Some friends gave me this book back in our college days. From what I can tell (via the inscription) it came after some relationship drama. It was a find in my home office as I reorganizing things. Couple the find with a sermon at church this Sunday on Singleness and the church and here we are – 5 quick reflections/thoughts (and a disclaimer) on being single in the church.
First a disclaimer: There is a good deal of variety within the single community, this is my list of five and it may or may not reflect others.
1. There are as many kinds of single people as there are married people.
It’s true. Some are introverts and others are extroverts. Some are excellent chefs and some are hopeless in the kitchen. Some love the beach and some love the ocean. I could go on and on – just like you could about the different kinds of married people. Let’s just call them people. People are all kinds of different.
2. People are single for all kinds of reasons
Shocking, but also true. For some people, from the time they were very small children, all they could dream about was being a spouse, or a parent, or a spouse and a parent. For others, their dreams of their future did not include a spouse or kids. Both are good dreams and both are hard to understand if it wasn’t your dream.
A third group: Especially in the church, there are people who are single because they have had to make some hard choices to be a part of this community. In this group, I think especially of my gay and lesbian friends – who have to reconcile their sexuality and faith in a way that those of us who are straight do not have to reconcile the two. (There is certainly more to say here, but not today.)
Then, there is this thing called life – and life can cause all kinds of crazy things to happen. In some cases that means that people get married (both people that always imagined they would and people who never thought they would). It also means that some people never get married. This can be part of the plan or a painful reality. Single people are all over this spectrum. Life can also happen to married people in the form of sickness, death, or divorce (among other things). This adds a whole new group – “single again” and a whole new layer of complexity.
3. Singleness looks different at different stages.
While I was living in the LA area, as friends in their late 20s/early 30s got married, the local reaction was, “Why are you getting married so early?” Back in Texas, college students have the pressure to “get a ring by spring.”
If your only experience of being single has been that summer between your sophomore and junior year of college – please realize that is not the same as a young professional single. Being single in college is different than it is after college or in your late 20s, or early 30s…….
Be careful being the singles expert based on that one summer. Several of my good friends are now single after years of marriage. There are many parts of that which I have no understanding from my own personal experience. As people move from one stage to another, there is a good chance they will experience a variety of feelings and emotions. Sometimes it might be hard for them to celebrate certain occasions because of these emotions. (I have had several friends, who while they love children, that attending baby showers can be challenging because it reminds them of their own grief of not having kids in the midst of joy for the new to be parents.)
4. We’re not alone. We’re not broken.
well not alone or broken any more than the married people you know. (See being human above)
I may not be part of that “two become one” math, but that doesn’t mean that my life is lonely. My community just looks different. My community includes a mix of both married and single people. In some ways, my singleness allows me to be a part of communities the way that married people (or even people with kids can’t).
Also, my life isn’t incomplete because I am not married (or married with kids). It is still a complete life – just a different version than yours. Looking for another individual to complete you isn’t a great idea outside of the movies and maybe not even in the movies.
5. Let’s talk about it.
I am grateful that in a series about relationships, our church spend time talking about singleness. The ways in which it is affirmed in scripture have been long lost in our contemporary context. (Confession: I always get a little anxious of these kinds of sermons – I have seen them become disastrous in the past.)
Growing up within the Christian community, there was almost as much emphasis on finding the right spouse as there was being a disciple of Jesus. By the questions they asked, people were certainly more concerned with us finding the right person (“Oh you haven’t yet? Thanks ok, the perfect person is out there just waiting for you. You’ll find them when you least expect it.”) than that we were being formed into the image of Jesus. Ouch.
Talking about it is more challenging. It requires a community to look at the messages it communications less directly. How does our communal language reflect marriage and singleness? Who are the visible people in our worship gatherings? In leadership? How do we talk to our kids about relationships? How do we make space for the other?