Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Dannah Gresh: Carolyn McCulley encourages singles to do something even greater than a human relationship.

Carolyn McCulley: It's not just who gets a spouse and who doesn't, who gets a boyfriend and who doesn't, it's who is becoming through this situation more Christ-like.

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Singled Out for Him, for Monday, July 13, 2020. I'm Dannah Gresh.

You know, Nancy, there’s something some of our listeners might not be aware of: you were single for the first fifty-seven years of your life.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: You're right, Dannah. I don't think that's a secret to most of our listeners. For most of those years, I assumed that the Lord would have me to be single for the rest of my life. I didn't have any revelation that was going to be the case. I never ruled out the possibility of marriage, but I just didn't think that was what God had for me.  

Dannah: Then, in 2015, something special happened.

Nancy: It sure did! When the Lord brought a godly widower into my life, named Robert Wolgemuth. So after all those years of singleness, the Lord started writing a new chapter in my life—a chapter of being a wife.

Dannah: I have loved having a front-row seat to the joy and the special moments as we've celebrated that gift from the Lord to you. It's given texture and flavor to your ministry. I think it has enriched it. You've always had a desire to minister to both single and married women. But now you have the experience of walking as a single woman, and now as a married woman, through life.

Nancy: I'm very grateful for both of those seasons—the long one as a single woman, and now a new one as a married woman. It's really important to me to be mindful of different settings where women may be living, walking, and serving the Lord. In fact, j ust before I got married, a sweet single woman pulled me aside and said, “Nancy, don’t forget your single sisters!” I haven’t. I still really have a heart for my single brothers and sisters in Christ to live in a way that is flourishing and fruitful. 

Dannah: That is topic of today's Revive Our Hearts program. It's the first of several subjects as we bring other voices of wisdom on to the program  to help us navigate life well. Over the next few days we'll hear Carolyn McCulley talk about ways to bring glory to God in and through singleness.

Nancy: I always love having Carolyn here on Revive Our Hearts. She's a long time friend to both of us, Dannah. As you’ll hear in a moment, she’s single, and she has a such a heart to serve the body of Christ and to glorify Him through her life.

We asked Carolyn to speak  at a breakout session at a True Woman conference some years ago. We’re going to listen to that message today, tomorrow, and Wednesday. Now, let me encourage you, if you’re married, please don’t tune out. You may have friends or young adult children that are single, and you’ll find some really practical insights here that will help you be a blessing and an encouragement to them.

Much of what Carolyn will talk about applies to all of us—whether married or single—as we navigate relationships within the body of Christ. Over the next few days, Carolyn is going to challenge us to have the kind of true love that the apostle Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13. Dannah, why don’t you read the description of love that's found right in the middle of that chapter.

Dannah: I would love to. First Corinthians 13, starting in verse 4:

 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Nancy: As I listen to you reading that I think how different would all our relationships be—whether married or single—if they were to be characterized by that kind of love. In today's session where Carolyn was speaking to single women, she was talking about the importance of relating to single men in the church as brothers in Christ and not just as potential mates. Now, let’s listen to this message that Carolyn McCulley shared at the True Woman conference. 

Carolyn: I wanted to let you know that the grace of God is there for you in the future, no matter what God ordains for you. So you don’t have to be concerned that you’re sitting in this message today if you’re younger, and you’re going, “Oh, no, that’s my future! I’m jinxed if I’m in here!” No, you don’t have to be superstitious, nor do you have to be tempted by fear. I can tell you, when I was younger, I would not have known that there would be grace to walk in God’s providence for my life the way that I’ve experienced it.

God is kind in not letting us know what our future is going to be like because what we have is grace for today. Jesus says, “Sufficient is today’s trouble.” We don’t need to start borrowing trouble from the future and worrying about it because when we get there, we will experience grace.

Even people who don’t know the Lord are able to say, “Such and such was such a difficult situation for mewhether it was cancer or becoming widowed, or whateverbut I learned so much about myself, I wouldn’t go back.” Okay? So you can even hear people who don’t know the Lord understand the principle of growth that comes through situations you might not have wanted.

I can tell you that when you receive something that perhaps you didn’t want from the Lord, there is grace to walk through it, and there’s also multiple and abundant blessings that come with it that you would not have realized because you’re only focused on one thing.

One of the things that I learned is a lot about my brothers. What I learned was that men take relationships a lot more seriously than we think they do.

I developed this thing called a “client ministry”—and I always use the little air quote marks—because the men I worked with and men I was friends with in the church who were a little bit younger than I was, would come up to me and want to talk to me like a big sister. They would want to come and talk to me about the issues that they were facing pursuing other women.

Now, when I was younger and my peer groups, my friends, were with other men who were closer to my age, I wasn’t aware as much of the struggles they went through because I was their peer group. But as I got older, and there is this ten to fifteen year difference in our ages, I was able to hear with clarity what was going on in these men’s hearts because there wasn’t going to be any confusion, at least on their part, about whether or not there was going to be any interest.

But I realized that the interactions we have and the words we use with men impact them far more than we would be aware of. So in this session, “He Loves Me; He Loves Me Not,” what I want to talk about is how to conduct godly Christ-like relationships in the mess that’s known as dating or courting or whatever term and approach that you usethose relationships that develop and come about in the swirl of trying to determine who is your spouse.

And for those of you all who have been married once before, there’s another level to this, too, which is, “How do I have hope and faith for the future when I’ve been widowed or my husband has abandoned me?” All the heart issues are the same.

Now, interestingly enough, it’s not just Christians who are trying to address this problem. A few years ago two books came out addressing the relationships between single men and women, and each caused a stir in their own circles.

The first one was a mainstream book called He’s Just Not That into You. It was by one of the writers of the program, Sex and the City. Now, I find this really ironic. From a secular perspective, Sex and the City (which is not a show that I recommend) was promoting the ongoing confusion in our culture of what it means to date and relate.

Here was the one male, married writer on the writer team who was working with these other women who were single who were just like their characters on their television show. They were coming in every day discussing their love lives, completely oblivious to the ramifications of these relationships. He’s having to sit down and go, “Look, if he doesn’t call you, he’s not interested. Stop making excuses. If he treats you like dirt, he’s not interested. Stop making excuses.”

I was fascinated that there had to be a book that came out to explain basic human courtesy to one another and not making excuses for mistreatment. His message was, “If a man is interested, even if he has a very busy schedule, a demanding job, a sick parent, or whatever; if he’s interested, he’s going to find a way to pursue you.” And thus the title of He’s Just Not That into You.

Now, what I found interesting in this book, as I perused it, trying to understand what was going on in the culture . . . and I don’t wholeheartedly endorse that book either. There are a couple of chapters that are not edifying. He said that he acknowledged that though the women’s movement had introduced many changes in culture, in one area women were not recognizing something important—men had not changed. They would still work for what they valued.

So then, there was another book that came out that was trying to help us understand what is going on in our culture through a biblical perspective, and it’s called Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart by John Ensor. Now, I do recommend that book to you.

It’s a basic book explaining biblical manhood and womanhood to young adults and single adults. In it John Ensor uses the usual analogy of men being hunters, but he talked about how sometimes the men need a little help with finding their quarry, and women sometimes need to rustle the leaves in order to let the men know they’re nearby. (Laughter)

We all jumped on that. We’re like, “Okay, we have permission to rustle leaves, but what does that look like?”

Sometimes we would observe our friends in church who were being really obvious, and we’d go, “Oh, honey. She ain’t just rustlin’ leaves; she’s leveling the whole forest.” She’s going, “Hi! I’m here! Notice me!”

We all know those ways of trying to be godly single women and drawing attention to ourselves. It’s like, “Oh, I have such a burden for you. I’ve been praying for you.” (Laughter) “God put you on my heart. I have a verse for you.”

It’s like, “Yes, you haven’t been thinking anything else!”

So we do have our ways of manipulating, and here John Ensor gives us permission to rustle the leaves, and everybody is, like, “What does that mean? What does it mean?” I don’t know.

I actually had the opportunity . . . he came and spoke at my previous church. I was trying to get a question submitted, like “Would you please get him to answer the question about rustling leaves?” But he wisely sidestepped that one.

I think the reason for that is that every woman’s struggle with drawing attention or fearing rejection will define what your leave rustling looks like. So you can’t hand out a one-size-fits-all situation.

There are women who fear rejection to such a degree that they shut down around anybody they’re interested in so they don’t have to fear not having what they hope for.

Then there are other women who are really obvious, totally out there, and need some help with some restraint. She needs to give the brother an opportunity to pursue; don’t be in his face 24/7.

If you were to give any definition to leaf rustling, no matter which way you come at it, there are going to be some people who will take it as a license and others will create it as a rule, and that leaves us not following God. That’s the premise we need to understand. There’s no one-size-fits-all way to tackle our relationships.

Relationships are inherently messy. We all wish that we wouldn’t have mess, but we will experience it in our dating and relating and marriage relationships, in our friendships, in our brothers and sisters relationships within the church, with our children, with everybody else because it’s two sinners trying to achieve something.

That means we’re driven by desires that are going to cause collisions. Either those collisions are going to give us an opportunity to humble ourselves and ask God for forgiveness where we’ve sinned, or humble ourselves and make more of someone else and less of ourselves instead of trying to be "the one who dies with the most toys wins” kind of a situation.

Well, going back to my “client ministry,” after years of listening to some very godly and attractive men talk about the confusion that they had with their relationships with women, and knowing that there were about twenty women standing outside my office door who were all really interested in them, I would just stand there going, “I don’t understand why this is so difficult.”

In fact, I had a friend who's currently back in Australia, so hopefully he’ll never hear me tell this story. But he showed up; He came from Australia to come join our church. He came in the dead of winter, so it was their summer. So he’s tanned and tall, and he’s got his two surfboards, and he was a former model, and he had a great Australian accent. I was like, “Oh, no! We’re going to have to do some triage in this church!”

The girls are like, “Oh, hi—giggle.” (Laughter) Even the eleven-year-olds are riding their bikes by his house goint, “Hi, Mr. Mike” I'm like, “Oh no! We need damage control.”

He’s a great guy, really godly. I just assumed everything would be easy. Right? Here’s a guy for whom women are like swooning when he walks through the church, so why should this be so hard?

He came to me one day saying, “I’m really interested in this girl.”

I said, “Yeah, I know. I can tell.”

He said, “So what do I do?”

I said, “Well, I and everyone else observing you can tell, so have you talked to her dad (who’s our pastor)?”

He’s like, “Oh no. I don’t have to talk to her dad, do I?”

I’m like, “Yes, you do. You really do. She’s young, and you need to talk to him. You need to say what your intentions are.”

He’s like, “No.”

I said, “You have to.” So I encouraged him. I said, “You don’t have anything to really lose.”

But in this conversation and other conversations with men, I came to realize an important thing. Men trust God by risking rejection. I already knew that women trust God by waiting on Him. That was the whole premise of my first book. It’s been the premise of my entire life.

But my “client ministry” helped me to understand that there is this other element that men face. No matter how attractive, "big man on campus" they seemed to be, each man feared rejection and had to learn to trust God by stepping out.

In this case, when he stepped out, the father said, “You know what? We’re dealing with some issues of immaturity in my daughter. So right now we don’t think this would be the best time, not that we’re opposed to you. This is about her, not you.”

It hurt so much. He came back, and he’s like, “No.” At the time it seemed that it was just so horrible all the way around, but that’s because he wasn’t supposed to marry her. God had another husband for her and another wife for him. Now, when he did meet the woman he eventually married, they were at a conference, and they were in a small group setting, and she blurted out, “I’ve always had a burden for Australia.” And every other woman there was like, “Yeah, right. You got that like thirty seconds ago when he came in the room!” It turns out she actually did and had for years, and the rest of us were cynical. (Laughter)

Then in the midst of great difficulty for him, one time she wrote him an email. They hadn’t been in contact. She said, “God put you on my heart.” She sent him a little quote from Spurgeon. I was like, “Spurgeon?! You trying to be impressive?”

It turns out it ministered to him, and there wasn’t anything manipulative about what she was doing. They ended up becoming friends and getting married, and now they’re ministering together in Australia.

So here’s the issue: She was trying to be a good sister and encourage him. Even though he had his eyes elsewhere at one point, he stepped out to trust God. I began to realize that part of the navigation and the messiness of this navigation of “he loves me; he loves me not” kind of a thing is because neither of us involved (or three parties when there’s more than one person interested, or fifteen parties when there’s whole masses of women interested in one guy) . . . The point being is that all this mess can happen in our relationships, but God is still accomplishing His perfect purpose for each of our lives.

And there is something more important than that. It’s not just who gets the spouse and who doesn’t, who gets a boyfriend and who doesn’t. It’s about who is becoming, through this situation, more Christ-like?

Now, when we’re single, we often get told, “Make sure to guard your heart.” Right? Has everybody heard that phrase? Everybody has received that at some point. Right? Guard your heart—you never know what that means. Does it mean, “No way do you have a shot for this guy.” What does that mean?

Even our culture has a concept of what this means, and we can trace it all back to places and novelists and timeslike Jane Austin. Do we have any other Janite fans in here? Alright, a few. Great. If you’ve read the book or seen the movie, Sense and Sensibility, you have a really good illustration of what it means not to guard your heart.

If you remember, the younger sister Marinne had a crush on this charmingly devastating man named Willoughby. Willoughby comes rushing in making all these grand romantic gestures and sweeping everybody off their feet, including the rest of the family, but he never really says what he wants or what he’s up to.

He doesn’t declare himself, and he exposes Marianne for being a senseless and rash young woman because he doesn’t guard her reputation in this small village. He exposes her to ridicule instead for not helping her to maintain her boundaries and to maintain her modesty. In the end it turns out he wasn’t intentional at all about their relationship.

In the wreckage of this, as she’s sorting through this with her older sister Elinor, Elinor is with her and she asks her this one question, “Did you have an understanding with Willoughby?” This is the quaint phrase for, “Did he actually tell you with his lips what he was doing?”

Marianne realizes with a start that she had no such promise or no such declaration from him. Her reply was, “It was every day implied but never professedly declared.” In fact, Marianne had been pursuing Willoughby based on her own assumptions. She wanted something. His behavior fit within her grid, but she had no concrete information.

That’s what happens to most of us. In fact, a friend of mine gave this the term, “Dating in your mind.” You want something, and you start to figure out like, “He must be really interested in me because he actually looked in my direction in this meeting.” You know what I mean? (Laughter) So you start to form claims even though he’s never spoken to you or anything.

She called it “dating in your mind.” Marianne’s example is a little bit more concrete than that. I mean, she had a man paying attention to her, but again, the same premise. He hadn’t declared himself, and going even back to "He’s Just Not That into You." Even a modern-day man without a seemingly gospel perspective is able to tell you when a man really wants something, he doesn’t toy around. He tells you. Even when he fears it, like my Australian friend, he will step up and talk.

Nancy: Well, that’s Carolyn McCulley, in the first part of a message she delivered in a breakout session at a True Woman conference. I appreciate the fact that, as she put it, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to singleness . . . or to marriage for that matter. But what does matter is orienting our lives around God’s Word, and seeking to bring Him more glory, no matter what our marital status is.

Dannah: That’s so true! We’ll hear more of that message from Carolyn McCulley tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts. Carolyn McCulley’s message is one way we’re trying to serve up some practical, godly wisdom for you here in the month of July.

Another way is through a book by Mark DeMoss, The Little Red Book of Wisdom. Aside from being Nancy’s brother, Mark is a gifted communicator with practical, helpful advice that lines up with the Bible. This month, The Little Red Book of Wisdom is our way of saying "thank you" for your gift of any amount to support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. To donate, just visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959.

Nancy: And Dannah, can I jump in here. I know I'm probably biased because Mark is my brother. But there is so much terrific, really good wisdom found in this book—wisdom for your personal life, wisdom for your professional life. It's very readable; it's interesting. It's news you can use for so many areas of your life. So I can't recommend this book highly enough.

Dannah: We'll, you're not that biased Nancy, because my husband Bob considers it one of his favorite reads. We would love for you to have a copy. Again, we'll send it as our way of saying "thank you" for your gift of any amount to support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. To donate, just visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959.

Nancy: Carolyn reminded us today that Scripture calls us to guard our hearts. Sometimes when we hear that phrase we may think that means we're supposed to be stingy with sharing our hearts with others. Carolyn McCulley says that’s actually not a biblical concept. She’ll explain tomorrow. I hope you’ll join us for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to challenge you to live your life for the glory of God. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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About the Teacher

Carolyn McCulley

Carolyn McCulley

In 2009, Carolyn started Citygate Films, a documentary film company where she is a producer/director. Prior to that, Carolyn served as the media specialist for Sovereign Grace Ministries, worked in corporate communications, and was a television and commercial film producer. She is a frequent conference speaker and has authored several books.