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Why Would Love Song Conclude With A Message About Living Single?

I have spoken more to and about single adults during the Love Song series than at any other time in ministry.

So it was fitting (I hope) to conclude the message with an extended look at living single through the lens of the most couple-centric book in the entire biblical library, the Song Of Songs.

Here’s the message which contained this bottom line:  We look at waiting as punishment but God uses it as preparation.

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So we are wrapping up a series that has frankly been about marital romance and intimacy & yet we’re doing so with a conversation on singleness.  And we had a large event for singles during this series about marriage.  It may seem odd on the surface, but I guarantee it’s not.  Because I know a couple of things: 1) way more than just ten years ago, more of you than ever before in this room are single.  Some of you are just plain young – you don’t get any of my rock and roll jokes – and your generation is marrying later, anyway.  Others of you are Single On Sunday.  And still others are single again and you’ve been very faithful and patient to go through this series in the first place.  (For you, today is to make the wait worthwhile!). 
            The other thing I know 2) is this: church, faith, bible, Jesus can all be subtly or not-so-subtly unfriendly terrain for singles.  Think about it! What do many churches call their “gym” buildings?  The Family Life Center! What do we often say in church announcements:  “For the families of the church.”  I even heard about a church who called their class for young adults “Pairs and Spares.”  What?!  And what about Xn radio?  Family Friendly Radio! Makes me want to start a new one:  Singles Friendly Radio!  So in light of all that, to singles, single again, and even Single On Sunday: I’m sorry.  Thanks for your faithfulness, patience and sorry for offense.
            Nevertheless, the question remains: how to you sing Love Song when the song you live is One Is The Loneliest Number? 
            Because for whatever else is true of living single in the 21st century, we know that it is a time of waiting.  Many of you who are single are lodged in a realm where you are in between.  Some of you are in between marriages.  Others are in between jobs.  Most are in between identifiable seasons in your life.  You are finished with school, with living at home, with grad school, with adolescence, and so as you wait for the next big thing in life, it’s almost as if you are in an elongated holding pattern.  You wait.  This is finished, this quite possibly is in my future, so in the meantime I’m waiting for what is next.
            And you know how we often regard waiting?  As punishment!  It starts early, doesn’t it?! What’s the first, hardest thing we’ve got to wait for as kids?  Christmas!  And seeing all those presents under the tree but being allowed to open them . . . well that’s as much punishment as any 6 year old can bear.  And then we get older and we’re almost 16 and we’ve got to wait to get our driver’s license and so all during that time when we’re 15 and mom or dad has to drive us everywhere and WE HAVE TO BE SEEN WITH THEM IN PUBLIC . . . Punishment!  Almost cruel and inhumane!  Except to know the kind of waiting that really is cruel and inhumane punishment . . . that comes after you get your driver’s license but you’ve got to go to the DMV and wait in their line (AV).  Then you get a bit older and you’re at Carowinds or Disney and what happens for every single good ride ever?  An hour wait.  The hotter it is, the more like hell the punishment seems.
            And the pattern continues. You get a bit older and you wait for that raise, you wait for the plane to take off on time, you wait until you are old enough to retire and draw Social Security.  Yes, from our youngest days and our earliest memories we have been conditioned to think of waiting as analogous to punishment.  It’s true for marrieds and more acutely true for singles.
            Which is why this pattern in the SOS is so interesting.  We’ve talked already about how the SOS almost didn’t make it into the bible, how it is almost an erotic opera (yes!), and how it has a chorus (drawing of stage?).  The chorus functions on occasion as a sounding board, at other times as an encourager, and still at other times as a group of single women whom the woman addresses.  That’s the case in this pattern: look at 2:7

 Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you
    by the gazelles and by the does of the field:
Do not arouse or awaken love
    until it so desires.

 And at 3:5:


Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you
    by the gazelles and by the does of the field:
Do not arouse or awaken love
    until it so desires.


And 8:4: 

 Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you:
    Do not arouse or awaken love
    until it so desires.

 That’s a way of saying, “Don’t arouse the passions in your man until God has approved, until it’s TIME.”  Almost like:  you delay this pleasure and you will multiply its delights.  The intimacy about which SOS sings is dangerous and wasteful at the wrong time but beautiful and secure at the right time.  And I find it so interesting that this gets said to singles.  Paul says much the same thing in I Cor 7:8-9: 

Now to the unmarried[a] and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

 And so I put those words of Scripture and I line them up with the reality we have with relationships, resources, and potential and I realize what it all means:  We see waiting as punishment but God uses it as preparation.  Rather than surrendering to your impulses and spending recklessly or dating promiscuously or even living lazily, you surrender those impulses to the power of God.  You surrender what you want NOW for what you need MOST.  In living well as a single, your come to see waiting not as selective punishment but as diving preparation.

            Because waiting, biblically speaking, is not like waiting in line at the DMV. That’s wasteful!  Waiting in the bible has the sense of anticipation and preparation.  You know God has something good in the future and so you use that time of relative inactivity to grow yourself and keep your eyes open to see what he does next.  It’s active preparing, not passive sulking.  It’s like that boss I had in an earlier, non-ministry job who didn’t like the pitch of my voice or even how I spoke in public.  So he sent me to a public speaking coach.  I thought I was being punished.  Except she taught me how to speak from my diaphragm instead of my neck and how to put a talk together and nine months later I was studying for the ministry.  I wasn’t being punished; I was being prepared.  We see waiting as punishment but God uses it as preparation.
            Some of you know this already.  Better than I do.  Better than I could.  Because you were single again and you rushed into a second marriage – either as a validation of yourself (I’ve still got it!) or as revenge against your ex (Oh yeah, look at what you missed!) and it was a complete disaster.  Your sense of time and timing was all out of whack because your emotions and the result was a marriage, a season, a heart . . . wasted.  I so want to help others in your situation avoid that same regret.  We see waiting as punishment but God uses it as preparation.
            My gosh, this speaks so much to money and buying habits.  Man, there is impatience out there.  Your impatience is like the little girl whose daddy told her about opening a savings account and how you earn interest. And so they went to the bank and did just that with a few dollars.  But the little girl wouldn’t leave the bank; she kept hanging around the manager.  Finally, he said, “Little lady, what can I do for you now?”  Her answer: “I’d like my interest now, please.” 
Singles: I know you!  You’re that way with money! You don’t wait on purchases.  You BUY on CREDIT.  Because you can’t have a product that is in any way obsolete!  There are products you didn’t know existed until you saw the ad for them & yet when you saw that ad, you couldn’t live without it.  And you have the credit card debt to prove it.  Listen: if and when you get married, your financial irresponsibility will become your new spouse’s financial problem.  And if you spring that on them as a surprise . . . uh-oh.  I’ve seen it up close: that grounds a marriage in mistrust.  Never ends well.
            So enroll in FPU.  Learn the discipline of waiting.  Of putting stuff on layaway!  Or at least separating needs from wants.  And please: when you move to the serious, don’t keep money secrets from that BF or GF.  The surprise is not welcome. We see waiting as punishment but God uses it as preparation.
            And oh Lord waiting as opposed to wasting so applies in the area of sex and the single.  Now I know: we’ve had 4 weeks of racy stuff in SOS and now I’m saying don’t waste what is precious.  Some of you already know this advice better than I do because you didn’t follow it and you wish you had because you have the physical or emotional scars to prove it.  You invested far more of yourself in those experiences than you got out of them.  Carrie Bradshaw and  Sex In The City had you convinced that it’s all fun and casual w/ no consequences, but like  most things on TV, that’s wrong.  Completely wrong.  That rel or those rels are now over and you’re left thinking, “well, that sure was a waste.”  And that’s because God has hard wired it into you that it’s a beautiful when you combine the vulnerability of sex w/ the safety of marriage and it’s not so beautiful when that combo is missing.  You’ve been designed by God to live that way and the reason for your hollow-ness just hit you.  Face palm!  You’re made for better!  You’re loved into better!  And that better, that loved – single or single again, virgin or experienced – is in marriage.  Those of you who waited – either always or from a decisive point on – and you’re living in those blessings now, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  Yes, I was made for better.  For this. Yes, was loved into waiting and not wasting.
            Because here’s what I know.  You never said to a prospective mate or fiancé who had their purity:  “No experience!  Not interested.  Tell you what: you go live a little.  Get as much experience as you can over the next year, then come back to me and we’ll talk.”  Nope. Never happened.  You wait, men and women, you decide NOW, that this inner me, this vulnerable me, is way too sacred to waste outside the holy safety of marriage.  We see waiting as punishment but God uses it as preparation.
            But this whole idea transcends merely sex and money.  (Though if I’m going to go to meddling, those are two pretty good places to start!)  It really involves your whole self.  I believe the season of singleness is that God-ordained time, that heavenly wait, when you can do some serious personal inventory.  To ask yourself questions like:  (and we put them on the screen)

Am I the kind of person I’m looking for?
What was MY role in that divorce?  Oh, if I’m listening to stories and it was ALL EX and NONE YOU I’m like “danger Will Robinson!”  I’ve never yet seen a one person marriage.  By extension, never seen a one person divorce.
How is my self-awareness?  Do I have the maturity to recognize when and where I am the common denominator?
Am I a long talker?  Does my sarcasm hurt feelings? Am I selfish?
Or maybe more important:  Is there a calling on MY LIFE such that I will make a bigger impact for the kingdom single than I could married?Sounds odd but it is biblical, just a part of the bible most of us ignore – I Cor 7:32: 32 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord.
Or possible the most important: Do I need to prepare myself not for my mate but for my Master? 

See, God is much more interesting in who you are becoming than in who you are pursuing.

            You devote yourself to becoming and the time you spend “single” – might be a lifetime! – won’t punishment.  It will be preparation for beauty.
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