Charmaine Porter shares candidly with Michelle Hill how she has processed her own discontent with being single, and how the church has--or has not--been helpful in her struggle.
Charmaine Porter shares candidly with Michelle Hill how she has processed her own discontent with being single, and how the church has--or has not--been helpful in her struggle.
Michelle: Like many singles, Charmaine Porter has to overcome a certain perception from her well-meaning, married friends and family.
Charmaine: I will come back home to my home church, and they’ll ask me how I am doing. I’ll share: “The Lord is doing this, and I have had this opportunity. This is going on.” I end talking; and they say, “Well, we’re still praying for you to find a husband”—like I’m missing something: “You’re doing great. You would be doing better if you were married.”
Michelle: You know, sometimes, those well-meaning words or wishes can be received differently than they were intended and can contribute to discontentment in a single person’s heart. Today, we’re going to talk about reversing that discontentment on this edition on FamilyLife This Week.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. A couple of months ago, I met a young lady through Dannah Gresh. You may be familiar with Dannah a little bit. She’s a speaker, author. She’s also a founder of Secret Keeper Girl which is a ministry to young women. One of the young women who used to speak for Dannah was Charmaine Porter. Charmaine is full of life, and we became fast friends in just a couple of minutes; but it was because of commonality that we share in our singleness but also the struggle we have to remain content in what God has for us.
Charmaine: I first had to realize what was keeping me from being content. I think it was a misunderstanding of my singleness and of my relationship status. I never—from the word of God, I’ve never felt disqualified, never felt belittled or less than as a single person when it’s just me and Jesus—never ever felt that. But in the church, I have.
Charmaine: In the church, I’ve always felt like—“They think that something is missing because I’m not married.” So, I didn’t start to look at—“Oh, well, the church is the problem. The church is the problem.” I just started to get deeper into the root of—“Well, what does God actually say about it because He’s not making me feel that? So, what—not what are they misunderstanding—what am I, maybe, missing?” I wanted to get deeper—my roots to get deeper in the word and not just deeper in what people thought about my singleness.
Michelle: Which is a very mature reaction because I think a lot of singles—and I know I have fallen into this where you just sit there, and you think, “But these people imply that I’m less than.”
Charmaine: Yes. So—
Michelle: So, all of the sudden, I am less than. I remember leaving church many times going—“Aww”—and even times leaving work here at FamilyLife going—“I’ve missed the mark, God.”
Charmaine: Yes; don’t get me wrong, Michelle. I’ve definitely felt that—definitely felt that—but I have a lot of friends that would say, “Well, I don’t believe in Jesus anymore,” or “I don’t go to church anymore because”—insert the problem with the people.
Charmaine: I totally get that—totally get that—but I could have done the same thing; and you know—“Well, the problem is church. Now, I’m mad at the church.” Well, let’s just go back to—“What does the one who made the church—what are we actually supposed to be living towards and living for?”
Even as I was mentioning earlier, I think that has also helped me, then, get to—there just needs to be reeducation. It’s, maybe, no one’s fault. There’s just been mis-teaching / misleading; and we’ve got to get back to what the Bible actually saying because that’s going to benefit all of us—the singles and the married and the church in general.
Michelle: Right; yes. So, as you started digging and listening to Christ and Himself alone and not, as I said, the horizontal / the people who are talking—as you’re listening to God and focusing on His word, what did you find?
Charmaine: I first found that singleness is a gift.
Michelle: It is a gift I want returned.
Charmaine: Right. Okay; okay. You know what is funny? When I actually was able to do a talk, Dannah Gresh, her ministry—they do a sexual theology workshop masterclass. She asked me to talk about singleness because singles are in the church; and even if you’re married, God forbid, if your spouse dies before you do, then you’re going to be single again; you know?
Michelle: That’s true.
Charmaine: That’s true for my father. He had the gift of marriage for 10 years with my mom; and now, for the last, 20 plus years, he’s had the gift of singleness; you know? So, we need to be able to talk about this. So, I definitely dove into my research then. What I found was that kharisma is the Greek word for gift and Paul makes a distinction between spiritual gifts, like prophesying or teaching or serving—he makes a distinction between those and just I would say, like, objective gifts which would be eternal life or singleness or marriage.
On those objective gifts, it’s either you have the gift or you don’t. Like, either you have eternal life, or you don’t have eternal life; either you have the gift of singleness, or you don’t; either you have the gift of marriage, or you don’t.
What also got me is that the Holy Spirit—because those gifts come from God—the Holy Spirit is the one that is needed to, like, help us understand those gifts. He’s the one that empowers those gifts. So, for that gift of—if I just keep it as a gift, like, a birthday gift—like if I just leave it on the table or I say, “I don’t want it. I’m not even going to open it. I don’t even care what it is; or I do open it, and I put it in the back of a closet. Then that is just a very—like a gift is also a passive—it could almost be like a passive thing.
Charmaine: But if we understand that, the gift needs to be opened and, inside of it, is a tool—a tool to be used / a tool to be discovered. It’s a tool to understand, and it’s all for the purpose of giving God glory.
So, I think that’s the first thing that I started to really dig into and really started to say, like—“I want to open up this gift of—this is the gift You’ve given me. Sometimes, yes, Lord, I do want to return it. Sometimes, I do just want to kick it to the curb, put it in the back of my closet; but I was made for Your glory. That was made to do. If this is the gift that You’ve given me, then help me to open this up and understand the tool that You’ve given me to use as a single person.”
Michelle: Yes; and the tool that can be used so that others who are glorifying God; but others are watching us, and others are saying, “Hey, if she’s happy”—
Michelle: —“if she’s content”—
Charmaine: Yes; yes.
Michelle: —“how do I get that?”
Charmaine: How do I get that? I work with students right now in between—they are like 17 to 21 years old. All of them, at this moment in time, have the gift of singleness—all of them because they are not married. That, even, has to be a reeducation of how we even talk about that.
I think when we say the gift of singleness, sometimes, unintentionally, we can stamp people and be like—“Well, you have the gift of singleness now, and you’ll have it forever.” It’s not true. It’s not true. If I am single, then I have the gift of singleness. If I’m married, then I have the gift of marriage. Both of them are gifts. Both of them are equal. Both of them are needed.
Right now, my students—they all have the gift of singleness, and I hope that they are able to look at me—and my counterpart at my job—he is married—he and his wife have a baby, actually, and I hope that they are able to see the body of Christ needs both.
Charmaine: We need people that are married. We need people that have kids. We need, also, need people that are single. We need both of them. It works best when we’ve got both of them. I didn’t say that. The Bible says that. [Laughter]
Michelle: It does work better, and I was reading an excerpt from Rosaria Butterfield’s latest book. When she was talking about single women and singles, she was saying that small groups need to have everyone in them.
Michelle: Single women don’t need more single women. Married people don’t need more married people.
Michelle: We need to have a mixture—
Michelle: —of everyone so that we can be learning, and we can be caring for the body in a better way.
Michelle: So, what else should we be doing? I’m not saying we need to be on this crusade; but just how else can we softly be influencing that singleness is good?
Charmaine: Yes. I think, honestly, Michelle, the first thing that is coming to mind right now is letting God define things for us / letting Him define. He is teaching me this. It’s not like God is like—“I’m not giving this to you. So, how dare you continue to desire this?” I don’t think that He is like that because that would go against His character of being a good father. I don’t think He is like that.
I think He’s definitely—“Tell Me about it. Talk to Me about how hard it is. Tell Me how it’s hard to be in a small group or in a life group with other married people when that’s what you want. Tell Me about that. Invite Me into that. Invite Me into—‘I have made you a human, and your hormones work.’”
Charmaine: “Tell Me about those lonely nights. Tell Me about that. Tell Me about those longings of wanting physical intimacy with a man or with a woman. Tell Me about that. Invite Me into that. I’m the God who sent My Son to die.” He rose again so that we could have that kind of intimacy with each other. So, let Him define our idea of good, our idea of family, our idea of even intimacy with Him / intimacy with the body of Christ.
As a single person, I’m learning how to have intimacy with the body of Christ. I’m learning how to do that, and it’s hard. As a single person, I’m also realizing that—“Man, what if I was married? We would have some problems in the intimacy department?” Not in the—I mean I don’t know—physical—but I’m talking more emotionally—
Charmaine: —and mentally. I’m learning how to let someone into my heart, and I’m learning how to do that; you know? I didn’t need to be married to learn how to do that. I think that when we say, “This will happen when I get married,” or “That will happen when I get married,” or “I’ll receive this when I get married,” then we’re like—we are choosing to withhold; we’re choosing to put our hands up against heaven and say, “No, no; the time is not now,” when heaven is like—“Actually, it is. I don’t need you to have this relationship status to have these things. They are here for you to have now.”
It’s not all things. There are some things that I won’t experience because I am single. It’s not all things, but I’m going to let heaven / I’m going to let God define that, not me.
Michelle: I know, as a single, it has taken me a while in my years—I’m a few years older than you. We’ll just leave it at that. [Laughter] I’ve noticed how as I get older and older, I’m realizing I need that intimacy. I need those deep friends. God may not provide a husband for me—
Michelle: —and that’s what I’ve been waiting for to have some deep intimacy. There has been a feeling of—“Somethings not full in my heart yet.” Even though I’ve asked God to fill my heart with Him, there is something that’s kind of missing; but when we look in His word we realize that two are better than one. That’s not just in marriage. That’s in relationships too. That’s in friendships.
Michelle: That’s in others who are looking around and going—“I can help hold you up right now.”
Michelle: “I can help encourage you.”
Michelle: Also, us, looking at others, going—“I need to be encouraging that person. I need to be Christ to that person.”
Charmaine: Yes. That’s getting back to letting the Bible define how the body of Christ works and how spiritual family works and how intimacy works. You’re letting the Bible define it, not our culture, not our even interpretation of Scripture; but what does the Bible actually say? What does it actually say?
Michelle: You know, Charmaine, as we’re talking, I’m remembering a picture that I received from my mom just two weeks ago of all of my doll babies that I had received from the time I was a year—when I first received Pink Baby—that’s the only name of those babies that remember.
Charmaine: Pink Baby. [Laughter]
Michelle: Pink Baby was very well loved and very well dirtied and very—I remember her was matted.
Charmaine: Oh, yes.
Michelle: She went with me everywhere. She got dragged through mud puddles.
Charmaine: Oh, man.
Michelle: She ended up in a horse yard with me. She ended up everywhere with me. My mom—and I think it was just—it’s how her mom raised her—
Michelle: —but my mom was always like—“One day, you will have your very own Pink Baby.” So, I grew up just thinking, “Okay, God, that will be the next step.”
Michelle: But as I look back and as I’m watching my friends raise their children—
Michelle: —and hearing those same promises—“Well, one day, you will be a mommy”—
Michelle: —or even on Facebook, “I’m raising knights who are going to be great husbands,” I just kind of cringe a little bit at that because it’s been very hard for me to not allow those promises to become idols.
That’s Part One with my conversation with Charmaine Porter, and we need to take a break; but in two minutes when we come back, Charmaine and I continue to talk about idols, contentment, and discontentment. Stay tuned.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. Today, we are talking with Charmaine Porter about singleness and moving from discontentment to contentment. Here’s Part Two of my conversation with Charmaine.
Charmaine: We don’t reach contentment in anything without Jesus. I can’t reach that on my own. I can’t bear knuckle it. I can’t force myself to do that. We miss that Philippians 4:13, in the Bible, is actually quoted as “I can do all things through Christ” in the context of contentment. Paul’s not talking about running your race. He’s not talking about hitting a baseball harder or faster or further.
Charmaine: He’s talking about being content. I can do all things. I can be content through Christ. If we try to reach contentment in and of ourselves, it won’t happen. It’s a gift. It’s something that has to be empowered by the Spirit / by the Lord. I’ve experienced Him so very much wanting to help me do that. I’ve experienced some really, really beautiful moments with Him and Him helping me with that.
If singleness is what I have to—I say, “Have to endure” / to have to bear with a gift that I have to discover and have a hold of in order to get that, I’m okay with that. I really am. I’ve told the Lord that—“Lord, that desire is still there. I’m totally okay if you give me that gift of marriage. I really, really am; but if it means exchanging this intimacy I have with You, I think I would have a hard time with that. I think I really would.”
My mom even said that when she married my dad—my dad says this story a lot—that they were married. She was like—“You’ve gotten in between me and Jesus. I don’t know how I feel about that.” [Laughter]
Michelle: Have you and your dad had good discussions around singleness now that he has been single for quite a while?
Charmaine: Yes and no; yes and no. My mom, I believe, was my dad’s soul mate; you know? I don’t use that term lightly at all; but she was exactly what my dad needed / what the Lord had for both of them. Unfortunately, they only had ten years of marriage.
I do know that when I was growing up, remembering seeing how they were together, and then seeing my dad without her. I remember telling my dad—I was like—“I would just much rather not be married / not ever have that kind of love / ever have that kind of experience and then have it taken away.” My dad so lovingly—he was like—“I get that Charmaine. I get how that looks and how—I can imagine how you would think it would feel, but I’m actually praying the opposite.” He’s like—“I’m praying that if it be the Lord’s will that you would be able to experience that kind of love and that kind of intimacy.”
Michelle: What is something that people say to you that you wish was reframed?
Charmaine: I think it’s the comment that I get—usually, I’ll go home to my home church / the church that I grew up in; and I mean I’ve been in church since I was fetus. I’ve been in church my whole life. I grew up knowing Jesus just well as I knew my parents, kind of thing. I got saved when I was six.
Michelle: He was your first word.
Charmaine: Exactly; exactly. So, these people—they know me. They know me. They’ll throw—“Oh, baby”—at me. I’ll come back home to my home church, and they’ll ask me how I’m doing.
I’ll share—I’m like—“The Lord is doing this. I’ve had this opportunity. This is going on.” They’ll listen; and it seems like—maybe, it’s just my experience of them—but it seems like their eyes are really excited. Then, they kind of just glaze over; and I end talking, and they say, “Well, we’re still praying for you to find a husband. We’re still praying for that.” [Laughter] I’ve gotten mad about that. I’ve gotten sad about that. I’ve gotten depressed about that. I’ve had all the emotions of it because it happens frequently.
Michelle: I start questioning whether or not God’s answering their prayers.
Charmaine: Right; right. It’s like—“Well, Lord, if they are praying, then what—that clock, Jesus? What’s going on up there?” You know? I wish that they could know on my end what I experience when I hear that / when I hear that response back after I’ve shared all of what the Lord is doing and all of what I’m enjoying in life. It seems like they are question back is saying, “You’re doing great. You would be doing better if you were married.” Their comment back to me seems like I’m missing something—that there is no way that I could be content.
Michelle: That’s good.
Charmaine: I would also encourage these conversations of—“Could it be possible that the Lord’s will isn’t for everyone to get married?” There are a lot of assuming that we put on comments like—“When you get married” or “When you have kids.” There is a lot of assumption that we put on that. So, just change that word when to if—just something as simple as if: “If you get married….”
People tell me too all the time like—“You’re great with kids. That will come in handy when you get married”; or I could just be good with kids. Hey, that’s awesome because kids like you, I bet.
Charmaine: That’s cool; you know?
Michelle: That’s one of your gifts; you know?—pointing that out. Hey, God has given you this great gift of being able to work with kids.
Charmaine: Yes; I see God on that. That’s wonderful.
Someone mentioned, “Whoa, you do your own taxes. That’s cool. Your husband is going to really appreciate that”; or I’m just a good citizen of the country that I live in, and I’m able to take care of myself; you know? My sister—she mentioned—she’s like—“If I have kids, I’m going to teach my boys how to cook. It’s not because I want them to do anything for their wife. It’s just you’re human, and I want you to be able to take care of yourself when you get older.” I was like—“Yes! Sarah, that’s the way”; you know?
Michelle: That’s exactly it; yes.
Michelle: What is another way—or what are some ways that the church could really help singles?
Charmaine: I’m a part of a life group down in Southwest Georgia where I live, and I love my life group because there are married people, there are single people, there are older people, there are new believers, there are old believers—new and older in the faith. The diversity of it is absolutely amazing. White people, black people—it’s just—it’s beautiful. You get a beautiful, beautiful picture—not just how heaven is going to be but how heaven can be brought down to earth now: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” That could happen now.
Charmaine: We see a picture of, I think, God’s goal and idea of what His body / what He wants His body to look like when we have singles, when we have marrieds, when we have people with kids / people without kids, when we have older / younger. When we just have that diversity, we see—“Man, we need all of this to work and to do what the Lord is asking us to do here on this earth which is to bring His glory.”
So, you mentioned this earlier—have single events / events just for singles because there are certain things that, maybe, singles just understand.
Don’t just, like, put them out on the pasture kind of thing. Then, when you have those meetings with just singles, for all that is good and holy, please try not to make it just a dating service. Oh, my goodness—there is just so much pressure that comes with that. It just ends up being awkward. It doesn’t help with the—my brother, you are an image bearer. You are not here to affirm me of being enough. Like, I’m woman enough with and without you.
Charmaine: —I am complete in Christ with and without you. I love you. You’re an image bearer, not an ego booster. I think unintentionally we set people up for those kinds of things—
Charmaine: —when we do that. Then, please do your due diligence to teach what the Bible actually says. I hate to think that we’re setting people up to be discontented and even angry with God because we’re teaching that God is promising things that He never promised. His promises are good in and of themselves. We don’t have to twist them or stretch them to make them good. They are—they just are. So, teach what they say.
We don’t want to disappoint people. I get that. I don’t want to disappoint people, but the best way for me to believe that I’m not disappointing people is to stand firm on the word of God. It’s hard. I’m not saying that I’m excellent and that I do it all the time. It’s very, very hard.
Michelle: It is hard.
Charmaine: Someone who does this well, I believe, is Jackie Hill Perry. She just has this beautiful gift it seems like of just saying what the word of God says, and I follow her on Instagram. I’m like—“She said what?!” She’s like—“This is what the word of God says, and I’m not going to apologize for it.” I think that’s what we need to get back to what the word actually says because that’s how we’re going to help people. That’s how we’re going to reeducate. That’s how we’re going to, like, get people who are more about God’s glory than about a relationship status.
Michelle: That was my conversation with Charmaine Porter, and just as Charmaine was saying that’s what life is all about—it’s getting back to the word. It’s not about a status. It’s not about a status on Facebook or Instagram or wherever else we happen to think it lies. It’s about getting back to the word.
You know over the last several months we’ve been talking about discontentment. Today, we’re talking about contentment in singleness; but we’ve also talked about contentment in marriage and in parenting. We’ll have a link to those broadcasts on our website. That’s at FamilyLifeThisWeek.com. There is also a great article there to help married friends understand how to help the singles in their life. It’s a great article by a young single writer here on staff. That’s at FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
I have a question for you. How often do you clear your conscience? Do you really ever need to clear your conscience? We’re going to explore the freedom of a clear conscience before God and others and hear from Erwin Lutzer and other great Bible thinkers. Hope you can join us for that. That’s next week on FamilyLife This Week.
Hey, thanks for listening! I appreciate you taking time out of your day to—well, I won’t say, “Listen to me ramble on,” because Charmaine Porter had some really good points to make; but I want to thank you for listening. I want to thank the President of FamilyLife, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, Bruce Goff. Thanks to our producers, Marques Holt and Bruce Goff. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator, and Meredith Empie is our production intern.
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