Popular movies and songs imply the power of romantic love to bring joy. I wanted to share some thought’s I’ve had lately concerning the alternative–the unspoken power of singleness.
When I’m socializing with patients on the geriatrics ward, the elderly folks always want to know if I’m married. When they find out that I am not, “Oh, why, I’m surprised!” they say. “But don’t you worry now,…you’ve still got time,” they say. “you’re still young,” I am told.
It’s almost like there is pity in their voice– to see a vibrant person of any age living life unmarried, without any children and without a family.
“Don’t worry, you’ve got time.” These words seem to echo with a cruel criticism against the life of a celibate individual. And maybe there is an excuse for their sympathy– I suppose there is a measure of cruelty involved in singleness–an unanswered longing, a separation, an aloneness (in a sense)…and of course the unfortunate absence of a sex life.
But the more I think about it, the more I start to think that pity is an unfair response to the single individual. It seems to say that marriage is the superior road and seems to say that the joys of being married far surpass the joys that overflow from a single person’s journey. It seems to say that singleness is very much “less than’ marriage.
I wish that it was okay to be single. It is okay to be single.
To be honest, it is especially so that in a church culture it can be difficult to not feel some measure of pressure to marry. Often an Ephesians 5 sermon, not so often a 1 Corinthians 7 sermon.
The power of love is potent in all its forms, whether it is formed in romantic relationships or in the variety of platonic relationships that exist within a community.
Therefore the two distinct realities found within Christian communities:
are BOTH to be honored and valued as God-given callings.
They both contain purpose and vibrancy and joy’s pertaining to their mold. One is not to be viewed as greater or a more fulfilling/easier journey than the other.
The whole point of life is that we learn to love.
Christ made love out to be dying on a cross. So as much as our instinct teaches us that self-fulfillment is the crux of life, Christ teaches us that the road to true fulfillment is surrender and long-suffering.
The power of singleness awakens our powerless incompleteness–the reality that you are born incomplete. The hole inside your heart cries out when it is struck by the power of singleness.
The power of singleness points us towards the power of togetherness and it says, “Look at this!” It provokes hunger pangs for love–because love involves persons outside of ourselves.
It is aloneness that makes us aware of a profound longing. When Adam finally beheld the woman God formed for him, he burst out, “now THIS is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.”
Solitude draws out our need for an identity that comes solely from our Creator, not just the gifts He gives us. It reveals that our state of singleness is not just intended to move us towards 1 person but rather a community of persons.
The calling of singleness is not merely to create longing for a spouse—but it is to take us on a journey of intimate relationship with Jesus, who experienced life on this Earth for 33 years as a single person. It also binds us to relationships He gives us that are rooted in the perfect community of love. (the Trinity.)
Because marriage in this life is incapable to fulfill all of our relational needs, both married people and single people are driven into community. Therefore singleness is an equally legitimate avenue for growth and joy and fulfillment. It is not less than marriage.
I would also like to mention that what I consider to be one of the highest, sweetest joys of singleness is the opportunity one has to cultivate rich friendships.
There is no ulterior motive in developing pure friendships, no pressure to meet their needs, no emotional rushes and highs and lows. How wonderful it would be to not project my desires or needs into people, but to simply view a person for who they are (outside of anything to do with me) and serve people by getting to know them honestly, apart from what anyone can do for me. Relationships aren’t about personal fulfillment primarily, but rather fulfillment occurs because relationships are how Gods love is poured out among us.
I don’t think that callings are necessarily easy, whether that be the call to be married or the call to be single–but I do believe that there is a sense of it being worth it, despite the sacrifice. And whether it is a life-long call to celibacy or just until you burn with passion, a celibate lifestyle offers one a wide door of effectual ministry. There are many hands to hold, many to become significant to you. I’m thinking of the power of loving an addict on the street, or of offering your time to someone in need of a mentor. There is great joy in discovering that true love has many dimensions to it.
And so the sweetness of fulfillment is to be richly experienced by every saint, no matter one’s marital status.