“I would just encourage Christian single people to ask, ‘For this chapter in my life, while I am single, what is it about my singleness that could make me especially fruitful for Christ?’ And then I would encourage them to give themselves to that.” – John Piper
I always wanted to be married. As a young girl, I was sure I’d be married by the time I was eighteen. While my friends in high school were planning for their careers, I was planning for my wedding and my future as a wife and mother. The only problem? There wasn’t a guy in sight.
When I was still unmarried at the age of twenty-seven, I joined a singles’ group at my church in the hopes of meeting Mr. Right. When I didn’t meet him there, I switched churches and attended another singles’ group. I didn’t meet anyone there either. By the time I was thirty, church evolved into a painful Sunday experience as I watched all the married folks file into the sanctuary with their children. How had this happened? I felt like an outcast—like I was trying to get into “the club” and wondering how the others had managed it.
Obviously, my heart condition was not right; I was far too focused on what I lacked and not on the advantage of my unencumbered status. There were a great many things I could have been doing to further the Kingdom—missions, volunteering, etc., but I chose to idolize the marriage state instead. That’s a story for another time and another blog spot.
Now married (I finally met my husband at thirty-four), I regularly encounter singles going through many of the same problems I did. These are men and women who feel singled out of the main population—especially at church. In a culture where having a relationship is touted as the key to happiness, the way to completion, the path to salvation from singleness, it can be difficult for someone called to singleness or someone waiting on God’s best to feel valued and valuable.
Since being married, it is always heartbreaking to hear the conversations of family and friends as they talk about single people with tones of pity.
“Bless her heart. She just hasn’t been lucky in love.”
“You think she’ll ever find anyone?”
“I just feel so sorry for him. He looks so unhappy.”
In the 2001 movie, Bridget Jones’s Diary, based off of the 1997 novel by Helen Fielding, there is a wonderful scene in which Bridget is interrogated about her “love life” by a table of married couples. After enduring a slew of humiliating commentary about the need for young women to hurry up and find a partner because time is ticking by, Bridget obviously feels like the leprous outcast. When one of the “smug married people” (as she calls them) asks, “Why is it that there are so many unmarried women in their thirties these days, Bridget?” Bridget responds, “Oh, I don’t know. I suppose it doesn’t help that underneath
our clothes our bodies are completely covered in scales.”
The fact of the matter is, singles often do feel a little like a leper in the midst of perfect, whole-bodied people. This skewed perception is exacerbated when the single person is talked about as if something is wrong with them. Even though people are usually well-meaning in their questions and advice, by insisting that the single person’s status must change in order for their life to begin, the person inadvertently denigrates the single’s immediate value.
Singles are just as needed as anyone else—especially within the body of Christ. Paul makes it clear that singles have a special role in the Kingdom:
“An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband.” –1 Corinthians 7:32-34
Marriage is not the end-goal for the Christian. Whether we marry or not has nothing to do with our salvation in Christ (and praise the Lord for that!). And this is certainly not to downgrade the importance, sanctity, and beauty of marriage. It is God-created and wondrous. God bestows upon us a healthy desire to experience this union so that we might serve Him and sacrifice for one another. But many churches are geared around those who are married and have children, sadly excluding the single. On
the other hand, singles’ groups too often devolve into spousal hunting grounds, rather than a place of encouragement and preparation for serving God (whether in marriage or in singleness). It’s a delicate balance. It’s a fallen world in which there are no perfect churches and no perfect people. Marriage is hard…so is being single. Both states require the sinner to look up and look to the Lord for peace, guidance, and opportunities.
Several of my friends and acquaintances have remained single into their forties. Some of them have gone on to do great things for the Lord. One of them is Vice-President of an anti-human trafficking, anti-sexual exploitation organization. She has traveled all over the world teaching about the evils of the industry, delivering speeches at the U.S. State Department and even the Vatican. Her specific service to the Lord would prove difficult with a husband, home, and family to tend.
Singles are prized, necessary members of the body of Christ. Statistically speaking, most people will marry at some point in their lives, so how much more valuable and precious are those who do not, but instead serve God in the special calling of singleness. Let us not undervalue their worth.
Megan lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, a retired racing greyhound, and a rescued Italian greyhound. She is passionate about animal rescue and adoption as well as social issues involving human trafficking. You can find her online at http://www.meganwhitsonlee.net/