Challenging the Culture: Reasons to Celebrate Singleness

In the past week, I have been asked on three separate occasions whether I am engaged, married, or have kids. The answer to all three questions has been no. “No, I’m not even dating anyone. No, I don’t have a husband. No, I definitely do not have children. . .It’s just me.”

And then there are the courteous apologies. I’m not easily offended, so questions like that don’t bug me in the slightest. And I take the apologies to mean, “I’m sorry that I jumped to conclusions.” And I of course say “Oh it’s no problem,” since I really don’t mind.

But I imagine to many singles, “I’m sorry” means “I’m sorry that you don’t have any of those things and that it’s just you.” And that stings, I’m sure, if that’s what one hears.

To be honest, I don’t think our culture is entirely comfortable with single people. Friends play matchmaker, advertisements recommend dating services, and the age old question resounds at family gatherings and reunions with old friends: “So, have you found anyone yet?”

Most of the time, society assumes single means lonely. Maybe longing, at times, yes. But not lonely. When you see your friends with their husbands and kids, perhaps you long for the day when you will also be surrounded by those loved ones. When you watch your friend walk down the aisle in her wedding dress, and her stunning beauty moves her groom to tears, you may wonder if there will ever be someone waiting for you at the end of the aisle, choking back tears on your wedding day.

But the feeling of longing can’t stop you from celebrating the life in front of you in the present. That would be wasting a gift.

Singleness is a gift. We celebrate marriage all the time, which I think is awesome. I’m a HUGE fan of marriage. Especially as I watch friends live the married life with grace. Especially as I see how God imagined marriage as a symbolic reminder of His marriage to the Church. But I think we should celebrate singleness too. Not in the ridiculous “singles awareness day” manner which basically protests romantic relationships. But as another way in which God uses His children.

Paul talks about marriage and singleness in 1 Corinthians 7:7-8 and refers to them both as a gift:

I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. 

I think marriage is beautiful. But I think singleness is beautiful too.

As I think about my life, even in the past two years, I think of all of the opportunities and adventures that I have had that I could not have had if I was in a serious relationship. As I prepare for the post-graduate life, I am thinking a lot about international missions and am realizing that my singleness gives me more freedom to pursue some of those opportunities, if that is where the Lord is leading me.

I’ve talked many times with a dear friend of mine about how we are able to minister and invest in greater capacities, in some things, when we are single. There are certain limitations when you are married because marriage entails making sacrifices for your spouse and making decisions together as a couple. When you’re single, you have a little more flexibility and time to devote to certain individuals or ministries that you may not be able to as a married person.

Paul traveled all around the world telling a ton of people about Jesus, building up the church, making disciples, and checking up on all of the churches. I think we can all agree that he had a phenomenal ministry. And he wasn’t completely alone – he had an amazing support system through the church.

That’s another thing singleness allows us to appreciate: the beautiful family of the Church. I have been living with a family from church for almost a year. I am not sure if I will ever be able to convey how much they mean to me or how much they have taught me since I’ve been here. They have become dear friends and have so graciously grafted me into their family through their overwhelming love and care and prayer in the past year. I am crazy about their kids and would do anything for them. I seriously love these people SO much!! They have taught me a ton about loving God, loving each other in a marriage, and raising kids in a godly home. They have taught me a ton about hospitality, friendship, and living for others.

I have learned SO much from them and realize that if I were married at this point in my life, or even in a serious relationship, I probably wouldn’t have been able to experience this incredible blessing and learn so many amazing things. Not being married has allowed me to be heavily involved in their lives and them in mine. (Though, they may argue that I’ve been married to school/work for the past year.) 😉

Being single has also allowed me to meet people at church from all different walks of life and appreciate them and treasure their lives and their stories and enjoy rich, fulfilling conversations. My family lives nearby and I see them often and am close to them and I feel like the family I live with (and my wonderful roommate) have become family to me as well. And on top of that, I feel so richly blessed by my amazing church family. It’s overwhelming, really. And I think I’ve been able to be so involved and meet so many people because God has allowed me the freedom to just be in this season of life.

I’m not lonely because I am surrounded by love. I am surrounded by family and friends and friends who are like family and ahhh….it’s beautiful. I do hope that God has someone for me, but I am in no hurry to get married because I am fully aware that my purpose here on earth is to serve Christ – to give my utmost for His highest. If I can glorify God even more by serving Him alongside someone else, then I think God will bring that someone else into my life. But I do not view this season as less rich than that season because I am totally in love with God and totally amazed by all that He is working out in and around me.

If you’re single, I challenge you to challenge the culture and the view that singleness is just the season of waiting for marriage. I don’t think that’s the case. I think every season should be a season of waiting for God’s movement and maybe one day that movement will be towards marriage. But know that you are valuable NOW – just as you are, with the freedom you have to serve God with all that you are.

If you’re married, I celebrate you, admire you, and pray for you. I also ask that you would pray for your single friends and support them with your prayers. I ask that you would realize that sometimes there is loneliness, especially if they don’t live near family, and that you would make an effort to reach out to them and include them. You never know the ways in which you may bless them and you never know the ways in which God may use them to bless you.

So let’s celebrate each other. Because even though we all look very different and our service to the King may look very different, we all bear the image of God. And that is worth celebrating.

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This Great Mystery that Satisfies

It’s been like a lightyear since I’ve posted a blog. And I don’t even know how long a lightyear is, but I can pretty much guarantee, in the blogging world, my absence has been the equivalent of a lightyear. Sure, I’ve had ideas that have been really compelling but obviously not compelling enough to inspire me to fight with my aging and decrepit computer long enough to log in to wordpress and get it out.

So here I am. It’s one something in the morning and for some reason I rearranged my entire room tonight and am still cleaning it. In the midst of cleaning, I had the urge to check my journal entry from exactly a year ago. So I did. And I just about knocked my own hat off (quite literally, since I’m currently sporting sweatpants, a t-shirt, and a baseball cap I picked up in Little Tokyo in LA last year).

Let me back up…I’ve been out of town off and on for the past two weeks. I was in Atlanta for a work conference which was absolutely phenomenal, was back for a few days and then hopped on a plane to Chicago, drove to Minneapolis the next day, went to my friend’s remarkable wedding, hung in the Chi-town area for a few days, and somehow made it back to Nashvegas in one piece. Last year, around the same time, I made almost the same trip – flew to Chicago then drove to Wisconsin to hang with some of the same friends.

As I looked back at my journal, I was astonished to see that some of the same things (such as staying with certain people and having breakfast the next morning at the same restaurant) happened two years in a row. But oh how far I have come since last year.

This journey with God just gets better and better and harder and harder and crazier and crazier. It hasn’t gotten easier and I don’t expect it ever will. But it never ceases to be an exciting journey. I can’t remember the last time I could honestly say I was bored. I haven’t been bored in over a year. Life is so full that it seems to fly.

I’m graduating from college in May, which doesn’t seem like a big deal to me right now, mostly because most of my friends have been out of the college arena for years, but it is a big deal. God has shaped me more in the past four years than at any other point of my life. If I were to stop and trace out the revelations He has given me and the seasons He has brought me through in the past few years, I would probably (vaguely) put it like this:

Freshman year: Self-discovery; need for community; need for church family; desire for healing
Sophomore year: Perseverance in spite of change; multi-tasking and learning to manage work and school
Junior year: Totally transformed perspective after God’s immense healing over the summer at camp; excitement about being back and investing; more community with believers; being grafted into a new kind of community with a family from church = seeing the beauty of family and gaining a greater perspective of marriage and raising kids; beginning to see fruits of investing in the Church
Senior year: Seeing more of the fruit of investing; more of a global perspective; lots of thoughts about my calling

This is surface stuff. The roots of all of these things go deep and it’s an intricate web. And reading over my journal made me realize how EVERYTHING is connected and how God continues to move us FORWARD on this journey on a daily basis. There are no mistakes. There are no coincidences. God’s sovereignty doesn’t permit such things. And I am blown away.

I have friendships this year that I didn’t have last year. I have deeper friendships with a handful of people that I did know and love last year but have grown to love even more. God has given me insight about the future that I never would have been able to fathom a year ago. I’m in a completely different place than I was a year ago. And it’s insane. Because aren’t we all? We’re always moving, changing, growing. Every day is an adventure and no time is time wasted. God’s always working out something in accordance with the purpose of His will.

What am I doing after I graduate? Well, besides kiss the stage on the other side, I’m not entirely sure. But that doesn’t worry me because God has led me step by step this entire way and I don’t expect any less of Him when I’m out of school. I love my church, I love this city, I love the people in my life.

I have hopes, ambitions, desires. I don’t know how God will meet those. I’m sure He will exceed them all in His own surprising way. But that’s what I love about Him. He always surprises me with grace.

And now it’s almost 2am and I still have to finish cleaning up my room but I can’t shake this feeling that life is good right now even though there are a lot of uncertainties. Maybe it’s not quite as exciting as living in Prague and dining with local Czechs or being stranded in an airport in the Netherlands for a couple of days or staying in a hostel in the Red Light District of Amsterdam, but it’s just as adventurous. Each day is a step of faith. Each day is a mystery.

My God is mysterious, adventurous, surprising and most of all, faithful.

What an amazing combination.

My God is good so life is good. No matter how crazy it gets. He provides. He fills, He refreshes, He encourages, He heals, He leads, He loves.

And that is more than enough for me.