Dear Church, from the Singles
I mean the BIG CHURCH, all ya’ll, Big C. God’s people. Brothers and Sisters. You.
I’ve had this sitting heavy on my heart, but every time I went to type it out, I stopped. It felt pretentious, arrogant, whiny; so I’d delete the draft. I know, there are millennials out there blogging and bellyaching and telling the Church all the ways the Big C has messed up. That’s the last thing I want to do, but sometimes, a daughter has to respectfully push back.
See, within the course of eight days, on three separate occasions, three different women said the same thing to me. We were chatting over cups of coffee about our lives or jobs. Then the same statement came out of three weary mouths.
“I feel like my church doesn’t know what to do with me because I’m single. People keep bringing it up to me like its a problem to fix. I’m actually really happy and content with my life, but then my church makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me, and I’m starting to feel like there is no place for me there.”
Pull up a chair, Big C. We need to chat.
Here are three godly, beautiful, talented, fearless, strong women of God (trust me, they are) who should feel empowered by their church to do incredible things. Instead they feel like they have no place or voice until they fix something that isn’t in need of fixing, and is currently out of their power to ‘fix’.
You need to know something else.
It’s not just three. It’s more. It’s a lot more. This is an eight-day snapshot, a sample size. And it’s not just women; its men too. The reason this issue was sitting heavy on my heart, was because I’ve been having this conversation with men and women for years.
I love God’s people. People make mistakes. We wound each other all the time, Christian or not, intentional or accidental; people slice with words and careless tomfoolery, but this issue we can fix. So, I want to make some requests, humbly, meekly, to my Father’s people as a young woman in the Church.
But first, words we should never use again (bye Felicia).
- Singleness: What is this word? I think its made up. It makes the English major in me very angry in the brain. It’s either a state of being or a wrestling match. I’ve never heard a married person say “I’m wrestling with this season of togetherness” and yet, all unmarried people are assumed to be wrestling with singleness. Lame word. Needs to go.
- Season (as in ‘season of singleness’): There are four seasons where I live: winter, winter, winter, monsoon. Each season ends, and we look forward to the change. Here is the tough truth. God doesn’t promise us all that we will get married. To refer to a relationship status as a season subconsciously sets our eyes on a change that may never come. It swings our focus from the One guiding our journey to a destination that is not promised to us.
- Future Spouse: see above please. Hey, that person will be blessing if God drops them in our lives, but they are not impending. Talking about them like they are just coming back from Walmart is weird and, again, suggests they are inevitable (and obviously late) which messes with a single person’s head and makes them all wonky.
Now that we’ve defined our terms, let’s talk.
1. Being single is not something to fix.
It is a calling, it can be temporary, and it is anointed. Just like marriage. The Apostle Paul actually told the Corinthians that it is better to be single than to be married (what!?). It frees people up to do things for God without the distractions and busyness that comes with being in a committed relationship. Single people are like the Cirque du Soleil artists of the church – agile, focused, able, and flexible. We’re spiritual warriors in our prime with time and resources to dig in and really change the world. But this is what I hear, Big C:
Have you tried online dating?
Have you tried talking to that guy over there?
Have you tried changing churches?
Have you tried being more outgoing?
Have you tried, have you tried, have you tried?
Stop it. We’re trying to fix something that is not meant for ‘fixing’ and it is making whole people feel broken.
2. Boxes are for moving refrigerators. They are not for people.
Children’s ministry, nursery, youth ministry, couples’ ministry, college ministry…where can a single man/woman in their 30’s fit in? Where can they exercise their gifts? Humans love boxes. Boxes make a crazy world easier to understand. They also isolate individuals who don’t fit in boxes.
Single people: You can break down these walls by volunteering to step into gaps and explore the gifts God has given you. You have talents. Find needs, explore opportunities, and humbly ask your church leaders if you can use your talents to serve the Kingdom and the community. Don’t wait to be told where you belong. Ask permission to step up and take your place.
Church: Let them.You need them. See? These are the leaders of the church when you are gone. They need to have their gifts cultivated now, with you. Throw out the boxes.
3. If he/she’s single, there is something wrong with him/her.
Maybe she’s mean, or too picky, or snarly. Maybe she scares guys, or is loud, or she’s not outgoing enough, or has an annoying laugh. It could be that he’s awkward. Maybe he’s too shy, or strange. Maybe he/she’s un-dateable.
Chances are, you (yes you) have thought these things about a single person. I confess to you: I have. I have tried to figure out why someone was single (again, fixing a problem). But do we consider that God (who is omnipotent) knows something we don’t? His goal for that young person’s life is beyond our comprehension, so trying to judge ‘why’ they haven’t found someone is just hurtful and smacks of judgement. Don’t try to figure it out. It’s not your job.
4. “I just don’t understand why a girl like you is single.”
This one is always meant as a kind compliment, but…sigh. I know why a girl like me is single. 1) Chris Pratt is already married and 2) Jesus.
Jesus has intervened when I thought I was walking into a fairytale and was actually headed for catastrophe with guys who were not ready, willing, or able to treat me like a woman of honor. He shut it down. Hard. He loves me so much He has steered me away from dangerous, difficult, or even just subpar relationships. Would I like to be married someday? Sure. But I’d prefer Him to keep watching out for me, and He can deliver His best if He wants, when He wants. The God who figured out the Pacific Ring of Fire, the DNA of Giant Redwoods, and sent a storm to wipe out the Spanish Armada has got this. He’s got me. That’s why I’m single.
5. We’re not babysitters.
There are a few friends and people in my church who know they can call me to watch their child for a few hours while they go on a date. However, I do things on Friday nights (like ministry, salsa dancing, movie nights, dinner out, I even go on dates). I am not sitting home alone every evening bemoaning my outcast state and am, therefore, free to babysit.
Some churches put pressure on their single adults to serve in the nursery or in kids ministries. If a single adult feels comfortable and called to do serve there, do it! But barren womb ≠ babysitter. I think kids are awesome treasures from God, but sticking me in a room of 20 of them is NOT “practice for being a mom while you’re waiting.”
6. We’re not “waiting” to live for a different “season”.
I’m not waiting to live. I’m not waiting to serve. I’m not even waiting on God to bring my spouse. Waiting implies stagnation, lack of movement. I’m running a race!
Right now, I’m in a relationship with God, investing in my family and friends and community. I’m working full time, running a second business, volunteering, exercising, writing and making art, traveling, reading books, pursuing goals, saving for a house, learning new talents and skills, and sometimes I watch Netflix. I may even have six pack abs and be able to speak conversational Italian next year…keep hope alive. I’m not waiting to live, and please don’t pity me. This race is nuts, and if I get married, its because its the right person running at the same pace (or faster).
So, Big C. I love you with all my heart. I love you as a flawed human in need of grace, realizing you are all flawed humans in need of grace. Most of this post was me preaching to myself, but I know you need it too. More than anything, I want us to remember that every child of Christ is destined for incredible things. They can’t be made to feel like a racehorse beating against the rail until they fit in a human-ordered box we’re all comfortable with.
We ask for your support, your love, your trust, and that you stop saying things like “just keep waiting for this season of singleness to end and God will bring your future spouse.” Don’t say that…ever again. Thanks.