God’s plans for us are perfect. But somehow even though we know we can never fully accomplish perfection, knowing that we can’t attain it never stops us from trying. Most who are single want to be married. Yet most married couples, if they are truthful, often wish they could return to their days of singleness when life was less complicated and without the responsibility of a significant mate and added children.
Paul, the apostle, openly shares his thoughts on the cultural issues of his time, and what was best for him and his calling. In 1 Corinthians 7:25-38, Paul explains that he chose singleness as the most favorable choice for him because he believed marriage would divide his thoughts and responsibility. He made the argument that a single person only has to think about their engagement with God, but married couples must engage with God and also leave time for their spouse, thus requiring a division of focus.
We often hear that the opposite sex “completes” us. That isn’t true. God completes us. Our mates, if we have chosen well, complement us. The reality is that marital status is a label depicting a relationship. Couples in long and successful marriages must be secure in their relationship with God first and who they are in Him. They have learned that a spouse will never be able to fulfill perfect love and that only God can bring contentment and fulfill the desires of their hearts.
However, whether single or married, Paul reveals in Philippians 4:12 that we are to be contented in all circumstances. God’s purpose is for us to be in His will. He has a reason for you to be where you are at any given moment. His purpose and plans are perfect for you and will always be far superior. The world says we must follow a certain cultural agenda to be content. The truth is that lots of married people will become single again through various life issues. We are born as an individual into the world, and we will leave single.
Pew research reports that 30 percent of U.S. adults admitted that they are not married, aren’t living with a partner, or aren’t engaged in a committed relationship. It went on to reveal that 63% of men in their twenties are single compared to only 34% of women. Men in their twenties, in fact, aren’t pursuing women as they once did because of the massive consumption of media that is now available to them, which diverts their attention. They are consumed by social media, porn, playing video games, or engaging in online sports gaming.
We often get ourselves “into a dither,” as my granny used to say. When we seek what the world says, we must follow it to be happy. Remember that the world can only bring shallow happiness, but Kingdom choices bring joy. Joy is rooted in our souls and in eternal promises with lasting security and peace in our lives. We will stay depressed, fearful, and emotionally distraught when we unwillingly wallow in our selfish choices. Both singleness and marriage are gifts – but different gifts, each packaged with different challenges and benefits. They both allow us to accomplish the purposes God has for us, and that fact, not whether we are single or married, is what will bring our ultimate joy.
Sometimes the most important person to be truthful with is ourselves. It’s important to look honestly at how well we keep boundaries, where we’ve rooted our identity and the motives of our hearts. Read this month’s INNER VIEW as we dive deep with Andrea Polnaszek into some core truths and the ways we navigate them imperfectly.
Andrea M. Polnaszek has written many books and is the co-creator of multiple films alongside her sister, Alexandra Boylan, as part of The Boylan Sisters Entertainment company. Andrea’s most recent movie, The Greatest Inheritance, with her accompanying book by the same title, is a study of Ecclesiastes. The film wrestles with the theme, “There is a time for everything and a season for everything under Heaven.”
Andrea is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has spent her clinical career helping children and their families communicate their feelings. She earned a bachelor’s degree in social work at Gordon College, a Master’s in Social Work, and a certificate in Theology from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Kathleen: As a filmmaker and writer, you come from a unique position as a licensed clinical social worker with an understanding of the human mind and our choices. What has God revealed to you on how we can make better choices that will sustain our careers and lives, especially during the disruptions of a pandemic?
Andrea Polnaszek: I had the opportunity to write a book and devotional about Ecclesiastes and specifically spent much time meditating on Ecclesiastes 3. During an unappreciated time, global pandemic, I felt like folks around me, including myself, were asking questions like: “Why?” “What do we do?” “I don’t like this new life?” While exploring the idea of – what season is this and what is God teaching me in this season…God brought a surprising insight.
I was invited to perform a funeral service for the first time. The woman who had passed had struggled with mental illness for many years before her death. Her family felt they had lost her many years before she died. The process of preparing for the funeral provided an opportunity to remember. Looking through pictures and reminiscing reminded everyone of beautiful memories. This insight caused me to ask: Why do we wait for funerals to share a eulogy? So, I have begun to tell people what I appreciate about them in real-time. I have spent some time thinking about happy memories and sharing those with others. The experience has brought me new insight into what the Joy of the Lord looks like. I believe that joy is born in gratitude. And a heart of thanksgiving is a gift from God alone.
Theodore Roosevelt said: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” God has brought me to a place of hard-fought contentment – accepting that there is good and bad in every season and that He is over it all! I would say that when I look at all that the last few years have thrown at me – the joy of the Lord was my strength. God revealed to me the importance of disciplining myself to put Him first.
Kathleen: It’s not the normal screenwriter’s path to come into the film business from a clinical social worker background. Many might struggle with their career goals and identity and lose their way. Yet God seems to carve us uniquely into His plan and purpose. Why is knowing who you are in Him the essential choice?
Andrea: Boylan Sisters Entertainment just finished principal photography on a movie called Identity Crisis. I have done a lot of thinking, meditating, and studying on this issue. Our culture seems to be telling us that unique needs to be named and that our core identity or “created in the image of God” can or should change. I struggle with this conversation because when I talk to people wrestling with gender disphoria and questioning their sexuality, I see genuine concern, discomfort, and a deep sense of longing to feel whole.
I was one of those teenagers and young adults who always wanted to be in a different stage than where I found myself. I wanted to be grown, married, and have children. I was convinced that when I became a wife and mother, those feelings of longing would be fulfilled. My life experience has taught me that every new stage of life comes with new questions and the opportunity to have even more longing. Different is more than OK. God has created us with an array of personalities, gifts, and various appearances.
I struggle with staying at peace with whom God made me. Ten years ago, when I wrote a book about rest and openly wrestled with being disappointed with God, I took the next step toward being at peace in my skin. I don’t always stay at peace, but I do find that if I am disciplined to be vulnerable and stay real with others and myself, I find the peace that passes understanding.
Kathleen: To sustain ourselves in our 24/7 world, we must have boundaries. But often, we don’t draw the right boundary lines. What’s a boundary you struggle with within your work and life?
Andrea: I am a recovering people pleaser. I find that when my boundaries go down, my people-pleasing increases. I am a lifelong student of John Townsend and Henry Cloud’s book, Boundaries. I discovered the book when I was at a very low point as a pastor’s wife. I found myself sad, lonely, and resentful. This book taught me the difference between walling myself off and having a fence with a gate. The key was that I had control of the gate; I could open it or close it. The Boundaries book reviews each of the main areas of your life – family, marriage, kids, work, church, and family of origin. I often use the book as a reference going back to it to read just one chapter on whatever area of my life I am struggling in.
The biggest lesson I have learned is that when I let my guard down and allow what I think other people want to overtake me, I need to pause and adjust my boundaries. In the past, I would think, “If she would just do this, then I could feel this.” Learning how to hold healthy boundaries has freed me from the thought that someone else can make me feel a certain way. It has caused me to focus on what I can control and what I am responsible for.
I am currently watching the TV series The Chosen for the third time. One of the things that I am struck with by Jesus’ example in that depiction is that He spent time with God and followed what God wanted, not what others wanted. He paused regularly to seek what His Father had for Him. I wish I could say I do this all the time. I don’t. But, I’m a work in progress, always striving to notice how I feel and how I am behaving and stopping to invite God to inform me who I am!
Kathleen: We all impact others’ lives. What’s the one thing you’ve learned about influence?
Andrea: Influence is a BIG word. With the rise of social media, becoming an “influencer” is sought after. For me, I feel it is a heavy weight. As soon as people are watching, whether online or off, I immediately get cocky and say something I don’t really believe. The thing I have learned about influence is that it is very important to be wise. My heart’s desire is to use my influence to give God glory, and I don’t mean that in a cheesy or churchy way. I mean that I struggle with a form of pride that is connected with “getting credit” for what I do.
When I find myself caught up in getting what’s due to me, I have taken my eyes completely off of God and how He has intended to honor me and chosen to focus on how I want to be seen. Influence is something that should be guarded and treated with great respect. For me, I must put my eyes on Jesus so that He is influencing me first before I am influencing others.
Kay is the Chief Knowledge and Research officer at the DXM Institute for Changemaking Innovation. Hailed as the “The Questions Lady,” Kay is a national leader in research for faith-based and mission-driven organizations. For more than 30 years, she has provided customer research, market analytics, planning, collaboration management, and organizational development to both for-profit and nonprofit organizations, including Cru, Chick-Fil-A, and Thrivent. In her knowledge-leadership role for DXM™ Institute, Kay drives the development of the Institute’s platform. She is a frequent speaker on the topics of listening and relationship-building strategies for leaders, understanding what customers value, and how generational change impacts organizations. Kay believes that great leaders don’t have better answers; they ask better questions. Her greatest joy is helping leaders understand what the world most needs their organizations to do.
Kathleen Cooke: Today’s culture is about wanting clarity, so your job as a researcher is vital. The facts tell the truth but not always the whole story. We are bombarded with identity dysphoria today. What has God been teaching you through your work and perspective on why knowing who we are in Him is how we can know the facts and the whole story?
Kay Edwards: That He has called me perfect, not because of anything I have done, but because of what He has done. His finished work is my identity. Too often, women are taught to work hard to be good so that they can be loved. I have lived too much of my life terrified of not getting it right, terrified that God would be disappointed in me.
When I was growing, up my parents taught me that no matter how hard I tried, I could never please God and that He was always angry with me for not being good enough. If I had set out to create a belief system to drive someone intentionally away from God, that would have been it, and I am saddened that that was the best my parents had to offer. How terrified they must have been, too.
I am just now learning how settled God’s love is, how the moment I accepted Jesus, God’s love settled around me like clear Jesus skin that God sees me through. I don’t have to earn His love. I am inside of His love forever. I am inside of Him.
Kathleen: As you began to grasp your identity in Him and knowing that you have been made perfect through nothing you can do but through Christ’s redemptive love, what steps did you take to grow that trust within yourself?
Feeling confused about your identity and place in this world? Current events and cultural influences have pushed many of us to re-examine our identity and seek out ways to bring biblical truth into situations. If you’re wanting to make a difference and help stop the tidal wave of identity dysphoria, join Kathleen Cooke and guests producer-director-writer Alexandra Boylan and actor-writer-TV host Cynthia Garrett for the next online Influence Lab Gathering, “The Identity Variant: How Hollywood and the Media Influences our Kids, Teens and All of Us.”
The Identity Variant: How Hollywood and the Media Influences our Kids, Teens and All of Us
September 30, 2021
5:30pm PT – 7:30pm CT – 8:30pm ET
The event is free, but registration is required for this Zoom webinar. Register now.
“Having worked in Hollywood for many years, I know how media and entertainment affect our emotional connections and in turn affect our actions,” shares Kathleen Cooke, media executive and founder of The Influence Lab and Influence Lab Women. “We must be vigilant to use media and entertainment to tell powerful stories and share the wisdom of God.”
The world has become a pandemic of confusion driven in a large part by dominant social media influence and Hollywood agendas. If you’re a creative working in the media and entertainment industry or a leader in your field, this event will help you discover how you can use your talents, influence and leadership to convey God’s truth in relevant and impactful ways.
Ready to make a difference? Join us on September 30, 2021 for “The Identity Variant.” Find out more about our guests and sign up here.
“We must be vigilant to use media and entertainment to tell powerful stories and share the wisdom of God.” – Kathleen Cooke
At The Influence Lab, our focus is to help Christians use media more effectively to tell their stories so that others will know the most important story ever told – the story of Jesus. Our passion is to mentor media professionals and leaders to create excellent media projects, develop leadership skills, and alert them to insider tips and sometimes the pitfalls of media manipulation. As the Bible commands, we want Christians to “defend their faith” (I Peter 3:15). Having worked in Hollywood for many years, I know how media and entertainment affect our emotional connections and in turn affect our actions and why we must be vigilant to use media and entertainment to tell powerful stories and share the wisdom of God.
Big Tech are the creators of our present-day media platforms and tools and have set themselves up to be media gods and idols in our present-day culture. They, along with Hollywood, are experts in using their fashioned communication tools, skills and crafts to tell the stories they want to be told and followed. These stories are changing what we identify with and even affect our own identities.
What are those stories Big Tech is telling? (more…)