We are thrilled to welcome Ben Stuart to the Redeemed Girl blog today. We’ve been a huge fan since his Breakaway Ministry days, and we are now so excited to see God using him and his wife, Donna to launch Passion City Church in Washington, D.C.
Donna Stuart is also a dear friend of Redeemed Girl, so when Ben released his book, Single Dating Engaged Married: Navigating Life and Love in the Modern Age we wanted to encourage everyone we know to run out and buy a copy. We’ve witnessed firsthand their incredible, Christ-centered marriage and know that he lives what he teaches.
MJE: So, Ben… welcome to the Redeemed Girl blog. To get started, share with our readers why you wrote Single Dating Engaged Married and the biggest misconception you think Christians hold about relationships.
Ben: Great to be here, Marian! Donna and I love you and celebrate all that you are doing to resource women.
I wrote this book out of a genuine love for the young men and women I have had the privilege to live and minister among for the last decade. I have watched up close how cultural shifts, particularly massive changes in technology, have introduced a significant amount of confusion and pain into every aspect of human relationships. I wanted to do my best to provide clarity in the midst of confusion and guidance on how to navigate the uncertain waters of life and love well.
As far as the biggest misconception: I would say there is much confusion today on the end goal of each stage of relationships. Singleness is not primarily about getting married. If it was, then Jesus and the Apostle Paul were failures in life! While singleness can be about preparation for marriage, it is actually a season ordained by God for every human being with a much broader, grander purpose. In a similar way, dating and marriage are not at the end of the day about looking into another person’s eyes to find meaning and fulfillment. They are for the purpose of linking arms with someone and running together into God’s greater purposes for human life. I think much of the confusion and anxiety around relationships stems from this lack of clarity about the ultimate purpose for each stage.
MJE: We are Redeemed “girls” after all, so what’s your number one piece of advice for women navigating the dating scene?
Ben: Don’t settle. You want to link your life up with someone who has committed to pursue the cause of Jesus. Why do most people get divorced? They say something like, “Our lives went in different directions.” What does that mean? It does not mean that she was a dentist and he was a plumber. It’s not a statement about employment. It is a statement about ultimate purpose. Your core convictions will shape your decisions, determine your actions, and define your life. Make sure you have a man who wants to run after the purposes of God as hard and fast as you do.
You also want a man who has a character shaped by Jesus. Jesus sacrificed His life so that we could flourish under God. You want a man who will do the same. One who lives to use all his gifts, time and influence so that those around him can be all they are meant to be under God. You want a man who will be patient, kind, courageous, sacrificial, generous, bold and gracious like Jesus. Do not settle for a guy who seems nice and is employed.
And if there are no men like that around you, move. In Genesis 24 Abraham’s servant walked 500 miles to find the right woman for Isaac. Be willing to walk right past a lot of cute and charming guys. Looks fade. Charm can be faked. You want a man whose eyes are fixed on a glorious cause and whose life is being etched with a God-shaped character.
MJE: How can single women wait well for marriage?
Ben: First, I would encourage you to release your cares to God. All through the Scriptures we are invited to come to God with our concerns. Like a loving dad, He wants to hear the heart of His children. So I would join God in calling you to “[cast] all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). He is strong enough to handle all your heart’s longings and loving enough to want to.
Second, I would challenge you to take up His cause. Live in the rhythm of Philippians 4. Deliver to him all the longings of your heart, knowing he cares deeply about you. Then turn your attention to the most beautiful, redemptive, life-giving, God-glorifying thoughts you can think and activities you can engage in. I would even say consider changing the verb from “waiting” to “attacking”! Seize the benefits that singleness offers, namely freedom and time, and leverage them to do the most good in the world. Don’t underestimate the sense of inner peace that can be experienced when you are living a life that is filled with serving others in Jesus’ name.
Last, I would say do all of this with a group of people who love you and who love God as much as you do. Paul told Timothy to flee youthful lust and pursue righteousness, love, joy and peace along with those who call out to God out of a pure heart. I would challenge you to live like that. Flee anything that threatens your intimacy with God, then become excellent at chasing after the things that please Him, and do it with a crew of men and women who love Him as much as you do.
MJE: For women who are currently in relationships, how would they know if they ready for marriage?
Ben: Wow, there are a couple chapters in the book dedicated to this! One thing I could say here is that you want a marriage where you not only make each other happy, but you make each other better. In Song of Solomon, the book of love in the Old Testament, the imagery surrounding their young love is that of springtime. Flowers are blooming, gardens are awakening, and fruit is ready for the harvest. You want a relationship like this. You want your union with that person to result in the blossoming of life all around you. You want your presence in one another’s lives to result in growth spiritually, emotionally and relationally in each other’s lives and in the lives of those around you. And others should be able to see this. When people I knew loved me could tell that Donna and I were better together than apart, that gave me confidence that my affections were aptly placed.
MJE: Now let’s talk about marriage. Even though I’ve been married now for 5 years, I still consider myself a newlywed in some respects. What do you believe the key is to a thriving Christ-centered marriage for the long haul?
Ben: Again, there are so many things I could mention here! I will say that cultivation brings flourishing. In Genesis 1 God used His creativity, power and wisdom to create an environment where the man and woman could flourish. Then he charged men and women to do the same. He used the word “cultivate.” It means to use your God-given powers to create an environment where life can reach it’s fullest potential. If you wake up every day saying, “How can I use the time, energy, resources, strength, creativity and wisdom that God has given me to create an environment where others can be all that they are meant to be under God” then you will be a tremendous gift to the world. If you enter your work environment that way, you will have an incredible sense of purpose at work and accomplish much good for the company and your co-workers. And if you approach your home that way, you will continually adapt your schedules and behaviors and ways of communicating so that you can each fulfill your potential under God. If you do this, then you will have a happy, fruitful marriage.
MJE: You are a pastor, church-planter, author, husband and father. That is a lot of hats to wear. I know you are only able to thrive in each of these areas because of the woman you are blessed to be married to. Please share with our readers a few things Donna does to help you serve Jesus and others well.
Ben: I think the best thing Donna and I have done has been to try to be students of one another. Donna is tremendous at this. She realized early on that she doesn’t need to figure out how to love a “man” in a generic sense. She has been called to love me. So she thinks about what communicates love to me. And I do the same with her. So I know she loves to write music, engaged in art projects, DIY jobs, and travel. I want to create space for her to do those things that make her come alive. She knows as an introvert that writes sermons that I work best in the morning. She gets the kids ready, cooks breakfast, makes coffee then clears space for me to work. It’s incredible. She also knows that I need time to get out in nature. She encourages me to get out and hang with friends. None of that sounds maybe particularly romantic, but in those little ways she has committed to use her influence to help me be the best version of myself. I am deeply grateful for that.
MJE: Thanks for your time, Ben. Just one last question. If you could sit down with the women on the TV show, The Bachelor, what piece of advice would you give to these girls?
Ben: Well, I’ve never actually watched the show, so I don’t really know specifically what they are going through. But I would say that we do not use iPads to dig trenches. Why? Because they are intrinsically too valuable to be thrust into the dirt and they are capable of doing so much more good if they are used to their fullest potential. You are created in the image of God. You are prized by Majesty. You are dearly loved by your Father in heaven. And you are endowed with great potential and purpose. Do not use your precious life to chase the low goal of clawing for the approval of a man who does not cherish you. Stand up tall, sister, and take up God’s call to love him and love others with your whole life. And in due time, when He purposes, you will meet a man who will want to take your hand as an equal and run into God’s purposes with you. Do not settle for less.
Ben Stuart is the Pastor of Passion City Church, Washington D.C. Prior to joining Passion City Church, Ben served for 11 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 masters degree in Historical Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. Single.Dating.Engaged.Married. is his first book. 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 children.
Photos by Passion City Church