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‘Tis A Gift To Be Single

When Steve was dying, he said, “You will fly so free.”

gull flying freeHow I resisted those words. I didn’t want to fly without him.

But I am flying solo, and the Lord has led me to stay solo for the rest of my earthly days. I remember talking about this with my then six-year-old grandson, Simeon.

simeon-red stripes
Simeon Brestin at six

After Steve died, I bought my first car by myself: a silver Honda Accord. Simeon ran his hand dreamily over the shiny silver door before he got in. He buckled up next to me, breathed in the new car smell, and looked at me with shining eyes: “Grandma, I think you should name your car The Silver Bullet.”

I smiled.

“That’s a great idea, Simeon – but I’ve already named it The Grey Goose.”


His little shoulders drooped. “But why?”

I pondered how to explain this to a six-year-old.

“The grey goose is monogamous, Simeon. That means, if a male grey goose dies, the female he loved flies on alone for the rest of her life. That’s what I am going to do, Simeon. Now that I’m alone, I am going to fly on solo for the rest of my earthly life.”

That precious little boy looked up at me with wide blue eyes and said: “You’re not alone, Grandma. You have us!” I melted and hugged him.

I also thought, I’m not alone. God is real and I experience His presence daily.

It is a much bigger SACRIFICE to remain single when you have never married or had children. Yet a young single, with health, strength, and years could make an eternal difference in a way that those who marry and have children may not. God sees that choice, and blesses a hundred-fold, when it is done for the Kingdom. I think of Amy Carmichael and others like her.

Still, it is wrong, Paul tells us to forbid marriage. Instead, each of us needs to seek the Lord concerning if we have “the gift” or not. Scripture is clear that if you cannot control your sexual desire and  are burning with passion, you should marry. I know some of you are thinking, “I don’t have the gift, but neither has God given me a godly man.” All I can say is the same thing that I say to women who are struggling with barrenness: “Ask God to either give you the desire of your heart, or to change it.” For me, Steve and the Spirit of God told me the same thing: remain single.  When I number my days according to Psalm 90, I don’t have many good years left — and I want to use them as wisely as I can. For me the Lord has shown me I can do that better without caring for a husband or even a dog!

Though I miss Steve every day, and he will have been gone for ten years this Thursday, I know he was wise to advise me to remain single. I am freer to concentrate on ministry, and though there are lonely times and times when I simply wish I had the help of a man, God has met me with the kindness of a son-in-law or male friend so often.

Recently this decision was confirmed again through a 8 minute teaching video by Dr. Ellen F. Davis on Psalm 126. (She is the scholar whose teachings on the Song of Songs have been so illuminating to me.)  There is, no doubt, a sacrifice in remaining single, but it is also a sacrifice that when well sown will lead to rejoicing as you bring home a harvest of sheaves. If you are married, please do this lesson for it will be relevant to you too — to minister to singles, and because, one day, most women will be single for a time.



1. What stands out to you from the above and why?


Prepare your heart with this song on Psalm 126:


2. What notes and comments do you have from the video?

3. Read Psalm 126

A. Israel is in a time of suffering, but they are remembering another time (we cannot be sure what it was) when life was so good. Describe that time and how they felt according to verses 1-3.

B. What request do they make in verse 4? What do you think this means?

C What picture is given in verses 5-7? What insight did Ellen F. Davis bring to this?

sow in tearsUnknownThe application I want to make (though there are many applications, for I believe every death to self for the Lord leads to a resurrection) is to singleness. It is a sacrifice. There will be lonely times, there will be times when you know two would be better than one, yet if you choose to remain single in order to be freer to serve the Lord, God could do a mighty work in your life. Keller is going to preach on the most famous passage on singleness, but let us look at it first. (It’s amazing.) Whether you are single or married, this lesson is important.

life is shortThere was a time when believers read the following passage and assumed Paul thought Jesus was coming back very soon, but then said, “But Paul was wrong.” But that is not what he is saying. Instead, he is contrasting the length of this earthly life with the length of eternity.

5. Read 1 Corinthians 7:25-35.

A. What does Paul say in verses 25-28?

B. Now, in verses 29-31 he explains his “upside-down” (in contrast to the world) thinking. This is important. See if you can understand what he is saying and summarize it. (It reminds me a bit of the line at the end of The Lord of the Rings: “You mean everything sad will be untrue?)

C. Why is it a gift to be single, according to verses 32-35? If you are single, have you experienced this in working for the Kingdom?

6. Consider, if you are single now, how you might apply this. Also, if you become single, through death or divorce, why should you seek the Lord concerning this?

7. Whatever state you are in, what sacrifice might God be calling you to make, which may involve weeping, but will lead to bringing home sheaves of joy?

Thursday-Friday: Keller Video and optional look at Amy Carmichael

Watch this 30 minute free video:

8. What comments do you have on that above?


One single woman who’s legacy lives on is Amy Carmichael. As a young woman, God called her to be single, asking her:”Am I not enough?” In Candles in the Dark she writes:

It was a long time before I could honestly answer, “Yes, You alone are enough
for me.” I remember the turmoil of soul I experienced before committing myself
to follow Him on whatever path He would lead—remember as if it were yesterday.
But at last—oh, the rest that came to me when I lifted my head and followed!
For in acceptance there lies peace.
Amy Carmichael, Candles in the Dark

Elisabeth Elliot writes her biography in “A Chance to Die.” The parting scene she describes between Amy and the one who was like a father to her, whom she called “”Dear Old Man,” broke my heart. As her ship headed to India, she waved to him, knowing she would not see him on earth again. Yet I know today they are re-united. He was her sole financial supporter — and how together they are “bringing in the sheaves rejoicing.” Watch this video narrated by Elisabeth Elliot and share your notes and comments:



9. What is your take-a-way and why?

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  1. Sorry not sure what happened above. I use computers for work but I so love the handwritten word for many reasons.

    1. Liz,  That has happened to many of us (and with much more extra stuff!) — and that happens to me, too, when I copy from a Word document.  It sometimes (NOT ALWAYS) has worked for me to “save as” in text format and then copy it.  It MIGHT work to write a response in a text editor (can’t remember if I’ve tried it).  And if I do copy from a word document, I often have to go into the editor here and delete all the extra stuff.  Sometimes the formatting/extra stuff is SO intertwined & such a mess that I’ve missed the deadline for the editor tool.  I don’t have a good sense of length when I respond right here, but a Word document is not a good alternative.  I use a word document when I copy my responses from here, either to assess or save what I wrote  OR if I am afraid I will accidentally hit submit on something I am not too sure about posting.   When I copy from Word and don’t edit, I get a long string of stuff from the Word software, including where I work (ugh) — because I got a “deal” on the software through work!  It is much more work for me to use Word — and risky.  Hadn’t thought about using a text editor before; I’m glad you are asking questions!

  2. It talks about that in the tutorial video on the page about getting started with Dee’s blog. Around about the 12-13 minute mark, it talks about metadata getting copied from a webpage.

    1. Kerryn, I should check that out again, too — Do you remember if Word or other word processing software is discussed?  I guess I haven’t had trouble with web pages…

      1. Yes, Renee… On the tutorial, it happened when copying from a web page to Word, and then to the blog.

  3. Kerryn thank you I need to go and re read directions.

  4. My take-away this week is the strong reminder that we are destined for a “better country.”       And knowing that makes all the difference in how I live today.
    I’m reminded of C.S. Lewis’s words on this in his book The Weight of Glory:
    “The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.” 

    1. Nila thank you for sharing the CS Lewis quote from The Weight of Glory. Oh the Longing. I needed to hear that. 

    2. Nila – you took my exact take away!!  I LOVE IT!!  Well….I didn’t have the C.S. Lewis quote on my mind…but your first couple of sentences – bingo!  Isn’t it too hard to understand how that promise infuses us with LIFE here and now??  Even in the “sacrifices” God calls us to.  God’s wonderful, upside-down economy!  🙂  Bless His Holy Name!!

  5. I have tremendously enjoyed “participating” in this bible study this week. ive flown under the radar comment-wise, but I have read each word written by others and have been so encouraged and challenged. Thank you for your thoughtful words. I love how you’ve enriched the study with your insight. I feel God wooing me and leading me into a deeper walk with him, and I’m really excited to see where we’re going. I feel the joy inside I’ve prayed for for a long time, and I’m beginning to feel content where I AM, not where I want to be. Focusing on what I have, not what’s “missing”. Thank you all For your prayers and contributions. I will contribute more in weeks to come, I promise, especially once I get a new computer. Right now I’m grateful to be able to connect via my phone… Blessing on each of you as you grow closer to God and let him be your heart’s desire. 

    1. Map, I’m so glad to know you’re here!  🙂

  6. I began the week with the best of intentions, and posted my response to the ice breaker, but then I entered into an overwhelming week — one that left me praying “God, please just get me through it!”     Personally I had three different kinds of doctors appointments and a dentist appointment this week.   My husband had a doctors appointment, a dentist appointment, a haircut appointment, and a luncheon.   I am my husband’s transportation, so I had to go to my appointments and also to his appointments!    I went to church board meeting on Wednesday night,  the board secretary was in the hospital, and I got appointed to take the minutes, which I had to transcribe immediately while I could still remember what my notes meant.     Couple all of that with the fact that the weather has gotten to the point where I could see the temperatures were going down (maybe not to come back up again this year), so all the outdoor stuff like bringing in the hoses, dumping flower pots, planting bulbs, cutting down excess vegetation — all of that needed to be done now!     So for most of this week, I wasn’t just flying under the radar — I was totally off of it!   Sorry, sisters!  I know I let you down big-time!

    I have listened to both videos today (Saturday), and I have skimmed the majority of the comments.    I even went so far as to copy all of the questions onto a word document — but I could never find a big enough block of time to address them.   Next week looks a lot tamer, and I have higher hopes of participating fully.   

    1. Deanna – your comments made me look back to my week the prior week…..”I wasn’t just flying under the radar, I was totally off it!”.  You’ll savor the study together even MORE if next week is as calm as you’re hoping!  So glad you took the time to check in at the end of your busy week……I had noted your absence and hoped all was well with your husband…..??  is he continuing to recover well? 

    2. Deanna……no apologies necessary.  When I read about your week, I was exhausted just imagining it!   You did well to listen to the messages!  I didn’t manage that myself this week.  I hope you have a nice, quiet week coming up and also that you and your husband are doing well.

  7. My take-aways.  These takeaways are deep and connected — and I’m not even sure I can articulate what God is doing in my heart.  He has allowed me to be in a place, have memories, and read elsewhere some ideas that are providing confirmation.  I (maybe 😉  ) am starting to understand the connection between the sacrifice of and the gift of singleness; though earlier in the week, I could see how a sacrifice now might bring a gift later, something still was “missing.”  What I thought at the beginning of the week might be my take-away only is one part of the puzzle.

      What is soaking in this week is requiring some unlearning.   The unlearning is freeing me to see that the sacrifice and the gift of singleness either are the same or overlap greatly (and our study of marriage is providing clarity, too).  I haven’t read many of the comments — this may already have been posted!  The purpose or meaning of the gift of singleness is NOT necessarily:
    -more time or fewer commitments.  Jesus, Paul and John Stott 😉  had full lives.  The gift of singleness is not a “better” schedule.
    -the freedom or call to move to India or to travel.  When can I leave??  Beam me up (or over), Scotty!  If that’s the gift, I’m still waiting.
    -that I’m not concerned about, connected to or have major time commitments that involve other people.-that I don’t have “family” (good insight from Keller this week on who family is)
    -that I don’t have fewer or more responsibilities/headaches.

     Likewise, I could describe what the world (and research/statistics, even many believers) might deem a sacrifice.  The sacrifices were (are) much greater in times/places in which singleness was illegal or brought dishonor to the degree that honor killing resulted.  I now see HOW MUCH Jesus and the early church valued singles.  Jesus’ singleness was RADICAL.  In most cultures today, what was a sacrifice in Jesus’ time is an inconvenience (sometimes a big inconvenience 🙂  ) but probably not the primarily sacrifice of singleness for believers.  I think (?) the sacrifice is giving up earthly physical & spiritual oneness (including but beyond sex), the foretaste of marriage supper of the Lamb, and perhaps, loneliness that might be related (the loneliness also is a gift if it drives us to Him).  In that sense, the sacrifice of planting all one’s seeds, experiencing hunger now, to gain reap with joy later is a good metaphor for singleness.  (Slightly off the topic, but this helps me see that sexual sin must break God’s heart).

    Why sacrifice is a gift.   Because of oneness in marriage, it makes sense that it would be easy to turn a marriage relationship and a spouse into an idol.  Singleness is a gift in that I am better able to present my “whole” body as a living sacrifice if I’m not also presenting it to another person  (was thinking about Rom 12 earlier this week.  This also shows why it was important that Jesus not be married to a woman while He was on earth.  He is OUR bridegroom.).  The gift of marriage easily could lead to a divided heart — in fact, it should (? wondering here, am I getting this? ) lead to a divided heart unless God does a supernatural work in the hearts of married believers that allow them to also be oriented toward Him.  That also may be part of the mystery of marital oneness. 
    Not only might singleness drive someone into the arms of Jesus time of need/loneliness, singleness is a gift in that it allows freedom to give one’s whole heart to Him in worship.  In that sense it really is a gift — a gracious gift from a loving Father.  Not a gift that we are given in advance in order to “tolerate” being alone, singleness is a gift that God gives believers in the present to worship and enjoy Him.  This isn’t “freedom to serve” in that singles have more time; it is “freedom to serve” flowing from a heart free in Him and freed by Him.  I suspect that beliefs that singles “should” be serving because they are single not only is backwards, but it could serve as a barrier to singles experiencing the gift of singleness by connecting them to “doing” rather than the gift of HIM, of fellowship with HIM (not the gift of busy-ness!!).  This also has implications for singles ministries.  What Kerryn posted earlier this week fits well.  Whether very temporary or longer term, singleness is a gift from God himself in that it is the opportunity to be focused Him.

    A few things that solidified my thinking this morning:  1) My mom told us what my dad said to her early in their marriage when she was concerned that she wasn’t doing farm/field work like some neighbor women were.  He told her that if he wanted a “hired man,” he would have hired one:)  HE LOVED HER!  I hadn’t thought about this for many years.  Obviously, the Holy Spirit is at work in my life.   And I’ve never connected this with my relationship with Jesus.  Jesus didn’t die for me — He doesn’t woo me to himself to do his “grunt work.”  I serve Him because I love him.  (not quite sure how this fits with churches requiring people to “serve” to keep the organization/programs running).
    2) today’s e-newsletter from a friend — about worship, focus on worship:  http://us6.campaign-archive2.com/?u=6ec86422fa505d1e8efd06308&id=f006da4a10&e=2928b66342   I am so thankful that I have freedom to worship — and that is not dependent on any political environment.3) thinking about Henri Nouwen.  His situation was different enough from mine that I could see the dots (to be connected) from a different angle.  Plus, the nun I mentioned earlier in the week worked with him.  (might have to dig through email for her contact info:) )   I do believe that I also may be able to glean more by re-reading some Catholic teaching.

    Sorry this is so long — just not sure how to make sense of this without some detail.

    1. Another big take-away is that everything sad will be undone!  I do tend to rely on hope for the future, and that always is affirming.  But I also am so thankful for the connection Keller made with idolatry.  That helps me take the bow off the gift now 🙂    Thanks, Dee, for such a carefully prepared study on a topic that was more complex for me than I would have expected (probably because of necessary unlearning).  I won’t know if this is paradigm shift until I see if my paradigm has shifted 😉   — and I think major perspective change will require some of this to soak in further.  I do know that this is very significant for me.

    2. Answered prayer this week: I just was thinking about the end of the Ellen Davis video and decided to revisit my notes”

      “perhaps what the Bible does best is surprise us, sort of blow the ceiling off reality as we have come to think of it.  The Bible is pushing against, sometimes exploding what we think of as the limits of our experience, and telling us that there is much more that is possible if only we will open our eyes and hearts to that possibility.”  Lord, open my eyes and my heart and push against what I see as limitations.

      The Lord answered that prayer through helping me unlearn some limitations I had learned earlier.  I now know that much more is possible with a HEART that is undivided in worship of Him.

    3. Renee..…..   I need to read your takeaway more thoroughly, but I caught what you said about your dad and mom and it so touched me!  I love the story in itself but then, your application is SO GREAT.  How sweet that your heavenly Father has spoken through your earthly dad all these years later.  Misty eyed here.

  8. I just wanted to let those of you who are praying for Mary E. know that she posted an update on her surgery on the previous page here on the blog.  I also updated the facebook page, but since it’s the last day of this study…..I’m adding a note here too, that you can scroll back to page 2 to find her note.  Please keep praying for her recovery!  

    1. Thanks, Wanda!

  9. Okay, did not take written notes, but did just listen to the Keller sermon and so glad I did!  It was excellent.  I never thought before about how a good marriage could leave you more prone to idolatry (with the spouse as an idol) than being single.  I’d say the same is true for having an unbelieving spouse (you would be less likely to make them an idol and more likely to know that your hope and fulfillment must come from Christ alone, or to learn that more quickly anyway.)  I will say, though, still battling the flesh in this life, even as a single person, I have spent much of my life looking for fulfillment from friendship relationships or other things in life (like thinking my work should fulfill me), rather than from a love relationship with Jesus.  It has only been in the past few years of my life that I have even truly come to understand and believe His deep love for me, which frees me to rest and remain in Him, rather than exhausting myself seeking fulfillment elsewhere.  And even with this understanding, in this life I still have moments when doubt creeps in.  I saw your comment, Jackie R, about God’s love for me (above) and that was precisely what I needed today because I was reading my Jesus Calling devotional book earlier and reflecting on my life (breast cancer, thyroid cancer, now a recurrence of the breast cancer) and the thought popped into my head (straight from the enemy, I’m sure) “maybe I am singled out as the one person God does not love?”  I knew it was not the truth and I had a choice whether to linger over it or choose to believe what I know to be true and move on.  I moved on.   Anyone, married or single, looking to this life, alone to bring fulfillment will be in for disappointment.  I love the eternal perspective of Keller’s message.  The best is yet to be.

  10. Takeaway:    My whole participation here this week was scattered and I missed a lot.  But 3 things.  
    1) I am still so amazed by Ellen Davis’ illustration of the Sudanese people sowing in tears because it was a sacrifice to give all the grain they had to plant it for a future harvest.  It is bringing me to tears as I write.  I think there are so many more applications of this truth that I can see in my life and other people’s lives, now that this principle has clicked.    And maybe that leads me to the next thought.
    2)  I read Jackie’s comment about her life in her rebellious youth and remember her saying before that she was raised by Christian parents, and rebelled and in her words was a ‘brat’.  I agree with Dee that it is nearly impossible to see our sister, Jackie, that we know here, as this rebellious young woman.  I see her as one of the most grounded, compassionate and tenderhearted women I know.   And then, the part about her mother’s prayers and her mother’s journals and returning to the Lord after her mother’s funeral.  And this turns my mind upside down.  Because I think of my oldest two kids.  And just a couple weeks ago, I said to a friend (and really, really felt it) that I can no longer even imagine them returning to Jesus.  Their lives and their philosophies and their values are SO far from Him.  I often wonder, if the only thing that will bring them back is a huge loss or a death.  (although, the death of friends, is a part of why my son turned his back on the Lord, I think).  And of course, I don’t know.  And maybe,  could be very likely, I will not know in this life.  So…..dear, loving Jackie, your story gives me hope……it also brings tears……and it makes me cry to Jesus once again.  And that is always a good thing.  
    3)  Kerryn’s comments after listening to Keller (which I did not hear this week) spoke so much to me.  She talked about refusing to sing a line in a song at church after the death of her husband because she felt that ‘He was not enough’ at that time.  I am not a widow, but I am positive that I would have the exact response that Kerryn described, if my husband died.  This is a ‘wake up call’.  I do need to dig deeper into my heart and make sure that the One in whom I trust is not set on the back burner while my husband is alive.  Because, how will He suddenly make it to the ‘top’ if my husband suddenly died, if He is not my FIRST love now?  

  11. praying your two kids will return to Christ with their whole hearts, Wanda, and that God will do that work as kindly and gently as possible, while still accomplishing it completely.

    1. Thank you SO MUCH, Mary.

  12. Hey, so I just started doing the Idol Lies study with some ladies at my church. I guess I feel a lot of conflict on this subject. Even just reading on this blog post. Just some back story. I’m 26, single and never really had any dating relationships, I love Jesus I really do and am doing everything I can to pursue a deeper relationship with Jesus, I am/have followed his commands on purity. That said – I want to be married. I really really really do. I adore kiddos and want a family. Most people as soon as I say this immediately start going on about how we shouldn’t put marriage or relationships before God (I agree), highlight how much a marriage isn’t a fairytale (I know!) and when they do this it feels like they automatically assume that I lack commitment to Jesus. A lot of people say I have to/need to be satisfied with being single forever. “Would you be ok if God had you stay single forever?” that’s the question people always ask. Short answer: no. I don’t desire to be single forever. And I can’t seem to force myself to want to (which makes me feel like a failure). As many times as I have prayed that Jesus would banish this struggle inside and that I would want only Him and not care about being single, it still remains. But honestly, I don’t think Jesus isn’t the focus of my life. I am actively pursuing Him and serving, it’s not like I spend every waking moment trying to snag a man lol, dating everything that moves or anything like that. In fact quite the opposite, I’m waiting, and waiting, and waiting, for a godly man who loves Jesus, is actively pursuing and serving Him. And while I’m waiting I’m pursuing and serving the Lord in many different ways. But waiting is hard, waiting hurts actually… a lot. I think it hurts so much because it requires discipline and commitment. Makes me think of exercising… lol discipline, commitment, pain…. But in that pain of waiting, the struggle of waiting, everyone wants to give you their advice, but no one just wants to give you a hug, say they understand, and encourage you in your struggle… 
    I feel so conflicted between all the “oughts” I should be doing/thinking/feeling/accepting and my true and I am beginning to believe godly desire. I’m beginning to think that there is no way wanting to be married is ungodly because I think that would have to also make marriage ungodly which it is not. I also feel conflicted because there is a struggle at all – which in a way puts me at odds with what everyone “advice” is. Am I being super hard on myself or is this struggle natural? Sometimes I wish people would just be happy I want to be married in a culture and generation that totally believes marriage is unnecessary.
    Am I in sin or bondage because I want to be married? Or because I struggle with sadness and hurt because I guy I liked who loves Jesus and has a godly character chose to date another girl? Am I not trusting God because I feel lonely at times or feel “barren”? Am I wrong because I am not happy with being single forever?

  13. Rachel I am sending a BIG HUG your way and even though I have been married for almost 30 years I remember and I understand. I admire all you said here. In my longing way back I went about things in not a godly way. I was so wanting to be married ( to have someone love me) I can look back and realize now it was really FOR ME the longing of my heavenly bridegroom. I pray as you wait for your hearts desire. That Lord becomes all the more powerfully yourhearts desire. I am not saying that out of anything but such a love for you. I know He knows your pain and HE SO LOVES YOU!