Why Being Single Doesn’t Mean There’s Something Wrong with You

If there’s one thing that Lifetime movies are great at, it’s reinforcing the idea that life is not complete without romance. Okay, it’s not just Lifetime that’s guilty of this. It’s probably every rom-com ever and about a million songs. This is a lie, but it’s one that I totally bought into and that you may buy into too. When I was still single, I spent way too much time dreaming about much better and how much more fulfilled my life was going to be after I found that special someone. The sun would shine brighter, the sky would be bluer, and the birds would sing better.

The (Limited) Truth in the Lie

There is a tad of truth in the lie, but only a tad. The whole infatuation period where your romance is blossoming does tend to make you see the world through rose colored glasses…at least for a while. It doesn’t last forever though. Not only that, it doesn’t really make your life feel more fulfilling. If you’re lacking a sense of purpose before you fall in love, your romance is not going to change that, at least not permanently. You’re still you even after you get married.

You might have a bit more confidence in yourself (having someone permanently in your corner is pretty nice, though not exclusively found through marriage) and you have the comfort of at least one person walking down the path of life with you (which is no small thing, though as a future post will show, it’s not guaranteed to be permanent), but that’s about it. You are a whole person before you get married and you continue to be a whole person afterwards. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something (probably an online dating subscription).

Jesus Was Single and Whole and So Are You

I’m not alone in my thinking about this (which is always a comforting thing). There’s actually a great book that talks about this that I highly recommend. It’s called Singled Out and was written by two women who found themselves still single in their 30s and wrestling with how both culture at large and the church view and treat single people. They note that the message of culture and even the church is that unmarried people aren’t living full lives.[1] Those who are unmarried often feel like they are outcasts or less than, even in the midst of a church community.

This is not how it should be and is actually a bit ironic in a church setting. After all, the Jesus we follow came to earth and lived life as a single man. He was the perfect, ultimate man and yet he never married. Singles should never be considered second class citizens or less than. They’re following in some very big footsteps. They shouldn’t be ghettoed nor should they isolate themselves. Jesus wasn’t a recluse. His relationships with others (including several women) demonstrate that while relationships are essential to life (including relationships with the opposite sex), marriage is not.  “Marriage can never be the antidote to loneliness, nor does it create wholeness in the individual.”[2]

Marriage Is Not a Marker of Maturity

Neither should marriage, based on Jesus’ example, be seen as some sort of marker of maturity or adulthood. Being single doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you or that you’re missing something in your character. “Not everyone who marries is spiritually mature and content in the state in which God has placed him or her. And not everyone who is single is spiritually immature and discontented.”[3] Jesus was the most spiritually mature person who ever lived. His lack of spouse had nothing to do with his mental or spiritual maturity (hello, he was Jesus, people) and everything to do with the plan God had for his life. In the same way, those who find themselves unmarried should not feel like God is punishing them or keeping a spouse from them until they reach a certain maturity level. Marriage is not something that is earned, it is a calling, just like singleness.

This is another lie I bought into. I would look at the people around me that were getting married and think, “What the heck is going on? How can they be getting married and I haven’t even been asked out? They’re weird as heck. What are they doing that I’m not?” While yes, that was a prideful attitude, it’s something we’ve all thought on occasion. I started wondering what was wrong with me and/or what I wasn’t doing right. The answer was nothing, besides a misunderstanding of the nature of marriage (and perhaps the aforementioned prideful attitude). I failed to understand that marriage is a gift of God’s grace. It’s not earned by good behavior or spiritual maturity. It just happens according to God’s plan. I recognize that this isn’t always a comforting fact (it leaves us a bit powerless after all), but that doesn’t make it any less true.

Jesus shows us that the single life is a whole life. It is not a life only forced onto selfish or immature people. It is not a life devoid of any relationships. It is not a joyless life. It’s not a life focused on just waiting for a spouse. Jesus demonstrates that the ultimate life, life to the fullest, can be lived outside a marriage relationship. Jesus shows that single people are not less than, they are not second class. Rather, they are living out the same relational vocation to which God called his own son. The single person can look to Christ as one who understands his or her plight and is the ultimate example of a single, purposeful life. They can also look to him as one who has been there and will walk with them through their struggles with loneliness (because loneness is real and hard and painful). He even understands what’s it’s like to second guess God’s plan. After all, even Christ struggled with God’s call for him in the garden.

So take heart friend, you don’t have to wait for love or romance or sex or marriage for life to begin for you. God has called you to live to the fullest right now, right where you are. Don’t let something you don’t have rob you of joy you should have. One is a whole number and single or married you are a whole person with a whole calling. Live it out!

 

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

[1] Christine A. Colon and Bonnie E. Field, Singled Out: Why Celibacy Must Be Reinvented in Today’s Church (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2009), 31

[2] Doug Rosenau and Michael Todd Wilson, Soul Virgins: Redefining Single Sexuality (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006), 95

[3] Ibid, 125

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