Thoughts on being a forty-year old virgin (and why it’s okay)

ProfilepicLast Saturday I enjoyed the  Wilburn family tradition of going out for my birthday and playing a game my brother calls “who can remember an embarrassing story about John” like every other year we all ended up laughing so hard tears came out of our eyes.  This time was a bit different though since I turned 40 and in His sovereignty of God has called me to a life of celibacy or virgnity.

Being in a culture where people use one another to fulfill their own desires, and marriage is looked upon as a source of happiness you won’t find many single people in their forties.  A single virgin in their forties should probably belong in a museum somewhere!  Honestly you know people find your situation strange when a movie uses it as a punchline like “the forty year old virgin” and no I haven’t seen the movie it would just make me sad 🙂

Though there are challenges with being a forty year old virgin I accept it as God’s Will and He gives me strength.  This wasn’t always true because being single seemed like a curse in my twenties, particularly since all of my friends were in serious relationships or getting married.  More than once I asked God why He chose me for this “burden of singleness” in my younger years but never really expected an answer.

Thankfully God gave me one anyways

It’s easy for a married couple to stand up and tell people their relationships (dating and marriage) are to be a picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church, so instead of selfishly using one another for our own purposes we should minister to one another’s needs.  But the single person can stand up and say “that’s easy for you to say as a married person you don’t know how I feel!”

That’s the thing…I know how they feel

I’ve walked their road, and am still walking it with God’s help

A few months ago I began teaching on relationships in my Churches Friday evening young adults meeting.  One of the foundational points was you shouldn’t date anyone unless they’re someone you feel led to marry.  In other words there was a pre-dating process where you learned about the person in a group setting.  Only after they passed certain prerequisites was the dating process begun…we eventually started referring to this as opening the gate

About the fourth session I told them about a young lady named Tina who I was madly in love with (not her real name, I’ll tell it to you for a million dollars in unmarked bills).  She was an absolutely perfect fit for me with one exception…Tina wasn’t called to missions.  One young man in particular was shocked after learning we didn’t go on a date.  “You didn’t open the gate for her?”  He asked “she may have been willing to become a missionary!”

I explained to him that there was a chance Tina would become a missionary, but personal experience had taught me those kinds of commitments don’t last.  In a deeper sense it’s my belief Tina was God’s Will for another man so I didn’t open the gate.

Please understand I don’t share this for sympathy or matching-making (I’ve got plenty of that trust me!)  Instead I share it because there are many others who God’s called to virginity and singleness.

People who won’t open the gate (even if they REALLY want to) except for the right person

People who find their identity and fulfillment in Christ instead of the self-esteem or intimacy of others

People who know how it feels…and can share with younger singles not only the struggles but God’s grace

They day may come when God opens the door for marriage, but if He doesn’t that’s okay.  Because the world needs to see Believers who walk the road of virginity with submission and courage.

When Adults Aren’t Adults

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Yesterday after juice, tablet time, and thirty-minutes of red light, green light in a field I came back to the house for a computer tutoring session with a lady in the community.  The kids stayed around my house but weren’t causing a commotion, they were happy to watch from the road outside my gate as I showed her how to send an email with a photo attachment.

Things took a turn for the worse when the ladies younger sister showed up.  It was time for her seven-year old niece (one of the children on the street) to go home.  But her niece was having too much fun watching me teach with the computer and refused.

Now the adult response to this would be to either approach the child and tell them to go home, or take the child home.  Unfortunately the sister was interested in my computer too so she started shouting at her cousin from the porch instead.  As you can imagine this turned into a huge shouting match between her and a group of children

Eventually I put an end to the yelling and walked the children down the road myself.  One of the boys was particularly angry about the things she had said, and had done a lot of shouting so I got down on one knee and looked him in the eyes.  “Now what do we do when somebody lashes us (yells at us) I asked him?  We lash them back!” He said in anger.

His response was incredibly sad but to be honest it didn’t surprise me.  As with most cultures there is a lack of fathers who can teach little boys what it’s like to be a man, and Godly mothers who can teach teenage girls how to Glorify God. Though I felt woefully inadequate in the moment I took a few minutes to teach him real men don’t lash back because it doesn’t fix anything.

After dealing with an eight-year old acting his age I walked up onto the porch and faced a woman in her twenties who acted like she was seven.  I kindly asked them to leave and explained she had allowed herself to be dragged down to her cousins level.  In the worst case she should have allowed me to send them away (which I would have gladly done) instead of shouting obscenities from my porch.

Walking down to a local store an hour later I encountered two grown-women standing in the middle of the road yelling at each other as a crowd gathered.  Unfortunately this is something we see far too often here, the mothers and fathers acting like they are seven.  This of course is the core problem since the twenty year old daughter sees her mom acting this way so in her mind it’s fine.

Never before has there been a greater need for Godly men and women to mentor (teach) both children and adults what it means to be a real man and woman.  For most Christian parents that’s incredibly difficult because almost all time and energy is focused on their children (which is where it should be) so the call is for Godly single men and women who will look for those teaching moments…and instead of lashing back point eyes to God.

 

When A Single Becomes the Authority Figure

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Saturday afternoon I invited kids from the island to my house so they could watch Veggie-Tales (I know I’ve lost my mind thank you very much).  As I got ready that morning part of me knew this would be the day discipline would have to be handed out.

Over the last week the kids have been getting crazier and crazier.  This was mostly due to the fact that they were on school break till Wednesday, but also having seven or eight kids on your porch at once can be chaotic.  In a deeper sense there is little discipline or structure (rules that need to be followed) for children on the island so they simply don’t have respect for authority.

As a single person who they visit every afternoon for juice and a story I’m definitely not the main authority figure called to bring structure into their lives.  That’s a job for their parents and other family members, teachers, or in a worst case scenario their neighbor or an adult they’ve known for a long time.  Definitely not the American whose been here for two-months.

Let me perfectly honest…it would be a whole lot easier to endure a half-hour of chaos and then send them home instead of instituting a system of rules and punishments if they don’t follow them.  The problem is we live in a culture of authority figures who choose to endure the chaos instead of doing something about it.  This eventually results in children who don’t  know structure, only chaos.

In a perfect world I would be “Mr. John” the missionary who shares the Gospel with them as they listen quietly.  But of course we don’t live in a perfect world.

  1. We live in a world of absentee fathers
  2. Authority figures who refuse to give consequences when children disobey
  3. Parents who act like little children (unwilling to take responsibility)
  4. And people who aren’t willing to do anything about the chaos

Yes as the guy who the visit for juice and a Bible story I’m probably not the one who is supposed to bring structure into the lives of these children.  But as a Christian called by God to reach their hearts with the Gospel I must dive into the chaos, wrestle with it, and in love teach them wrong choices bring consequences.

Half-way through our second scoobie-doo episode (it followed veggie tales) two of the boys started getting wild and I finally told them to go home.  This was repeated four times till I walked down to the gate and told them in specific terms not leaving would be met with the consequence of not coming to my house for two days.  Instead of leaving they decided to hide behind a wall so unfortunately they won’t be coming till Wednesday.   Of course after this they were VERY obedient and begged me to have mercy.  In that moment being a big softie I was tempted to give them another chance.

I mean seriously what’s so bad about another half-hour of chaos?  The problem with it is I would portray for them just one more broken authority figure who isn’t really there, or never follows up rules with consequences.

So a rules system is implemented and enforced with rewards for those who follow Mr. John’s rules and children who misbehave will be sent home.  And with the Lord’s help there will be thirty-minutes of structure in the midst of complete chaos.

The Glorious Adventure of Being Single

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A few weeks ago I stopped to chat with a friend during an afternoon walk and after talking about a couple of things she stopped and asked “can I ask you something?” “sure” I told her to which she responded “why are you single?”

Now that question used to bother me not but not anymore because I have an awesome answer…God chose to give me an adventurous life.

There are actually two parts to this idea;

The first is I am serving the Lord in foreign Countries as a missionary and only someone else who has been called to missions would feel called (crazy enough) to do it.  If I had a job that kept me in the States its my belief God would provide marriage and a family.

The second part is much more exciting….

God entrusts certain people (singles) with the ability to live a life of adventure for him.  In other words it’s much easier for a single to do something like go on a missions trip because they only have to worry about themselves (and money of course) because there is no responsibility to care for a wife or children.

To put it perspective I got a email from a missionary friend in St. Vincent who needed someone to fill in a Church while it’s pastor was in the States for medical reasons.  Ten days later I was flying there!

Now honestly if I had a wife and children it might have been possible to organize things in ten-days, but it would have been very difficult. I on the other hand just had to pack my bags so it could have been done in one or two days!

As the initial two-week stay ended it became clear the Lord wanted me to return for a longer six-month term (after nine eight days in the States).  For a husband and father this would take tons of planning and thought, for me it just took repacking the bags!  Of course I’m simplifying things a bit but you get the picture…it’s much easier for a single to do things like this than a married family.

That freedom to take adventurous (but never foolish) leaps of faith is in my opinion a gift of God given to singles for a specific purpose.  For me that is traveling to different countries sharing the good-news of Christ (particularly to children).  Understand I’m not saying every single should be a missionary, but I am saying God has given this freedom to every single adult for a specific reason.

Don’t waste it

Just Because I’m Not a Dad Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Have an Influence

“Men in our congregation must take responsibility for the discipleship of our young boys and young men, training them away from a pagan hyper-masculinity that defies the appetites and hurts women and children.” Russell Moore

As an adult male who it seems has been called by the Lord to a life of singleness, it’s easy sometimes to forget my role in the formation of young boys and men.  Actually it’s hard to remember I actually have a role in this!

Scripture is clear that the family has been chosen by God as the main tool for spiritual formation in the lives of children.  This is best of course since nobody will have a stronger relationship, or spend more time with a child than their parents.

While this is true, someone in my position (single adult) can’t begin to believe that we don’t have a call to influence children at all…because there is a great need for mentors or those who will disciple children.

This is something I personally believe is needed by all families, including those who have a strong father figure and mother. But the growing amount of children who grow up without Godly parents (particularly fathers) shows there is a greater need than ever before for Christians who can teach them what it means to truly be a man or woman of God.

Since arriving in Barrouallie this calling has been heavy on my heart since many children either don’t have a father, or their father is absent almost all the time.  The boys in particular challenged me because many of them didn’t have a male role-model so they learned what it was like to be a man from their mom or grandmother.

Now I’m not saying moms and grandmothers can’t teach children what it means to be a man (Sadly they will be a step up from many of the “men” we have today) but it’s incredibly sad that they would be put in that position.  Eventually that burden for young boys led me to take up the calling of mentoring or discipling them.

Yesterday afternoon a boy who comes to Church visited during lunch and practically begged me to go down to the beach with him.  Since I had lots of work to do it wasn’t possible that afternoon, but I did promise to go down today.  After a bit of conversation it was decided we would have a race, and seeing the opportunity to have some fun,  I began trash-talking about how bad Mr. John was going to beat him in that race.  The group ended up growing to five as more boys decided to show me how fast they were.

At around 4:00 this afternoon I ran up and down the beach with them and came in dead-last (not surprising at all).  That didn’t matter though because the goal was to have fun

  1. By pushing them out of the way by “accident”
  2. Threaten to wapow them into the ocean (swing my elbow towards them while saying the word wapow)
  3. Acting as if I was scared out of my mind when one of them jumped out from behind a wall (and scaring two women in the process)
  4. Play chase two of them around my yard
  5. And giving out plenty of high-fives and fist bumps after the race

Now I’m not naive enough to believe that makes up for not having a father.  But I also know boys are drawn to men who will race them down the beach and threaten to wapow every other minute. This influence opens the door for ministry like this afternoon when I shared the Gospel with a little boy named Remario.

No I won’t be dad, but I can be Mr. John, the man they visit multiple times a day

And that’s good enough for me