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.