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 things that I’ve read on occasion and heard in conversations as well as from the pulpit, is the way to know if you have the gift of singleness is if you are single right now, then you’ve got it.
Now, in some evangelical circles, there is of course debate on whether singleness is a gift or even a calling at all. But I’m going to go ahead and side with 2000 years of Church history along with a straight reading of the scriptures and say that it is.
Here is the general idea of what these folks are selling. The basic idea is of course that God is sovereign and therefore whatever context you find yourself in is the one that God is “gifting” you with right now. If you are unmarried then right now you have the gift of singleness. Married? Then right now you have the gift of marriage. Both are gifts. All contexts we find ourselves in are gifts.
But in our current culture this idea is fraught with problems.
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.
Many years ago when I was driving through Colorado Springs I saw a bumper sticker directed at Focus on the Family that said, “Focus On Your Own Family”. I thought it was sort of funny but I didn’t really give it a lot of thought. But the phrase sort of stayed with me. Whenever I’d see something from Focus I’d think about that sticker and smile.
But in thinking about it, this might actually be a good idea. Now to be clear, before I start, I like a lot of what Focus the organization does.* I’m not picking on them here. However, the Church’s focus on the nuclear family is a huge problem with far, far reaching implications.
One of the amazing things about Jesus is that no matter where we are, what we are doing, what our story is, He loves us. In the famous hymn’s words he loves me Just As I Am. I can come to know Him just as I am, receive His grace as I am and start to follow Him right from where I am now. I don’t earn it. In fact I can’t earn it. God loves you and me right now, no matter what.
The truth is that we all long for that. We long to be fully known and fully loved. We look for it everywhere. As a believer we realize at least intellectually and theologically that God is really the only person who can fulfill that in our lives. But that doesn’t stop us from wanting to experience that with another person or people. It also doesn’t stop us from feeling hurt when we don’t experience it with other people even though again, we know intellectually that no one else can do that perfectly.
What’s really interesting is how this gets twisted up when we think about looking for a spouse and frankly later in marriage itself if we get married.