I always thought I would be just like you–married, couple of kids, and maybe serving with my husband in a church somewhere (preferable somewhere like Outer Mongolia or Turkmenistan). But, it appears the Lord has had something different. I have learned to trust Him in that and to utilize this gift of singleness step by step as He has uncovered it for me.
I wouldn’t have made it this far without you. As I mentioned in a letter to singles about you, one of the greatest joys of my life is being loved by you. You gave me a key so that I could come anytime to do my laundry. You’ve invited me to the birth of your children, to the finalization of your adoptions. You celebrated when I finished my doctorate. You’ve taken me on vacation, fed me endless plates of nachos, cried with me, played board games, and saved me a seat at church. We have served together and argued over the best, well, everything. You’ve fallen asleep looking at my travel photos. You have redirected my sense of justice (read “rage”) and challenged my thinking.
In short, you are a gift of God.
But to tell you the truth, sometimes it isn’t easy for some of my single brothers and sisters to get to know you. They need you more than you need them, or so it seems. Sometimes you are so busy with your world of piano lessons and soccer and dentist appointments that you don’t recognize the people in your midst who long to live life with others.
I shared with a group of pastors’ wives recently how challenging it can be for singles in the church because of some of your assumptions. A frequent conversation goes like this, “Hi, my name is ‘Lisa’.” “Hi Lisa, I’m Rebecca. What does your husband do?” There is absolutely nothing that I can say to Rebecca that doesn’t bring the conversation to a halt. Her assumption leaves us both fumbling.
Here are some other assumptions that are leveled at singles:
- Single people don’t value marriage. If they did, well, they wouldn’t be single.
- Older single women who have a stable job or have pursued education are sinfully resistant to marriage. (At least I’ve avoided debt and tattoos.)
- God is punishing people with singleness because of some sort of secret sin in their lives. (As if married people don’t sin?)
- If single people really wanted to get married, they would go to Match.com and find someone. (Just how much rational thought have you seen on-line recently?)
- Singleness is just a season, and eventually, God will give you the desires of your heart. He will let you out that lobby of desperate loneliness and into the glorious mansion of marriage.
- If you are not married and parenting, you have missed God’s highest call for your life. (Cue up any Mother’s Day sermon here. . .)
- Singleness is a demonstration of immaturity, and well, just grow up already! (Seriously! as much as I admire one particular seminary president, when he talks about singles, he seems to think we are all unemployed and playing video games in our mom’s basement.)
- Singleness is never a good thing–it is only ever the lack of God’s greatest gifts.
- Only people who are married can use their spiritual gifts in the church because they are being sanctified by marriage. What?
- Singles have unlimited time and money. Uh, nope.
- Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Yes, I have heard all of these things from really well-meaning people. And yes, some of these things may be true of some singles. But friends, these assumptions are not entirely Biblical, especially when marriage becomes an idol. When you get a chance, maybe take a listen to these couple of messages linked here on the myths of singleness.
But having said that, we need you. We need each other! The Biblical truth of the matter is that if we are in Christ, we should have spiritual fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, and spiritual children/disciples even. Christ spoke of the family that He reconciled being even closer than blood, and I think He intended us to live like it!
So, what are some ways you can pursue your single brothers and sisters? In addition to some of the love I shared above, here are some other ways I have seen families love singles:
- Provide a home. Young singles especially (and especially in high rent states like California!) are often looking for housing. What would it look like for you to invite a single to live with you? Have some good discussions about expectations both ways, and trust that the Lord is going to teach you all many, many things.
- Counsel. Sometimes singles need people from whom to seek counsel. I have a group of three families who help me make decisions about my schedule. If I have doubts about taking on a speaking engagement or adding something to my responsibilities, I shoot them a text and we talk it through.
- Pray. Its a hard knock life, and your prayers mean so much. One family always ask for prayer requests from me before dinner and then prays immediately.
- Matchmake? (with permission!) If our church families don’t introduce us to godly singles pursuing Christ in the same direction, just where do you think that will happen?
- Help. Can you help with car problems? Taxes? Be an emergency contact? Provide laundry facilities? Teach someone how to cook?
- Eat. Break bread together. You eat, singles eat–its not an extra task. In fact, when our Savior wanted His disciples to come together to remember Him, he instituted a meal. Spending time over a meal is such a loving way to care for your single friends. Take your single friends on date night? I love your kids, but once in a while, can we eat without them?
- Accept help. Its ok to ask for help. Please? It is nice to feel needed. Even if it means watering your botanical garden when you are on vacation. Let us pick the kids up at school or tutor a child in math.
- Dovetail. Pursuit can be as simple as, “Come grocery shopping with me.” Or exercising together. Or carpooling to a shared location.
- Trust. Nothing says, “We love you” like trusting your Single friends to spend time with your kids. Yeah, babysitting is one piece of that, but don’t let it only be that. Help us know how to best support your parenting. Point out ways we can grow, and maybe ask for our feedback. Its possible we will observe things in them or in you that may be helpful.
- Limit. Help us to understand the limits of your time. Sometimes we are so hungry for real life connections that we will show up too late or too often. We laugh too loud when the baby is asleep or wrestle too hard with the kids. Help us love you well.
- Remember Holidays. The calendar is full of holidays that remind single people we don’t fit into the greater culture. Mother’s Day? Father’s Day? And don’t even get me started about Valentine’s Day. And New Year’s? Man, midnight is so awkward! How can you include, comfort, and mentor your single friends through these annual reminders of what we are missing out on.
- Befriend. No one likes to be someone’s project. Pursue the singles in your life as true friends. Text and call and invite. Celebrate, mourn, walk, love, live, and laugh!
Yes, your marriage shows the world how salvation is shaped: Christ the Bridegroom gave His life to sacrificially win a Bride who loves Him. But following my Savior in my singleness demonstrates to a watching world that His sacrifice was effective even without many of the comforts of this life, that Jesus is truly all I need for salvation. Together, we can live as a family who shows His love and His efficacious empowerment. We need each other. And the world needs to see Jesus!
God punished many of us with singleness, especially many of us single men that hate being alone all the time as well.
[…] job describing the necessity and intricacies of friendship, including a poignant chapter on the myth of lacking family. I have been extraordinarily fortunate to have multiple families who have adopted me, but its not […]
That one seminary president you mention spoke at a conference I was at, once. There is no excuse for him. He knows his position is unbiblical but chooses to spew his views for shock value. His direct quote was, “There is no biblical category for enduring singleness.” That really was was the entire hour-long session was about. The fact that his peers don’t have the courage to call him out on that is scandalous and the cronyism that has befallen the celebrity pastor culture in the neo-reformed movement is every bit as damaging to the church as the bad doctrine they all spend so much time railing against. I want nothing to do with the T4G ir TGC for these very reasons. Character and humility matter. (Sorry for the somewhat tangent, but they are connected.)
It is disappointing when we see such inconsistencies, Jenn. I agree with you. However, I am willing to give a little more leeway on the motives. I think we all tend to swing one way or the other on issues. Remember the Shakers from NYS History? Great community, lot of adoption, but no marriage permitted. The leftist society of our day doesn’t see the need for marriage either. I think some of the response we have heard from Evangelicals over the years is overreaction to the world’s pressure on the church. It’s no different that rest rest of history, really. Act, React, Overreact. You can see the same thing in the Reformation with Luther and the nuns and monks and the perception of marriage. This overreaction tends to hurt us more because of our own status.
Yesterday, I just got done teaching through Phil 1:12-18a for our women’s Bible study at church and was really struck by Paul’s words in 17 and 18–even those who preach Christ with wrong motives are a reason to rejoice because Christ is being preached. So, do I question motives? Sure. Paul did. But the Gospel is still advancing, and I am learning to rejoice. And, I still have areas of reaction and overreaction I will be weeding out the rest of my life, so that is probably where my focus should be. . . I hope that helps.
I must have skipped right over this sentence the first time: “No one likes to be someone’s project.” That is a HUGE problem when inexperienced people attempt ministry thinking more about themselves than the person in need.
I once saw a woman bring a frozen 15-lb. turkey to a needy family that had (literally) almost nothing in the pantry. She was beaming, so pleased with herself that she forgot to bring a mallet and chisel to chip off a meal. After she left, the wife started to cry at this insensitivity.
One item I didn’t see on the list of ‘false assumptions’ is ‘singleness is a gift meant to be used to serve others.’ While that can be true, singles can become like the assistant managers at chain restaurants like Denny’s: salaried and therefore the workhorses staying later and working longer hours at the same fixed price. IMO, singles can be exploited in similar fashion and since they’re generally younger and not as inclined to say no (obviously there are exceptions), a considerable amount of resentment can build up. I don’t like to see that happen.
Singleness does allow for different types of service, but often, less consistent because of the situation you describe here.
Seriously, Outer Mongolia?! Well, here we are….get on over here.
Appreciating your writing; hoping to read your last few posts as we go on a little vacation this next week!
May our Lord encourage and bless you as you serve Him there. (until you get here)
….love, from afar….
I thought that I would be a farrier in Mongolia when I was an early teen. Vocational work?! 🙂 I’m always game for a visit!
[…] and don’t worry, I have some thoughts for families about singles you can find here, […]