A Word to Singles
About the Guest
Is singleness a gift? Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks to Ben Stuart, director of Breakaway Ministries, about embracing the season of life that you find yourself in, whether single or married. Hear how the Lord lead Ben to the woman who would eventually become his wife.
Ben StuartBen Stuart is the pastor of Passion City Church, Washington D.C. Prior to joining Passion City Church, Ben served for eleven years as the executive director of Breakaway Ministries, a weekly Bible study attended by thousands of college students on the campus of Texas A&M. Ben earned a master’s degree in historical theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. Ben and his wife, Donna, live to inspire and equip people to walk with God for a lifetime. They live in the District with their three k...more
Is singleness a gift?
A Word to Singles
Ben: I love the gift of marriage. I'm pro that, I love my wife, I can't want to see her, but I am able to look back at those years I was single, and I realize I had a lot I needed to learn about myself, some of the things about my family and how that's affected me, who God is. I did so much growing and developing as a human being in a single year that I get to praise God for them now in a fresh way that I just didn't appreciate them when I was in them.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, January 1st. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. There is a difference between being single and content and being single and thankful.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition, Happy New Year to you. We're going to talk today about relationships on campus. Did you see the e-mail from the guy who wrote to us and said, "Huh-uh, I don't agree."
We had a program, and someone on our program had been talking about the gift of singleness, you know, using that phrase out of 1 Corinthians, chapter 7, and …
Dennis: He didn't believe there was a gift?
Bob: This person says "I don't think it's a gift of singleness."
Dennis: What does he think it is.
Bob: Well, I think he is single, and it just doesn't feel like a gift to him. He talked about the biblical language and got into some of that, but he just said, "I don't think we can really think of singleness as a gift. It sure doesn't feel like a gift. It feels more like a curse."
Dennis: Well, let's talk about that a bit.
Bob: All right.
Dennis: Let's talk about that with our guest on FamilyLife, Ben Stuart. Ben, welcome back to our broadcast. You've been with us before.
Ben: It's good to be here, thank you very much.
Dennis: You speak to singles. You have a little Bible study that you lead at Texas A&M with a number of college students there, having about anywhere from 3,500 to 5,000 single people attending each week. You don't have any married people coming to that, do you?
Ben: A few, very few.
Bob: And the subtitle for the Bible study is "Looking for Love in all the Right Places?" Is that right? It's just basically a place where singles come and hang out and try to find a boyfriend or a girlfriend.
Ben: Every now and again we're called "Babe Away," which we don't own that title.
Dennis: Instead of "Break Away?"
Ben: Instead of "Break Away." But we certainly don't sanction that type of [inaudible].
Dennis: I listened to a message that you gave at Break Away about the gift of being single.
Ben: [from audiotape.] Paul, in 1 Corinthians 7, is going to talk about being single – the situation in life where you are not married. And listen to what he's going to call it in verse 7, he says, "I wish all men that were even as I myself am, that is not married." And he says, "However, each man has his own gift from God – one in this manner, one in the other."
Now, what has Paul just called being single? A gift, right? That's a gift some of us are praying we're not going to get when we're 30, right? "What's this – singleness stinks, Dad," all right? We're kind of like no, all right, you don't want that one, okay?
Dennis: Do you believe that Paul taught in 1 Corinthians, chapter 7, that the state of being single was, indeed, a gift from God. Now, we have to view it that way, don't we? Otherwise, what are we going to call it?
Dennis: I mean, if you're going to view marriage, when you get married, as your spouse being a gift from God, then how are you going to view the state of being single? You have to view it in the hand of God as well.
Bob: And you were single yourself until you were 27, 28?
Ben: Twenty-eight, that's right.
Bob: So you had a little time, post college, to enjoy the gift of singleness.
Bob: Did it feel like a gift to you?
Ben: It did. I absolutely loved being single. That always sounds like a knock against my wife, but it's not. I love being married, but I strongly feel that, man, God guides our life from start to finish. He knows what He has for us, and His plans for us are good. And so I felt like, "Lord, I want to be married. I don't feel that you owe that to me, but I'll enjoy it if you give it to me."
And so I saw this – it would absolutely a gift. There's no sense in me of obligation, like, I want to be married so you're obligated. I knew that if he wants me to be married, He will. I felt that He brought along the circumstances for that, and the relationship, in its due time, and I just celebrate the way He did it.
But He did give me a long time after college – well, for me, maybe it felt like a long time after college. Some people would disagree with me. But through experience, walking with Him while I was single, and everything Paul talks about in that passage in Corinthians I experienced. That unencumbered ability to run and do great amounts of ministry and not have to be concerned with some of the concerns that come with being married. It was a wonderful time.
Bob: If we're going to talk about this with any credibility, the singles who are listening are going to want to know kind of your history, your circumstance, whether there's something wrong with the way you look, or – you know, I mean, these are the kinds of questions. If somebody's going to talk to them, they just want to know …
Dennis: Why he was single at 28?
Bob: Yeah, why you wound up single at 28. Did you have a girlfriend in college?
Ben: I did, I did.
Bob: Did you think you were going to marry her?
Ben: I did not, no, and so …
Bob: So, at the time, it was recreational dating you were doing?
Ben: Well, no, it was investigative.
Bob: Not recreational – investigative dating.
Ben: Right. So it was at the end of college and …
Bob: You guys broke up at the end of college?
Ben: We did, we did. We made it out of college and a couple of weeks into it just realized, you know, "I don't think we're wired to live together forever," but the upshot of that relationship was – and I didn't do every relationship I was ever in this way, and I lament a number of them, but with this girl, early on we decided, you know, there's – we're attracted to each other. Let's pursue getting to know one another, and when we decided to move that way, we were sitting at a table like this one, and I said, "We need to talk," and we sat across the table, and I said, "Okay, what are your goals in terms of who you want to be before God and what does purity look like for you if we're going to start getting into a relationship that could be moving in a direction that would become romantic?"
And she just gave me a list of things she wanted to see happen in her life, and I gave her mine, and we really came together and said, "Okay, here's certain things we'll never do." Like, for her, she said, "I never want to lay down to watch a movie with you." She said I know trouble starts there. I said, "All right, we'll never do it."
And then we decided at other times, "Hey, let's just not be alone together for an extend period of time. If we want to go to a movie, we'll do it with some buddies. If we want to spend time with just the two of us, we'll do it in a public place like a coffeeshop."
Bob: So you did it the way most kids do it. You kind of – that's the standard way.
Ben: Yeah, just A, B, C, D …
Bob: Sit down and say, "What's our list going to be and how are we going to respect each other's purity."
Bob: That is so counter-cultural what you're talking about.
Bob: Let me tell you what I would be thinking if I had been you. College is over, and I've been dating this girl – in the back of my mind would be this thought – "If we're not getting married, the two of us, and college is over, I don't know where you find anybody." You know what I mean?
Ben: Oh, yeah.
Bob: There would be this panic, "If I let loose of this, I don't know that I'll ever be able to find somebody," because now you're going to some environment where it's not like college where you're around single women every day. Did you have that thought?
Ben: I did and, you know, for me, and this came from advice and counsel and friendships – I just decided I have to look at my life and say, "Okay, I've got to feel what I'm going to feel and acknowledge that. My emotions are saying this, I'm emotionally here," but then really look at the data of my experience and say, "I've got to excel at the revealed." That's the statement I kept saying to myself, "Excel at the revealed," which is …
Bob: What do you mean by that?
Ben: I mean the revealed word of Scripture, and so I know I have no idea where God is going to take my life. If you'll let me get married, how long I'll be married, He doesn't owe me anything in that sense. I have no idea. But all I know is …
Ben: Yeah, where the writer of Ecclesiastes goes. He says, "All I know is to fear God and keep His commandments." And so I said, "Okay, who is this girl? She's not wife," then Paul gives one name for a Christian girl who is not wife – sister. He said treat her as a younger sister with absolute purity.
Okay, that's my job, she's a Christian, what else does Scripture say about her? Spur one another on towards lovingly deeds, and so I just tried to follow a biblical model with this girl, and the further we did that, we just saw emotionally we weren't connecting in a way that either of us thought would be conducive to marriage.
Bob: And was it one of those "both of us agreed" at the end of college?
Ben: We did, and it was really difficult. I mean, we both cried about it, we were both sad about it, but we both saw that, and our community saw that, and that was helpful, too, that this just isn't a fit.
But the wonderful upshot, and I don't take credit for it. I think, like I said, our communities really helped us. Because there was that level of purity, I met the guy she married a year ago, and could look him in the eye and shake his hand and say, "You're marrying an incredible human being," and I'm seeing their life come together, and they fit, and I get to celebrate that, and go, "That was in the mind of God 10 years ago, I didn't see it, but I knew He had some kind of plan, and there it is, and look at it. And I love my wife, and he loves his wife," and …
Bob: When the two of you went your separate ways, how long was it that you were out of any kind of special relationship with somebody of the opposite sex?
Ben: I made up my mind in college to not seek a mate, and it was the same situation that I felt like, you know, excel at the revealed. Jesus said, "Seek first the kingdom," and all these concerns, and He listed off a few, they'll be added to you. And so in my mind, I thought I need to seek Him and excel at the things He's calling me to, and I'll let Him worry about the details. So I didn't actively pursue dating, really, many points in my life and, particularly, after that relationship ended, when I got into my youth ministry, I was so passionate about my life being channeled towards the work of the kingdom, I wasn't really looking to date, and …
Dennis: So how did you handle all of the parents who said, "Hey, Ben, I've got this friend I want to fix you up with."
Ben: You know what? They would do that to my junior high pastor. I hired a guy, and everybody's cousin, niece, I mean, he was getting them all the time …
Dennis: But not you?
Ben: No. And we were wondering about that, we're like what happened? And he was, like, "Ben, do you not catch it? You put the vibe out, man." He was, like, "I remember, you had two people say, 'You need to meet my niece, she's amazing,'" and you just kind of looked at them.
Dennis: If that's the way you looked at them …
Bob: Stared them down, huh?
Ben: And he was, like, people got the hint. You're not shopping, you're not open for business, and I was, like, "I’m not adverse to dating. I'm just not chasing it.
Bob: So did you go four or five years without a girlfriend?
Ben: Yeah, I didn't date out of college. And not because like I’m not going to date, dating is evil. I just thought, "Man, I've got a mission that's compelling."
Bob: Excel at the revealed.
Bob: Okay, so tell me about those five years. There had to be those nights you're in your apartment or your place going, "Okay, this plan of mine to excel at the revealed really stinks."
Ben: Right. What helped me the most, I was working at a church at the time. It was a church plant, and so I was the first hire of this pastor, and he and I became good friends, and he hired a staff where we all became good friends and, at that point in my life, I discovered what community was. I had buddies, but I had never had community like that where we're hanging out at someone's house, and all being straight, honest about our lives, laughing about them, some of them had little kids, and so their kids know me, I'm a part of their kids' process. Some of us – people are younger than me, some older, and I found such satisfaction in having this family of Christians, and what was so motivating about it was we were this community with a purpose, with a cause.
And that was satisfying and filling, and I certainly did long for – to marry someone, but I just didn't feel that that person was in my sphere, and so I concentrated on some good friendships, and there was a couple of other single guys that we became good buddies, and so if we wanted to go see a movie, we'd just go with the guys or with a community of us that were guys and girls.
And that really – a lot of the emotional needs were met there.
Bob: And I think that's so key. I think you've hit on something. I think so many singles today who are longing for the right person, longing for marriage, they're really longing for relationship, they're so isolated from any relationship, and they're expecting the guy or the girl to be everything and, Dennis, that paves the way for disaster later on.
Dennis: No doubt about it. Because you set that other person up to be God, and, really, it's back to what we've said many times here on our broadcast. It's not a matter of finding the right person, it's a matter of becoming the right person, and the way you're going to become a right person is to lead a life that's got balance to it.
And you're never going to find balance in isolation. You're going to find a lot of lies, you're going to find voices trying to convince you of certain things about yourself where you'll further implode.
I've heard some of your teaching that you've done at Break Away, that large Bible study of almost 5,000 students at Texas A&M where you –
Bob: Woop, woop.
Dennis: There you go.
Bob: I'm trying to throw my woop in there.
Dennis: I knew I was going to get that. Where you were talking with them, though, about how being single was a gift, and you used an illustration about Christmas that I want you to share with our listeners because we have a ton of single listeners who listen faithfully to FamilyLife Today and, Bob, you know, we get the letters, and they're not always negative like the one you described. A lot of them are very positive because they're saying, "Thank you for recognizing we're out here and providing a bible perspective."
Ben: The illustration was from childhood of when I was a little kid, we would go Christmas – we called it "the love triangle." We would always drive to one grandma's house, then the other's, and then back home every Christmas, and that was kind of the drill.
We sort of had a country grandma and a city grandma was, roughly, how it shook down and, typically, country grandma's gifts were always a little off. They didn't really connect with where we were as kids, and so they were like – I remember one year it was, like, a white sweatshirt with a big picture of a deer, I mean, across the entire front of the chest and we're like, "Are you kidding me?" I'm in high school. Where am I going to wear this huge white sweater with a big deer.
Dennis: I had a country grandma who gave toothbrush and toothpaste. I would have traded it for that deer.
Ben: Some people might have really cool deer sweatshirts, you might be out there and yours is rocking and work it, but this one was not. And that was kind of the way it played out. But city grandma always made up for it. We would go to her house and, typically, she had some toys for us that we could play with that day, and that was pretty cool.
But there was one Christmas that was particularly strange, because we went to country grandma's house expecting socks or something like that and got a slingshot, and it was the kind that had the wristguard, I mean, it straps to your arm. This is legit. I mean, it has pictures of the animals they anticipate you should be killing on the box.
Dennis: Yeah, now we're talking.
Bob: It doesn't matter what age you are, you can be 25 and that slingshot works from country grandma.
Ben: Fantastic, and so we were pretty pumped up about that and went to city grandma's house and we thought, "Man, this is the year. If country grandma rolled out, city is going to be unbelievable." And so we showed up at her place and opened an envelope, and it just said, "Congratulations, you're an owner of "x" amount of stock in "y" company," and we were, like, "What is this?" I mean, we were junior high kids, like, what is stock?
They see the confusion on our face, and they're, like, "Well, this is money that will be more money later," and we're like neat, great, can I have some money now to go buy something cool? What is this.
Bob: Where's the real present?
Ben: Yeah, right, I mean, I don't get it. Good for that. So that was kind of this weird flip side, but a couple of months later back home playing with the slingshot, my brother's ended up breaking, he stole mine, shot me with a penny that cut my arm, I still have the scar, and so the slingshot became a real source of pain in my young life. It's still a tender subject, but the stock, man, Dennis and I were laughing about it when I went to seminary, just kind of peeked back into how that was doing, and it had, indeed, went from a little bit of money to quite a bit of money and …
Dennis: Helped pay your way to graduate school.
Ben: Exactly, and so what didn't look like a gift at one part of my life, when I looked at it later, it was an enormously valuable gift. I just wasn't at the emotional place to treasure it when I got it, and that's how I think singleness can come across sometimes. I mean, someone say to me, "And God gave me the gift of singleness," Paul calls it the gift, and you're like "Thanks, singleness, yay, God, appreciate you."
Dennis: Stock, stock, what good is this stock to a 13-year-old?
Ben: Yeah. But for me– and I'll tell you the surprise for me, those years I was single, I realized I had a lot I needed to learn about myself, how I was wired, some of the things about my family and how that's affected me, who God is. I did so much growing and developing as a human being in those single years that I get to praise God for them now in a fresh way that I just didn't appreciate them when I was in them.
And I love the gift of marriage, I'm pro that, I love my wife, I can't wait to see her later today, and I love it, but I am able to look back at what I perceived to be the gift of singleness and praise God for it and just thank Him for those years.
Bob: Okay, for a guy who has been functioning in healthy community and who has basically said, "You know, I'm not going to get distracted. I'm going to focus on the revealed, that's going to be the thing." What causes a guy like that to go, "Hang on, just a second, we may have a caller on the line. We may have – something may have just happened to change the agenda." How did that happen?
Ben: You know, it was funny because I was getting at a place where I was about to hand off my youth ministry. The church understood my longing for seminary, they got behind that, and we had – I had been able to train up a guy that I was going to hand it off to, and so we were at this time in life where – anytime in life I was just not interested in marriage. Things were clicking, I'm about to hand off this ministry that I love. I'm shopping for a seminary somewhere in the country I want to go to, and dating was nowhere on my horizon. Things are rocking along, and what God is doing in my life, and I went to go speak at an event, and there was a band up front, and there was a girl playing, and it was literally like the arrow found the one chink in the armor. You know, I just looked up, and it was, like, boom, I just got hit with an emotional response to this human being onstage, and I was like "What was that?"
And I was trying to play it off, like, "Lord, I don't have time for a girl, forget it," but I found myself, even though I said that, gravitating towards her at dinner and conversating with her, and after that asked her if I could call her and after that asked if I could call her again and then see her, and I was sort of like "I can't believe I'm doing this," but …
Bob: Was it like something just took over your body and you couldn't help yourself?
Ben: No, I wouldn't say it was – it wasn't just like lust or something after this girl. I don't know what it was, man. I mean, it was kind of a – and I don't know if it always plays out that way, I don't think it has to, but I know, for me, it was – I felt like, and I'll use that way so I'm not making any grand statement about God speaking to me in a really scary way, but I felt like God just grabbed my head and said, "Look at this girl," and I just saw a depth of beauty to this human being that I just couldn't ignore, couldn't stop thinking about, and I took it to my community. I'm like am I crazy?
Dennis: Just to summarize what you've said here, Ben. Number one, trust the giver and receive the gift. In other words, stop pushing away from the giver of good gifts and embrace the gift He's given you today.
Secondly, embrace community because we all need relationships whether we're single or married. Everybody needs to relate to someone outside of themselves, outside of their marriage and, third, get your eyes off yourself and out on the Great Commission. Christ commanded us to go and make disciples, and I think one of the greatest needs of single people today is to take a look at their lives at how they are involved in the Great Commission. Are they making disciples in all nations?
Bob: Oh, so it's not go and meet disciples, it's go and make disciples?
Dennis: There, there you have it, no doubt about it.
Ben: And the beauty of the New Testament is we have great examples of how to live your single life. I mean, you can look at Paul and not just read his words but look at his life. That's a great single life. That's a great model to follow.
Bob: You remember years ago when we had Elizabeth Elliott as a guest, and she had just finished writing a book called "Quest for Love," and that book was stories from singles who had gotten married. Some of them had really waited on the Lord and learned contentment and learned thankfulness in the process, some had followed a different plan, and her book was really the accounts of these people, what they had written to her to say, "either I'm thankful that I followed your counsel," or "I wish I had followed your counsel."
It's a classic book, and it's a book that we keep in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and if any of our listeners are interested in getting a copy either of "Quest for Love" or the book, "Passion and Purity" that she wrote before she wrote "Quest for Love." Great books for singles, and you can get information about those books on our website at FamilyLife.com. Just go to the home page and in the middle of the home page you'll see a red button that says "Go" and if you click that button it will take you to the area of the site where there is more information about these resources.
Again, our website is FamilyLife.com, and you look for a red button that says "Go." That will take you to where you can find out about these books because it is New Year's Day, that's the best way to get in touch with us today. There's nobody answering the phone, so if you do want to get in touch with us, you can do it online, or if you want to wait and call tomorrow you can do that at 1-800-FLTODAY, and at that point someone can help you with any questions you might have, or let you know how you can get copies of either of these books sent out to you.
Well, here on the first day of the year, I think it's appropriate for us to say thank you to our many listeners who join us day in and day out and to those of you who in the last several weeks made a donation to FamilyLife Today, we are especially thankful to you for your financial contributions to this ministry. We appreciate your support and want to let you know how much that means to us.
Some of you have wondered about the matching gift that we were talking about a few weeks ago. I have not seen the final numbers yet, but I think we may have met the match. We'll try and make that information available to you here in the next few days either on our website or get in touch with you some way and let you know about that.
But we appreciate your support of this ministry, and we appreciate the fact that you're listening. If you're not a regular listener, and you're joining us because it's New Year's Day and it just works into your schedule today to be with us, we're glad that you're along and hope that you found today's program helpful.
If you'd like more information about FamilyLife, you'll find it on our website at FamilyLife.com, and I'll just mention if you got an iPod for Christmas, and you want to sign up for FamilyLife Today as a podcast, you can do that. There's information on our website at FamilyLife.com about how to get the podcast version of FamilyLife Today every day.
Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about what happens when somebody in a relationship has to be in control in an unhealthy way. We're not talking about leadership, we're talking about control, and Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott are going to join us to talk about that. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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