(singleness)

I honestly don’t know how many articles, books, videos, sermons, talks, and coffee-in-hand discussions I’ve consumed that have something to do with the topic of singleness-in-preparation-for-marriage.  But I can definitely tell you it’s a lot.

I can also tell you that my personality lends itself to obsessing over things in my darker times – and therefore I have spent many hours thinking and praying and worrying and overanalyzing and self-deprecating on a myriad of topics associated with my singleness.  From the hopelessly arrogant “How come they can’t realize that I actually am Mr. Darcy’s personality type?” [INTJ, by the way] to the sinfully presumptive “I’ll just do my own thing and not look around at all until God just sticks her right in front of me.”  The only trouble with those two thoughts is that first, Mr. Darcy is a fictional character dreamed up by Jane Austen, and I am hardly worth ten thousand pounds a year.  Second, I am trusting for God to provide a wife, true… but I am also trusting that he provides me food, and I don’t just pine away on my couch waiting for him to plunk down a pot roast or some oreos and milk (… mmm, oreos).  I go out and hit up the drive-thru get some food from the store and cook it at home.  Anyway, I could go on and on, but that’s not the point here.

A Few Thoughts and Questions
My reflective times in my single life haven’t all been dark times and brooding – I have had the joy of many cups of coffee with dear friends who seem to be in basically the same boat, and I have derived much encouragement and been sharpened in many ways from those conversations.  I’ve seen quite a few common threads that weave in and out of those conversations, and thought it might be good to air out a few thoughts and questions to see what happens.  Feel free to comment, post a question, or respond with some thoughts of your own.

The first thing that I think is just awkward at its core is the plight of the single person in church life.  From the questions (“so what’s it like being single?”) and backhanded compliments (“I just can’t see why someone like you is still single…”) to the awkward setups (“hey, I know this great single girl – you two should meet”) and seriously just about anything in between (my personal favorite is the usually unsolicited advice: “bro, you just gotta give up on getting married and then you’ll meet her…”), I must say that church circles are where this awkwardness is in its finest form.  And I’ll be the first to say that it isn’t born out of a bad desire or malicious intent – marriage is a holy pursuit, a high calling, a huge responsibility, and a precious grace that God has given us.  But for some reason there’s an extra dose of awkward that’s dealt out to someone who’s single.  Am I wrong on this?

Another thing that I’ve tried my best to delve into is the desires of my heart as I fly solo for now.  How can I keep my longing to be married in check and not let it corrupt the way I see the world, yet still engage and interact in an intentional way? Or maybe to say it differently, how can I be both a brother and a potential husband without forsaking one for the other? But the weird thing is that those two aren’t mutually exclusive, but I somehow tend to make them that way.  And another question – how can I miss someone that I haven’t ever met (that I know of)?  Does this betray some idolatry in my heart?  Am I idolizing a figment of my imagination, or is it a holy desire that God will bless someday? As I’ve grown in my walk with Christ and my understanding of a man’s role in marriage, I’ve gone from merely wanting a wife to truly desiring to be someone’s husband.  That was a big paradigm shift for me, and I’ve seen a lot of fruit from it.  But I still have this nagging thought that I want to be a husband because it means I’ll finally get my wife.  Which is jacked up. But so am I.

So I’ve found that I’m waiting ‘patiently’ – I’m not asking for numbers from everything that moves, and I’m not on dates every weekend… I am not looking to be married tomorrow, and I know that God’s grace sustains me.  But if I’m honest, I’m really being impatient because there’s a constant nagging thought, an ache that comes and goes when I’m in various situations making me wonder when it’ll be my turn to pick out my groomsmen or wish I’d eloped or taste test cakes (…mmm, cake).  I’ve discovered that there is a subtle sin in good, everyday desires.  Just like Israel who wanted meat along with their manna and didn’t realize that God was miraculously providing for them already, I take for granted the fact that I have a wonderful job, a host of dear friends, and a church family that I dearly love… because I want to get married too.  Those things are great, but I want more.  I like that God provides what I need, but I also think that he should provide what I want, too.  And what I’ve discovered is that God is so good that he denies me what I want so that I’ll understand that it’s him that I’m needing, and him that is providing everything that I have.  And even if he doesn’t provide for me, he is still holy, worthy of my worship, and sovereign over all creation.  Why do I take for granted what God so freely gives, and long for what he (thankfully for my sanctification’s sake) withholds?  And do you like cake as much as I do?

Where I’ve Landed… For Now
The best I’ve heard it said on the issue of being single and wanting to be married is that I’m “content but not satisfied.”  That is, I’m okay with where I’m at and the progress I’m making and where life is at for now, but I long for more out of holy desires.  So I’m okay with being single – honestly for now I am.  But I don’t want to stay single for the rest of my life.  I want to be a husband and lead a family and make some really awesome girl a momma, and pastor my home and disciple my kids so that they’ll know Jesus and worship him.  I want to preach the gospel with my marriage and my children, and I want to glorify God with that precious calling he’s placed on my life.  And though that is not my reality for now, I pray that it is one day.

If you’re still reading, thank you for your patience with my rambling.  And know that my questions and thoughts come from a deep faith in Christ Jesus that far outweighs any doubts or circumstances that confuse me for the time being.  This season of life is but a season, and God has taught me in years past that I must not doubt in the dark times what he has revealed in the lighter times.  So I must remind myself that my self-worth is not in a ring on my finger or a girl’s opinion of me – rather my worth is found in Christ and him crucified on my behalf.  I am significant because of his sacrifice and God’s immense, unmerited love toward me.

Join me as I wait… not for a bride walking down an aisle, but for our Bridegroom’s second coming when he makes all things new.  Come Lord Jesus!

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4 comments

  • I’m right there with ya! Good thoughts and rambles. I’ve had countless talks with single friends, heard sermons and read books on being single and yet here I sit still befuddled by the whole situation, too.

    I definitely think A of all, that oreos and cake are wonderful things and B of all, the church does indeed make singleness an even more complicated situation. My non-Christian friends do not seem as frustrated with their single state as I do and I think it has to do with what you said: God made marriage this great gift and the single people feel left out more. I also think that God hasn’t given me a husband yet because He’s reminding me that I only need HIM. Then I wonder what else He thinks I need to learn before I can be married, or if I will never be in a place ready for marriage. All that thinking turns into a fear and I have to start all over again on fixing my thoughts on God first and get over my obnoxiously single self.

    Oh, and your point about missing someone you’ve never met turning into idolizing a figment of your imagination is an interesting question. I hadn’t thought about that before.

  • bro, good thoughts. some bullet points for you to think about.
    1. “single in church” has become the leprosy of the modern day church. The Church created it and sustains its ‘leprous’ status. Its driven by 2 competing ideas within people; 1)married people thinking they’ve arrive or feeling self-satisfying pity for the single person. neither is intended to be malicious, but both are pathetic. 2)single people allowing the continual questions of others to drive their feelings/desires to personal despondency. When one knows that there was no wrong intent in the question, its really only identifying a deeper issue within. Fight to be at peace with the questions/comments as they come, then you will know that you are not living in the shadow of something that has made you feel “less” in your identity [not just for you, but singles in general]. I’ve dealt with a good number who say they hate these issues, but live as single because they are cowering to greater fears. That’s how condemnation works, right? You don’t necessarily like it, but you fear it less than what it would mean to deal with it. [Again, bro, I don;t see this in you…just speaking from experience in working with singles.]

    2. “to be husband because it means I’ll finally get my wife”. This is not jacked up, bro. God gave you the motivation (sex drive) because its your role to pursue and take a wife. (the next comment will deal with this more in terms of what might be going on here.)

    3. Its not wrong to “want” before God. We are commanded to make our requests known, including the desires of our heart. It’s wrong when we “worship our wants”. Use your “wants” as God-given motivation to pursue what needs to be, as you have a vision for it.

    4. “content…but not satisfied”. Good word. This will not end when you get married though. There are many other things that will create this in you.

    Finally, (and I do not mean to be harsh here, but in honest, straight-forward speech)…a) see a lady you want to pursue (comprehensive, not just sight. but not neglecting ‘sight’, as in physical attraction). b)pursue her. make it a priority. This is not wrong. It’s your man job. Do it right, well and God-honoring by not forsaking all other parts of life. But, do it. When she becomes your wife, never stop pursuing her.

    Love you, bro, and in the short time I’ve known you I think you are a great guy and will lead a wife and family very well one day. Don’t stop. (Most of my comments here are more general to the arguments and not specific to you.)

    In conclusion, God will give you a wife when you go get one.

  • Nathan,

    Mega dittos! (long time reader; first time responder).

    A wise man once told me (in a manner not unlike the aforementioned “back-handed” insinuations ): “Just remember, it’s always better to be single and wish you were married than to be married and wish you were single.”

    I’ll see you at church tmw. Would love to talk further.

  • Alright, I feel sort of awkward responding, since I don’t know you well at all. BUT… there are so many, many tidbits in this post that make me think we should be friends. First, not only did you reference Mr. Darcy, you also discussed his personality type – for any social worker who harbors a slight obsession with Jane Austen, well… that’s just plain impressive. Second, I am pretty sure that I DO love cake as much as you do. Third, and probably most importantly, I appreciate your honesty and much of what you said resonates with me.

    I, like you, can recall countless conversations on singleness with my girlfriends over the past several years, many of them starting with “when will it be my turn?” I can relate to the feeling of missing someone you have never met – in fact, I have used that very phrase recently – and to the paradigm shift from wanting a husband to wanting to be a wife. Honestly, though, I have never heard a man be so open and so eloquent with his “ramblings,” as you call them.

    I have nothing especially poignant or thought-provoking to add, but wanted to say that I appreciate this post. I appreciate that it both challenged and encouraged me, as I too am “content but not satisfied.” I too am learning how to love my brothers in Christ (rather than viewing every guy without a ring on his finger as a “potential date” – too vulnerable for a first comment? eh… I’m leavin it…), all while also living in the tension of how to “do something about it,” yet waiting to be pursued by the man that God will provide for me.

    Hope that’s not WAY too much info for a first comment and/or a person with whom you have only had brief conversations. 🙂 If it is, blame Brian Elswick – he mentioned your blog post, and your affinity for cake, in cg this past week. (Which is the grown up equivalent of saying, “he made me read it!”). 🙂

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