This weekend my husband and I will celebrate out sixth wedding anniversary! I can barely believe how the time has flown by or how much our lives have changed in those six years. We have grown in love, learned to live well together, and our family of two has doubled to four. But this anniversary also has me reflecting on what it means to be single.
There was a beautiful simplicity to the single lives that Mike and I left behind. We were free to dive deeply into intentional friendships, travel for mission trips, pour our energy into ministries that we were passionate about, and live very simply so that we were free to give generously. Many times during these six years I have said aloud (or muttered under my breath), “The Apostle Paul was not kidding!” When he told the church in Corinth that a married person’s concerns would always be divided between the Lord’s business and the affairs of this world he told the truth. (See 1 Cor. 7:32-35 for more on singleness). I love my life but I truly miss my single days too.
As Restoration focuses on relationships for a few weeks, I want to take a moment to celebrate those in our community who are not married. I know that if you are single, whether never married, divorced, or widowed, you may feel less visible in our culture obsessed with romantic pairings and nuclear families. But the Church is an everlasting family and in which you are an honored and esteemed brother or sister. In fact, throughout the history of the Church many of our greatest heroes of the faith, including missionaries, pastors, and theologians, were not married.
Those who are called to singleness for a season or for a lifetime demonstrate the goodness of God to keep and sustain his people. God’s love is sufficient for all of us! Even the best marriage is temporary but the Lord’s love for his people is unending. Contrary to Jerry Maguire’s famous quote, no person can ever complete you. It is only in relationship with Jesus that we find healing and wholeness. In the same way, loneliness knows no boundaries, leaving both married and single people feeling invisible and unknown. God sends the Holy Spirit to find us in our loneliness, assuring us that we are seen, known, and loved completely. I am convinced that my single friends who rest in the sufficiency of God understand this best.
I cringe when I think of the way that married folks in the church often jump to conclusions about what is best for our single friends. There’s nothing quite like the gut-punch of well-intentioned but ultimately cruel advice to either “just stop looking” or “just try a little harder” and God will bring someone your way. My genuine prayer for my unmarried brothers and sisters is that we would make church a welcoming place where anyone can safely express hopes and doubts and receive love and acceptance.
If you believe you are called to remain unmarried, we want to be a part of you working out that calling. And if you want to be married, we would like to support you in that (and perhaps play matchmaker, if we can). If you are struggling with the universal Christian calling to chastity, we want to encourage you. If you are grieving the loss of a relationship or simply the passage of time without a promising relationship, we want to share in that grief. Your needs are every bit as valid and significant to the church as the couple struggling in their marriage or the parent in a challenging situation with a child.
Most of all, I echo the words of the Apostle Paul, “I would like for you to be free from concern” so that you may have an “undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:32, 35). Flourish where you are and love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. Inspire and lead the married members of our church family who are pulled in many directions. Your singleness is a gift to you and to the whole church. I pray that God will give us all, single and married, the grace to live for him with a single-hearted devotion.