The past six months or so have been a much needed lesson about intentionality and growth, of any kind. Last summer I set out on a fool’s errand of running a half marathon when I hadn’t run more than a mile in years. I was basically scared into it by being really overweight and having high blood pressure, and having a goal in front of me gave me something else to focus on other than losing weight and worrying about blood pressure, which would probably have only served to make my blood pressure higher. So, last July I set a goal of pushing through 13.1 miles as best I could. While I wasn’t able to run the whole way on either race, I finished two half marathons last November and December. Now, that isn’t the important part, and I don’t feel like I’ve earned bragging rights. The important part is that even though I didn’t run the whole way through, I’m a much stronger runner (Ok, I’m a runner) because I focused on running. I was intentional.
During one of my first services at The Village, I heard Matt Chandler quote D.A. Carson when he said:
People do not drift toward Holiness.
Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord.
We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated
This is crucial. Just as I wouldn’t have all of the sudden woken up and run a half marathon…or any further than the refrigerator, I also won’t randomly become a better Christian. As Ed Stetzer says in a recent post by The Gospel Coalition, “Spiritual maturity is not an accident; seeking God speaks of intentionality – the believer who desires to know God in a deeper way and strives toward that goal.”
It takes work. It takes discipline. I feel this is a big reason why many of us don’t follow Christ as closely as we know we should: because we have grown up in an environment that not only allows for, but sometimes celebrates, lack of discipline and irresponsibility. We have our “fire insurance” and we’re content to stay as close to the world as we can, instead of pressing further into the kingdom of God. Now, this is not all of us, by any means. I am incredibly blessed to know many people, both men and women, who love, challenge, encourage, press, and at times rebuke me when needed (Yes, I said it, and it’s Biblical) out of a desire to see my walk with Christ grow, and it goes both ways. We can’t grow in our relationship with Christ without consistent meditation on Scripture, prayer, worship, and gospel-centered community. We have to be intentional
This bleeds into another blog I read over at The Gospel Coalition as well. This article is well worth the read, so I won’t be redundant, but I do want to note that I feel that lack of discipline and the presence of irresponsibility may enhance some of the problems with online dating mentioned in this post. In generations past, the purpose of dating or courting was to find a spouse. It was to find someone you can be with forever. Someone to commit to for the rest of your life. Now, it seems that a lot of times the purpose of dating is to date. The quest to “not be alone” while avoiding the sacrifice and responsibility that come with commitment.
I don’t think this is only based or rooted in online dating, but I do agree that online dating perpetuates an already existing problem. The freedom of a seemingly abundant amount of choices, the never-ending search for “the one you can’t live without” has weaved thoughts like “There might be someone better around the corner” into my heart since I first heard those words in youth group. Don’t get me wrong, I know my youth pastor meant well, but the reality is that we need to find and marry a spouse who, by God’s grace, we can live with, instead of thinking that there will be someone “better” coming down the line. It also seems that these problems exist because people simply don’t know how to transition from a “dating” mentality to a “marriage” mentality. Possibly because they start dating too young? (I mean, really, why does an eighth grader need to date anyway?) Given that I’m not married, I’m probably not the best person to give advice on this, but here’s what I might say if I were:
- Be intentional in becoming more like Christ. Spend more time pursuing Christ than members of the opposite gender.
- Treat the girls/guys around you as sisters/brothers in Christ instead of the next potential date.
- Find a mentor. Find someone who is married, in addition to your parents, who can help guide you toward pursuing/being pursued well. Someone who can speak Biblical counsel clearly, boldly, and lovingly into your life, without having bias as to the outcome other than a desire for your spiritual maturity
- Take the first step. Focus on Christ, and take the first step. Don’t worry so much about seeing growth or change right away, just keep your eyes fixed on Christ and you’ll conform to His image in His timing. (Col. 3:1-4)
As much as we have to be intentional in pursuing spiritual maturity, we have to be intentional in pursuing marriage, or be intentional in pursuing contentment in being single.
Grace and peace.