I ran into a guy I hadn’t seen in a while a couple of weeks ago. He had heard about my recent engagement (you read that right). He said, “I always thought that you felt called to singleness.” I said that while I have prayed about it at different times I’ve never felt that call. He said, “Man, that sucks”. What he meant was that since I was 40 that’s a long time to not feel called to singleness. He’d be right. Ha.
I had another friend tell me once, “We were talking about you the other day and wondering if you really would ever get married. I mean you take such advantage of your singleness.”
We are told all the time to take advantage of our singleness. I’ve always kind of been bothered by this idea. I mean I get it. When you get married stuff changes. In many ways you have less freedom to do what you want, when you want. You aren’t making decisions on your own (not that you should be doing that anyway). Then when you throw in kids, you have even more immediate responsibility.
But we have to be careful with this line of thinking. Taking advantage of your singleness could lead to a couple traps we as singles can fall into.
For starters taking advantage of your singleness shouldn’t turn into, “live it up now because when you are married the fun is over.” This creates a bad idea of marriage. When you get married you don’t die (you will have to die to yourself in places – but again you should be learning to do that anyway). You’re not dead – you’re married. This is so critical. Marriage does require sacrifice and compromise. But it should be fun. Marriage should be a new place to live life to the full – just in a different context.
The idea of living it up now – can also become an excuse for sin. In other words I can just do what I want regardless. This can lead to sexual sin, partying or other hard living. Or along with this – why not play video games or whatever all the time. The list goes on. This is all stuff that gets in the way of becoming married and more importantly it is not what we are called to by Jesus.
Secondly, taking advantage of your singleness shouldn’t turn into, “Throw yourself into your work and build your career.” There are way too many people finding their identity in their work. This is a huge trap for single folks. I mean if I’m free to work more, shouldn’t I? When I started out in my career I would sometimes work 80 hours a week. That was stupid. But who was gonna tell me that? No one. When work becomes our identity it also becomes a place to hide from the hard parts of our singleness. In other words, if I’m focussed on work, then I don’t have to face my insecurities in other areas. Plus if my identity is in my work, and then I get married I’m going to be in trouble – both at work and at home.
Then the church comes into play. You’re single, so take advantage of your singleness or in other words “You should do more ministry than a married person.” This is bad on a couple of levels. It again sets marriage up as an end to doing good ministry. I know for a fact that this isn’t true because I’ve watched lots of married people be just as effective as me at ministry. But if we build that into singles’ heads then when they get married they will think that they should not do ministry. I’ve also seen that happen lots of times. Don’t get me wrong, marriage will change HOW you do ministry, but it doesn’t change that you should be doing ministry.
Here is what I came to several years ago. The key is to live life as best you can to the full. In other words, take advantage of life regardless of the context you are in. What is Jesus leading me to do from where I’m at? That is for sure going to look different married vs. single. But you know what, it also looks different at 40 than it did at 25. I’m not who I was at 25. My role in God’s story is different. I’m counting on that being different 10 years from now. Don’t take advantage of singleness (and don’t be defined by it) – live your life to the full regardless of context. Engage Jesus and the people and world around you. Don’t miss that.
Are you engaged in your context? Are you taking advantage of the now? Or are you missing it by hiding? What is your identity in?