Hey Sweet Friends! Do you still have that big comfy chair from the last time we were together? I hope so, because we are going to get deep into it today. Things I say today may make your heart uncomfortable so I want to make sure you are comfortable physically.
Are you ready?
Okay. Let’s go!
One thing you should know about me is that I really…well, I really dislike the word should. So let me go back and say that first statement over again.
One thing you need to know about me is that I really dislike the word should. Fran was the first counselor I went to over a decade ago. Fran always told me that whenever I use the words “should” and “could” I am operating in godship.
By definition godship means the rank, character, or personality of a god. As a Jesus Follower I believe in the one true God, Yahweh so when Fran called my attention to this I started to pay close attention to when I used the word should and the motives of my heart when I said it.
For example, how many of us have said, “I really should be more disciplined”, or “She shouldn’t do that” or “You could really do better”?
I know I have said all of these, either out loud or in my mind, countless times.
Let’s break this down a little bit.
“I really should be more disciplined.” Says who? Says an authority figure? Says the Holy Spirit? Ok, fair. Then maybe the word you could use is “need” instead of “should”.
Ok, let’s try that again.
“I really should be more disciplined” or “I really need to be more disciplined.” One lacks urgency, right? While the other one feels more like a directive. If this instruction came from an authority figure then saying “need” gives this thought more validity and more accountability and allows you to ask for help if you don’t know how to do this by yourself.
Now what if it didn’t come from an authority figure? What if you had that thought in a moment of frustration with the scale or with the amount of dishes in your sink…and no, I didn’t list those because of what ran through my mind just this morning…how rude of you to think so!
When we use the word “should” to ourselves we are passing judgement on ourselves. Sweet Friends, that is God’s job and if you are found in Christ and are a Jesus Follower, then God has judged you WORTHY! Why do we allow ourselves to pass judgement on ourselves so ruthlessly?
And my gracious! In the middle of the year we have all just lived through? We NEED to be more gentle with ourselves.
Now, I am under no delusions that now, all of a sudden, because you have read this that you are never going to use the word “should” again when I’ve still used it occasionally over the last decade, but maybe, when it filters through your mind from here on out, you check that thought with the Holy Spirit. You do what 2 Corinthians 10:5 says and take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ. He’ll let you know if it came from Him or not.
And about that, “You could really do better” business? We need to check ourselves. How do you know? You don’t know what it was like in her home this morning, or gracious, in her mind for that matter. It may have been all she could do to get out of bed this morning. The better thing would be to ask if she needs anything, or if you can pray for her.
At this point you might be thinking, “Come on Kathryn, you are just changing a few words around. Is it really that big of a deal?”
Jesus, Himself, said in Matthew 15 “the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart,” so it isn’t so much about the words, in this case, as it is about the intention of your heart.
Notice I said, in this case, but how many of us know that almost every other time Proverbs 18:21 is true when it says the power of life and death are in the tongue.
Y’all, we need to be more mindful about how we use every day words.
“When” has been a word that has been highly destructive to my life.
When you get married.
When you have children.
Those things were spoken over me by every adult in my life when I was a child. Then as I grew into a teenager and young adult I started saying these things to myself.
When I get married.
When I have children.
When this happens and when that happens.
“When” is a word we don’t think about much. We all know what it means but do we really think about what it implies.
I can’t tell you what it implies to you but for me, “when” implied the time my real life adulthood started.
When I got married…when I had children, that is when my life really started.
Y’all, I remember exactly where I was at 34 years old when I realized, fully, that while I had waited for a thing to happen for 14-15 years, I HAD been living my life! And what was worse, I didn’t get to push rewind to redo those years with the knowledge that I, in fact, HAD been living my life. It was a real moment of grief for me, a moment of grieving that I would never be a wife and moma in my 20s. A moment of grieving that I hadn’t lived my actual life to the fullest because I had been waiting for a thing to happen that hadn’t.
As I continued to grieve over the next few days I felt a resolve settle in that has served me so well over the last 6 years. And as I sit in a new grief over not being a wife or mom in my 30s, I am more convinced than ever before that we need to start paying more attention to the words we use.
Instead of when, let’s start saying if.
If you get married. If you have children.
I can hear the naysayers now. “But Kathryn, I want to be positive when I talk to my children.”
In my most grace giving voice, I say to you, shame on you for assuming that being called to singleness by the Creator of the Universe is negative! And inherently, “when” and “if” are not positive or negative terms. Again, it’s our intention behind how we use these words that give them a positive or negative attitude.
I get it. Almost everyone gets married. So do we really stop using the word when, for a small amount of the population?
Ok, let’s talk about the “when you have children” business. Did you know that 1 in 8 couples face infertility issues? What do you think a lifetime of hearing “when you have children” does to that couple when they realize they can’t have children?
Now, what if that same couple sits in the doctor’s office and receives the news that they aren’t going to be able to conceive naturally, but they have only ever heard, “if you have children.” Somehow, I imagine, things don’t seem as hopeless, even if they have always wanted to be biological parents to children. Because the word “if” has been used their whole lives they have held that dream in an open hand. Sure, they will still grieve, but the devastation may not be as great and lasting as it could have been.
When we say things like, “When you get married” to a five year old we are subtly insinuating that our will is higher than God’s. What if He never intended that five year old to get married?
Shift that “when” to “if” and you allow the Lord to do whatever He wants to do in your life or the life of that 5 year old.
To be clear…God is going to do what He wants to do in our lives regardless of the words that we use but do we really need to make the process of sanctification harder on ourselves?
If 17 year old Kathryn could see me now I think she would be super conflicted about who I am at 40. On the one hand, she NEVER wanted me to be the token single woman. I feel a little bit of her residual shame as I intentionally choose to cover this topic first. It makes me feel a tad raw and vulnerable to obey the Lord in this way right out of the gate. What is also true is that my spirit has been fit to burst with the amount of words God has given me on this in the past several days. I’m afraid if I don’t say it all, I am going to spontaneously combust.
Deep breath… So, I honor the 17 year old Kathryn and ask her to trust me because I know so many more things than she does.
On the other hand I think she would be proud of me. I am living, and have lived, in what she thought was impossible. 40 and never married?!? 40 and not a moma?!? She was terrified of my life, and yet, here I am with a full one.
To be clear, it isn’t full of what I wanted it to be, and if I’m really honest, it isn’t full of what I still want it to be full of. But it is full! Not with dirty diapers, middle of the night feedings, hearing “Mommy” approximately 4,328 times a day, or the love of a husband, but full instead, with high school students who call me Moma Kathryn, Willa snuggles, enough time to be a good aunt, sleepovers at my parent’s house, and Saturdays when I can sleep in until 8am, and as much time as I want on that Saturday to spend with Jesus…IF I take advantage of that gift, instead of turning on the Hallmark Channel.
My life is full and I think 17 year old Kathryn would be proud. So I honor her and I jump into the deep end of this journey of sharing what I know to be true for every other 17, 21, or 30 year old who is terrified of having a similar story as mine.
Now, if you are listening to this and you are married I beg you not to skip this topic when I write about it. One reason you won’t ever catch me in a Singles group at church is because I will not participate in single people being segregated in the church. To suggest that I do not have anything of value to offer married people because I am single is highly offensive to me and even more, completely false. Also, I need what married people have to offer me and not because they are married but because of WHO THEY ARE IN CHRIST and the story He is telling through their lives.
In case no one has ever told you this before, you CAN glean and learn from someone whose life doesn’t look just like yours. In fact, I propose to you that if everyone in your circle looks, lives, and acts just like you, you are HALF the person you could be.
My prayer is that if you find yourself uncomfortable with our differences, Jesus would empower you to stay, to glean, to start getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Because I don’t have all the answers, I asked my friends on social media to share some hurtful things people have said to them regarding marriage and starting a family. The people who said some of these things did not mean to be hurtful, which is one of the reasons I’m so passionate about putting this out into the world. We need to speak with more intention. We need to try to hear the words we say through the ears of the people hearing them.
Does that take more work? 100%!
Will it make you a safer person for the people around you? 100%!
Imagine being at a wedding, in your 20s, and someone says, “You’re next!” but you aren’t even dating anyone? Or minding your own business, holding the baby of one of your friends, and someone says, “that looks good on you”.
In the words of one of my friends, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick and my heart hoped so badly for a family, so it felt like people were pinpointing the vulnerable, hurt places in my heart, but not in a serious way.”
When I read this it resonated with me so deeply. Let me put it this way…how would you like it if the vulnerable and hurt places of your heart were every gathering’s topic for small talk?
If I have been asked, “Are you dating anyone?” once, I have been asked 1,578 times. And seriously, when the answer is ALWAYS no, a piece of your worthiness is chipped off every single time.
Not my worthiness in Christ, to be clear, but my worthiness in the eyes of society and even the Church. I didn’t have the answer they wanted me to have in the first question they asked so no follow up questions were asked…and I found myself, almost every single time, spending the next 3 and a half minutes of that painfully awkward exchange helping them feel better about my singleness. Y’all that is messed up!
I found myself in this season wishing I had the guts to answer that question with, “You know, my relationship with the Lord is going great, thank you for asking! He is really showing up in my life and yesterday when I was reading in Galatians it was like He jumped off the page to me.”
How would you like it if the vulnerable and hurt places of your heart were every gathering’s topic for small talk?
You may say, “But Kathryn, I want to show interest in the life of this person I care about!” I hear you and it is BECAUSE I know that to be true that I never responded in the way I wanted to. But may I humbly say, y’all if your single friend is dating someone and they are excited about it THEY WILL TELL YOU! All you have to do is ask, “How is your life?” and all that they want to share will come out! But the vulnerable and hurting soul should never have to make you feel better about their pain.
Another thing that was shared was this idea that if you keep your head down, stay busy serving the Lord, it will happen when it’s time.
First of all, I have been in ministry the majority of my adult life in some way or another, so no! Not only has that not been helpful, it has proven itself untrue, and has been really hurtful in my relationship with the Lord. Somehow I should feel more worthy of the story I want for my life because I have spent my life serving the Lord.
Y’all do we even hear what we say to one another?
Paul literally gave his life away for the Gospel and not only did he not get married, church tradition says he was beheaded because of his faith. There are Jesus Followers, all over the world, today who worship with the threat of death all the time and yet, I feel like I should have a life that is exactly like the one I dreamed of simply because I kept my head down, walked in purity, and served the Lord.
Sure, sometimes that happens but when it doesn’t, that blanket statement you spoke over my life to make yourself feel better in the moment, does more damage than you intended.
And let’s go back to the real heart of the matter. Marriage is good, but so is singleness. Having/fostering/adopting children is good, but so is choosing not to.
So why can’t we say if instead of when?
Intentionally using the word if invites the Lord to have his way in your story. “If”, teaches our children, at a young age, that no matter what your story looks like, as long as Jesus is in it, it will be good. “If”, allows our hearts to make room for what our story was always supposed to look like. Not because of what our parents want for our lives, or what society says you are “supposed to do”, or even what the Church says is normal, but because from the foundation of the world, the Creator of the Universe, Yahweh; He planned for Kathryn Means to be single and 40.
And here’s what I know I know to be true! That doesn’t make my story any less valuable than anyone else’s. I don’t know what He plans to do in my next 40 years but I want to meet those plans with an if, instead of when.
Lord Jesus, thank you for your Word! Thank you for your guidance. Thank you for having a plan for us that is far beyond anything we could ask for or imagine, and God, I thank you that that plan reaches far past this life and into eternity. As we face disappointments and things that grieve us in this life I pray that you would keep us mindful of the things that are even more real than what hurts us…an eternity with you. This life, no matter what comes, is but a vapor. Empower us to cling to the things we cannot see.
God, I pray for the high school student who has been told “when they go to college” more times than they can count and all they really feel led to do, is go to a trade school or join the military. Would you guide them and give them the confidence to do what you have called them to do? Give their parents grace and peace as they trust you with their child.
God, I pray for the single person who is in a dating relationship with a person they know they don’t need to be with, because getting married is just the next thing they are supposed to do. Would you speak a worth and value over their lives that only You can? Give them the courage to live life single while you work out what is next for them, reminding them that while they are single they are not alone!
God, I pray for that couple who just found out they aren’t going to be able to have a baby naturally. Would you send people into their lives who know what that is like, those who know what to say, and would you shield them from those who would say hurtful things? Give them your vision for their family and how you always intended them to grow it. Give them the courage to create that family!
God I pray for the person who doesn’t know what to say to people they don’t fully understand, and if we’re honest with ourselves, Jesus, that’s all of us in some way, shape, or form. Would you give us your words to say? Would we think about the simple, everyday words we use and how they might land on the ears of someone who is vulnerable and hurting?
Holy Spirit, we love you. Thank you for empowering us to live this life, no matter what it may look like, well. It’s in your precious name I pray, Amen.
Well, Sweet Friend, we really did it today! I pray you were encouraged and strengthened by this and I really hope we’re still friends!
Until next time…
Thank you for being here.
Remember to take deep breaths.
God has got us!