One of the things I used to hear all the time when I was a in my twenties and single was the idea that I needed to be “content” with my singleness.
Now there were at least two origins that this thought came from. Some were espousing this advice because, “it’s when you’re not looking that you find someone”. In other words if you were content and not striving to get married, you would be more likely to find someone to marry. Just typing that makes me laugh.
It’s funny the things that you remember from college classes. I remember one of my favorite classes was an introduction to philosophy. I loved this class because the professor was very unbiased and we got to write some really cool papers. (One of my papers was: Is the judaeo-Christian ethic sufficient for handling environmental issues. The answer was of course yes – which I proved rather convincingly I might add).
One of the great moments of the class that has always stayed with me was a video in which a female pastor of some kind said, “The thing that separates humans from everyone else is our ability to sin. Nothing else on earth can sin.” That, friends will preach.
I bring that idea up today because I want to look at a couple of important things that we have sort of accidentally gotten backwards in the western church when we talk about singleness, marriage and sex. That is, that you are just an animal instead of a person.
One of the debates that I’ve seen in churches and even among singles in churches is should we or should we not have singles groups. I’ve seen a lot of different approaches in my over 20 years as an adult single. I’d like today to offer a few practical thoughts on this.
Right now there is a lot of reporting out there about the American Evangelical culture and it’s impending doom. While I think that reports of it’s death have been greatly exaggerated, it should lead to a lot of reflection in all sorts of contexts.
As I watch it unfold and watch the church interact with the culture in several ways and in many different contexts I see a couple of things that we have to get past. These things play out in all sorts of different ways, but of particular interest here in the space, is in relation to singleness.
Here are two major problems (not that there aren’t more – as well as many good things) that I see over and over again in different cultural exchanges.
In our culture we are constantly talking about how we identify. Not only that, but we know that whatever our answer is to that question, we will be judged by it. It has of course to do with who we are, what we do, or even what we believe. We are republican, democrat, conservative, liberal, American, black, white, male, female, gay, straight, feminist and on and on. In the Church identify ourselves and judge others as Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, fundamentalist, charismatic, Baptist, Calvinist, Lutheran and on and on. Heck in my town we identify people by their zip code, whether we live north or south of a street and what high school that someone went to. We can also identify ourselves and others by things that have happened to us, or that we’ve participated in or even what teams we root for.
Some of these are things that we are born into and others are things we choose or believe. But if we are in Christ none of these things are supposed to be our core identity. Meaning that they are not to be the first thing that defines us. This includes whether or not we are single or married.
Most of my usual readers know that this blog is written mainly for men. Lots of ladies read this and probably 70% of what I write here is pretty applicable to both sexes. This is especially true of all that I’ve said theologically about celibacy, family and the Church. It’s mostly true of the things we discuss having to do with living in the context of being unmarried including things like dealing with sexual desire, community, touch, money, dealing with loss, etc.
However most of what I’ve offered here in terms of what to do with attraction, how to attract people, how to get a date and how to date, have been very guy centered. I’ve had several requests from female readers at different times for thoughts on what they can do in those areas. So I want to offer some thoughts today.
One of the things I did a lot as a single person is pray for a spouse. That took a lot of different forms. Sometimes it was simple and relaxed. Other times it took the form of crying out (read begging) for God to bring me The One. Often when I really thought someone could be the one it was praying for God to “make it happen”, sometimes before I’d even been on a date (that hurts a little to type – Ha!).
But over and over again for years, it never happened. God didn’t “answer” my prayer.
This really begs two different types of questions. First, should we, and if so how should we, pray about gaining a spouse. Second, why is it that God doesn’t seem to answer this prayer or as I like to say, why doesn’t God just “poof” us a spouse.