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Why I’m Choosing to Stay Single This Season

Written By Shelley Pearl, New Zealand

The standard answer I have on hand whenever people inquire about my single status is that I have not met Mr Right.

Which is partly true, because at the moment, I have no idea where Mr Right might be. But the truth is, I promised myself I did not want to be involved with someone who would draw me further away from God. So, the season of singleness I am in right now is by choice.

When my ex-boyfriend broke up with me several years ago, I decided it was best to consciously spend the next few years of my life being single so I could mentally and emotionally heal before embarking on another relationship.

He was not a Christian, and while he respected my religion enough for me to attend and volunteer in church, he always showed a bit of resistance whenever I asked if he would go to church with me.

In a way, I was leading a double life when I went out with my ex. On one hand, I was worshipping God and reading the Bible, but on the other hand, I was unequally yoked with a non-believer (2 Corinthians 6:14).

At that time, I justified it by telling friends and acquaintances that I was not a religious fanatic, and besides, I have met Christians whose behaviour were a lot more deplorable than non-Christians. I concluded with much gusto that there was nothing wrong with dating a non-Christian.

When the inevitable happened between me and my ex-boyfriend, I was angry, but I also figured it was God’s way of saying He had enough with my double life.

Now, I am going to admit that staying single in this season has not been easy, and there are times when I have a little grizzle with God about why He would put suitable men before me, only for me to find out that they’re not Christians or even if they were, they were only Christian in name.

“It does seem a bit mean of you,” I told God, but I would soldier on as I did not want to go back to my old double life.

However, there was a period of time when I faltered and signed up on various online dating sites, thinking Mr Right was just one click away.

Because deep down, I do want to get married one day. I do want to have someone I can spend the rest of my life with—and the idea of still being single when I turn 50, surrounded by cats, is rather terrifying.

Eventually, I did find someone online, and things went rather well in the beginning. I thought he was smart and funny, and for a minute I thought, “Right, this is it! I have found someone!” He was not a Christian, and had told me he did not think the church should have any say in our personal lives.

But in my weak, flesh-centred moment, I thought, “Oh well, no one’s perfect.” Luckily for me, my dad saw signs that the guy was more than met the eye, and advised me against continuing with the relationship. So, to my dismay, I ended it.

By now you might be wondering, “Gee, why is she so fixated on not straying away from God? Surely God is able to call her back if she’s gone too far.”

But it is more than just having God call me back once I have strayed. For me, my relationship with God is a sacred one. I want to have an intimate relationship with God, which I felt was really hard to do when I was going out with someone who did not share the same faith.

For me, a person who says they “respect my religion” is nothing more than a spectator. They are happy for me to do my churchly activities, but their stance changes when it comes to my stand on pre-marital sex or co-habitation before marriage.

And can I honestly say I love God and seek His word if I am doing the direct opposite? I do not want to walk away from a God who loves with an everlasting love (Isaiah 54:8) and who has promised to meet my every need (Phillipians 4:19) for a man whose love for me might be superficial and fleeting.

Yes, God loves us even though we fall away, but I personally feel the damage done and the work needed to mend ourselves can be long and painful. It is a pain I would rather avoid on the outset.

I also believe God has my best interest at heart, and if His will for me is to get married, I trust He will provide me with the right person in due time.

And I imagine the spouse that He has for me will be a guy who truly loves God, someone who shows the fruit of the Spirit, such as love, kindness, forgiveness (Galatians 5:22-23).

He will also be someone who knows love is not the warm, fuzzy feelings we all feel at the beginning of a new, exciting relationship. Rather, he will be someone who perseveres in love, is not self-seeking or keeps no records of wrong (1 Corinthians 13:4-8), and he will love me as Christ loves the Church (Ephesians 5:25)

Having said that, I have also learned to accept that if God’s better plan for my life is to remain single, and to carry out His works like Paul did, preaching the Gospel to every part of the world, then I am also happy to be that vessel. Even if it means sacrificing the dream of walking down the aisle and spending my life with the person I love.

If you’re still single like me, maybe society and family pressures have you wanting to get hitched as soon as possible so you can start filling your social media feed with your engagement news, followed by wedding photos and snaps of your first child’s sonogram. But can I just encourage you in your season of singleness to really press in on God, to draw in closer to Him, and not trade this season for just any guy to fill an empty void. I want you to know that God’s best plan for you will be just that—simply the best, not a cheap substitute.

The Day I Stopped Hiding My Gift

Written By Shelley Pearl, New Zealand

 

“I look at your work and the intern’s, and I cannot see the difference between the two,” my former editor said.

Those were the last words I wanted to hear, especially since I had worked hard to be where I was. At that point, I had clocked in four years of working experience as a reporter, three of which was spent in a community newsroom writing about 100th birthdays and lost pets, but felt it was time to experience life as a hard news reporter.

I have always enjoyed reading and writing, so choosing a career in writing was an easy choice for me. By the time I was 12, I had my heart set on being a journalist. I started by writing short stories for my dad to read, and later wrote lengthy letters to pen-pals and friends. Writing got me through horrible days. It is my therapy, and I live for it.

When I was in high school, I chose journalism and English as two of my core subjects. I wrote everything from book reviews to reports on animal abuse for my school newspaper—sadly, only one article ever made it to my school’s newspaper. However, I was undeterred, and a story I read in a Times’ magazine on the treatment of women under the Taliban regime further cemented my desire to be a reporter. I wanted to shine a light on social injustices and human sufferings.

It was a journalism scholarship, with a year’s study and two years’ work in a newsroom, that secured my chance to be a reporter (my parents had wanted me to an accountant). I fastidiously went through the Pulitzer Prize list, reading award-winning stories, picturing myself covering in-depth stories for a big news organization such as the BBC, The Washington Post or The New York Times.

Therefore, once I had done about three years in a community newsroom, I decided if I were to one day report stories worthy of a prize, I’d have to move into a daily news environment.

When I first accepted the job in a daily news environment, I harbored hopes of being coached by senior reporters. I imagined my name listed on the annual media awards list for best feature story or best breaking news. I pictured covering stories on poverty, hunger, and struggles of the everyday person. I tacked the front page of The New York Times to my bedroom wall to keep my vision before me.

However, nothing like that came to pass. Instead, working life turned into a waking nightmare of painful meetings with my editors, battered self-confidence, and long evenings crying in cell group or alone in bed. Between being told that I wasn’t suited for a bigger newsroom (even though I thought I’d been doing a decent job covering different news stories), to being reprimanded for apparently overstepping a boundary in the way I handled a particular inquiry, to having all my grammatical or spelling mistakes magnified, I felt like a constant failure.

And any hope I had left was crushed that afternoon when my editor claimed my work was barely distinguishable from someone who wasn’t even a fully-fledged professional. Adding insult to injury, he also said I had only been hired to fill in the lack of ethnic minorities in the newsroom. It was as though the hard work I put in for other stories were forgotten.

I left his office with my tail between my legs, my emotions drained and my spirit broken.

Unwilling to let my superiors and my circumstances get the better of me, I hung on a little longer. It wasn’t until another reporter complained to my chief reporter about how she had to correct my mistakes on a daily basis that I realized I had to leave. What she was claiming was untrue and had the potential to damage my career.

By the time I resigned, I was completely broken and downtrodden. I swore I would never write again, and ignored all emails when a Christian organisation emailed to ask if I would contribute my writing skills.

I went into hiding for months, and refused to go near anything that resembled writing.

However, I was forced out of my hiding place when I attended my church’s annual leadership event. An American pastor, John Bevere, was the guest speaker.

He spoke on the Parable of The Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), about a master who had entrusted his servants with his property, and each were given talents according to their ability. While some of the servants used their talents wisely, one decided he would hide his. Needless to say, his master was very unhappy when he realised what his servant had done.

And what Pastor Bevere said next had me quaking: the master scolded the servant for being wicked, and took away his talent.

My heart went cold and I felt God’s voice booming right at me, saying the gift would not be returned once it was taken. I did not want to show up on Judgment Day only to have God tell me off for being a lazy, wicked servant. I promised God that I would no longer hide my gift.

The end of the sermon was the start of my venture back into writing. I emailed the Christian organization to say I’d be happy to contribute, and also contacted another organization to see how I could go about volunteering my writing skills.

Writing again has helped me overcome my insecurities of a failed writer. I was stunned when the first article I wrote for one of the organizations, a short 500-word piece, was declared ready to publish, without too many edits. Buoyed by the encouragement, I turned in my second piece, and by the third, was invited to join their panel of volunteer writers. I was especially delighted when my articles were translated to different languages for the organization’s various international sites. When I was a reporter, my sphere of influence was restricted to my local area, but I am now able to reach out to people in different countries.

While it’s not always easy giving up my weekends and evenings to write, I think of my articles touching the lives of readers who may be in need of a word of encouragement. Friends, even non-Christians, who read my articles online often said they felt they could relate my story, and a giant smile would spread across my face. It has also shown me that God is not done with my writing. While my journalism career may have gone up in smoke, God is able to use what is broken for His purpose.

My name may never be in the limelight. I may never win a Pulitzer Prize or any prestigious media awards, and I may never earn copious amounts of money as a writer. But I remind myself that I have been tasked by God to write and obeying Him carries a significance greater than any prize on earth.

The Day We Were Robbed

Written By Shelley Pearl, New Zealand

“I’ve to run. My flat . . . someone’s entered my flat. I must go,” I told my boss in a barely audible whisper.

I could hardly believe my ears when I received a phone call from my sister to say we had been robbed. We live in a very safe suburb, so to learn that our flat had been entered into was shocking. Questions raced through my head as I drove home on the motorway, barely registering the trucks and cars on the road.

I was certain that my computer, iPad, and laptop would have been filched. But when I pulled into the driveway and saw that nothing seemed out of the ordinary, I breathed a sigh of relief. “Maybe it’s not as bad as I thought it would be,” I thought.

But the nightmare began the moment I stepped into my unit. Initially, my mind refused to register what the eyes saw—the room was a mess. The burglars had gained access through my bedroom window; its security latches had been hacked in half.

Drawers had been emptied of their contents, and their contents were strewn all over the floor and on the bed. An armchair that used to sit next to my bedroom window was now in the middle of the room. The contents of my backpack were scattered all over the floor and my backpack was gone; the burglars had likely used it to take away their stash.

My year-old camera was gone as well, and the container I used to keep it in had been thrown underneath my bed. The other things in it had been taken too—my passport, a small sum of foreign currency, and a stack of coffee loyalty cards that resembled credit cards (no doubt the thieves would be disappointed upon discovering the cards were useless). Our electronics, however, were left intact. The desktop was presumably too heavy and the iPad was of an older model.

As my sister and I surveyed our flat, our heart sank with each step we took. Our walk-in cupboard was a wreck, and the burglars had pawed through our storage units, foraging through our winter wear. They had taken handbags, probably attracted by the faux diamonds on the bags. Our designer jewellery, given to us as birthday presents and at other important occasions, were also missing.

I was sad, angry, and devastated all at once. I was sad that I had lost my valuables, as I had worked hard to buy them. And I was so angry that there was someone out there who thought he could help himself to things that weren’t his. Growing up, we were taught not to take what wasn’t ours, so why was it OK for these people to do just that?

Exhaustion washed over us as we trawled through our unit; the rapidly cooling evening air blowing through my broken bedroom window was a reminder of how our little haven had been shattered, our privacy violated.

Still, we were thankful that no one was hurt and we still had each other.

As horrible as the incident was, it made me realize how fleeting our material possessions are. When I left for work that morning, our valuables were sitting in their respective places; in less than two hours, they had vanished without a trace.

The burglary made me see the truth in Jesus’ words about not storing our treasures on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal (Matthew 6:19). For the longest time, I had seen this verse as something that parents used to discourage children from desiring the newest and latest items their friends had.

Now, I saw how temporal our earthly possessions really were—here one minute, gone the next. A week or two after my camera was taken, the manufacturer announced the release of a newer model with added features. Really, there is no way of keeping up with the latest and greatest. And, to be honest, my life doesn’t feel any less without some of these items which I had bought thinking they would add value to my everyday existence.

Unfortunately, the police were unable to catch the culprits and closed the case. Meanwhile, our apartment has been fitted with alarm and CCTVs, and we are also looking to do grills for the windows.

When my sister’s workmates heard of the news, two of them swung by on a Saturday morning to help us tidy the flat. One of them brought her daughter to help, and they even brought us some food, knowing we would be too overwhelmed to think of cooking. We were moved by their readiness to give up their precious Saturday morning, when a text of “thinking of you” could have sufficed.

The incident reminded me of how Jesus told us to store our treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20), which I believe means investing in things that have everlasting value. The actions of my sister’s workmate showed me that these things include relationships. When we spend our time investing into the lives of others, be it helping someone who is going through a difficult time or taking the effort to befriend a lonely person, we are sowing treasures in heaven.

These treasures, unlike our earthly possessions, are safe from opportunists. For example, many years ago, a woman came up to me to say she remembered the time a group from my church had dropped by her house to help clean her place. But no one has ever come up to me to say they remembered a lovely dress or handbag I had. You see, I believe no one remembers what we own, but they remember what we have done for them.

Admittedly, it has been awhile since I have taken the time to sow into the lives of others. I cannot remember the last time I had intentionally invited a friend out for a lunch just to catch up. By the time the weekend rolls around, I’m so exhausted from working, swim training, and doing household chores, that all I really want to do is sit at home with a book. Imagine how many of my relationships have withered due to my lack of investment in them (I’m not keeping tabs because I don’t want to find out!)

It is so easy in our era of social media and endless consumerism to feel we need to have beautiful things for our life to be meaningful. While there is nothing inherently wrong in desiring nice things, I believe it must not be our end-all and be-all of life. I would be lying if I said the burglary completely wiped out my desire of owning nice, new things. No, I still love shopping, but these days, I am more mindful about what I invest in.

The burglary has showed me that the items I counted as precious were really quite mundane—photos of my friends and my family, my book collection, my wetsuit for ocean swims, and laughably, my newly bought pillows and duvets, which had cost me a fair bit. Yet, as these items had no resale value, the thieves had left them. I have learned that it’s not worth putting stock on material items, as they can disappear in the blink of an eye.

From now on, I’m going to work more on storing my treasures in heaven. I know, it does sound a bit dull not being able to show off your latest wears, but I believe when we quietly build a rich storehouse of good works, our reward in heaven will make any earthly possessions look like rags.