Tie-Dye Faith: A Metaphor

Tie-dye can be a frightening proposition.

Folding fabric, dying sections, waiting hours before you can see how it’ll turn out.

It’s no wonder the girls were so wary. It’s no wonder they felt more comfortable free-hand drawing their designs.

Freehand dyed shirt

Tie-dye takes faith–seeing the finished product in your mind’s eye even when what you’re looking at has little in common with your intended result.

I believed in tie-dye and started using the technique from the get go.


Because I’d read a book of instruction. I’d seen illustrations of how to fold and what the finished result was supposed to look like. I’d had a friend show me his finished product and describe how he’d gotten it.

The girls hadn’t seen this yet. They didn’t have the evidence I’d seen to support my faith.

They were skeptical.

They’d stick with what they could see.

I forged on in faith, evangelizing my little brood liberally. “How about you try a real tie-dye on this next one?”

They made slow steps–little scrunches tied here and there. Still mostly sight.

But as they saw me walking out my faith, as I continually brought my book and its illustrations to their minds, they started to believe my witness.

Tie-dyed pants, in progress

They chose to act on their fledgling belief.

They folded, dyed, and left their shirts–still folded and tied–with me.

When I rinsed out their shirts, seeing the first fruits of their faith, I was in awe.

Bullseye Tie-Dyed shirt

My own faith strengthened, I determined to tie-dye even more, to convert more to tie-dying.

And so their faith and mine mutually strengthened one another.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
~Hebrews 11:1

I don’t feel…

Love Month Banner

I don’t feel like talking about being single today.

I don’t feel like talking about being content today.

‘Cause today I don’t feel particularly content. Today I’d rather not be single.

The apostle Paul speaks of learning contentment. And it certainly is something that must be learned.

“For I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Philippians 4:11-13

How has Paul learned to be content? I dare say that he learned to be content by having ample opportunity for discontent. He had been placed in each of those situations that required contentment.

And how did he do it? How did he become content in each of those situations? He did it “through Christ who strengthens [him].”

He didn’t learn contentment by relying on his own strength. He didn’t learn contentment by trusting in his feelings. He learned contentment by relying upon Christ’s strength, by trusting God’s direction.

I’ve had ups and downs in my single journey, as I’m sure many of you have. I’ve had times where I experienced, where I felt incredible peace and purpose and contentment in my singleness. And I’ve had times where I felt conflicted, torn, overwhelmed, and utterly desirous of anything but singleness.

One thing has enable me to continue in this journey to contentment. That is, that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

Through Christ who gives me strength, I can repent of the sin of coveting my neighbor’s home, her children…her husband. Through Christ who gives me strength, I can take deliberate steps to bless her and to avoid temptation. Through Christ who gives me strength, I can choose to be obedient to the word of God above my feelings.

Through Christ who gives me strength, I can resist the temptation to lust. Through Christ who gives me strength, I can put down the book with the engaging story-line, but with sexual or emotional content that arouses my body and heart. Through Christ who gives me strength, I can take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ.

Through Christ who gives me strength, I can honor God with this season of my life. Through Christ who gives me strength, I can serve the body and the lost in this time. Through Christ who gives me strength, I can budget and change my oil and work a job.

Through Christ who gives me strength, I can rejoice with those who rejoice in their engagements, weddings, children. Through Christ who gives me strength, I can bless the well-intentioned but hurtful comments that others make about my singleness. Through Christ who gives me strength, I can bear up under the misconstrued assumption others make that I’d rather be a career woman. Through Christ who gives me strength, I can do all things.

The problem comes in when we focus on our circumstances rather than on Christ. The problem comes in when I look at all the things I don’t have–instead of the One I do have. The problem comes in when I look at the paths God has closed to me–instead of trusting Him with the path He has chosen for me.

Earlier this week, I was reading the story of the Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt and I was struck by the purposefulness of God.

When God delivered the people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, He didn’t take them by the most direct route. He led them by a longer, more circuitous route. Can’t you just see the people questioning? “This isn’t the way,” they must have muttered under their breath. “What on earth is God thinking?”

They didn’t know, but Scripture tells us what God was thinking. “God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, ‘Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.'” (Exodus 13:17) God knew that the test along the “direct route” would be too much for the people to bear. It would induce them to return to slavery. And God didn’t want them back in slavery–so He led them by an alternate route.

Yet opposition came along this alternate route too. With the sea at their front and their pursuers behind them, the Israelites were stuck in an impossible situation.

Unable to see God’s plan, the people complained that it would have been better for them to stay enslaved than to taste freedom only to be destroyed.

But God had a purpose, a reason for choosing this particular route. He knew that Egypt would pursue. He knew that the way would be blocked. He planned it that way–so that “I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord.” (Exodus 14:4)

God deliberately chose to place Israel in an impossible situation so that He could show Himself as God by doing the impossible for them.

God had a purpose both in the path that He closed and in the path that He chose.

If God has you as a single person right now, there is a reason for that. There is a reason that He has closed the door to marriage and chosen singleness for this season of your life.

If God has you as a married person right now, there is a reason for that. There is a reason that He has closed the door to singleness and chosen marriage for this season of your life. (Don’t whack out on me about this season thing–I’m not intimating that marriage is not for life. However, you have no way of knowing when the Lord might call your spouse home. You may very well find yourself in a new season–you just can’t know. You have to rely on God for the season He has for you right now.)

You and I don’t often know what purposes God has in the events of our lives. Often we don’t see God’s plan. Sometimes we are tempted to doubt either God’s sovereignty or His goodness. But let’s not give in to the temptation.

We may not always see God’s purposes. We may not always feel that He is sovereign and good. But, in Christ, we can be sure that He does have a purpose–and that His purpose is for His glory and our greatest good.

So I don’t feel like a contented single right now. Right now, I don’t see God’s purpose in the path He has closed to me–or in the path He has chosen for me. But, through Christ who strengthens me, I can be a contented single right now, regardless of my feelings. Regardless of my feelings, I can trust that God has a purpose in this season of my life–and that His purpose is for His greatest glory and my greatest good.

Litany for Life

Every finished venture, and every new adventure begun, calls for a time of reflection, of preparation, of prioritization. As I have just completed my internship and am returning to graduate school, this time for my first semester as a teaching assistant, I have been reflecting, preparing, setting things in order.

I have set a few SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achieveable, Relevant, Timely) goals for myself–some more frivolous than others. But beyond that, I have spent some time reflecting and praying over my next step, using a little tool the Navigators sent me at the beginning of the year. The tool is called “PREP for a New Year” and is intended as a sort of New Year’s reflection. The “PREP” stands for Praise, Reflect, Evaluate, and Pray and Plan.

When I got to the “Pray and Plan” segment, I found myself crying out to God that this year would be different than the last. My internship experience was great, but I felt like it was one of the few things that was great about the past 7 months. I experienced great professional and educational growth–but my growth in other areas has been stunted or non-existant.

When I look at what I REALLY want in life, apart from my professional goals, very little has been accomplished in 2009. I have not grown in my relationship with God like I would have liked. I have not grown in relationship with the body as I would have liked. I have not lived with the lost as I would have liked.

My life vision is to glorify God by growing in daily relationship with Him, being conformed to the image of Christ; by growing in relationship with others, taking time to live life together; and by growing personally, always learning and practicing what I’ve learned. Yet little I’ve done in the past seven months has moved me towards that vision.

So I was crying out, asking God for priorities for this upcoming semester, begging that it be more than the previous semester–and God directed me to three simple words. Listen. Love. Learn.

With a hundred things jockeying for my time, my attention, my heart. Listen. Love. Learn. Listen for the voice of God; Love Him with all that is within me; Learn to do His will.

Faced with a deep discontent with the status of my friendships. Listen. Love. Learn. Listen to what others are saying; Love them as Christ loved me; Learn how to serve them.

It goes against my instincts, against my fallen nature. I prefer to talk, to be proud, to teach. But God would have me Listen, Love, Learn.

It would have been easier if God had given me good SMART objectives (or at least something I could DO). You know, thing like:

  • Read a chapter of the Bible every day at least six days a week
  • Spend at least 15 minutes in prayer daily
  • Limit blog-reading to one half an hour per day
  • Don’t listen to secular music
  • No “R” rated movies
  • Memorize a verse a day

Those are all nice, good, EXTERNAL things. Things that only change what I do, but not who I am. They are the easy changes to make, the legalistic changes that can let me feel good about what a great Christian I am.

But God did not give me rules to follow. He did not tell me to do these five steps daily and everything will be just fine. He did not tell me to give up these five items and I’ll be a better Christian.

Instead, He gave me a litany to live each moment of my life by. Listen. Love. Learn.

Lord, may I keep Your word ever before me as I begin the next small chapter in this adventure You are taking me on. Help me to ever be mindful to listen, to love, and to learn.