On Singleness #1

The first in a possible series

A more difficult topic for a post I cannot imagine than that of singleness and the Christian life. It is intrinsically difficult to treat, but rather emotively so for someone who has obtained to nearly half of the promised three score and ten without the benefit and boundedness of the marital covenant. Most of what I have read and most of what has been written concerning singleness is presented from perspectives much unlike my own; the perspective of those who are still under the age of thirty and that of women who have passed that age and find themselves increasingly concerned about the ticking of the “biological clock” that seems ever louder with each coming year. Virtually nothing I’ve read deals well or at all with the condition of singleness for those in ministry, aside from rote recitations of St. Paul’s comments pertaining to the benefit of singleness for a those devoted a life of ministry. None of these treatments have been especially useful to me as I reflect upon my own blessed state (and it is blessed, despite intimations to the contrary contained in this post).

That singleness is such a poorly addressed issue (and I speak of course in context of contemporary American Christianity) is something for which the church ought to have no excuse. Our Lord was, of course, a single man as was St. Paul. The single celibate life has been celebrated throughout the history of the Church and in Roman Catholicism priests are required to express the chastity through remaining single rather than within the bonds of marriage. In the current climate of the Church however, singleness, though increasingly common, is viewed somewhat suspiciously and the older one gets without marrying the greater the level of attendant suspicion and concomitant pity, though such pity is generally veiled. Occasionally there is an expression of contrived envy which is barely credible and certainly not encouraging, though I know the hearts of the people who express such sentiment are usually pure. To hear, “But oh you get to devote time to the Lord and you are free to really do whatever without worrying about a family,” is about as convincing as the descriptions given by short term missionaries of the poor they met on mission; every loves to talk about how much freedom and joy in the Lord they have, but no one would ever trade places with them.

I contend that singleness is the default state of mankind; we are born single and we die single. Marriage on average takes somewhere between 1/3 and 2/3 of a person’s life and much of that time is consumed in the bearing and rearing of children, a noble and God ordained ministry if ever there was any. However even though the average age of marriage has continued to rise (concurrently with decreased community and other support for young marriage) the discipleship and theological instruction concerning singleness tends to presume marriage will take place before the age of thirty, which for most people it will. When a person, especially a man, reaches the age of thirty, the Church really has nothing left to say to him. For those in the world to attain the age of thirty and to be unmarried is not surprising, and the culture provides models (albeit horrid and inaccurate ones) for what a thirty-something unmarried man is supposed to be and/or do. For the Christian, well, there’s always the singles group at church filled with women you either don’t want to date because they have issues you just don’t want to put up with or who don’t want to date you because they’re still waiting on a Prince Charming Knight in Shining Armor who is merely the Christianized version of popular stereotypes. (I don’t mean to hate on the ladies, but I’m writing from a guy’s perspective)

Speaking of stereotypes, there are some myths to singleness that ought to be put readily to rest or at least set aside as not applying to anyone I know. Again here I am speaking about Christians (and mostly about guys) so…

Myth: Single guys are not mature or ready to commit.
Truth: Single guys are as mature/immature commitment ready/commitment phobic as the Christian women they interact with. We need to kill the lie that women are more mature than men. They are not.

Myth: Singles have lots of freedom and time on their hands
Truth: The freedom of making every decision by oneself and tackling every household chore alone and not having help with simple life management takes up more time than you might imagine

Myth: Singles can devote themselves more fully to the Lord in ministry
Truth: Well this is true; it’s in the Bible. But, it is true with a caveat that single people in ministry are not really taken very seriously at all and are never really perceived as being adults.

Myth: Single guys have the advantage because at least they can take the initiative in relationship
Truth: This is also true with a caveat; it is freaking emotionally draining to ask someone out only to be told no, and then to know that you can’t ask anyone in that woman’s circle of friends out ever because then you get either the creepy weird Christian guy label or the arrogant just wants to get married Christian playboy label attached to you.

Myth: Singles have money because they don’t have a family to support
Truth: Singles, especially guys, are usually broke. Do you have any idea how much stuff people give you for free when you’re married? And not just at the wedding, but over and again. And don’t forget that useful two income thing that most folks have going.

Myth: Marriage kills your social life; singles have a better social life
Truth: Not really.

All in all singleness is not all it’s cracked up to be, so I’ve been lately advising students to marry sooner rather than later. They all think I’m strange and screw their faces into grimaces when I advise this. They are too young, too immature they say. But I know that they won’t outgrow their selfishness by spending the next 7 years focusing on their career and their self development. Besides, that old biological clock is still ticking.

Author: elderj

I was born the fourth child and third son of godly parents in Nashville Tennessee. After leaving home for college I got involved with InterVarsity, then graduated with a degree in finance. After that I got a masters in history. Nowadays I spend too much time reading, writing, thinking, and occasionally doing my job.

5 thoughts on “On Singleness #1”

  1. Hi elderj,

    I’m Jim. My wife, son, and I just moved to Seattle two months ago. We really like it here. We’re still trying to find a home church. I like Quest church a lot, but we’ll see if I win out on this one in the end. Ha-ha.

    I was single until 35. So I totally understand. When I hit 32, I thought maybe GOD wanted me single to serve Him better. I was ready to be single for the rest of my life. But my parents kept urging me to get out there, and so I did. They knew I really wouldn’t be happy as a single.

    So, I worked in a Christian bookstore. That didn’t work for some reason. Then I tried church hopping, and I met someone, but it didn’t workout. As you said, what to do? So I went out with my non-Christian friends. This is just my story. I’m no role-model. I went out to the bars, happy-hours, house parties, movies, out to eat, etc…Then one night at the Fishbowl, one of the more popular bars on Guam, I met my wife. I called her, took her out, and the rest is history.

    She was not Christian when we met, but I saw something in her. And she accepted our LORD before we married. She has been growing so fast in the LORD since a year ago. She is such a good person, much better than me. I guess you could say I led her to the LORD. Ha-ha.

    When I look back, I see that the LORD was always in control. Sounds cliche, but yes. As my uncle said when I got engaged, “Your fire almost went out.” I think that was true. But that’s another big reason I love the LORD even more; for bringing me my bride. The woman it didn’t workout with was a super Christian. When we were dating, I thought wow if we get married we will be a super couple for the LORD. But now I think it’s better I married my wife. I’ve learned so much more patience and love with my wife. I’ve learned how to love unbelievers (her relatives). I’ve also learned that I’m not the pastor. I don’t preach to her anymore. She’s shown me time and time again that she is perfect for me. GOD knows what He is doing.

    I pray that you will stay strong, brother. And wait for the right one. And when she comes, and you’ll know it, POUNCE!!!

  2. elderj,
    You have accurately described my experiences with the singles group at church. I asked one single woman out (who always liked to sit next to me at morning service)and was met with a strong rebuke. She was deeply offended that I thought of her other than as my sister in Christ! No doubt she had issues. And I agree, the group was filled with women who had issues, weren’t interested in me or were looking for that worldly successful (makes a lot of money or has the potential to do so), tall dark and handsome man with a Christian veneer. The group was a bitter disappointment. I now go to bars now and then and sometimes a strip club (which usually attracts lonely rejected men).

    1. I don’t know if that’s a good response to a bad situation. there are many many godly women who aren’t what you describe and your solution is less than ideal.

  3. I feel for all of you. Finally I walked up to guy I thought was outstanding and told him exactly what I think. We had met just the week before. He invited me to his going away party, but we have never gone on a date. He moved. I still think he’s awesome and I’m hoping that we can visit each other in the future. Maybe things will change in terms of a relationship. He totally looked out for me in the short time I knew him and I can’t believe he’s single. He is sweet, nerdy, intelligent and manly. His sister invited me to come up and visit. We’ll see. I will post all on my blog.

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