This is not, in any way, an article that a younger version of myself would have happily written. In fact, I clearly remember driving down a rainy Louisville, Kentucky road on my twenty-sixth birthday, firmly grasping the steering wheel and boldly telling God: “This is not the way my life was supposed to be right now.”
Somewhere along the way, I seemed to have embraced the understanding that prolonged singleness was something to be endured, rather than valued.
Growing up in a Christian context, I’ve been long familiar with Paul’s admonition in 1 Corinthians 7:6-9 regarding how singleness is a good gift, and that it is not, in fact, the relational handicap that I had categorized it to be. If singleness was a gift to be given, I was certainly not going to stand in line to receive it. It took me a lot of years to believe this—to really, truly believe that singleness can be good. Thankfully, in the Lord’s wisdom, years of singleness in my own life have shown me exactly what a gift it is.
For many single adults, the word family immediately brings one of two images to mind. First, there is one’s biological, blood family. At the simplest level, family is the group of people you were born into. Second, there is the thought of one’s future family: the husband and the children. For many years, I lived almost exclusively in the daydreamy world of the latter, imagining what my life would be with the spouse that God would assuredly bring my way.
I believe there is also a third category of family, and it’s one that highlights the unique position that singleness affords. This category is comprised of the individuals who beautifully become your family.
Being single can often put you in a place that just feels like a constant in-between: your biological family begins to feel a bit distant from the adult you have become, while the dream of your own future family begins to feel like less of a certainty. It is in this sometimes awkward relational chasm that the Lord binds you to individuals who know you, accept you, and love you—just the way families are called to love.
Being welcomed into the fold of community around you when you are not bound by blood-ties or wedding vows is a particular form of acceptance that should not be undervalued. There is such beauty in this very practical demonstration of the gospel. These relationships are a gift, and in a very real way, can provide the single adult with family upon family upon family to call his or her own.
In a culture where the understood status of everyone is “busy,” I find it helpful to regularly ask, What’s making up my busy? For married women, busyness seems validated by the need to potentially juggle any combination of marriage, motherhood, church commitments, work, friendships, hobbies, etc. But what about single women who haven’t been given all these reasons to have a full schedule? What about those who long to be busy with a family of their own, but remain in a season of waiting?
As in many areas of the Christian life, here too a broad perspective serves the single well. Singleness provides nearly endless options for navigating the rhythms of life and the flexing of one’s schedule around the things and people that are important. Having the capacity to spend evenings and weekends investing in community, church life, travel, etc., affords the single man or woman with an availability that is not found in many other seasons of life. This should be cherished, stewarded well, and deeply appreciated.
Frustration and Faith
I have often reflected back on my own past and thought, “I wish I would have just trusted God more when that was happening.”
Waiting is no fun. Whether it’s waiting for a job offer, waiting for a house to sell, or waiting for a relationship to begin, the need to wait, without the ability to change anything, can be very frustrating and simply exhausting.
Waiting for your spouse can serve as an opportunity to either doubt God’s good plan, or to affirm your faith in a loving Father who promises to provide what you need. If you find yourself in that space of waiting, my challenge to you is to wait well. Surround yourself with Christian community, live in gratitude, and strongly trust in the Lord’s sufficiency to meet your needs.
Thankfully I’ve learned some things since that dreary twenty-sixth birthday. Mostly, these years of singleness have taught me much about a God who hears our prayers, cares for our needs, and is very near to us in our suffering.
Perhaps the “single” checkbox is feeling more like a sucker-punch to you than it is a simple statement. If so (and even if not), I encourage you in the exact same ways I would encourage my friends who are married: trust God fiercely to meet all your needs, throw yourself into Christian community, and thank God—with a deep, deep gratitude—for a season in your life that is like no other.