Thursday, April 2, 2009

The problem with being single...

I think more needs to be done to discuss being single. Many articles on Christians singleness end up saying something to the effect of: "You're single and not married, so you can't have sex. Deal with it!" Or variations on the theme: change the wording, and maybe you'll feel better.

Other articles focus on Paul's discussion in 1 Corinthians 7, that not being married is better than being married - that it is a gift that allows a person to focus on discipleship.

The first time you read or hear these kinds of things, okay, it gives pause for thought. The second time, maybe it reinforces some questions you have been meaning to ask yourself. After that - it starts getting old. But that isn't really representative of the fullness of being single and a disciple of Christ. Where does one go from here? Other there other paths that can be explored? Examples of people who are single?


SnakeWoman said...

From the youngest age, I assumed I would get married in my twenties and have children, as well as a brilliant career as something-or-other. When neither marriage nor vocation materialized by my late twenties, I began going through something like stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. By the time I reached my mid-thirties, I'd found a vocational path, but the reality sunk in that I might be single for life. Certain ideas helped me come to terms with it:

* Pursue my passions in life, even in those weeks when I don't feel all that passionate.

* Find other people who share those passions.

* Live in the present.

* Remember that the future almost never turns out as pictured, either in daydreams or nightmares--it's just different.

* Enjoy relationships with other people. If dating, enjoy time spent together and accept the other person as is, instead of wondering constantly whether or not the relationship might last.

* Be honest with God. Remember and be thankful for what's clearly good, and express my feelings in no uncertain terms when bad times come.

* Let God be in charge. This is tough for me, partly because I have a hard time figuring out what God might be saying. But God knows that and, when it's important that I get a message, makes sure it comes in a form I can understand.

Then, at age 37, I got married. Some of the challenges are different now--not harder or easier, just different. But those ideas that helped me earlier are still just as important now. Getting married at a later age has helped make the transition easier, because I don't have a sense of entitlement, and I've learned some important things about relationships from housemates, family, friends, and coworkers. It's the same with my vocation: I hold it rather lightly, much as I love it, because there is so much life in the world, and I may find myself in a very different (as-yet unknown) place down the road. God will be there and will still love me. That's the only guarantee.

Some struggles are particular to singleness, and some to married life, but I think the most central struggles for believers are common to most of us. That's why I so appreciate churches that encourage demographic diversity. When single people only hang out with other singles, or when people of a certain age never mix with other ages, or when people of different backgrounds or ethnicities avoid each other, a subtle "them vs. us" feeling can creep even into the most generous of minds. Whether married or single, it's vital for believers to keep bumping up against the reality of other people's thoughts, feelings, faults, and virtues.

Jana Bennett said...

These are really important ideas - sorry I am just seeing them now.