On Being Single

It has been quite a long time since my last post, and I greatly apologize for that.  I have so many things clinking around in the corners of my brain that I have been working on, and yet an entire post has yet to form or be put down on paper (or pounded out on the keyboard, as the case may be).

I began this particular post before my wedding.  However, I was very busy at the time.  Between getting into the swing of things at a new job and planning a wedding, my writing fell to the wayside.  Not completely – it was just very hard to keep one particular thought or idea in my head for longer than a few moments.  Now that my wedding is over and I have gotten into a routine with my new husband, I can finish this post which is of some importance to me.  It is a post about being single, ironically enough.

I was thrilled that my dear fiancé  (now husband) offered to  write up a guest blog for my 10th post.  In my opinion, he is the true writer and has a wonderful way of getting his thoughts out on a number of subjects.  I felt it was quite apropos that his first post was on the theme of marriage, and why we were entering into it.

Interestingly enough, I had been kicking around the idea of posting about singleness for a time.  I had only been engaged for a little less than a year when we were married, so I honestly have more experience with the single life.  In fact, I am still sometimes overwhelmed by the fact that I am married.  It isn’t a bad feeling, just one of the unknown and the newness of this venture.

I think it is apparent that there is a rift of sorts between the married and unmarried.  I do not feel like this is puposeful, but I do feel that there are beliefs and attitudes that add to this rift.  There is this idea going around that being single means that you are missing something.  It’s like some of us believe that if you aren’t married it makes you less of a person.  I feel this in the church as well.  I don’t think it is necessarily something that all Christians have a lean toward believing or thinking, but it is enough of an epidemic that I feel led to speak on it.  Whether you revel in your singleness or find it lonely and difficult, the bottom line is someone out there thinks that something is wrong with you.

Singleness is not a disease.  Singleness is not a disability.  Singleness is one facet of someone’s life – like hair color, personality, and shoe size.  Single people do not inherently disdain the sanctity of marriage, nor have they all chosen this life.  In turn, married people are not the enemy because they like to talk about their marriage and happiness.  They aren’t boasting or being smug.

Now, I am not naive enough to think that there are no differences between the married and the unmarried among us.  Saying so would be untruthful.  I can speak to this, as I just went through the transformation from single lady to that of a married woman.  When you choose to share the rest of your life with another human being, changes will happen.  Some good, some scary, all very much grand and somewhat overwhelming.  Clearly there are aspects of married life that are just different than many of the single life.  And yet, here’s the truth: Ultimately neither one is better or more life-giving than the other.

Think on it: I love the fact that I have someone to come home to at the end of a hard and trying day of work.  When I was single, I loved being able to make every decision on my own and not feel that I had to ask someone else’s opinion if I wanted to travel somewhere, buy something, or make a major change in my lifestyle.  As a married woman it is sometimes difficult to distinguish how and when my husband and I will have time to ourselves without offending the other.  When I had no husband and no prospects, I felt cold and lonely many a night.  There are pros and cons to both states, and I will tell you why: They are both a part of the human condition.  All of us feel happiness at times.  All of us feel loneliness at times.  Marriage does not take your problems away.  In fact, it adds lots of elements to your life that can and do cause more problems and lead to adversity.  Being single is not a problem in and of itself, nor does it cause you to be anything less than the glorious creation of God that you are.

Now, as far as the church is concerned, on the outset we look very much like we support single individuals.  We ramble about Paul’s wish that all could stay as he is, and that it is good not to marry if you can help it.  We say of the single that they have the ability to go off and do missions whenever they feel.  We have small groups, bible studies, and Sunday School classes specifically marketed for “Singles”.

On the surface, this looks like we praise singlehood.  And yet much of what we spout in the church is nicety.  Just words we say and things we do to make us look supportive.  I have been a single woman in the church, and I will share with you how it made me feel.

I have sat in churches in which only married couples were allowed to do any form of ministry (such as teaching Sunday School), and therefore I couldn’t really find a spot were I fit in for ministry.  I have felt that due to the fact that I was a single girl in my late teens and early twenties who wasn’t even dating/courting/talking to a man, I should be waiting any day for a call from the Lord to fly to Ghana.  Yet, He never seemed to be interested in calling me to international missions, and I was confused because I thought that might be the only true calling for someone like me.  I was invited time and time again to singles Sunday School classes, events, dinners and outings.  All those who were doing the inviting were smiling, friendly, married women who had a twinkle in their eye.  I felt like I was being pushed into some strange religious speed dating.  I usually declined, because at such events I felt the tension in the air from the others: the “I may find my future mate here!” fog.  Time and time again I watched girls get married very young, almost in desperation because it seemed like their duty.  More than I can count I answered questions on whether or not I was dating, who I was dating, and when I thought I would be getting married.

I felt like there might be something wrong with me.  As I have mentioned before I do not fit inside the cookie-cutter box.  I like to read, write and do theatre.  I’m not particularly quiet and demure.  I thought maybe I needed to change myself into a Stepford wife in order for a nice Christian man to choose me over the other girls who seemed to have “it”.  Whatever “it” was.  I was lonely, but I also didn’t hate being single.  I didn’t mind not having a date on Friday nights.  I was content without planning out every detail of my future wedding.  Yet, the message I got from the church and the secular culture alike was that I was incomplete.  Except, in reality, I wasn’t.

This was a hard place to be.  I wanted to be happy with myself, yet I felt that maybe I wasn’t living up to my true self because no one seemed interested in marrying me, or even seriously dating me.  I was fun to hang out with.  I was easy to talk to.  But, I seemed comfortable in my single skin and apparently that was intimidating.  I wasn’t desperate to get married and therefore it seemed like I was in no way interested.  Here is the truth: I was waiting on the man God wanted me to marry.  I wasn’t being picky, I didn’t have a notebook list of all the things I wanted in a mate.  I just wanted someone who truly followed God.  The right one.  I felt like marriage would be a calling on my life just like going into the ministry is.  I just hadn’t heard anything from the Lord regarding a mate.  How did that make me a bad person?  How was I being incomplete because I didn’t jump at the first chance?

I have married friends.  I have single friends.  They are, each of them, trying to do what they feel is best for their lives.  Those who are Christians are trying to live as Jesus would have them live.  Ultimately, as a Christian, my husband does not complete me.  Christ completes me, my husband is just along for the ride for what God has for me.  I love him.  I am thankful for him.  I can’t imagine my life without him.  However, God is the one who completes me, who makes me whole.

Now, there is a problem on the other end as well: There are some, not all, single people who really enjoy themselves and don’t understand what the big deal is about the marriage thing.  They don’t see why it takes so much effort, so much time.  I have known some single people who have really downplayed the importance of marriage.  I took vows before God to give my life to this other person.  It’s a big deal.  Sometimes I will choose him over a night out on the town with my friends.  Sometimes I won’t.  But when I do, it  isn’t because I’ve “thrown my life away.”  I am not missing something because I will be sleeping with only one person for the rest of my life.  I’ll be experiencing every facet of my husband.  This is what I have chosen, and it doesn’t make me a sap, an old woman, or a sucker.  It makes me a human being who wants to spend the rest of my life with the one other human being who truly understands me.  I am no better and no worse than a single woman.  I am living the life God has given me.

Life is hard.  Life is lonely.  Single or not, you will go through trials.  You will make mistakes.  You will hurt those close to you.  You will spend hours having fun with those same people.  You are you.  I am I.  We are God’s creation and we are meant to live.

Are you single?  Do you enjoy it?  Hate it?  Do you even really think about it at all?  Are others pushing you and questioning you as to why you are still single?  Do not fear: if you are meant to have a spouse you will find one.  I found that following Christ led me to my husband.  This may happen for you.  It may not.  But you are you either way and you have a life to live.  Live it and ignore the comments from others.  They have their life to live and you have yours.

Are you dating someone and scared it may or may not lead to marriage?  Trust.  It is a hard thing to do.  But trust is important.  Talk to your boyfriend or girlfriend; find out how they feel.  It might lead to a beautiful marriage.  It might not.  But you are you and you are lovely.  You too must live.

Are you married?  Is it a good marriage?  Does it seem like fighting a war at times?  That is because it is a war.  But remember – your spouse is not your enemy.  They are your ally in the bunker.  Maybe you miss the single life.  Maybe you have never been happier.  Either way, you have a shared life to live.

Singleness isn’t a disease and neither is marriage.  They are simply pieces of the human condition.  Do not be afraid.  You are never alone.  Live and love and be completely you.