Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: As a single woman, do you live your life sitting at home just waiting for a godly man to come find you? Here’s Carolyn McCulley.

Carolyn McCulley: We are to be busy doing the work of God until the time that a husband appears. He will hopefully be secure enough in his masculinity to risk that interruption to say, “This is a godly woman. She’s busy. She’s doing a lot of stuff. She’s being fruitful in the meantime. If I’m to be her husband, I am to be a big interruption, and that’s okay.”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts for Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, July 11. For the last couple of days, Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been talking with Carolyn McCulley about singleness. Carolyn is the author of the book Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Nancy and Carolyn have been exploring the benefits and the challenges of singleness. Let’s get back to the conversation.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I want to ask Carolyn to address this whole issue of pursuit. Do you just trust God and do nothing as a woman and say that if God has a husband for you He will bring the husband to you? Do we have any responsibilities to do something to make it happen—just to express availability or to even get into flirting? Carolyn has a blog. If you go to ReviveOurHearts.com, you’ll find a link there to Carolyn’s blog. I think that blog will be a blessing to many women.

And Carolyn, I was looking last night at some of the entries, responses that women have written on your blog. And let me read a couple of those.

One said, “As a forty-year-old single gal, I can tell you that trying to make the first move doesn’t work and sitting back and waiting doesn’t work. Being single is just plain frustrating sometimes.”

And another one said, “We’re told not to pursue so we don’t, only to find ourselves neither pursuing nor being pursued. It’s a dismal deal.”

And then another person on your blog who said, “It’s hard to find the perfect balance between pursuing, which is not what we are told women are supposed to do, and being inactive or unfriendly.”

And I think in different ways those tap into a question that a lot of us as single women have. What’s our role? What’s our responsibility? What’s appropriate pursuit? Is there any such thing as appropriate pursuit, or do you just sit at home and wait for a man to come and pursue for marriage?

Carolyn: This is a hard thing to discern at times because it requires an understanding of the temptations in your own heart as well as the particular circumstances that are unique to each of our lives. There are clear biblical mandates for us that godly women are to cultivate a quiet trust before the Lord. That’s not dependent on your personality type, that’s a trust before the Lord, a trust that can be expressed in a vivacious woman or a quiet woman.

We are told that there are traits that we are to cultivate like kindness and faithfulness and gentleness. Then I think it is helpful at times to get feedback from those who are close to us and watch us as we interact with men. Are we being encouraging, or are we being flirtatious? Are we being defensive and cold, or are we being warm and encouraging and inviting and soft?

And that’s why I think there’s no one answer that I can give that everybody needs to be this way because each of us is different. We stand and fall before our own master. Some of us are going to need to be restrained from being too encouraging because we are falling into being flirty and others of us need to be encouraged to be more receptive and warm and to respond to a man when he talks to us instead of just turning around and walking the other direction.

That’s why living in community is so important. If we are in a season where we are tempted by bitterness, there is going to be a cynicism that rests upon us. We are going to need to have people to encourage us to take more initiative toward our brothers as brothers just to be seen as an encouraging sister in the Lord. Then there are times we are going to need to have people look at us and say, “You know, in that conversation you were really working hard to draw a lot of attention to yourself.”

So this is where I can’t give a one-size-fits-all answer. I can say there are some things that we should do though if we desire to be married. We should be looking at ourselves in the sense of saying, “How am I expressing that in prayer before the Lord? Have I just given up? My God, I’ve prayed enough. You know what’s on my mind.” Or are we continuing to pray.

I’m much encouraged by the fact that a number of years ago there was a group of us who got together, and we prayed in an online group. We didn’t want to have one more meeting. But once a month we all purposed to pray and report to each other over this email group, praying and fasting and encouraging each other. We were praying for the older single men of our church, and we were praying that God would supply a husband to us. After about a year or fourteen months, you know how the best of initiatives kind of fall apart and trail off, but recently I’ve looked back and thought, “Look at how God has answered those prayers!”

There have been forty-one marriages in my church over the past year and a number of them were among these older single men that we were praying for, and a number of them were among the women in this particular group. I look back on that and I think, “Well, Lord, I would have liked to have been included in that group. But I am encouraged by the fact that You answered so many prayers.” He moved in the hearts. He blessed the single men in our church. He began to bring more single men to our church. He blessed so many women in that group, and it did build my faith. So I think real trusting prayer before the Lord is important.

I think, too, it’s important to consider where are we and what are we doing? How are we serving? Now, I don’t want to be misunderstood on this, but I recently had a man who serves as accountability and covering for me. He asked me, “Are you just always around single women?" or "How are you serving in the church? If you still desire to be married, are you putting yourself in a place to serve where single men can meet you?” And I looked at my calendar and I thought, “Nope! I’m stuck in the pink ghetto. I’m with women all the time.” His question to me was one of care. He just wanted to make sure that I was achieving balance in my life.

Now to some women, somebody who is expressing care to you might be pulling you back saying, “You’re really running around a lot. You’re trying to stick your face out there for every man to see you. You need to spend more time serving others.” So this is a way that we need to approach the people who are closest to us in our church and our friends and our family. We should say, “How do you perceive me? Am I encouraging and warm? Am I receptive? Or am I cold? Am I being flirtatious? Am I drawing attention to myself?”

For every person who gives you great advice about attending a million mixers, there are always the testimonies of women who were busy serving God in secret and God brought them a spouse. One was one of my housemates who was busy serving a man in a church who was profoundly disabled. She was a nurse. So she would go over and take care of all his bodily function needs. She would do this every Friday night.

There were people who said, “You are just hiding out. How are you going to meet somebody?” Well, the other man who was serving on this team actually had signed up to serve on this team because he wanted to meet her. He wanted to serve, but he also wanted to meet her. And that’s how she met her husband, while serving another man, another single brother with profound needs, serving secretly and on a Friday night, no less. And God brought her husband through serving.

I know another woman who when she became a Christian stopped going to bars. Her friends would tease her and say, “What are you going to do, just sit around the house and wait for the dryer repair man to come to you?” One day her dryer broke down, and this man shows up at the door and comes to repair her dryer. He notices her Bible on the coffee table and starts talking to her about the Lord. And sure enough, they began to date, and they got married.

So for every rule that we’ve set for ourselves, "This is how God works." There are millions of testimonies of how God loves to surprise and delight His children. So I think our goal is to be godly, to make sure that we are serving in faith, that we are not hiding out nor promoting ourselves, to be praying, and to be encouraging and serving our brothers; to be known as a woman who is an encourager to her brothers in the church.

Nancy: Carolyn we have some married women here, and we have a lot of married women listening to this program. Talk about the role that married couples can have as part of the body of Christ in showing a concern for singles to find godly mates.

Carolyn: We do have a crisis to some degree in our churches. Our culture has denigrated marriage. We are experiencing that in the church. We need the church to stand up and be counter-cultural on this topic, to say marriage is good, it is valuable, and it is worth pursuing. We need married couples to step in and to help us when all around us we see people who are pursuing immorality, worldliness, and selfishness. We need someone to set the standard high and to come along side and to help us.

So for married couples, I would appeal that married men take the time to befriend single men and to disciple them about marriage and to ask them questions about who are they praying about; who are they pursuing; why are they attracted to some of the women they are; to invite them into their homes and to show them what a godly marriage looks like. I can’t tell you the number of marriages that have started because a man, a godly married man asked another man, “So, I notice that you are good friends with so and so. Have you ever considered her?”

And how many single men have been like, “What? Her? This woman who is always by my side? No, I’ve never noticed her before or considered her.”

“Well, why not?”

“Well, I don’t know.” And then they pray, and God opens their eyes.

And the same thing with, too, with single women who have been pursued by a man that, “Nah! Not so much of a spark. No thanks. Yeah, he’s godly. Not so much interested.” And had somebody come up to them and say, “Well, why not? He’s a godly man. Why haven’t you considered him?”

“Well, I don’t know. I guess I always expected to marry somebody who was a better dresser.” Or some kind of a shallow answer.

And then to have people get in their face like, “This is a godly man. You should consider him.” And how many people have ended up marrying folks when in the beginning there wasn’t that much spark. And as God opened their hearts, they realized there’s a lot to be excited about in this person.

So I would encourage married people to please invest in the singles. Do not continue to allow an artificial divide in the church that separates people by marital status but invest in singles in the church. Invite single people over to provide opportunities so people can get to know each other in a more godly context and to build friendships. Too often I’ve heard, particularly from single men, how discouraged they are at times when people they don’t even really know come up and say, “How come you’re still single? What are you doing about it?” And they haven’t really earned the right, so to speak. They haven’t built the relational bridge to be able to carry that freight of such a heavy question across the bridge. So I would not be encouraging busy-bodyness. I would not be encouraging the grand inquisition. But I would be encouraging developing friendships, and in real fellowship so that you can earn, so to speak, the right to ask good penetrating and helpful questions.

And for single women, I would say, let’s ask some of those hard questions. Let’s ask people, “Where do I need to grow? What could I do to change? Where have I gotten slack in any personal habits or in faith or in not exercising hospitality and not inviting people into my home and taking risks to make new friendships?” Whatever it is. Those who are around you can be very helpful in providing good feedback in bolstering your faith to keep on trusting God and investing in the lives of others around you.

Woman: I have a friend who has been pursued by many different guys, but each guy she has been pursued by she didn’t feel was the right guy. There have been character qualities that he has demonstrated that she just couldn’t see working out with herself for her future husband. She has goals to be a missionary. She has things that she thinks that God has called her to.

She wants to be pursued, but she doesn’t know. She’s almost afraid that she’s going to miss her chance, that she’s being too picky. She doesn’t know, should she lower her expectations? Is she setting her standards too high? Is she missing out on her chance for the guy that God has planned for her? What should she do, I guess?

Nancy: Do you want to speak to that, Carolyn?

Carolyn: I think it is important for us to understand that God does birth something in our hearts. But if we are called to be a wife or called to come alongside a man who is called to a particular task, we are called to be his helper. So I think at times we can be tempted to be too clear about what we’re called to do and what our hopes are. Then this man has to be lining up with those things rather than looking at it through the lens of Scripture which says I’m called to help him. I think we need to be more flexible in the way that we think about what our future is going to be because a man is called to come along into our lives and interrupt us.

We are to be busy doing the work of God until the time that a husband appears. He will hopefully be secure enough in his masculinity to risk that interruption to say, “This is a godly woman. She’s busy. She’s doing a lot of stuff. She’s being fruitful in the meantime. If I am to be her husband, I am to be a big interruption, and that’s okay.” Hopefully we are encouraging men in that way. So we should not be inflexible and think, “I’ve got this list. This is what I’m called to do.” And not think about it in terms of what Scripture says we’re called to be a helper.

Second, I would say that there should be humility in the way we receive the pursuit of men. I think that we shouldn’t be quick to say “no.” I think we should honestly tell a man, “I’ll pray about it.” And then really pray about it. Tell him, “I’ll seek counsel.” And then really seek counsel.

I have so many happily married friends who would have told their husbands “no” at the beginning simply because they had certain expectations or ideas about what their husband would be like and even some of them who were listing, “I want to have a man with these very qualities.” They seemed not to see the fact that this man had those qualities. Helpful parents and friends and more mature couples in the church, pastors and their wives, small group leaders, etc. were involved in being able to help them look at this and say, “This man is a godly man, and he is worth your time and consideration.”

If we aren’t initially drawn to a man, that is not necessarily a bad thing either. It’s his job to win our hearts. So if we aren’t at the beginning of a relationship going, “Here’s my heart. Have my heart. It’s right out there for you.” Then it puts him in a position of working, not in a sense of earning, but laboring to win our hearts as the relationship progresses.

Woman: John Piper was recently writing on singleness and how it is such a great gift to serve and propagate the kingdom of God through salvations, not through birth, like how to encourage each other toward that and toward still displaying biblical femininity, masculinity as they pursue that call that may not include a spouse.

Carolyn: I appreciate Dr. Piper’s focus on living a God-glorifying, radical life for the sake of the Kingdom. I think that for those of us who wake up in the morning and find ourselves single once again, a message like that is incredibly inspiring. There are blessings enumerated in Scripture for those who seek to serve the Lord as singles. We are not left in the cul-de-sac of adulthood. We are not in the waiting room of adulthood. There are blessings there for us in Scripture. We are not forgotten by God.

This doesn’t mean that it is exclusive to ever being married. Sometimes I think this dialogue can take that path where it is either one or the other. I think for we who are women who are not in charge of pursuing anyone or initiating any relationship but waiting in faith on the Lord, a message like Dr. Piper’s is incredibly inspiring. There are purposes for me today. They are not necessarily imitating sort of a more masculine life of giving myself entirely to one cause. But I think we are required to exhibit a femininity that says I can give my life to this job, this work, this mission, this cause and to cultivate a love for the home because the home is a mission field.

We see that the early church was founded in the home. We know that you can reach out to others and invite them into your home. We can share the gospel in a way in our home that is so much harder to do in a restaurant. In restaurants every time you get to the punch line or to the prayer, a waiter is guaranteed to interrupt, show up and ruin your joke and ruin your prayer. Sometimes it is just hard to hear in restaurants. But if you take the effort to cultivate a love for the home and you bring others into your home, you have an opportunity to serve and to share and to care in a way in the private realm that is much harder to do in the public sphere.

So I don’t think it is an either / or situation. Living for the glory of God now while you are single does not exclude you from becoming married. Nor do I think that you have to live in such a way that is not inherently feminine because you are single. I think we are as we see in Scripture, called to cultivate femininity, and it looks different in every season of life. But it’s not, “Sell everything and go to Africa,” just because you are single. Are you called? It’s an important question. Are you lining up with the training that Scripture has laid out for women?

Nancy: And if I may just add to that, Carolyn, I think if you go back to 1 Corinthians 7 where there is a lot of teaching on different aspects of marriage and singleness. It talks about marriage, singleness, divorce, widowhood. There is a lot in that chapter. I think the passage does seem to indicate that for some believers God has particularly gifted them to be single. Some have one gift, some have another. In that context marriage is a gift, singleness is a gift.

But Paul who was presumably single himself indicated that those who were able to be single, who were able to stay morally pure and on whose lives God put that call would have freedom to serve the Lord in some different ways than married people could. Now, it is not a slam on marriage. The same apostle Paul wrote that beautiful passage in Ephesians chapter 5 about the mystery of marriage and how it reflects the redemptive plan and heart of God. So he wasn’t promoting singleness over marriage. But he also said to some God has given the gift, the calling to be single.

I think about the history of missions, for example. How many women and men, for that matter, God has set apart and has put His hand upon their life in a specific way. I think Amy Carmichael was an illustration of this. Gladys Aylward was an illustration of this. These were people that God has used in a particular way to advance and further His kingdom and for whom God gave just that single focus of serving Him.

That lifestyle is clearly not God’s calling for most. I think it’s clearly the exception. But I think we probably have some listeners who have that call of God on their lives. I’m often asked, “Do you think you have a call to be single?” And I don’t know until I look back on the end of my life that I’ll know for sure the answer to that question. But I have had since I was a very young girl a strong sense of God putting His hand on my life and setting me apart for what has turned out to be single service. And God has given me great joy, great freedom, great delight in that.

I am so pro-marriage. I am very pro-family. I don’t think singleness is a state to be pursued unless God puts His hand on your life for that. But I think for some He does that. There needs to be in our day those who would answer that call and would say, “Lord, if that’s what You have for me, then it’s a privilege. And it really is a joy.”

Leslie: When you are trusting God with your singleness, you need to make a host of practical decisions. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been talking about some of those practical issues with Carolyn McCulley. I hope today’s program is just a jumping off point.

Learn more from Carolyn by reading her helpful book, Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? We’ll send it to you when you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Your support helps us encourage women in various situations. And Nancy, I know Revive Our Hearts has been an encouragement to single women since it began over ten years ago.

Nancy: Yes, Leslie. I am just so thankful for how practical God’s Word is for women in every season of life. I was so encouraged to receive an email from a woman who first started hearing about singleness on Revive Our Hearts in the very early days of our ministry. At the time she was a new believer and she said, “Your teachings were too hard for me to accept.” But over the years, the Lord softened her heart, and she came to a place of fully surrendering her relationships and her future to Christ.

Not long ago, this same woman started listening to Revive Our Hearts again and is being freshly challenged by the biblical truth she is hearing. She wrote recently to say, “I’m so glad God brought me back to your ministry and that you are still here. Thanks to all who have supported you over the years since I have been away.”

I like that. When you support Revive Our Hearts, you’re making it possible for us to be there for women at the moment that they’re willing and ready to listen, and just when they need to hear truth from God’s Word.

Now traditionally, we see a drop in donations during the summer months. So your gift today will mean a lot to us. When you make a donation of any amount, ask for Carolyn McCulley’s book Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? We’ll be glad to send it to you as our way of saying thank you for your support. Just give us a call at 1-800-569-5959, or you can visit us on-line at ReviveOurHeart.com and make your donation there. Thanks so much for your support.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy. Carolyn McCulley returns tomorrow. Hear more practical advice on trusting God with singleness. I hope you’ll be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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