I broke my one word title rule. And I’m slightly disappointed, but I’ll make it.
I am in a women’s choir and have been for the past 2 years. The first things I noticed when I joined were: 1. How girly and boy crazy women are when they are together, 2. How not girly and not boy crazy I am. Ever. I just want to say I appreciate my choir and my choir director before I say this. But the other day, we were singing this piece where we had to sing about how “we have babies now, and 35 years” (obviously not a direct quote… but still).
At this point, most of us women felt a little awkward and we made comments about it. The choir director then said, you just wait, you’ll be married in 35 years and have kids. This comment bothered me slightly. I love being in the choir, but I think an assumption like this leads one to believe marriage is not an option or calling, but rather, a necessity.
For my senior seminar class, (yes, I know you probably feel like you should just be in the class with me!) we have a discussion going through our emails about marriage. It’s been interesting to hear what people write about. I feel like when people write, they are more articulate and able to speak what they are actually thinking instead of just quickly saying things we’re so used to hearing.
One of my colleagues wrote that she believed that being in a marriage is one of the most glorifying and satisfying things anyone could ever do. Not to point this person out and tell them they are wrong, but this really struck me. Is marriage really the most glorifying and satisfying thing that anyone could ever do? Do marriages glorify God more than being single? Looking at the church, I think people truly believe that the answers to those questions are yes. I doubt people would actually respond yes to these questions, but in the words we use and the ministries we have in our churches, I think most people would say yes.
I do want to say I’ve been single my whole life. In fact I’ve never been on a date. So, let’s be honest, I could be very biased in saying that I am as satisfied as I will ever be and that I can’t glorify God more by being in a romantic relationship. I want to begin by looking at 1 Corinthians 7:8 where Paul says “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried as I do”. I’m not a Bible expert by any means, but I know that Paul is speaking to an audience in Corinth that is infested with sexual immorality of every kind. So maybe it would be easy for us to look at this verse and say, “Well, that was a cultural context that Paul was speaking to, and therefore, now it is better for someone to be married than unmarried”.
But I don’t think that that would be right. Looking at our current culture, that is infested with probably just as much sexual immorality as Corinth was, how can we say that Paul isn’t speaking to us? One argument I can think of is the creation of Eve. When God says “It is not good for a man to be alone”, one could say “See Paul, we really should be married because we’re not supposed to be alone.” But! God is saying that it is not good for man to be alone; why do we always assume that Adam is alone because he doesn’t have Eve? What if we broaden our perspective and say Adam is alone because he doesn’t have community or a helper (which is what Eve is later described as). Why must a helper be a spouse?
As humans, I think we have a deep, deep longing to find companionship. I think that God has rightfully placed that desire in our nature. We long to be in communion and relationship with others. But with that longing, there is a deep, deep, maybe even deeper fear of being alone. I think the fear that we will live the rest of our lives completely alone is in all of us. And that fear only fuels our passion to find someone to be with for the rest of our lives. That fear of being alone is also a great, incredible lure of the devil. (Just a sidenote: God is good, and He has a plan for each of us, and if he has called you to marriage, please don’t read into this and think I’m telling you you’re wrong to be married, I’m not. Marriage is a beautiful thing, and it is a gift from God).
There is nothing wrong with desiring to be with someone for the rest of our lives, but what if God intended the church to ensure us Christians that we will never be alone? What if God intended for the church to bring each other community and what if he intended us to be “helpers” to each other, in marriage or not? What if our fear of being alone and without deep companionship is a facade hiding us from the fact that as Christians, we will never be alone? What if our longing for companionship is actually a longing for the Church?
So, I’m really just putting this altogether, and I have no idea if this is biblically sound or not. But I do know that the way the church and our culture views marriage and singleness is de-sanctifying (is that blasphemous?) marriage and what marriage is meant to be. Marriage is not a necessity that God calls everyone to; it is not meant to be a fulfillment of the deep longing we have for companionship and partnership; it is not about ensuring that we will not have to live our lives alone. Marriage is a union between two people before God, a binding covenant with one another and God that binds two people in an exclusive relationship of companionship for the rest of their lives.
Marriage isn’t easy, and I don’t know from experience, but I don’t think a person feels any more fulfilled as a married person than they felt as a single person. I think as a church, we forget that marriage is hard; love is hard; and falling in love and finding a lifelong spouse may at first sound like a wonderful thing, until you have to spend everyday of your life with them. You are binding yourself to another person, and as humans, that’s never easy or fun. We are innately selfish and self-centered beings and giving that up is humbling and painful. I’m not saying that marriage isn’t great, so if you’re in a wonderful marriage, I know marriage can be a blessing. But I don’t think the majority of married couples would say it was “easy”.
What if our longing and deep desire for companionship should be fulfilled and met everyday of our lives after we become Christians? That’s obviously very idealist. What if that desire for companionship deep inside of us, is actually a deep desire for genuine, godly, friendship that is supposed to be fulfilled by the Church?
I think that the church teaches yes, you fear being alone, but it’s ok, because when you’re not married, God is with you. HOW FRUSTRATING! For a single person to hear this, it makes no sense. “God is to be your lover” or “You should be filled with the Holy Spirit!”. (The God is your lover thing, is particularly frustrating because it’s assuming as humans we deserve a lover, and that we need one. Both of which are false). That’s a bunch of bologna. What if for the hurting single person it was the Church’s job to be their companion and helper? God works through the members of the church. When a single person is alone, and fearing being alone for the rest of their lives, how come the Church can’t come alongside them and prove to them God is with them instead of stating “don’t worry, God is with you”? Instead in the church, it feels like singles ministries are meant to match couples together in order for them to get married.
I am single, and I have been single for my whole life. I would love to have a family, kids, a husband, but I know that I don’t need any of those things. I wouldn’t be disappointed if I died and wasn’t able to raise a family of my own, I don’t have those expectations on my life. This is easier to say than do, but I have full trust in God and his plan for my life. It’s taken me a really long time to get to this place, where I’m ok with not being married, but God is good and faithful. If God does lead me to marriage my hope is that as a married person, I would be more grounded and accountable for my relationship with Christ and my pursuing of Him. If God leads me to marriage, I would hope to be led and pushed to be a better person, rather, a stronger Christian than I would if I were single. For now though, God has called me to be single, and therefore, I am grounded in Christ on my own, and that is just as glorifying and satisfying as my relationship with Christ will ever be.