only by the everlasting grace of God, live with this Truth moment by moment.

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Being in community reminds me and allows me to live out my true identity. (Photo by Zillah Balico-Herrera)

EMOTIONAL MATURITY MEANS ACKNOWLEDGING MY EMOTIONS

A few months ago, I had a rather deep conversation with a person about the way I handle emotions. It was a long conversation, and finally she said, “Based on what you’ve told me, and based from what I know about you, you seem to tend to shun big emotions, and find a way to get rid of them, or ‘fix it’.”

That stopped me… and brought an epiphany: it is true! I do tend to tamp down “negative” emotions, especially if they are so intense. I think I actually even fear huge, negative emotions, because they make me appear less pleasant, or vulnerable, or less confident, or all of the above… and I do not want to appear as anything BUT pleasant, strong, and confident.

And because I’ve been avoiding and ignoring these for so long, the result is that I have become embarrassingly inept at handling them. Now I am learning to help myself by identifying and acknowledging my emotions. Instead of emotionally reacting, I can give a reflective response.

When I woke up on the morning of the 26th last week, I was at peace. It was a wonderful day, celebrating with my IGSL* friends and community, but amid the serenades and surprises and picture-taking, I became aware of a feeling inside me. It was not an intense emotion; in fact, it was a quiet, tranquil feeling. But its presence was solid and it drew my attention…

I finally realized that this – this was contentment. And I realized that for the first time since I was in college, I did not commence my birthday with a guilt trip session.

For the first time, I think, I am beginning, finally, to see myself the way God sees me: someone He accepts, delights and loves.

My birthday wish is that I will keep learning and living these truths, resting in God’s undying love for me.

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*I am currently studying at the International Graduate School of Leadership (IGSL).

 

I’m okay staying Single… forever.

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sarah in pma

I have recently decided I don’t mind being single forever and not getting married.

Actually, I decided that last week.

Consider an episode I had with a friend last Sunday. I was talking to one of my Professors, someone I really respect, and whose insights I value. When he asked me, “What are your plans after seminary?”, I thought I was in for some free counseling time.

So I answered him.

I told him I was really keen on doing cross-cultural missions, evangelism and discipleship, and maybe humanitarian works.

I told him I was very much interested in Christian Apologetics, and that I desire to do further studies in that area.

I told him I was passionate about the arts, especially music and literature, and would very much like to study more formally and increase my platform.

I told him that while I plan all of these, I have no idea how to accomplish them, or how to combine them (or if I should), and that I just don’t know what to do next.

He affirmed my desires, then he said, “The key is to find a man with the same passions as you do…”

I have to admit I didn’t hear anything else after hearing the “The key is to find a man…” part of his statement. Because why does everything have to depend on me finding a man?! (Do I have issues with men? Maybe. No. Not really. Am I a – *gasp* – a feminist? NO!)

So I answered Professor, “Oh, but I’ve decided that I’m okay being single forever.”

I admitted that I think do like the idea of being in love, and getting married. I like the idea. 

But! There is a lot that needs to be done in the world, a lot of needs to be filled, and a lot I want to do. 

Between all my plans of cross-cultural missions, humanitarian works, higher studies and personal artistic development, not to mention my short-term goals of writing a book, publishing a book, traveling widely, and starring in a Broadway show (Joke! Or maybe not), where, I ask, WHERE WILL I FIND THE TIME TO EVEN DATE?!

So I decided, last week, that if I were to date and marry, he would have to share my dreams, and he would have to be absolutely, hundred-percent convicted that he is to be God’s agent to help me fulfill my dreams and help me blossom, just as I am fully convicted that I will support him and encourage him to greater heights with all my heart, mind and soul.

He would have to be that kind of man. If not, then I’d rather stay single.

SO AM I REALLY, REALLY SURE?

At this point, you, dear reader, are probably either smiling, laughing, or scoffing at my naivete… the same way the Professor at the beginning of this post reacted to my “declaration.”

This professor incredulously, and I think maybe even exasperatingly, asked me, “How old are you?!”

“Twenty-three,” I replied.

“YOU ARE SO YOUNG!” he roared. “TALK TO ME WHEN YOU’RE TWENTY SIX!”

Who knows? Maybe at twenty-six, or even twenty-five, I would change my mind. Maybe I’d change my mind next week! (Lol joke, I don’t think so.)

But to be honest, deciding to be single actually felt liberating. Really, really!

Also, just to get it out of the way, yes, I am aware that there may have been things I have not considered, or flaws in my logic or reasoning. (If you think so, please tell me how I erred in a nice way, down in the comments section.)

I’ll let time and life affirm or rebuke me, but for now, I’m enjoying this freedom of choice.