I was having lunch with friends at Wendy’s recently so over Frosty’s we talked about my ministry in St. Vincent. After going through a lot of the normal questions one of them smiled and asked, “so are there any cuties on the island?” When my response was to reach for another French fry she laughed and apologized for asking, but the truth is I’m used to being asked questions like that, and don’t mind it at all.
That wasn’t always true because being in a relationship and eventually getting married used to be a very big deal to me since all of my friends were getting married. So when people asked a relationship question it just remained me of something I wanted but didn’t have…however today I use those questions to explain a padlock God has lovingly placed on my relationship gate.
Between bites of a double with cheese I told them that my calling to Missions had a lot to do with my being single. There’s no doubt in my mind a job that doesn’t involve leaving family and friends for years at a time and entering other cultures would mean being married with a mini-van full of kids. However it’s hard to find someone single who is called to missions and crazy enough to start over in a new culture (all missionaries are a little bit crazy)
Being a Missionary means my list of requirements for someone who will enter my relationship gate (start dating or going to get coffee) is a bit different than others. Usually the list of questions you ask before opening the gate looks like this;
- Do I find this person attractive?
- Are they saved and growing in the Lord?
- Is this persons personality or likes and dislikes compatible with mine?
- Do we have the same goals?
For a missionary other questions are asked;
- How will they respond to not being with family for years at a time?
- Are they able to adapt to a different culture?
- What will happen when they cannot get things in the other country they are used to getting here?
- How good are they at adapting to circumstances?
- And most importantly are they called to Missions?
Apart from places that emphasize missions like Bible College it’s incredibly hard to find people who can meet these qualifications so in a sense missions places a padlock on my relationship gate. This doesn’t mean I’ll never be married, but it does mean my relationship questions go much deeper than is she attractive?
Right after college I viewed that padlock as a curse since it eliminated many young women who I was interested in dating because they weren’t called to missions. Some people believe that young women who are willing to become missionaries should be accepted as well but it’s my personal opinion both individuals in a couple should have a personal calling to missions. It’s simply too easy to become discouraged in ministry and give up on missions.
In my late twenties there was an incredible temptation to remove the padlock of missions and begin a dating relationship with someone who I felt would be willing to become a missionary, but with the Lords help that padlock remained intact. Today I am incredibly grateful for that because the same padlock I viewed as a curse is a tool for God’s Glory.
A few months ago I was speaking at a young adults meeting in Barrouallie about God’s desire that dating relationships should be focused on our future husband or wife. A big part of this is being careful about who we even begin dating (open the relationship gate for) to honor our future spouse. To illustrate this I told them about a girl Sandy (not her real name) who I was absolutely crazy about, but she wasn’t called to missions so we never even went for coffee (Sandy has a specific calling to something other than Missions). The young adults were shocked one of them said “man why couldn’t you open the gate! Maybe she will come to Barrouallie with you!” We ended up having lots of conversations in later weeks about whether or not I should have let Sandy into my gate, but it flowed into conversations about their own relationship gates.
In a way way seeing someone who by the power of God and with His help keeps a relationship gate padlocked showed them it was possible to be different than the unbelievers who let one person after another into their gate hoping each one brings happiness.
There are still days I’m annoyed by the padlock on my relationship gate but God gives strength and allows that gate to be a testimony for Him. There may be a day when God brings someone into my life and that padlock is removed, but if I go to Heaven single that is fine by me…because that locked gate views singleness is a gift instead of a curse