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Shedding The Orphan Mentality In Singleness

CC photo courtesy of Cliff via Flickr
CC photo courtesy of Cliff via Flickr

On my best days, I can say with Tim Keller that “Jesus is enough,” but many times I am living with that leftover attitude, orphan-like frame of mind—and I see flickers of it in other singles as well.

We read the promises of God to us in Scripture that He is our portionour strengthour refugeour family and yet still think, speak and live like we are spiritual orphans—left in poverty and without hope of provision.

We are not spiritual orphans, but we live like it.

How can you tell if you’re living as an orphan? In my own heart, answering this question is a chocolate-covered, complicated mess, and in the last couple of weeks I’ve been convicted of my orphan mentality on four scales. Read through them and see if you can identify if you are living like an orphan.

Sensitivity—Strength: The first scale is the one between sensitivity and strength. When it comes to my singleness, I am extremely sensitive. I am vulnerable on this topic and can easily be hurt. I feel hurt when a pastor only mentions applications that apply to married adults or oversimplifies my pain in singleness. I’m offended when a friend or family member points out that I haven’t been on a real date in … ahem … let’s just say a long time. (Or, to make it worse, they point out that I haven’t been on a date and imply that it might be my fault by giving me a list of solutions.)

Don’t hear what I’m not saying. Feeling hurt is a natural response to some of these circumstances. But when I stay hurt and feed the sensitivity by constantly demanding nuances from my friends or family, I am living like a spiritual orphan. I am refusing the comfort and strength of the Holy Spirit, which is a gift from my Father.

Bitterness—Gratitude: The second continuum is the bitterness to gratitude scale. It is very easy to let your lackluster dating life leave you bitter. Bitterness is a besetting sin that I’ve fought for years, and my response to a friend’s great first date, engagement, wedding or baby shower is not joy by default.

I feel bitter that I’ve not been given the gifts that she has. I’m not only bitter that she has them, but I feel no gratitude for the blessings that the Lord has given me—even ones that my married friends don’t have. The spiritual orphan looks at the blessings God has given other people and assumes that it’s a zero-sum game. If they have “more blessings” than me, then clearly, God has nothing left to give me.

Manipulation—Trust: People who feel like they have no resources at their disposal have to manipulate their circumstances to survive or get ahead. Spiritual orphans are no different. At times, I feel like if I’m ever going to get married, it’s going to be because I made it happen or because I did enough good things. I signed up for eHarmony. I flirted. I put myself “out there.” I worked in the nursery. I hosted Bible study. I taught ESL classes.

None of those dating tactics or volunteer activities are wrong, but if they are coming from a heart that is attempting to manipulate God, it may be evidence that you are living as a spiritual orphan. You, as a beloved child of God, have immense resources at your fingertips. You can trust that God’s got your back and is working for your good and His glory.

Desperation—Contentment: This last scale from desperation to contentment shows up in just about every aspect of my life, from my tendency to eat too much pie to my tendency to worry about money or my romance-free life.

When I am living like a spiritual orphan, I have this raw hunger that shows itself in the oddest ways. I have to eat that last piece of pie because this is the last piece of apple pie on planet earth. I have to worry about every single penny because no one else is taking care of me. I have to go on that date with that guy who is bad news because no one is ever going to ask me out again.

Instead, when I am living nearer to the contentment end of the spectrum, I can look at the last piece of pie and analogize: If my Father has the cattle on a thousand hills, then He probably has pies in a thousand bakeries. If my Father has given me a heavenly trust fund, then my financial situation is ultimately secure. If my Father can bring a husband out of nowhere for so many of my dear friends, then I can be content with wherever my dating life is right now.

Scripture has a lot to say about the high, powerful, resourceful position that we’ve been given in Christ. Take them with you this week as you pray for marriage.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-7

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:3-5

About Anna Hayes

Anna is a 30-year-old who recently left the East Coast for a life as a grad student in a small city somewhere in the middle. She spent several years in East Asia teaching English and loves words, language and being a small part of applying the Gospel to current cultural trends: gender-role confusion, marriage/family breakdown, sexual sin and delayed marriage/unintended singleness.
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