I was completely unprepared for the spiritual epiphany I had over my weekend visit to the LA area several months ago. I mean, this is a region best known for cell–phone chats with agents and the steamy FOX show The OC.
I was going to visit some friends, Sandie and Esthera, two women I met at an overseas conference last year for women in Christian publishing. Since they're both missions–minded women at crossroads in their life, I knew it would be a visit marked by stimulating conversation about life, purpose, and direction. I couldn't wait.
During my visit, Sandie, the woman I was staying with, gave a presentation at a nearby Christian college about the work she and her husband had done to help combat the sex–trafficking industry during their recent 10–year missions stint in Athens, Greece. I sat transfixed as she shared about the horrors of the global phenomenon of women tricked, forced, or sold into prostitution. Staring at the pictures of the hollow–eyed women Sandie had ministered to, I wondered what I could do to help combat such evil.
The following day, I headed to the nearby offices of Open Doors International to interview one of their directors for a magazine article I'd been assigned to write. This ministry that works to help those in the persecuted church worldwide launched a specific sub–ministry within their organization five years ago to help serve the unique needs of women in the persecuted church.
As I sat listening to their director, Jane, describe everything from female genital mutilation to incest to denial of jobs, literacy education, or biblical teaching to women in different parts of the world, my heart felt as heavy as it had the day before when I listened to Sandie's presentation. Through both of these interactions, God was opening my eyes to some terrible hurts in our world.
What struck me most was that one of Sandie's colleagues, a sociology professor, and Jane both posed a tough question in our separate conversations. "Women in the U.S. today have more power and influence than women have ever experienced at any time in history," they said, "and the big question is what are we doing with it?" That both women, independent of each other and on back–to–back days, asked this made the startling question that much more powerful. God was up to something, and I prayed for eyes and ears to catch it. Little did I know that part of the answer would become clear in a nightclub.
That night, Sandie's 20something daughter graciously invited me to go country line dancing with her and her friends. Unfortunately the restaurant ended up being more trendy nightclub than campy hoedown, complete with fake–breasted women practically popping out of their shirts, a dancing couple who would have been having sex if they didn't have their clothes on, and straight women dancing seductively with one another to catch guys' attention.
Standing there watching this typical weekend singles scene and thinking back on our trips to the beach and an upscale mall earlier that day, I was struck by the staggering juxtaposition to the tough realities I'd learned about over the past couple days. Pondering the questions both Jane and Sandie's colleage had asked, I realized how distracted we often get from the huge needs in our world. Instead of giving some of our time and attention to the "least of these" (Matthew 25:40), we so often get distracted by shopping for all the latest styles or gadgets, being entertained at every turn, looking attractive to the opposite gender at any cost, finding Mr. or Ms. Right—or in some cases, Mr. or Ms. Right Now. I had a sinking feeling when I realized how much more susceptible to these distractions we singles are.
With all of these experiences and observations occurring in such a short period of time, I felt as though I was seeing parts of my world with brand–new eyes. I'd always been aware that looking for love can become an unhealthy obsession, but I hadn't necessarily been aware that it also could make us so short–sighted.
Armed with this awareness of the bigger picture, I felt challenged, empowered, inspired. As I drove to the airport at the end of my visit, I prayed some bold prayers. I thanked God for opening my eyes to these important issues. I asked for forgiveness for my short–sightedness. I prayed God would help me use this single season of my life, with my "undivided devotion to the Lord" (1 Corinthians 7:35), to make a difference in my corner of the world—and asked God to show me where and how to get involved. "Lord, if you want me to stay single for a while so I can use this season to dig in and make a difference—and maybe even encourage some of my single brothers and sisters to do the same—I'm willing. You've started something here—please show me what it is and what I'm supposed to learn or do as a result."
Six hours later I was driving home from O'Hare airport with tears in my eyes. I'd just had a wonderfully flirty interaction with a fascinating man on the plane ride home, even got to the point of holding hands with him and making plans to get together while he was in town, when I discovered he was married. In the wake of this situation I felt small, powerless, crushed—the big dreams and determination of just hours ago lost somewhere in this male–female interaction.
This transformation reminded me of how easy it is for us singles to become distracted from the big picture—especially by matters of the heart. Sometimes I wonder if Satan is behind this—placing distractions in our path when we're vulnerable, or on the verge of embracing our singleness or giving this season of our life wholeheartedly to God. When we get caught up in the materialistic values of our culture or obsessed with looking for love, Satan can keep us in blinders. We become unaware of the countless needs around us that desperately need our attention—and that would give us a needed sense of purpose in our single state.
Not that I think it's inherently wrong to spend time and energy on our desire for dating and marriage. But it's a problem if it becomes a preoccupation that crowds out God's other callings on our life and from "doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God" (Micah 6:8).
Personally, I'm of the mind that God places a major cause or two on our hearts and it's our responsibility as believers to figure out what they are and then do our part to chip away at those issues and problems. We get to be God's hands and feet, participating in his work of redemption here in this broken world—and this is a privilege and a calling I, for one, don't want to miss out on, no matter how easy it is to get distracted in my own weakness or by Satan's schemes.
So I find myself praying bold prayers again—for God to protect me from Satan's snares, from the values of our culture, from ignorance or apathy to the countless needs and hurts around us every day. As for the issue I'm supposed to get involved in, I think God's already graciously started to clue me in. Part of it is finally printing this very article—and hoping it will help nudge some of you to shake off your own blinders and find a cause to call your own. And to continue praying and searching for my role in helping the hurting women of the world, including those affected by the sex trade industry and religious persecution. Mostly, I'm praying for us singles to use our unprecedented power and potential influence to shake the planet for God's purposes.
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