By Kelley Goewey: I’m going to write about being single. Bear with me.
“If you’re a woman and you’ve chosen to be married, then you’ve chosen to be the woman God created you to be.”
In my experience, Christians say a lot of wacky and untrue things about romantic relationships. Let’s take the above example, which I heard today, as Exhibit A. I could probably give you exhibits through ZZ, possibly even ZZZ. We make marriage into an idol and we make judgments based on relationship status. I went to a Christian college, so I’ve had a mega-dose of the pressure and worry and striving that can often be a part of Christian communities in regard to marriage.
I can only think of 2 positive messages about singleness from my time in college. Both were from professors, one who married (relatively) later in life and one who has never been married. The latter spoke in chapel once, and her charge to the single students was to buy themselves nice dishes. She explained that she used her college dorm dishes until she was 40 because subconsciously she didn’t think she should have nice dishes until she was married.
If you think that seems extreme or crazy, I can tell you that it’s not. Obviously I don’t know what it’s like for men in the Church, but as a Christian woman who grew up in the faith, there is strong and prevalent messaging that your life, your ministry, and the “real” work of your relationship with God begin only when you get married. So why would you buy nice dishes when your real life hasn’t even begun?
Let us be very clear: I have been asked out on a date once in my life, and I didn’t realize it was happening until the guy had completely finished talking. I couldn’t even answer; I just made an awkward “ehhhh…” noise and ran to the office break room. I asked a good friend out for a coffee about a year ago and he literally hasn’t spoken to me since. So if life is a marathon and marriage is the starting line for women, then I am a fish and therefore have no legs and can’t run in marathons.
But I spent years begging God to make it happen because I longed to be a legitimate member of the church. I wanted to have a ministry. I’ve wanted to be a foster parent and adopt for as long as I can remember. I felt called to serve God in ways that I thought only possible if I were married. And I worried about never having a place in church on my own.
I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard my sisters in Christ tell me that their romantic relationships began when they “got [their] heart right with God.” And so I spent hours trying to figure out what was wrong with me, what I was doing wrong in my relationship with God that was preventing Him from blessing me with a romantic relationship that would lead to marriage and a purpose and a way to serve Him.
And I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard singleness described as the consolation prize you get if you’re not married. “Oh, you’re not married? Well, you get more freedom and you don’t have to worry about in-laws and Paul said that good thing about singleness once. And you’re young and you’re probably aren’t called to singleness, you just haven’t met the right person yet.” (As a side note, I do wonder at what age you stop being “just young” and become firmly and irrevocably “called to singleness.”)
Marriage and singleness are what they are. They’re different and they’re complex and they’re both tangled up with sin for the time being.
You may deal with loneliness and isolation, like I do–marriage is not a cure for that.
You may struggle with loving people and being vulnerable, like I do–singleness is not an escape from that.
My relationship status cannot alter the deep, desperate need of my soul for a Savior.
My relationship status cannot bring me worth or holiness in the eyes of Jesus.
He loved me when I was yet a sinner. And He called me to holiness and ministry no matter what. No matter if I am single or married or healthy or employed or depressed or rich or or or or…
As the Body of Christ, we are called to be like Jesus, to lay ourselves down at the feet of God and submit wholly to Him, starting from the instant the Holy Spirit quickens our hearts. Not starting on our wedding day. Not at any other arbitrary starting line.
I found that this amazing thing happened when I released my fear about my relationship status and put my trust back in Jesus: I was able to admit that I enjoy being single without feeling any shame, without feeling like I was trying to shirk some responsibility. Because however I am supposed to minister, which kids I am supposed to adopt, whatever job I am supposed to do, however God is going to conform me to the likeness of His Son: these all have happened and are happening and will continue to happen because of God. They are not dependent on my relationship status.
Whether you’re single or married.
Whatever your relationship status may be.
Run to Jesus.
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