Thursday, January 12, 2006

Still Single

I was reading an article on ChristianityToday.com when I came across the following quote from a message delivered to a group of singles at a Joshua Harris New Attitude Conference in 2004:

I'm going to speak of the sin that I think besets this generation. It is the sin of delaying marriage as a lifestyle option among those who intend someday to get married, but they just haven't yet. … In heaven, is the crucible of our saint-making going to have been through our jobs? I don't think so. The Scripture makes clear that it will be done largely through our marriages. The longer you wait to get married, the more habits and lifestyle patterns you will have that will be difficult to handle in marriage. … If you're seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, or in your early twenties—what are you waiting for? -- Dr. Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

He went on to say that some are delaying marriage so that they can put their careers first or so sow their oats. As the author of the article eloquentlytly put it, "I don't know if I even have oats!"

To quote Bridget Jones when asked why their are so many single, working women these days, "I guess it doesn't help that under our clothes are entire bodies are covered in scales."

And this seems to be the attitude that our seminaries, other learning institutions, churches, and society in general take to explaining the emerging phenomenon of singledom. There must be something wrong with them. Though I have to admit that I believe society in general is doing a much better job at embracing singles than the church is doing. Hollywood and the publishing industry have done a great job at celebrating the single life through such TV shows, films and books as Friends, Sex and the City and Bridget Jones' Diary. It seems that society loves the idea and "freedom" of the single life.

However, while I appreciate and applaud the efforts to embrace singledom by society, I am left questioning and yearning for guidance of how I, someone with values and faith, live out the single life. The freedom of casual dating and sex, the materialism, tflagrantadisregardard for most things sacred, is not something that I can readily catch hold of. I long for the Church to step forward and take an active role in shaping me as a woman of God and a single. But instead I often run into walls like Dr. Mohler who seem to believe that sin or something just being wrong with me is the reason that I am not living the full life I was meant to live in God, i.e. marriage and family.

During a recent perusal of a well noted seminary's catalogue, I came across a class entitled "Ministry to Singles and Senior Adults." I hardly need tell you how offended I was. Really to honestly say that the lives of singles and senior adults are so similar that they should be lumped into one class? Or is the more subtle meaning "We haven't really figured out what to do with these two populations in the church so we're just going to through them together in one class"? I guess they couldn't really title it "Ministry to Outcast Populations in the Church" or "Ministry to the 'It's not so important to minister to' Populations".

Do I necessarily want to be single? Well, my answer is both yes and no. I look forward to what may lie ahead for me through marriage and a family. I want to understand Christ's love for the Church more clearly by understanding my husband's love for me. I want to understand God's love for me more clearly by knowing the intimate love of a husband and wife. BUT right now God is using my singleness to His glory, increasing the ministry He's given me, blessing me to know and understand myself better, and leading me to new and exciting paths in life. All of these things make me thank God that I am single and only have to deal with my own issues let alone someone else's.

I fear for the singledom crowd as more and more leave the Church because they cannot find a niche, because they feel isolated, because they continue in pressured expectations to find Mr. or Mrs. Right, etc. It's time that the Church truly begins to embrace singles and let aside old feelings that there must be something wrong with you if you are 24, 28, 34, etc. and still single.
We need the love, the hope, and the family!

12 comments:

sarah said...

well i love you, and don't think that theres anything wrong with you. i had never heard of someone equating singledom with sin. Seems like they could really use that energy to some more useful purpose. plus i think urging people to get marriedimply because they've past some arbitrary age would only lead to an increased divorce rate. and wouldn't that be great!

kristi said...

Amen!! I agree with you and support your ideas. I want to find the Right person to marry not marry just for the sake of doing so. And I also want it to be the Right time (which by the way is not now!) Who cares if I'm creating bad habits and stubbornness (or whatever he said) at least I will know myself and understand my stubborness HA!

Adam Wolfgang said...

hmmm...
I have so much to say about our cultures infatuation with independance and our unwillingness to be intimate and relaible on someone else.

But, the tone of your posting makes me think I would piss you off.

So, I seem to remember Paul saying that life as a single person is a life more devoted to God's business, and less distracted.

Katey said...

Thank you for that Amanda, because sometimes we are made to feel like there is something wrong with us if we are still single. I remember the feeling of failure with leaving ACU without my "CoC soulmate". There are many reasons why people stay single, and many of them have nothing to do with bad habits, stubborness, or unwillingness to settle down. I've been very blessed to have found a niche in my church so I don't feel like the outcast, the one who must have "scales". But, too many times we are made to think that our greatest goal in life is to marry our Christian husband and raise Christian babies. I'm firmly convinced that we don't all do that- maybe my service to the kingdom is my work with my at-risk kids, maybe it is my work with the Youth Group. Who knows, but I definitely do not think that my absence of a wedding ring makes me selfish and stubborn.

Jessica Bolt said...

According to Dr. Al Mohler, I ought to be married/seriously considering marriage...haha, that's funny...I don't think me being married right now would work out very well! Maybe in ten years; that's a nice long way off in the future!

Aimee Jo said...

Okay, so when I read the excerpt, I would have to say that the author is talking about those who are living together or in a committed, romantic relationship without the commitment of marriage. But, that's just how I am reading it. I would have to check out the book/article myself to determine the context of the comments.

Amber G. Lehmann said...

i chuckled at the "ministry to singles and old folks" bit...the illusive enigmas that scare the crap out of ministers because of their freakish non-middle aged, non-married with kids status. that coupling is a really enlightening exposure of the church's current failure to answer the US's growing population of both groups. Perhaps they (old folks and singles) might find a way to nurture one another as the church struggles to learn how God would do so.

Amanda Peterson said...

Hmmm, it seems that I struck a few nerves. I think this is a big issue that needs further exploring.

How do I, as a single, do what Adam implied and seek out intimate relationships? How does the church create such an environment in which singles feel free to pursue those relationships with married people, other singles, senior adults, etc.?

I am blessed to be at a church in which the cultural lines of married and single are greatly blurred. I hurt for my friends who don't have such a blessing.

Thanks for all your comments

Steve Maxwell said...

One day at a time infusing Holy with human we will run a race that has been won for us already. Thank you Father for all people and help us to think of ourselves as Christ followers first, totally dependant on you to fill any spot or void within us.

Anonymous said...

Sarah,
You don't know me. I accessed your blog through Adam Crawford's blog. He told me to check this out because I was telling him about my frustration with an article I recently read in a Focus on the Family magazine supporting this same single = sin idea. The quote by Dr. Mohler struck me. I'm a marriage and family therapist and I teach a family life cycle class. I wonder if Dr. Mohler knows that the biggest predictor of divorce is age and that individuals who marry age under age 20 have the highest divorce rate? While I would agree that we are a pretty self-centered society, there seems to be significant value in waiting to marry. LynnAnne Joiner

StrawberryLorax said...

I think that if God's sole intention for Christians was to meet, mate, and reporduce, he would have chosen bacteria instead of people to be His vessels. There is an unspoken stigma in the church that seems to say that you cannot be effective as a Christian until you are married, and until then you are just supposed to mark time, and look on longingly to those who have already foudn their "true purpose" (spouse). Well, when God emailed me my field orders to go to the mission field he didn't say nothing about taking a man with me. Marriages that young are much more likely to end in strife or divorce. How about instead of making marriage it's own end, how about waiting for the right person, no matter how long he takes to show up? Am I the only person who knows married couples that say they wish they had waited, or regret not having some free time as a single person? Isn't it more of a sin to marry before you know who you are?

Adam Wolfgang said...

Amanda - do you belive that Jesus calls the Church to create a culture of acceptance based on your demographic? or do you think that Jesus calls us simply to love each other. I wonder what the Church's responsibility is to every neglected group, which in different churches could be any group. The last Church I went to did a horrible job of providing a place of belonging for young marrieds. I have, since leaving come to the understanding that the problem wasn't the church, it was me. I wanted them to wrap spritualliy (acceptance, social belonging, devotion, discipline - specifically for me in my situation) up into a nice package and deliver it in the most convienent way. That's not to say that at PUMP we have done a great job of nurturing singles, I don't think it is happen stance that this is a struggle, leadership is made up of mostly married people. But I believe we are adicted to convienence, and we want love (acceptance, belonging, spirituallity, intimacy - all that is involved in relationships) to be easy. I have never understood love as easy. I understand love as self sacrifice, the anti-me. Marriage is the hardest thing I have ever done, more so than being a parent, I wouldn't recomend it for those who are on the fence about it.

My point is this, you are a wonderful person. I'm not going to tell you there is someone out there for you, because I believe that to be superficial. I don't think there is "the one", I believe love to be a journey, choose someone you like, and learn to love them, you may not be ready for that. In the meantime you are blessed to have more time to spend chasing people who need to see God's love through you, and I think you do that well.

we still need to have lunch!