Single

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.”)

I used to think that if I just knew for certain whether I was waiting for a husband or if I was called to singleness I could have a little funeral for my desire to be a mom and move on with life. But slowly, so slowly, I finally heard the Holy Spirit telling me to stop obsessing and move on. God has called me to be like Jesus. Married, single, dating…He has called me to be like Jesus.

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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6 comments on “Single

  1. Kurt says:

    Thank you Kelley!

  2. Janet says:

    Beautiful, Kelley! We all need to hear this, married or single. Run to Jesus.

  3. Awesome! There are so many things that the church teaches about marriage and singleness that just do not concur with today’s reality and culture. I love your writing, and your willingness to bare your soul. THIS is your ministry. The rest will come if you desire it, and if it doesn’t, something will be in its place. We so often limit our joy to our expectations, and not to our reality, which is a choice. Every day there is something in our daily walk that we can find joy in, and so often we miss it because we believe there should be more. I married later in life, at age 37. I love my husband, don’t get me wrong, but there are times that I totally miss my single life. Marriage is complex and it certainly does not complete anyone. Another misnomer that I think the church teaches about adulting is that it takes two parents to raise great kids. Yes, two parents are helpful, but what if that other parent is an awful parent? Just because you have a man in your life doesn’t mean you are more powerful as a parent than you would be without him. There are a buhgillion kids out there that need a loving home. You have this ability to provide that. Don’t let your marital status stop you from making a difference in a child’s life. Whatever you chose to do, however, please don’t ever stop writing.

  4. Rebekah says:

    Thanks Kelley! You are learning some valuable lessons about your identity in Christ early on- that’s such a good thing. Will be praying for you both regarding singleness and illness. I graduated from a Christian college and got married right before I turned 34. Didn’t date much over all of those years and didn’t see much hope in the flesh about it until I met my beloved husband at almost 33. But…God was faithful, I grew in care and compassion for others because of that struggle, and He provided unexpected blessings which were unique to the single journey. And they were very good. When you are with Him that is the best place to be…even though I know there are seasons where it’s hard and can feel lonely.

  5. Betty goewey says:

    You are so right! run, don’t walk to Jesus. Love you – GG l

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