In response to Mom’s post on Thursday, Caroline sent us a wonderful email about three generations of single women nurturing children:
I was single until I was 35 (now have 4 year old twin daughters—our double blessing). I have been in three positions when it comes to singles nurturing children.
As a child we had a friend called Donna who came for tea every week, babysat, and had much godly input for me and my brothers. I am 44 now and still think of her as part of our family and although I rarely see her anymore, I always remember her with enormous affection and some of her advice helps me still.
As a single I had the privilege of being very close to several families with children. I was a young lady whose main aim was (and always will be) to be a Proverbs 31 wife and mother. I found it incredibly hard being single, but found great fulfillment in spending time with the children of my friends. I worked with children, and also went to one friend every week to help her with her children when her husband was working late. I also babysat and spent time with other friends and their children. I adored all of them, and felt enormously privileged when they called me their friend, and when I heard them repeating phrases I often used!
As a Mum with young children now, I have a special friend called Helen who comes for tea once a week and helps put my daughters to bed, prays with us all, reads them stories, comes on outings with my husband, children and me, and babysits. When my daughters talk about extended family, they always include her. She has great input into their lives and I feel privileged to have her as part of our lives.
Just as I called Donna “my Donna” and my friend’s children called me “my Caroline,” my children are now calling Helen “my Helen. I am truly blessed!
In the past week, we’ve considered the single woman’s relationships to men and what kind of friends she should pursue. But there’s one more relationship that it is a great deal in the single season: children.
You can express your femininity by nurturing children. In Genesis 1, we see that male and female were created to be fruitful and multiply. As women we are created to be life-bearers. Our bodies have been designed with the ability to mother—to receive, to carry and bear children, to breast feed. Our body prepares itself repeatedly to conceive and bear young.
So, how does a single woman enter into the meaning of motherhood if she doesn’t have children of her own? How does she express her femininity as life-bearer, as nurturer?
Elisabeth Elliot answered this question:
“A single woman can have children! She may be a spiritual mother, as was Amy Carmichael [missionary to orphans in India], by the very offering of her singleness, transformed for the good of far more children than a natural mother may produce.”
Single women, you can express your femininity in this season of your life by nurturing other people’s children.
When you babysit, you are giving expression to your femininity. When you take an interest and reach out to children in your sphere of relationships, you are displaying your God-given gift of femininity.
And may I say “thank you” on behalf of all of us mothers! Thank you for the way you nurture our children. Thank you for the countless times you have served us through babysitting. Thank you for the way you have loved our children as if they were your very own. It means so much to us!
However, you are doing more than just blessing us, you are honoring God by giving expression to the nurturing aspect of your femininity
Today we conclude our discussion on friendships for the single woman by taking a look at Colossians 4:5-6. This verse tells us to, “Walk in wisdom towards outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” One application from this verse is our conduct with unbelievers. Obviously, in writing this verse Paul assumes that we have contact with those outside the faith. So if all of your friends have grown up in a Christian home or been a Christian for twenty years, you’re missing someone—friends who need salvation. Often it can be so easy for us as women to get consumed by our school or work and we neglect the priority of evangelism. It’s like we walk around campus, through the office cubicles, in and out of the store, and across the street with our head down and blinders on. But we are supposed to be reaching out and having gracious, gospel-motivated conversations with non-Christians. You don’t know any? They are not that hard to find. Maybe all you have to do is look up! So, we’ve considered: Friends who sharpen Friends who mentor. Friends who need a friend. Friends who need salvation. May all these friends be found in your network of relationships. When we choose friends according to God’s criteria, much blessing will result
For the single woman, friends are one of the best deals of your season. As it says in Proverbs 12:26, “The righteous should choose his friends carefully” (NKJV). Yesterday we considered friends who sharpen and spur us on to godliness. Today we want to look at two more friends that Scripture exhorts us to pursue. First we should pursue friends that mentor. Titus 2:3-5 commands the older women to be training the younger women. We should all be aggressively seeking out other women to help us grow in the admirable qualities of biblical femininity. And if you are that older woman, I want to encourage you to consider passing on your experience and wisdom to those behind you. We need it! So, stop a moment and consider your friends. Young women, we should ask ourselves: “Do I have a friend from whom I am learning some aspect of biblical womanhood?” And older women, ask this question: “Am I faithfully imparting biblical womanhood to at least one friend?” And secondly, let’s look for friends who need friends. It’s so easy, isn’t it, to get comfortable with our close friends? While longtime friends are a huge blessing from the Lord, we are also called to reach out to the new person and the lonely. “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,” exhorts Hebrews 13:1-2. Remember what it was like to be new or not know anyone? To see other women chatting excitedly and to have no one to talk to? To choose our friends carefully means we must guard against selfishness and laziness. So let’s take a look around us: “Who is one woman I should reach out to?” It can be as simple as introducing ourselves to a visitor at church, or inviting a quiet woman out for coffee, or including someone new at our weekly lunch with friends. May we all commit to helping new friends not feel new for very long. Let’s not miss out on these two great friendship opportunities. Somehow I think we may all be surprised to find that we are the ones that end up with the good end of the deal.
How about our friendships? In addition to family, who are we to pursue? Proverbs 12:26 tells us that: “The righteous should choose his friends carefully” (NKJV). What does that mean? A brief look at Scripture gives us a good grid whereby we can evaluate our friendships. It tells us exactly what kind of friends we are to have. First, we should have friends that “sharpen.” Our idea of a best friend might be someone who’s easy to get along with, shares our opinions on fashion and food, finishes our sentences, sticks by us in the rough times, and is free to hang out on a Friday night. All plus-points of course (especially the food part) but Scripture says there’s a friend quality of much greater value. A friend we can’t afford to do without. The best of friends, according to Proverbs 27:17, is one who sharpens us as “iron sharpens iron” (NKJV). Hebrews 10:24 tells us that this friend is one who “[stirs us] up…to love and good works.” We need to have at least one-and preferably many-friends who inspire us to serve, provoke us to love, help us to grow in godliness, correct us, strengthen our faith, and spur us on to passion for the Savior. Got any friends like this? Maybe you simply need to take a current relationship in a new direction. Invite your friends to point out your sin, encourage you in the gospel, and stir you up to love and good deeds. Ask them to become friends that sharpen. But maybe, as we assess the spiritual maturity of our friends, we realize that we need to add some godly friends. This may require a step or two outside the old comfort zone. But even if it’s a little awkward at first, we need to initiate friendships with people we’re confident will sharpen us. Tomorrow, we’ll look at more great friendship deals of the single season.
Femininity is not a wedding gift; it’s how we were created. Equal in worth and dignity to men, we nevertheless have different, divinely appointed roles. When God made Eve, He assigned her, and every woman after her, the honorable task of helper (Gen. 1:27, 2:18).
Carolyn McCulley explains the implications for single women:
“The Bible makes it clear in numerous passages that as Christians we are all here to serve. But there is a specific application found in Scripture for a wife to be a helper to her husband. Even before that gracious gift of a husband is provided, there are ways for the faint echoes of “helpmate” to be discernible in the lives of single women.”
When we consider the best deals of the single season, “helper” is near the top of the list. How can you make these “faint echoes” discernible in your life and more specifically, in your relationships with men?
Of course that’s a big subject—way too big to cover in this little post. But let me make one simple suggestion: you can help by encouraging godly men to lead. You can display your femininity by making room for godly men to practice servant leadership.
Now, this doesn’t mean you should follow the leadership of any and every man. And of course you must never allow a man to lead you into sin or lead you away from God’s priorities for your life.
But where possible, in your relationships with godly men in the church and in your life, do what you can to encourage them to take the initiative.
Granted, this is not always easy. And I am not promising you that all men will automatically lead in response to your encouragement. What matters is that you are cultivating the habit of making room for the leadership of men in your life.
The Lord has put certain men in your life—fathers, bosses, friends—and they need to know that you incline toward following their godly leadership instead of resisting it.
For example, if you have a big decision to make—seek out your father or your pastor or your small group leader’s counsel. Don’t independently assume you can do without wise leadership. Rather, give these godly men an opportunity to lead.
In your small group or with friends, don’t always be the one to initiate activities and plan events. Carolyn McCulley suggests pitching your idea to one of the guys in your group of friends Ask him to lead, but then offer your assistance in any way you can.
And whenever you observe a godly man step up to lead a group activity, voice your appreciation and display a willingness to follow. Even if their leadership is not perfectly executed (and it probably won’t be!), your encouragement will spur them on fulfill their God-given role.
It’s time to take a look at the second great deal of the single season: Relationships. Women are, for the most part, relational creatures. Our world is often centered on family and friends. Yet, we are often more passive and receptive than we are intentional and purposeful in our relationships. We may allow people to drift in and out of our lives. We don’t usually slow down to consider why we pursue certain friendships or neglect others. Emotions and feelings often dictate the way we go about our relationships. If people are so important and consume such a big chunk of our time, then we must stop and prayerfully consider our relational priorities in light of God’s priorities. Do our relationships—the time we spend with others—bring glory to God? Are we investing our lives in the people God has called us to love and serve? Tomorrow we’ll consider the question: “How does the single woman display her God-given femininity in her relationships with men?”
At one time or another, we’ve all been students—driven to absorb knowledge by the beneficent shadow of our next exam. Minus this external pressure, though, our learning often slows to a trickle.
But our student-mindset shouldn’t end with the diploma or degree. We should be lifelong students—first and foremost of God’s Word.
As I said yesterday, the single season is one of the most valuable times of your life to pursue study of doctrine. But we don’t drift into God’s Word naturally. Beneficial study of doctrine will only become a reality if we have a plan and when necessary, some accountability.
There is no one-size-fits-all plan. Let me encourage you to begin by asking your pastor for advice. I assure you that he will be eager to help here! Tell him you want to more intentionally study God’s Word and ask him to recommend a plan for you. This may include Bible commentaries, books on theology or the Christian Life. For starters, you can see a list of must-reads CJ gave me a while ago. Some seminaries even offer courses to help you study God’s Word.
Next, carve out some time—in addition to your daily devotions—for study. Maybe this is a Saturday morning when you’re fresh, or a great Sabbath activity. But if you don’t put it on the schedule, many other options will compete successfully for your attention.
Finally, ask a friend to be your “professor.” Maybe you turn in a paper to them, summarizing what you’ve learned, or maybe they just check in to see how you’re progressing.
To become a theologian you must retain your student-mindset, all life long.
Every Christian is a theologian; but as a single woman you have a unique opportunity to study doctrine. I don’t want you to miss it.
May I give you some motherly (or sisterly) advice?
I sit here today as a fifty-three year old wife and mother of four. My youngest son is in high school and for the first time in over thirty years, more and more of my time is “my own.” For the past three decades I have had very little discretionary time—and when my children were little, almost none at all. While I still made studying doctrine a priority, the reality is that my time was severely limited.
As a single woman you are probably very busy. You may be in school, have a job, serve in the church, maintain relationships, care for family…whew! I’m tired just thinking about your hectic life.
But whether you feel like it or not, you have a distinct advantage over the mom with small children: your time is your own. Despite the many, legitimate, demands on your life, you have great freedom to choose how you spend your time.
Please don’t waste a moment of this precious and limited season. Be a student of God’s Word. Study eagerly, study deliberately, study faithfully.
When you dedicate your time to growing in your knowledge of God, you’ll make deposits into your future life that will yield blessing upon blessing.
What does undivided devotion look like in real life? How do you put legs on it and walk it out? For starters, you should become a theologian!
Bruce Milne explains:
“[As] a matter of plain fact every Christian is a theologian!… By virtue of being born again we have all begun to know God and therefore have a certain understanding of his nature and actions. That is, we all have a theology of sorts, whether or not we have ever sat down and pieced it together. So properly understood, theology is not for a few religious eggheads with a flair for abstract debate—it is everybody’s business. Once we have grasped this, our duty is to become the best theologians we can to the glory of God, as our understanding of God and his ways is clarified and deepened through studying the book he has given for that very purpose, the Bible (2 Tim. 3:16)…[G]etting doctrine right is the key to getting everything else right…[A]t every point right living begins with right thinking.”
Did you catch that? Getting doctrine right is the key to getting everything else right. If you want to live rightly in the single years—and I know you do!—then you must think rightly about God. And in order to think rightly about God you must study His Word.
Can I encourage you—no, can I strongly urge you—to seize your single years and become the best theologian you can to the glory of God?