The Standard Setter – Thoughts from the Week Following Valentines’ Day

Last Sunday was Valentines’ Day. As a single college-aged woman, that holiday can be tough. It seems many single women either have the attitude of “I’m a strong, independent woman; I have no need of a man, he’ll only hold me back!” or that of “I wish I had a man; is there something wrong with me that prevents my being  in a relationship?” and may choose to ignore any other kind of reason for being single. I’m not shaming women who are single. I’m not shaming the romantics who dream of having a great guy. I’m not shaming the strong, independent women out there. If I were, I’d be shaming myself. I am single, and a romantic, and strong and independent. That’s what got me thinking this week (when all the chocolate’s on the Valentines’ sale). What if, rather than focusing on how loved I feel, I focused on how loved I make others feel? How would that change the atmosphere of Valentines’, I wonder? But that’s not what I was going to write about. Here’s the main thing that I realized…ready for this? I recognized that I have high standards. Some people may say that that’s why I’m not in a relationship. Low standards are often what lead to toxic relationships…that’s what I think. But, we all get our standards from somewhere, right? I figured out where I got mine.

My father is my standard setter. And why not? He’s funny, hard-working, kind, loving, energetic, thoughtful, discerning, and handsome just to name a few things about my dad. But it’s more than that. I know that my daddy sets his eyes on God. He’s raised my siblings and me to do our best. Live a life of excellence so that others have no root to pull you down by. Think things through carefully, especially the financial dealings in life. Don’t be afraid to get dirty. He’s built walls, put in hardwood floors, painted houses, helped us in the garden…he showed me in so many ways that he isn’t “too good” to get down and help with physical labor. He always pushed me to claim my dreams, but he encouraged me to research them to be sure that those dreams would be worthwhile. Above all, I know my father is a man of God. He’s shown me many ways to live out my faith in my daily work. A smile here, a  word of encouragement there, the willingness to listen and pray, the nurturing and mentoring of many – these are just a few of the ways I’ve seen him living for God, living out his faith. He is respected by many people, and loved by his family. My standards for a man, who wishes to call me his partner (or his girl), are high because I expect him to be striving for excellence as my daddy does. I expect him to love God most of all so God’s love is clearly evident in his life. I expect him to learn to love me for who I am, with all my romantic notions and my quirks and my independence. I expect him to treat me with respect as my father treats my mother. I expect him to be a man of God. But, you might say, those are some high standards!! I know they are high, but I’ve met so many men who meet them that I know it is possible. I’m not discouraged that I haven’t met him yet. I have soon-to-be wed friends who I can encourage and watch with a smile, they’re so in love. I have my schooling to attend to. I have my relationship with God to strengthen. I have excellence to continue striving for. The standards set by my dad, I don’t just expect them of “my man,” I expect them of myself as well. A life of excellence, that of a godly man or woman, is what should set the standards because it is, to me, rooted in God Almighty, the most excellent of all.

Get out of Your “Shire”: Accepting God’s Call out of Your Comfort Zone into His Adventure

The Shire is a place of beauty, of safety. We, who live here, “love peace and quiet and good-tilled earth.” We laugh “and eat and drink often and heartily, being fond of simple jests at all times.” We love parties, and giving and accepting presents. We keep to ourselves, staying in the lands and areas around the Shire. We do not heed the outside world. Why would we, when we have peace and plenty here? Isn’t there peace and plenty everywhere? We live a sheltered life here in the Shire. We enjoy living in our comfort zone away from the world. We may even resent those who leave our dear Shire. If no harm comes of it, we enjoy gossiping and speculating about those queer ones, like Bilbo Baggins. Even when danger comes, we stay in the Shire; we don’t run away because this is our home, our place of safety, our foundation, where our roots are.

There have been many days when I wondered when I would “break down” the walls of my heart, when I would become who I was “meant to be.” Then, one day, not long ago, it occurred to me…I LIKE my comfort zone. I like to be comfortable. College can be so very hard…partially because it exposes the borders of our personal comfort zones and often forces us to expand our borders. That’s not comfy. I stay in my zone because it often provides a false sense of security. Why “false”? Because you never know when some surprise is going to slip in and make you uncomfortable, upset your balance. I’ve been hiding in my comfort zone, my “Shire” if you will, for years. Something about that is not right and I know it in my soul.

Paul, in Ephesians 4, urges us “to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” What calling is that? Bilbo’s was to be a “burglar” for Thorin’s company, a small but very important role. Jesus calls us just as He called the Disciples. He still says “Follow Me.” He still says “Go and take word to My brethren.” He’s still saying, “Go…and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”

I can’t “live a life worthy” of that calling hiding in my “Shire”. Was it in the comfort zone of those fishermen to be “fishers of men?” It definitely wasn’t in Bilbo’s comfort zone to leave the Shire…on an adventure with Dwarves and a Wizard to face goblins, elves, men, a dragon, and temptation. The important part is that he accepted the call. There were times when he wanted to give up. Times when he feared for his life, did unimaginable things, made many friends and lost some of them. He encountered beauty, tragedy, greed, anger, love, and so much more! Through it all, he didn’t give up hope that some day he’d be back home…in his hole under a hill in the Shire, sitting in his chair with his books and his pipe. Even in desperate times, he kept pressing on because he needed to fulfill his calling! Paul writes in Philippians 3, “forgetting what lies behind, and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” So, keep pushing on in Christ’s call to His adventure. I want to hear my King say “Well done.” But I can’t get there if I don’t get out of my “Shire”.

Some of you know that Bilbo eventually does return to the Shire. So, is it ok to return to your “Shire”? I say, yes. Yes because the Shire…it isn’t just Bilbo’s comfort zone. It’s also his home, his foundation, his roots. It’s ok to return to the seat of your heart, that’s what has lead to who you are now. That’s where the most important parts of your life go for you to find them, for me that includes my acceptance of God’s call to His adventure when I accepted Jesus as my Savior. This “Shire” of mine, it’s part of what defines me, a part of me that I can return to for comfort, encouragement, and love. But once I’ve actually started out on God’s adventure, it’s no longer my home. “Home is where the heart is”, right? If my heart is with Jesus, then my home is with Him in heaven. When it comes time that I’ve fulfilled my calling by following my King, Jesus Christ the LORD, I’ll go home to God’s arms for He is my comfort, my all-in-all. Bilbo went to the Grey Havens, I’m headed to my Father’s bosom in heaven where I will dance in His glory and love praising Him for all eternity.

Quotes from The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien and the Bible (Philippians, Ephesians, and Matthew) Comment or message me for specific references.