On this day before Valentine’s Day I am so excited to have my beautiful niece Amy write for Communicating Across Boundaries. Amy is single – which you may have picked up from the title! And I purposely bring our attention to this single perspective on this day before Valentine’s Day, when suddenly rational people think that they need a partner to be complete. Amy has written for Communicating Across Boundaries before in a fabulous post called “So Many Proposals”, a post that I highly recommend you read if you missed it. But for now she brings you:
A Single Perspective by Amy
I have reached a point in my life where I cannot seem to get away from engagement announcements. They seem to follow me wherever I go. Provided, I am a 20-something living in the day and age when social media has taken over the world. One would point out that I am of “prime” marrying age, so I shouldn’t be surprised that the number of rings adorning my friends’ fingers is rising exponentially.
Until recently, I have felt particularly annoyed and frustrated about the topic of “marriage” or “dating” or “relationships”. Why? Because my 25.5 years of existence have been spent as single as a “single person” could be. (And I expect this Valentines’ day to be spent in the same way that the last 25 have been: lacking a “plus-one”)
What has frustrated me the most is the societal connotation that marriage (i.e. finding your life partner, your other half, your soul mate) is the ultimate fulfillment of life. Thus, single people are incomplete, unfulfilled, or severely lacking in a serious way.
You may read this and think, “She’s ridiculous. Of course single people are valuable and fulfilled.” But in all seriousness, look at the culture in which we live. Movies. TV. Music. Books. Commercials. The majority of stories in any form of media today have some form of love interest. Even if it is a broken relationship or even just a side story. Particularly, in the Church and Christian communities, there is an unspoken (and sometimes spoken) expectation for 20-somethings to be married (or actively seeking).
As I mentioned, it has only been until recently that I have overcome my frustration in this topic. For a very long time, I did believe myself to be unfulfilled, incomplete, or somehow inadequate as a result of my singleness and the fact that no one (as of yet) has had any desire to marry me.
This year, my family celebrated Christmas together at my parents’ house in Wisconsin. I had the realization that the Marrieds currently outnumber the Singles in my family (4 to 3). We had a discussion one day about how Marrieds and Singles each face a unique set of challenges when it comes to navigating social landscapes and finding genuine love and support in a community. (Each group does, however, enjoy a unique set of perks as well) It was at that point that we realized that neither group truly appreciates the struggles of the other.
What we need to do is debunk the idea that having one relational status is any better or worse than having any other relational status. It’s just different.
Individually and collectively, we put far too much weight on our marital status as a defining factor of our identities.
I will take a moment to note that I do not at all intend on discounting the immense value and blessing of marriage. I do have a deep desire to be married and to raise a family someday. We need to be able to find a balance between glorifying marriage and the alternative: glorifying singleness—and I dare say the answer is simply to glorify God. He is, in fact, the creator of us all and facilitator of all relationship s.
God created humans to be in relationship with Him first and each other second.
Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength and the second is like it, to love one another. First and foremost, as Singles and Marrieds, pursuit of relationship with God and finding one’s identity in Christ should always come first.
1 Corinthians 7 is where Paul addresses this topic by saying is oft quoted declaration that “I wish you were all as I am…” i.e. single. But if you have to, as a result of your lacking self-control and in order to avoid burning passion, you should get married. I, personally, have found there to be a lot of tension in this passage. The Single in me, says “That’s right! Power to the Single people!”. But the cultural expectation and inner desire for marriage say “What about us?”.
Let’s break it down for a sec. At the time that this passage was written, particularly for women, your economic and social status (and general livelihood) were intimately tied to your marital status. Marriage was synonymous with security on a great number of levels. Ultimately, marital status WAS your identity. Essentially, Paul is taking a cultural norm, a cultural expectation, and blowing it out of the water.
What Paul is saying is that it’s better to be single because it’s easier to devote yourself to serving God and seeking after his will (I mean, seriously, nuns and monks!). It’s harder to do that when you devote yourself to another person in marriage. What he’s not saying is that celibacy and remaining single is the end all be all of human existence. He’s also not saying that marriage is either. The end all be all of human existence is to please God. Relational or marital status does not define your value or how “fulfilled” you are. Only God can do that.
If I have learned anything in my 25 years on this planet, it’s that God calls us each to different seasons of life at different times for specific purposes. I fully intend on embracing this season of singleness to live it to its fullest potential, in the hopes that when I do get married, I will be able to live that season to its fullest.
What about you? If you’re single, how do you deal with a world of couples? If you’re married, how do you include your single friends?