The word “single” weirds me out just a little. Go to your church bookstore and pick up anything with the words “For Singles” on the cover, and you’ll find two main subjects: dating, and contenting yourself with God. Ditto for any kind of conference with a singles’ class. Now, I have no problem with either of those subjects; Lord knows, they need to be taught and learned and applied in our daily lives. But what if dating opportunities are nil? What if you’ve already learned contentment? Is that all I get?
The New Testament church tended to categorize believers into “aged” and “younger” (I’ll let you guys fight it out on who belongs in which group there), with some extra instructions for the married crowd. Nearly all of the Bible just applies, regardless of your marital status. But have you noticed? Today among many Christians, those groups have somehow morphed into “married” and “single”.
As a young “single”, I’ve already started to feel like the emphasis of a single person’s life ought to be (a) someday I’ll get married and (b) until I do, hey, Jesus loves me even if no one else does. It’s kind of a purely sympathetic category, replete with pitying, hopeful words for the unmarried and a vague sense of being indefinitely on the back burner if all you have to offer God is half of a couple. There’s barely a seat for the over-35 crowd, either; they feel the stigma of singleness even more keenly than I do. This category doesn’t leave any room at all for those whose spouses have died or walked away.
That stigma, that feeling of inadequacy, is totally unscriptural. That’s a subversive idea that we’ve allowed to confuse our perception of God.
- “Is God punishing me by keeping me single?” No, He’s asked the same of you that He’s asked of all of His children: “Love Me with everything you’ve got.” That applies regardless of your marital status.
- “Am I too weird/ugly/nerdy/(fill in the blank) for anyone to like me?” Sheesh, slap Him in the face much? You’re a custom creation that He designed for a specific purpose. Again, your marital status is irrelevant.
- “Am I doomed to be alone for life?” Possibly. He’ll make it up to you. Do you doubt it?
It’s about time the “single” crowd of all descriptions stopped feeling sorry for themselves. It’s time to start showing a little respect for this blessed opportunity God has given us. It’s time to shelve the chick-flick mentality and the dating books for a while, and just dive into an awesome calling.
- Take advantage of your flexibility. If you can travel, if you can fund a hobby, if you can go visit a mission field, do it now. And who says you need money to be flexible? You have the envied ability to spend all evening at the library or to bike all over town. Do it now. You’re not promised money or health in your retirement years. Those who put it off never get the chance.
- Enjoy living with yourself. You don’t have to eat Doritos and frozen pizza every night because there’s no one else to cook for. You don’t have to live in a filthy hovel because no one sees it but you. You don’t have to wear the same shirt 14 times between washes. You are God’s custom-made product; take care of it and show it some respect! If you live with other people, treat them like a family and just choose to love them unconditionally. Everyone should be able to come home to that.
- Be accountable to someone. The person who answers to no one is a prime target for costly spiritual mistakes. Keep tabs with someone who shares your standards or can at least encourage you to uphold your own. Most of what my family watches can be found for free on the internet, but we share a Netflix account so that we’re accountable to each other for what we put in front of our eyes. We also periodically swap passwords for our email and other sites – nothing is forbidden to your accountability partner. I make sure my friends know my online usernames and follow my activity.
- Don’t wait to live. Dig those dishes out of the hope chest. Learn to cook. Take yourself out for coffee. Go for a pointless drive with your Faith Music Missions CD turned up loud (shameless plug there, I know). Make things. Call your family. Don’t just figure you’re in a “transitional” period and can’t afford to do anything. The time will pass whether you’re single or married; you might as well make it worth getting up tomorrow morning.
- Purge your DVD library. I don’t just mean getting rid of sinful movies; that’s something you already know and should’ve done by now. I mean be picky about what goes in your mind. Just about every movie has some kind of romantic subplot, and that’s great, but if all I’m watching are chick flicks and romantic dramas, all I’m doing is feeding that little seed of discontent way down in the bottom of my heart. Why can’t there be a Darcy for me in real life? (Admit it, you know exactly what I’m talking about.) The same goes for books and music – if it influences you to dwell on just how single you are, it’s time to find other entertainment.
- If you are a “Younger”, seek out an “Aged”, and vice versa. Friends your own age are wonderful and not to be taken lightly, but there’s a lot to be gained by spending time with people outside your age bracket. Granted, there’s always a lot of ground to clear away before you find much buried treasure: I like to joke that in my time with Ageds, I’ve learned more about colonoscopies and earwax removal than any other Younger I know, but a few Ageds tell me that all Youngers seem to want to talk about are boys, cell phones, and jobs. And on the surface, that’s all true. But some of the most priceless jewels in my mental treasure chest, I acquired from Ageds. (They say they like me, too.)
- Volunteer. If there’s a ministry in your church that could use a hand, jump in. If there’s a special event, go to the organizer and offer to help. Support and help take care of your pastor and his family. The Great Commission is commanded of every Christian, but most churches have a hard time routing anyone out of bed on Saturday morning for soulwinning and visitation. Don’t you dare.
Oh, and remember Phebe? She’s known as a servant of the church at Cenchrea and a succourer (defined as one who helps in times of need, distress, or difficulty). She’s also the gal that delivered the book of Romans to the church at – wait for iiiit – Rome. That’s over a 700-mile trip and includes at least one stint on a sailing vessel, in times that were getting increasingly perilous for Christians. I don’t see Phebe as the kind of girl that lived in front of the TV with Ben & Jerry’s bemoaning that she had no Darcy. I see a woman who took advantage of an opportunity that wouldn’t have been available to anyone that had a family to look after.
From now on, don’t identify yourself as “single”; just say you’re a “servant of the Lord”. Your relationship status is irrelevant.