Singleness and relationships – part two

I’ve added many additional points to the initial conversation, and consequently these posts are rather lengthy. Probably won’t be writing about the topic for awhile after this series!

Individual growth and growing in godliness

1. In singleness – the argument here is that singleness is an ideal time to focus on addressing individual weaknesses and grow in godliness, without perhaps affecting another person by your own sinfulness. I guess it works the other way too, that you can focus on doing these things without being burdened by the other person’s issues.

Relationships take effort to build and maintain. Seeing each other in person, working out a time to talk over the phone, telling another person about your life, or trying to understand what is going on in theirs, getting along despite each other’s idiosyncrasies, adjusting your own lifestyle or habits to match the other – these are just a few of the many time and energy consuming activities involved. Likely, singleness does bring about more personal space and time but I suppose one could use this time in truly drawing near to God, in understanding his word and prayer, in seeking to be more like Christ, or simply in finding more time to procrastinate and engage in equally unfruitful pursuits. Unfortunately, maybe sometimes I do more of the latter than the former.

Aside from the time and energy factor, singleness also affords more freedom in deciding where to live, which career paths to pursue, what areas of ministry to serve in. If being in a relationship narrows the feasible options, having a family, especially when children are involved, would surely limit these options even more. However, if we desire to do so, we can do God’s work whether that is in the scope of a single person with more flexibility, or a married person with more commitments. I wonder though, if these complicating factors are the troubles in marriage that Paul speaks about:

But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this. – 1 Corinthians 7:28

2. In relationship – as much as singleness gives room to pursue individual growth, the counter argument would be that having two imperfect people get along means opportunities for character building.

Whether it’s with family, housemates, classmates working in a group, colleagues on a common project, in relationships, or in marriage, our (and their) flaws become apparent by nature of the close proximity in which we have to interact with one another. I think it was in relationship, more than any other social situations, where I saw how hard it was to love, to say sorry, and to forgive knowing that we have received forgiveness from God. In no other social situation would I have been ever so aware of my quick temper and sharp tongue that was truly unruly and lit many fires. How often, did I consider these verses and came to truly know that I needed God’s grace to be able to have these fruits:

“In your anger do not sin” : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry… – Ephesians 4:26

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23

Yet, being challenged can help us to grow in godliness, in the image of God, if that is what we seek to do. And the motivation is definitely there when you know that your sins do not only hurt yourself, but someone close to you too.

With the other aspect of personal growth, it’s important to prayerfully consider where we are heading in those same areas in singleness and in relationship. I realised in the first years of university that this is especially important early on in a relationship, as it’s easy to want to do everything together and make plans according to the other person, without spending enough time developing your own interests or social circles, and without considering humbly before God where your life is heading. Both individuals need space to figure these things out. But maybe this is less of an issue when you’re older. The difference in marriage is that in the end, your aspirations do need to line up with the other person’s. Line up as in, really line up, in where our priorities and loyalties lie, whether that is to God, or to other gods, including the treasures of this world.

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7 Comments

  1. Romantic love, religious imperative and shared social circle are helpful but if a couple does not respect each other or commit to the relationship, they might as well be friends with benefits if that’s all they have. And I agree that while you don’t have to start off the relationship already perfectly lined up, a conscious effort and considerable self-sacrifice by both parties is essential part of transitioning from singlehood to marriage. That’s why it is better to stay single while you aren’t ready to give up certain things.

    Reply

    1. I agree that a commitment to work through things together defines a relationship that’s going anywhere (as opposed to say, casual dating, or friends with benefits etc). And that includes committing to the things I wrote about here, with growing together in areas of weaknesses, or a willingness to make plans together / line the individual paths up with the other person’s. Haha well it seems like you have pretty good insight into these things now :) So… where are you on this singleness / marriage spectrum? You’ve just reminded me, I should write to you guys sometime soon again.

      Reply

  2. Ha, sister, your writing is truly thought-provoking which stimulates my thinking. Now I cannot stop writing some review aside from translation :)

    Just like a coin has two sides, there are always opportunities and risks laying in both singleness and relationship. In singleness, as you mentioned, can be regarded a idea time for individual to grow godliness and some troubles only happened in relationship can be avoided. Meanwhile, in spite of the challenges and difficulties resulted from relationship, the great opportunity for two people to work on character building. In fact, merits and demerits in singleness and relationship are all relative. There are always very good and very bad Christians in both groups.

    So whether we are singleness and in relationship, it does not really matter. The very thing that matters is whether we fear God and put him in the first priority. If we revere God and live a God-central life, his words and spirit will guide us and grand us some power to face problems. In singleness, with God’s help, so-called godliness will be developed in accelerated and stable. When two Christians are in courtship, challenges still exists. But I believe as long as two people faithfully walk in the path of God, the problems can gradually be overcome and may even become stepping-stone for spiritual maturity and successful marriage.

    On the other hand, if we keep living a self-central life and does not fear God, no matter we are alone or with someone, we cannot learn and benefit much from any situation. Without a devotional life, our godliness will not grow just because we are alone. And simply being in relationship with someone does not necessarily help us build so-called good Christian character unless some biblical principle are applied. The problems will always be there and may become even worse. Perhaps eventually we will all learn and mature, but it may accompany with great price and loss which can be largely mitigated by obeying God.

    Therefore it is important dedicate our life fully to God. We ought to establish intimate relationship with God and let him be in charge of the different areas of our lives, especially in marital issue. When we are still single, we should spend enough personal time to draw near to God. We need not to worry about the relationship issue too much for God will take care of it. Once we are well prepared, he will bring the right one to our life. When being in relationship, God still should be our first priority. I believe if the union of two people is God’s will and they are loyal and obedient to God, then that relationship will be filled with God’s blessing and grace. Certainly, the real life problems will still wait for us, but they will be less formidable and more solvable.

    Reply

    1. Thanks, I think I definitely always need the reminder. By the way, your comment is long enough for a blog post in your own website haha (you should do it!)

      Reply

  3. Here is the translation I feel some sentences is hard to translate, I may ask you when I see you. Anyway, I really appreciate your argumentation.

    单身与恋爱(2)

    我对先前的对话做了额外的补充。因此这篇文章会有些长。我估计这个系列结束之后在相当一段时间内我不会再涉及这个话题。

    在单身中学会敬虔

    1. 单身——单身是一段非常理想的时间。它可以在自己的罪不会影响他人的情况下,让人好好重视个人的问题并培养敬虔的品格。我觉得反之亦然,你可以在重视自己的问题时免受他人的干扰。

    恋爱关系需要努力去建造和维持。你需要花时间见对方,长时间的通电话,告诉对方自己的生活,或试图明白正在他们身上发生的事,在不忽略对方生活特质的情况下与其相处,调整自己的生活方式或习惯去适应对方。。。。。这些只是众多消耗时间与精力的事情中的一小部分。单身可能给人带来更多的个人空间和时间,但我认为这样的时间应该用来亲近神,学习他的话语并祷告,努力让自己更像基督,又或者只是花同样时间做追求一些无意义的事。很惭愧,有时候我花在后者的时间会更多些。

    撇开时间和经历的因素,单身在选择住所,追求事业和侍奉方面都提供了更多的自由。但如果是处在恋爱关系中的话,那么可以选择的机会就会减少。毫无疑问,在成立家庭,特别是有了孩子之后,选择的余地就会更少。但是如果我们真的愿意,不论是更多自由的单身生活还是更多责任的婚姻生活,我们都能好好服侍上帝。我想知道保罗所提到的婚姻中的苦难是否就是这些复杂的因素:

    你们若娶妻,并不是犯罪;处女若出嫁,也不是犯罪。然而这等人肉身必受苦难,我却愿意你们免这苦难。——林前7:28

    2.恋爱 —— 如果单身可以给个人更多的成长空间,那么恋爱则可以让两个不完美的人结合,并给他们培养品格的机会。

    在恋爱或婚姻中,不论是和家人,朋友或同学在小组或学校中共事,双方的缺点都会变得更加明显。这是我们相互间亲密交流的不可避免的结果。我认为比起其他的社会活动,在恋爱中我发现爱,道歉和原谅会更难,尽管我们知道我们已经被神原谅。除了恋爱,没有任何一种社会环境可以让我如此清楚的认识到我的急性子和容易煽风点火的刻薄话语。我曾经常默想以下这些经文并清楚的明白我需要神的恩典来结出这些果子:

    生气却不要犯罪,不可含怒到日落。。。——以弗所4:26

    圣灵所结的果子,就是仁爱,喜乐,和平,忍耐,恩赐,良善,信实,温柔,节制。这样的事,没有法律禁止。——加拉太5:22-23

    然而,如果我们有心追求神,那么挑战就有利于我们敬虔的成长,让我们更有神的形象。
    当你明白你的罪不单伤害自己还会伤害和你亲近的人,你就一定会有这样的动机。

    另一方面,我们应该怀着一颗敬畏神的心,认真考虑我们在单身或恋爱中是否朝着正确的方向前进。我认识到大学第一年是恋爱关系中极其重要的一年。因我们会自然而然地在一起共事,并为他人制定计划,而没有花足够的时间培养自己的兴起爱好或社交圈子,也没有很好地谦卑在神面前让他指引你的路。双方都需要空间解决这些问题。但是当你再年长一些后,这方面的问题就会少些。婚姻的不同在于,最终你的志向不需要和另一个人看齐。真正与之看齐的,是你心中认为最重要的东西,不论它是上帝,外邦的神,又或者是世上的财富。

    Reply

      1. 哈,小鸭子,你这个建议听起来不错啊。下次你们翻译的时候不妨让我写草稿试试看?我想多多练习 :)

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