It was over a year ago now that was getting a run down of sports practices and allergies and curfews and dog protocol as the mom of my students prepared for vacation. I’d be staying with her kids for a few days and it was information overload.
In between the always do this and never do that analysis, she casually asked, “Do you have a boyfriend? He’s welcome to come hang out while you’re with the kids this weekend.”
“No, I don’t. But I’m moving to Florida this summer so…”
I honestly don’t remember what I said next. What I do remember is feeling incredibly curious over why I felt the need to justify and explain my singleness by sharing an upcoming move. Yes, I was indeed moving that summer, but I had surely not rejected a host of suitors because of it. I was single because I was single… moving to Florida was a separate reality altogether.
It seems that the older I get (which I fully recognize isn’t old at all) the more uncomfortable this conversation becomes. And because it’s uncomfortable, I stay away from it.
We tend to do that with most things, don’t we? When discomfort is on the horizon and we have the option, we move toward comfort. I’ve seen this embarrassing reality come to light a lot lately.
I never imagined I would be nearing 27 and single. But nothing in me doubts that the Lord is intricately aware and involved in this aspect of my life as much as He is in any other.
The problem is this:
We have made marriage ultimate.
That is, our American Christian culture has made marriage ultimate. This is why young adult singles in the church feel like they’re roaming, incapable of finding a fit, unable to land. We’re not in college, but we’re also not newlyweds and we don’t have a young family. So the church usually shoves us with the college kids and calls us “young professionals,” secretly hoping we meet & marry someone there so we’ll have a better place to fit.
I get it. It’s a hard season.
But I can’t override the story that Yahweh has thoughtfully and intentionally written for me. If marriage really is supreme, then it’s been a gross oversight of the Lord to withhold it from me. And if it’s really all we tell our young people to look toward (in our actions even more than our words), then we will miss connection with a massive demographic of people who walk in and out of our churches, and our lives.
The truth is my favorite adventures and greatest joys of the last four years would have not happened if I had been married when I thought I would be married. Singleness in my life has been a sweet grace from the Lord.
I know many of my married friends would say the same. Which is why the conclusion should simply be this: Jesus knows. Let Him work as He will individually in our hearts without expecting it to look the same as our neighbors.
To my married friends, we love your love. We learn from it; we are encouraged by it. But we don’t have it. Making marriage ultimate in your life communicates that what the Lord has given us is somehow second best. Idolizing your marriage is just as broken as the single friend obsessed with a desire for it. Model surrender. Model reliance on Christ even as you walk in a fulfilled desire.
For my single friends, you are not a half-life. You have more potential, more freedom, and more opportunity to serve, love, and give to those around you. Your time, resources, and talents can be used toward infinite Kingdom purposes if you would only let them.
For my somewhere-in-between friends, you are not married until you say, “I do.” Don’t rush into the next stage of life and miss the fullness the Lord has for you while you are still unmarried.
Let’s be a community that fosters a fight for contentment in every life stage. Whether you find yourself unmarried, childless, or still looking for the right fit professionally.
Our unmet desires may take different forms, but our Jesus is the same, and He is the giver of good gifts. We can trust Him with the areas that feel “lacking.”
And in the mean time, can we agree to at least try to show grace to one another in the midst of the uncomfortable conversation around singleness? Here are some thoughts on things you should and shouldn’t say to your single friends:
Things you should stop saying to your single friends:
- “As soon as you stop looking/when you least expect it, your spouse will find you.”
- The thing is, I have friends who have searched the high heavens for a spouse and found them. I have others who are so focused on the life God has given them, and remain single. Since there isn’t a formula, let’s not promote one.
- “If you have a desire for it, it will happen.”
- Sadly, this just isn’t true. Scripture never promises the fulfillment of every desire, it promises Christ. Scores of people have lived their lives with unmet desires. It may be an unmet desire for a spouse, or it could be a desire for a child, for family members to come to Christ. Lean in to Christ, don’t count on the fulfillment of every hope and want.
- “Maybe he/she is not ready for you yet.” Or “As soon as you’re ready, he/she will show up!”
- As if marriage is a reward for being “ready”? As if people who never marry missed it because they were just never ready enough? Again, there is no formula, my dearest friends.
- “Gosh, how are you still single?” or “But you’re so awesome! Why hasn’t anyone realized that?”
- Just don’t. Ever.
Instead, here are some things you should start saying to your single friends:
- “Let’s have dinner.”
- “Come hang out with my family.”
- “How you are leveraging your time/gifts/resources for the Kingdom?”