IF: GATHERING was this weekend and I participate every year, alone from my couch in my pajamas, which is basically the only way to participate. There was a segment of the conference where a panel of single, Christian women answered three questions about being single.
It was a good segment, with a group of ladies who gave great answers. BUT, I would have answered differently.
1 What are the highs and lows of being single?
Most of the panel talked along the lines of freedom being the best part of singleness. I tend to agree on this one. I love sleeping alone (until The B crawls in with me). I am thankful for my evenings when I am alone and can doodle and watch Netflix, or stare at a wall in silence, or sing to myself until a song comes out - pretty much whatever I want to do. I get a big chunk of alone time almost every single night and it's awesome - this is probably my highest high.
A close second is a lack of drama. When you share your life with a person, you are going to clash. There are going to be bunches of little conflicts, days where emotions run high, days where you're a jerk, days where he's a jerk, and days where you have to work through the days where one or both of you were jerks. I enjoy this little lack in my life.
I think for me, the low is the lack of male friendship. Most of my adult life I have had men around me who felt like brothers. My actual brothers are adults now, so that's fun. And I keep in loose, over-the-internet, contact with some of my old friends, but not having brothers in my close circle of friends is a pretty big bummer for me.
In our culture, and I would say especially in the American church culture, there is an assumption that everyone wants to be married. I have found this leads to a lot of misunderstanding in an opposite-sex friendship, even when intentions of singleness are explicitly stated. It's something I decided wasn't worth the potential drama. But it does make me sad on occasion, so I'd call it a low.
2. What would you say to other single women who have put themselves in neutral, waiting to be married?
The panelists were so kind and full of grace as they answered this question. I love how they gently pointed out a couple of key truths: You might not ever get married and your current problems and insecurities are coming with you if you do.
My answer is a bit more blunt:
1. Stop it. Take marriage off the to-do list. Take marriage off of your list of goals. If you hold, in any measure, the false idea of the purpose of woman being to mate and reproduce - stop it.
Your purpose is to serve God. Period. There is a message, as subtle as it is destructive, in our culture and it tells us marriage is what we do, marriage is for everyone but weirdos and shut-ins, marriage is where everyone is bound, you are incomplete without a mate, you won't fit in anywhere without a mate, blah blah blah - none of this is truth. Marriage is good AND singleness is good.
(A little caveat for the person who doesn't know me very well, or at all, and thinks I am being negative about marriage here - this is not what is happening. Marriage is good, but there is a difference between "good" and "required," and a difference between "good" and "necessary.")
2. Set aside an entire year where you will not even entertain the idea of dating. Don't flirt, don't fantasize, don't pray for a husband.
Be committed to a solid year of being single. Intentionally take time to study what God says about marriage. Read books about marriage, listen to sermons about marriage, and be friends with married couples who will be real and vulnerable around you about how stupid hard it is to be married.
At the very least, you will learn contentedness as a single and, if marriage is in your future, you will be ready to enter it with more realistic expectations.
3. What can the church do better?
The American church, while it may throw the occasional bone in recognition of the value and acceptableness of a life of singleness, has (in general) perpetuated beliefs about marriage which are more cultural than scriptural.
"You need a mate" is not something most people would outright affirm as truth, but they WOULD and DO affirm this as truth through a multitude of other words and actions.
So what can the church do better for me as a single person? Pray and read the scriptures. Ask for and seek an understanding of singleness based not on culture, tradition, or your own experience. Find and read the stories of single Christ followers, historically and in the scriptures. I believe this is the appropriate and necessary place to start, so this is what I would ask of the church (if they were asking :) )