One of the things that used to bother me the most in my over 20 years of singleness was when people who were married would tell me things like, “Enjoy your singleness while you have it”, or “Take advantage of where you are at”, or “Enjoy the freedom you have bro.”
Now at some level there can be some wisdom here. We should focus on living fully in the context we are in. It doesn’t do us much good to have marriage as an idol and constantly be thinking that my whole world would be perfect if I just met the right person. I get that.
But I think at this point it might be fair to say that in our context today, we might be taking a bit too much advantage of our singleness. We might be too focussed on our “freedom” at times. It’s not like everyone is launching into early marriage. In fact almost no one is. So maybe we should ask some different questions.
First of all, we need to get over the fact that life is hard. Yes married people, I get it, marriage is hard. But we need to be really, really careful with that because in our culture we seem to be equating hard with bad. But in the Kingdom hard and bad are not synonyms. Hard and Joy are not opposites. And besides, singleness can be pretty dang hard too. Life is hard sometimes. And sometimes it isn’t.
So one trap we need to avoid is setting marriage up as this great loss. Like somehow if you get married your personal life is over. That’s a lie. It’s different yes, but not over.
But there are even more traps here.
The idea of taking advantage of your “freedom” or living it up before you settle down is extremely dangerous spiritually.
I’ve had a lot of people tell me that getting married made them realize how selfish they are. I have no doubt about that. I’ve had a few other friends tell me that they really realized how selfish they were when they had kids. I for sure can see that.
But they were selfish the whole time. They just didn’t realize it. What if as a single person we went ahead and started working on this now?
Look, if everyone was still getting married when they were in the early twenties, maybe marriage would be a good time to realize you’re selfish. But sense only 20% of people in their twenties are married, maybe we’d better not wait for marriage to realize it.
We have a more self-absorbed world than ever. It’s so much easier to get away with it. Do you know that 50% of single people live by themselves? Think about that. We go where we want. We eat what we want. We spend money on what we want, when we want, without anyone knowing about it. If you’re single right now, name one person who knows your income to debt ratio.
And the world encourages it. Go get yours first. You’re somehow not ready to be married until you’ve got your career where you want it or all your issues worked out. Live it up, then get married. What kind of plan is that? A plan to stay single – or have a rough marriage.
We say this spiritually too when we misinterpret scripture to mean that when your single you are more able to focus on God than if you are married? Really?! That is not what it says. If that were true then literally no one should get married. It’s not do great ministry while you can, before you get married.
This line of thinking also starts to bleed over into keeping us single when we shouldn’t be. Hear me clearly here. Just because you are single doesn’t mean you being selfish. But there are a huge number of people that are single in large part because they are living and/or dating selfishly.
What would it take for us to get married? Well we need to meet the person who looks how we want, acts how we want, makes the money we want them too or in other words, “the one who meets all my expectations and needs”. Friends, that person DOES NOT EXIST. Am I saying settle for anyone? Heaven’s no. But what I am saying is that the vows of marriage are not self centered. We don’t stand up front at the wedding and talk about what we expect to receive. We promise what we will give – until death.
Here’s the reality, neither singleness or marriage is about me. Life is not about you. It’s about God and the Kingdom.
Our culture has crafted out a time of singleness for most people. We are not called to spend that time being about ourselves or “taking advantage of our personal freedom”. Instead we are called to deal with our sin and advance the kingdom. Married or single we are called to crucify our flesh. Jesus says “whoever loses his life will find it”. There aren’t any parameters on that. Not marriage, not a certain age, not after certain career goals are met. Now!
If we get married it’s not so that I can get my needs perfectly met through a spouse. It’s so we can follow God together. If I have kids, they aren’t mine, they’re for me to shepherd and do my best to point towards God. And if we are single, it’s not “our time”. It’s God’s. In other words, start dealing with your selfishness now.
Is your singleness all about you? Where is selfishness keeping you single? Is anyone in your life besides you? When is the last time you made a decision based on what was best for someone else?