Valentine’s Day 2014: Content Being Single…

What I find difficult when writing about my single status is avoiding the self-deprecating, whiny, woe-is-me tone. It seems that no matter how nicely you phrase things, it somehow still sounds as though you are bitter for being single. Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of times when I have felt bitter and whiny about it. Most of those times were when I was in a bad mood and lonely. Sometimes at work I get some pretty mean customers and they oftentimes have an influence on how the rest of my day goes. Or maybe I spill my coffee, forget my car keys, sleep through my alarm, or any other really annoying thing that can set me out of focus. If I’m lonely on those days, it’s really difficult to come home at the end and not feel bad that I don’t have someone to vent to.

Most of the time, this is how it is.

Yet there are other times when a pastor gives a sermon about men “manning up,” which usually means finding a girl, marrying her, and having lots of babies. It’s what “Godly men” are supposed to do, apparently. Or maybe you have a friend who just got back from their honeymoon, so the next time you see them, they’re obviously going to ask you if you’re seeing anyone. Or maybe another friend asks you about a third, mutual friend and asks you why you haven’t asked her out. And before you can really say anything they drop that infamous “it’s not good for man to be alone” line on you, as if Genesis 2 was only about finding your Eve and rearing children.

Those times suck.

They suck because no matter what reason you give as to why you’re single, the under-lying assumption is usually that you’re supposed to find your spouse. Especially if you’ve graduated college. Especially if you’ve recently turned 25. And if you’re over 30 and you still haven’t found your spouse? Well, tough luck, bro. You probably missed your chance.

I’m targeting a sub-cultural mentality within Christianity that I do not agree with. Okay, let’s be honest here, there are plenty things within Christianity that I do not agree with, but since it’s Valentine’s Day, I’m highlighting this one. It’s this idea that God put us on this earth to find spouses and make families. Even though this is one of my deepest desires, I read the Scriptures just as much as anybody and know full well that this is not the universal purpose for everyone who follows Christ.

By “Christ” I mean Jesus – the 30-ish year-old guy who, for all we know, never married. Some say that’s because the ministry he was called to didn’t have room for a spouse – same argument goes for Paul, another prominent, single figure in Scripture. But what if it wasn’t because of their ministry? What if it was because they simply didn’t want to? What if they were more content being single? Do you know those passages where Jesus’ family is trying to track him down or when he says that prophets aren’t even welcome in their hometowns? Well, what if those were places where Jesus felt pressured most to marry and live the culturally-accepted life?

I know, I know, the Bible doesn’t say that. But what does the Bible say?

“So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better,” 1 Corinthians 7:38, ESV[1]

I tell you this much, I have never heard a sermon on the benefits of being single – even though one of the most prominent figures in all of Christianity (you know, apart from the aforementioned single fellow named “Jesus”) said it was the “better” thing. Instead there are countless sermons about how you should date or court or set up an arranged marriage. After that, there are countless more sermons, seminars, and conferences devoted solely to marriage.

Don’t get me wrong, the married lifestyle, from what I’ve seen in my married friends, is difficult. Exceedingly so. It’s immeasurably important for married folk to have healthy, constructive marriages. But my argument here isn’t knocking marriage down; it’s pointing out that every single person has an identity that is not defined by their relationship status. We singles have a place at the table – just like Gentiles did at the Jewish tables. We aren’t better than the married folk, but our single lives aren’t less than the married life, either.

With as much as this mentality focuses on the positive aspects of marriage, its difficulty gets glossed over almost entirely. Marriage is not just something you can do casually. It takes commitment. It takes sacrifice. It takes trust. And all those things (and many more that I do not now know of) are heavy on the heart. I haven’t had much of a dating life at all, but even the bits I have had (or all the times I pursued a girl and got shot down) they’ve been rough. They’ve been painful. Many of them left me in tears. I can only imagine it gets more severe the closer you are to someone. There is a reason Scripture places so many demands on married people.

Trust me, the single life is hard, too. But being single does not mean being alone. In fact, even though most of my friends are still in Eugene, I’m doing quite well. I have an atypical community that mostly revolves around GFES[2], but it’s a good community. I care about my classmates and they care about me.

When I read Genesis 2 and hear God say, “It is not good for man to be alone,” I no longer think God’s talking about me. I no longer picture myself in Adam’s shoes (or sandals or whatever he wore back then). Getting to this point in my life – this point where I can confidently say I am content being single – is something I once believed would never happen. I used to think that I was never good enough for anyone and that I’d never be content being single. But not anymore.

Yes, I deliberately chose to post this on Valentine’s Day. Not to ruin anyone’s plans, not to vent my bitter feelings about being single, and not to put a negative vibe in anyone’s day. I posted this today because I know there are other singles who share these feelings I’ve had and have hardly anyone who will listen without shaming them – by saying it’s their fault or they need to try harder or pray more or tell Jesus that they don’t want it and then it’ll happen. I’m writing for those who, for whatever reason, can’t write or speak for themselves. Those single people who are living incredible, normal lives just like all their married friends.

Forget what people say; it’s perfectly normal to live your entire life single. And even if it wasn’t, Jesus did it. So did Mary Magdalene. Paul did it, too. Without them, we wouldn’t have Christianity.

One’s love life should not be exclusive to dating or married folk. Singles have love lives, too. They just look different.

Happy Singles-Awareness Day!


[1] I know, I quoted one verse. Frankly, though, it’s overlooked or downplayed time and time again. And I really wanted to quote the whole chapter, but this sums it up well.

[2] George Fox Evangelical Seminary

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Jeremy

Cherokee / Whovian / Sherlockian / Aspiring Auror / Lover of Jesus, Scripture, and creativity / MATS Student at George Fox Seminary.

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