About the Guest
Are you intoxicated with romance? Clarence Shuler admits that he was too, at one time. But as relationship after relationship took a nosedive, Clarence wondered if he'd ever get married. Surrounding himself with men in good marriages, Clarence began to watch and learn and his self-worth began to soar, as did his hope that marriage was just around the corner.
Are you intoxicated with romance? Clarence Shuler admits that he was too, at one time. But as relationship after relationship took a nosedive, Clarence wondered if he’d ever get married.
Bob: In our culture today, and more particularly in our church cultures where marriages and families tend to be the norm, singles can sometimes feel out of place, or worse, they can feel like maybe there’s something wrong with them. Here’s author and conference speaker Clarence Shuler.
Clarence: One of the big points I try to get across to singles is that: “You have value / you have worth. You need to focus on self-worth—not self-worship—but you have worth. Too many singles have a poor self-image: “…don’t think I’m any good.” So, they try to get someone—it’s kind of a negative perspective. The relationship becomes dysfunctional because, unintentionally, they put that other person—significant other—on a performance track to make them happy.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, December 18th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’re going to spend some time today exploring why God calls singleness a gift. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I think there may be some folks who wonder why a program like FamilyLife Today would spend time talking to singles. Shouldn’t they have to join the club before they can tune in and listen to what we’re talking about?
Dennis: Well, you know as well as I do, Bob, that we have a ton of singles who tune in to FamilyLife Today in anticipation of someday maybe applying what they’re hearing here. They know that what we’re talking about here is biblical blueprints, which perhaps they didn’t see growing up. Maybe they did, and they just need to be reminded or be better equipped in the biblical blueprints for knowing how to establish a relationship with the opposite sex—or maybe having a relationship someday with your children and knowing how to biblically be the father/the mother of children, helping them grow up and equip them in these matters as well.
Bob: The Bible gives us everything we need for life and godliness. That’s why we try to point people every day to what the Scriptures have to say about relationships in the family, relationships with extended family members, even relationships outside the family because our relationships are really a measure of what our relationship with Jesus looks like.
Dennis: And when you talk about relationships, quickly you can talk about the theme of contentment. Whether you’re single or married, the subject of contentment is an issue. I think it may be—well, I don’t know about that—I was getting ready to say that it may be that singles struggle with contentment more than married people, but then I thought of the flies on the screen door at our house. [Laughter]
Bob: I was going to say—
Dennis: The ones on the outside want to get in; the ones on the inside—
Bob: —want to get out. [Laughter]
Dennis: Yes. We have a friend with us, again, on FamilyLife Today—Dr. Clarence Shuler, who joins us. Clarence and his wife Brenda live in Colorado Springs. They have three adult daughters.
Brenda and Clarence speak at our Weekend to Remember®marriage getaways and have done that for more than 14 years. Welcome back to the broadcast—glad you’re here.
Clarence: Glad to be with you, Dennis. Glad to be with you, too, Bob.
Dennis: Clarence is an author, a relationship counselor, motivational speaker, life coach, and is President and CEO of BLR. That stands for Building Lasting Relationships. He’s written a book for single folks called Single and Free to Be Me. Did you struggle with contentment?
Clarence: Yes, I did. A month before I met Brenda, I just broke up with a great girl. My grandmother—adopted grandmother—took me to Philippians, and she took me to the verses about contentment. She said, “There are times when God is not going to change things.” Paul is in prison—went through the first chapter. She said, “God will not change things if He can change you.”
Dennis: Let me read those verses here real quickly.
Paul says: “You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Clarence: Right. That passage—she really helped me to see that. I don’t think I necessarily had the gift of celibacy; but I had to come to grips and say, “God, if I never get married, I want to trust you anyway.”
Dennis: You had been single how long at that point?
Clarence: I was 29.
Bob: That’s a long time to live as a single man.
Clarence: Well, back in that day, all my friends were getting married when they were 22/23.
Bob: Was that intentional on your part? [Laughter]
Bob: I guess we got the answer to that!
Bob: When you went to college, did you think, “I’ll meet somebody at college and we’ll get married”?
Clarence: Yes. Well, I didn’t think much about marriage when I went to college because I didn’t date much in high school. I just enjoyed the whole “dating process,” and playing ball, and just—that was a lot of fun for me—but I was learning about women as I dated, which was really cool—it was really great.
Bob: Right. Got out of college—you went to seminary. Somewhere, along the line, were you thinking, “When am I going to meet the right woman?”
Clarence: Well, I actually thought I had met somebody I wanted to be with in between college and seminary. I was working in the DC area—working for a guy who was a sort of glorified gopher. He had a lot of political connections—so we met some really amazing people. I actually started dating this model who was drop-dead gorgeous. I thought, “Hey, she’s going to be it.” I was spending a lot of time trying to convince her what a great guy I was.
I remember taking her home to my mom and my sister. My dad had since gone to be with the Lord.
They just kind of vetoed, and I trusted them. That was a real big deal. I remember talking to, not Gary Chapman, but Carolyn Chapman. Whenever I had female problems, I would call Carolyn. She said in her beautiful southern accent—she said, “Honey, it shouldn’t be that hard.” It really resonated with me to a great extent—so, eventually, I broke up with this girl. I think I was in love with being in love, and that was really hard. I thought she might be it.
Bob: I’m glad you used the phrase you just used because, I’ve looked back on my single years, and I really think I had the same issue you had. I think, as a single, I wasn’t so much looking for “Who is the woman God wants me to marry?” I was in love with being in love. It’s a great feeling to be in love; isn’t it?
Clarence: It’s great; yes!
Bob: To have some woman, who thinks you’re special and treats you like special—I really was not that concerned about who that woman was, [Laughter] as long as I had the feeling.
Clarence: Well, I didn’t have the maturity to think about God’s person. I’m just thinking, “As long as she’s a Christian / I’m a Christian…”—that’s kind of what I was thinking.
Dennis: But you were pursuing—you were pursuing.
Clarence: I think so. Yes, I was—I was definitely pursuing.
Bob: I think there are a lot of singles, though, Dennis, who are in that situation—who aren’t really asking the question, “Who’s the right person to marry?” They just are intoxicated with the idea of romance, and love, and being treated as special.
Dennis: And hoping that marriage is the answer to their loneliness.
Clarence: You assume it’s the answer because the single-thing is not the answer for you—so marriage, you think, is utopia—it’s going to solve all of my problems.
Dennis: One of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made in all the books I’ve written was a title I gave one of my books. The reason is—I noticed, after I wrote it, people would come up to it in a bookstore, and they would look at it, and they would recoil like it was a rattlesnake.
The reason was—the title of the book was way too honest—but it’s what’s true of a lot of marriages today. The book was called Lonely Husbands, Lonely Wives.
Clarence: I remember seeing that book, yes.
Dennis: Yes. There are those who think marriage is the answer to their loneliness; but if you marry the wrong person, to your point, Bob, the person who is not God’s choice for you—who is His complement of gifts and abilities to your life—then you can end up maybe being in love with being in love—but be terribly lonely in the midst of it.
Clarence: I counsel couples who are married—have plenty of money, whatever—but they are very lonely / they don’t get along. Marriage, to them, did not become what they thought it was going to become. So, I try and tell singles that: “If marriage was utopia, I don’t think we’d have as many divorces as we’re having now.”
Bob: Again, I look back on my single years and my approach to relationships was very self-focused and self-centered.
I wasn’t thinking about “Who is somebody that I can share life with, and we can work together to serve the Lord?” I was just thinking about all of the good feelings that you have when you’re with somebody and they like you.
Clarence: What I’ve learned—I’m learning is that a biblical marriage is counter-culture because our culture tells you about getting; and if you get, you can’t always keep. But really, biblically, it’s really about serving—as you do that, typically, we get more than we give.
Dennis: One of the things I want you to talk about—because you write about this—single people today are relating to each other—and you don’t realize this as much as you do after you get married—but everybody has a context. Everybody has a family of origin that they came from, and everybody is carrying bags.
You had the unique situation of growing up in a home where your father was a bit distant. Then, in the midst of you finally being on the cusp of a relationship with your dad, something traumatic happened.
Clarence: My dad was shot and killed when I was 20. He had become a Christian when I was 18—so we had about a year-and-a-half together. The last time I was with him, we prayed together—it was really cool. He had an eighth-grade education. My grandfather made him stop going to school and made him work on the farm.
He wrote me a letter once when I was at Moody. He said: “I saw a young man today. He was a preacher—reminded me of you.” He said, “Keep the faith.” I read that letter over and over again until it literally fell apart in my hands. I was looking forward to my dad—even though I was 20, I wasn’t a man—teaching me what it is to be a man. Now, he did a great job of demonstrating that, showing affection to my mom and loving her. She would always say, “Your dad is a good man,” so I knew I had a good dad.
People talked about it, but we were just starting to talk about stuff because we never really talked.
Dennis: Comment on how this impacted you, as a young man in your 20s, because you were single in your 20s. You undoubtedly, because you were missing that relationship, you had to suffer a sense of loss, in a way, trying to find yourself in your 20s at the same time developing relationships with the opposite sex.
Clarence: I didn’t know what to do. Gary Chapman was always there to write me letters, but we didn’t talk on a regular basis. I didn’t talk to my dad on a regular basis either. I was trying to help my mother recover—my sister was a daddy’s girl, so I’m trying to deal with that—and then, I’m in a unique situation at Moody because there are very few African-Americans there. I’m the first guy who played basketball. I’m doing all this stuff. I’m popular, but I’m empty at the same time. I’m dating—kind of like a medication.
I’m with people, at that point, so I wouldn’t be by myself because I was almost afraid to get to know me—whatever that was—kind of what I was doing at Moody.
Dennis: There are a lot of guys in their 20s who are suffering a crisis of confidence because they didn’t have that model / that relationship with their dad. What I want to make sure they heard you say, because this is really a key component for their lives, too—you attached yourself to some mentors—
Dennis: —who had regular access to speak into your life.
Clarence: One of the guys I played ball with overseas—his dad, in ’94, helped me with some other issues I had and became my mentor—and still is—he’s 87 now. Gary’s always there. There was another guy, from years ago—Dr. T.B. Maston. He was 88 when I was at Southwestern Baptist. He wrote a lot about diversity—so we kind of connected. I would walk around the campus, with an arm, and he would kind of speak life to me.
I find older men who seem to have good marriages—their kids are walking with God. One thing about Bob Cook, in Colorado Springs—not only were his kids walking with God—but his grandkids were. I said, “This guy’s doing something right,” so I kind of attached myself to him. We would meet for a long time every Monday. He would just share life. He would share the Word with me, but he would also get on my case if I was not treating Brenda correctly. He would bust my chops, and he would cry with me over areas that needed work in my life.
Dennis: The reason I wanted you to share some of those stories is because we have the oldest age for men getting married today that we have ever had in the history of our nation.
Bob: It’s like 28 or 29?
Dennis: Twenty-eight-and-a-half. I think what you’re describing is one of the key components to what’s contributing to men delaying that commitment—taking responsibility for another person. It’s a crisis of confidence—it may have been the family of origin / it may have been things that occurred in their lives—but what I want a young man to hear me say is you don’t have to stay there.
Clarence: Right; right.
Dennis: You can get out, and you can be a man who does assume responsibility and step up.
Clarence: Around you are probably some good men, whether it’s your natural dad or not—that you can say: “Hey, I need help. Can I spend time with you?” I hear guys do it all the time. When an older man tells me he loves me or puts his hands on me like John Perkins, or some of those other guys like that, or Bob Cook—I can’t explain what that means—especially, my dad being gone. That’s just a huge affirmation of my manhood and that “You can do it.”
Bob: Pastor Matt Chandler, who in the Stepping Up®video series talks about older guys coming around younger guys and teaching them how to grill a steak, and how to make an adjustment on the car, and how to do some of these things that dads used to pass down to their sons. Somehow, it’s gotten lost in the translation.
The same thing is true for young women—they need older women. If you’re in your single years—as a late teen, in your 20s, in your 30s—you need older men and older women in your life, helping you understand how to do life. Whether you’re ever going to get married or not, you need that community pouring into you.
Clarence: One of the reasons young boys get so angry is they don’t have that—because they don’t have someone to give them a skill—and then their peers can be brutal. When they have that—if they can be good at one thing, that gives them confidence, that you were talking about, at other things. That’s really important.
Dennis: Clarence, I’m going to do something that I’ve done a number of times on the broadcast, but I generally wait until the very end. What I’m going to do is—I’m going to give you a little warning of what I’m going to ask you to do at the end of this broadcast.
If I could give you two to three minutes with your dad, right now, to honor him and to give him a verbal tribute for what he taught you, because he was snatched out of your life in an instant with no goodbyes. I know a little bit about that—my dad wasn’t murdered, but he died of a heart attack—and there were no goodbyes. But here, on the broadcast, I want to ask you to honor him for what he did do right in your life. Will you do that?
Clarence: Yes, I will. Thank you for the opportunity.
Bob: Let me ask you a question while you’re thinking about that—while you’re getting ready to share what you’d share with your dad. Was there a point in your mid- to late-20s when you thought, “I may be single for the rest of my life”?
Clarence: Yes. When I was 29 and broke up with this last girl that I thought there was great potential—we’d been friends, we’d played tennis together—we seemed to click. When we broke up, I thought—that’s when I was with my grandmother.
I came home for Christmas break and we prayed. Part of the thing was she didn’t say it; but I said it myself: “I’m probably going to be single the rest of my life.” And that’s when I said, “God, that’s not my preference, but I’m going to have to be okay with that.”
Bob: Do you think singles have to get to a point where they learn how to be content with that?
Clarence: One of my friends, Herb Brisbane, made this statement once—he said, “If you’re not content being single, you won’t be content being married.” I tried to add to it and said: “If you’re not content being single, you won’t be content in a friendship, a dating relationship, or being married because we’re created in God’s image. You know, in Genesis 1:27—we’re made in His image—so we have value.”
So, the biggest thing—one of the big points I try to get across to singles is that: “You have value / you have worth. You need to focus on self-worth—not self-worship—but you have worth.”
Too many singles have a poor self-image: “…don’t think I’m any good.” So, they try to get someone—it’s kind of a negative perspective. The relationship becomes dysfunctional because, unintentionally, they put that other person—significant other—on a performance track to make them happy.
Bob: I think many of us look at our circumstances and our contentment is connected to our circumstances. We say: “If circumstances are good, contentment is there. If circumstances are bad, I’m not content.” What Paul is trying to teach us in
Philippians 4—in the passage that you talked about—is we have to disconnect contentment from circumstances and really find contentment in our relationship with Christ, regardless of our circumstances.
Clarence: There’s a phrase that I like to use—that: “We need to learn to experience life’s best when life is not at its best.”
Bob: Explain what you mean.
Clarence: Well, just what you said, that life is not always going to be perfect roses.
We need to learn how to—not just survive—but, if God is in the middle of that and we trust Him for His sovereignty, then we have to trust Him.
Dennis: I want Bob to tell our listeners how to get a copy of your book.
Bob: You’ve had enough time now to work on this—
Dennis: Yes, but I want to come back in a minute. I don’t have the ability—I wish I did—but I wish I had the ability to seat your dad across the table from you and give you a moment to give him a tribute of what he meant to you.
Bob: We do, of course, have copies of Clarence’s book, Single and Free to Be Me in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. I’d encourage listeners to go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link at the top of the page that says, “GO DEEPER.” You’ll find the information you need about how you can order a copy of the book from us, online. Again, the website: FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to order at 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
Of course, as we mentioned, Clarence and his wife Brenda speak at our FamilyLife Weekend to Remember marriage getaways. I was thinking about some of our listeners who know young couples who are dating / thinking about marriage. Sending a young couple to attend a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway—that could be a great Christmas gift to give to a son, or a daughter, or someone you know who is contemplating marriage.
We have a couple of breakout sessions at the Weekend to Remember where we talk about how you can know if it’s indeed God’s will for you to go ahead and get married. I was talking to our team about this recently. I said, “You know, some of our listeners may be thinking about a Weekend to Remember gift card as a Christmas gift, not just for a young couple they know, but they may want to give it to one another as a Christmas gift this year.” I asked them: “Is there anything special that we could do?—because Christmas is a week away now. Is there anything special we could do so they could get this as a last-minute Christmas gift or a stocking stuffer of some kind?”
They’ve come up with a special deal that’s good today and tomorrow only. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link at the top of the page that says, “GO DEEPER.” You’ll find information about a special offer for a Weekend to Remember gift card that you can give as a Christmas gift. Today and tomorrow, it’s available at a special price. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link that says, “GO DEEPER.”
Dennis, you and I are going to be speaking at Weekend to Remember getaways on Valentine’s weekend. You’re going to be in Hershey, Pennsylvania. I’m going to be at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs; but of course, we have Weekend to Remember getaways happening all throughout the spring in more than 60 different locations. Find out more when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link that says, “GO DEEPER.”
One more thing before we hear your tribute to your dad, Clarence. We want to remind our listeners that, with a couple of weeks to go, here before the end of the year, we are asking you to consider making a yearend contribution to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. When you make a donation right now, your donation is going to be matched, dollar for dollar, up to a total of $2,000,000, thanks to the generosity of some friends who have made a matching-gift fund available to us.
So, would you consider making a yearend contribution, here at the end of 2014, and help us face the new year with a firm financial footing underneath us? Again, your donation will be matched, dollar for dollar, so be as generous as you can possibly be. You can donate, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper right-hand corner that says, “I Care”; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Make your donation over the phone; and, of course, you can mail a donation to us. Our mailing address is PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
Dennis: Clarence, it’s been a privilege to have you on the broadcast—Clarence Shuler, the author of Single and Free to Be Me. I can tell by the look on your face I gave you an assignment that has touched your heart—to give your dad a tribute. He was taken from you as a young man at the age of 20, just as you were starting to develop a real relationship with him. Address your dad and give him that tribute.
Clarence: [Emotion in voice]
Dad, I want to thank you so much for loving Mom, and Jane, and me. I want to thank you for working so hard—working two, three, sometimes, four jobs—to make sure that we had enough to eat. I didn’t always really appreciate that.
Thank you for being so patient with me when I was so lazy. All I wanted was to play basketball and not do the things you asked me to do. I want to thank you, Dad, for spanking me the three times you did, even though I thought you was going to kill me every time you spanked me.
But I know it saved my life because you knew I’d try anything once—so I’m grateful for that.
And I thank you for how you treated Mom because it taught me about affection and love to see you two hug, and kiss, and laugh—just being the man you are—a man of character / a man of integrity. Thank you for dealing with the race issue the way you did. You never griped about it—you never took it home. I didn’t get that quality from you—I gripe about it.
And thanks, most of all, for accepting Christ, and the relationship we had for a year-and-a-half. I look forward to seeing you again someday soon.
Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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