Singleness and Community: Playing Hide and Seek

In my circle of friends and acquaintances, this was the year for weddings and engagements. I know four different couples who got married this spring and summer and then two more good friends got engaged just a few weeks ago. I’m honestly very happy for all of them, but at the same time, I would be lying if I didn’t admit to struggling with the temptation of a “when’s-it-my-turn” pity party. The plain truth is I am single at 33, and marriage, let alone a date, seems highly unlikely right now.

Still when Hannah and I reconnected this summer, I was initially very excited that she wanted to hear my thoughts and humbled when she offered me the opportunity to share about singleness on her blog. However, as my excitement dwindled, I found myself running for cover. Writing about singleness meant facing the reality of my circumstances yet again.

And since we are being really honest here, I’ll admit that sometimes it’s easier to hide. In fact, if it’s fight or flight, I often choose escape—usually running to the nearest story, whether it’s in a favorite TV show or novel. I think another other story is better than mine so I just hide out there for a while. And all the while I deceive myself into thinking that I’m waiting patiently in my singleness; but functionally, I’m living the opposite. I’m quietly rebelling against God’s sovereignty and providential leading in my life by thinking that anything other than Jesus will satisfy the longings of my heart.

Now, before you feel sorry for me (or perhaps even chide), let me say that God is graciously at work. The Spirit opens my eyes again and again to see that my greatest satisfaction will not be found in a husband but in knowing and pursuing Christ with my whole heart. And in spite of my running away, the Father still lavishes me with gifts, reminding me over and over that he doesn’t withhold anything good from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11). His gift to me right now is singleness because in his mercy and wisdom, marriage for me would not be good. Remember, the Father gives good gifts (James 1:17).

So if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that singleness and marriage are both gifts. For the longest time I thought marriage was a given—deserved even. I expected that I would finish college and get married like everyone else. But of course, the longer you are single, the more you hear talk of a different gift, the “gift of singleness.”

Maybe like me, you’ve thought this gift of singleness was a super spiritual gift for people who chose to remain single and celibate their entire life. And this gift gave those who possessed it supernatural ability to be constantly joyful and content in singleness and celibacy that seems entirely impossible to everyone else. The trouble is that this view of the “gift of singleness” is not only unrealistic; it is also far too individualistic. I would say the same for our view of marriage too. We like to think about what joys we may get from marriage, but what would happen if we better understood both of these gifts in a broader corporate context? Marriage and singleness are gifts to the Church to use in serving Christ and the Body, not simply gifts for our personal happiness. So when I say the Father gives good gifts, it is two-fold. His gift of singleness is given as much to me for my joy as it is to the Church for the edification of the entire Body, just as the gift of marriage is given ultimately to display God’s glory and covenant-keeping love to the Church and the world.

With their gift, a married couple uniquely pictures God’s covenant love in a way that I can’t. In my singleness, I can display something about God’s sufficiency that those who have a spouse as a constant companion may be tempted to forget. In fact, singleness points us uniquely to the reality of the new creation in which one day no one will be given in marriage because the shadow that pictured The Marriage will no longer be needed. We will all dwell in union with Christ our Bridegroom, finding our greatest delight and satisfaction in the presence of Jesus himself. When you look at it that way, the Church needs both gifts—neither marriage nor singleness is a better gift than the other.

Recognizing the broader purposes of these gifts will determine how we use them to love and serve the Body. Over the next couple of posts, I hope to share some specific observations and recommendations on how married and single Christians can interact in ways that use these gifts—both singleness and marriage—to the fullest. Until then, let’s start by encouraging one another to keep fighting for contentment in Jesus in whatever trying circumstance we are facing. This Truth is what we must all cling to as we fight for true joy—whether we are single, married, waiting on children, a better job, or children to outgrow a certain stage. Fill in the blank; we are all in a fight for contentment to believe that Jesus is our greatest joy.

So if you see me running away from the fight, feel free to drag me back again.

A native of southeastern VA, Christa Bohannon studied Christian Missions as an undergraduate and ultimately received her MA in English in 2004. After a stint as a Junior High English teacher, she now works as an Instructional Systems Developer and is active at Redemption Church. She’s always eager for a good story, especially if it is accompanied by coffee and good friends. She also loves to travel and sometimes pretends to be a runner.

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Dick Dayton's picture

Each time I preach through a book of the Bible, even if I have preached it before, I restudy the text and related documents.  The last time I preached through I Corinthians, I invested significant time in chapter 7.  There, the Apostle Paul spoke of his singleness as a gift (charismatos) from God to be used to more effectively minister. Singleness as a gift is not a "holding pattern" waiting for marriage, but an opportunity to use gifts and abilities to serve the Lord. 

We who are married must also be sensitive to our singles.  We may think, "They do not have any family responsibilities, so we can plug them in everywhere in ministry."  We must remember that these precious people also have personal lives and interests, and we should not expect them to be any more involved than others in our church. They may have a bit more flexibility of schedule, but we must also respect their individuality.

We have often so emphasized marriage that we forget that God, in His sovereign choices, gives some people the gift of singleness in the midst of the community of believers in a church.  We must not isolate them, as it seems Christa has sometimes experienced, but to see all members of our faith community as valuable parts of the Body of Christ.  When we plan church events, we work to plan things that all members of the body can participate in, so that we encourage one another in love.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.  

Dick Dayton

David R. Brumbelow's picture

These random thoughts are not directed at anyone in particular, everyone in general. 

For any number of reasons, some choose not to marry. 
Few, if any (married or single), have “all” their dreams come true; so we each have to just deal with it. 
If some want to marry, they may need to look a little harder, or maybe not be so picky. 
But many singles are perfectly fine as they are. 

God has a place for those who are single, and those who are married.  There are pluses and minuses both ways.  While they are certainly a minority, there are a number of single pastors out there.  A single person can do things for God he could not have done otherwise; so do those things. 

Paul said, “Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?” (1 Corinthians 9:5). (Perhaps a little longing there?)

Maybe we have that right, but it does not always fit into God’s plan.  Apparently, it did not fit into God’s plan for Paul.  Reminds me of the old tract, “Others May, You Cannot,” from the Tract League.  Whatever state we’re in, let’s humbly follow the Lord and leave the results, rewards, and eternity, up to Him. And let's follow Him gracefully. 

One more random thought.  While Single groups are fine, I’ve never considered them essential.  Singles mix with the regular population everywhere else, why not at church?  I doubt if Jesus or the Apostle Paul stopped at the synagogue and asked directions to the singles’ department.  If you’re single, get faithfully involved in your church, whether or not they have a Single’s group.  Use the pluses you have being single, to make a difference for the Lord’s work. 
David R. Brumbelow

ChrisC's picture

David R. Brumbelow wrote:
While Single groups are fine, I’ve never considered them essential.  Singles mix with the regular population everywhere else, why not at church?
the problem with this is not theory, but only practice. in theory, socializing needs could be met cross-generationally and regardless of marital status. in practice, young couples with kids who might be in the same peer group as singles in other respects are too busy with their kids and spouse to take on the extra task of welcoming singles socially and couples of other age groups usually lack enough common interests to effectively socialize. the same churches that aren't interested in singles groups seem to have no problem with a social group for their senior saints. especially in small churches, singles can have a difficult time organizing social events and making sure they don't turn into an accidental unwanted date.

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