"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A single thought

I was in two of my best friends weddings this summer, and went to a couple more.

With a nauseous stomach and two smiling faces, some friends informed me they are expecting their second child.

Every time I open facebook, it seems that someones status has changed to "engaged".

In light of all this, I have spent a considerable amount of time lately eating wedding cake, as well as contemplating the life of the single adult.

As I stood on stages in uncomfortable shoes and rented tuxes watching my friends gazing intently into the eyes of the women they will spend the rest of their lives with, I couldn't help but feel as if there was something wrong with me. Am I not good enough? Am I faulty, immature? Am I worth some one's time? Next, I felt a sense of urgency. Boy I got to get on the ball. I am falling behind. I better find my "other half." But now I ask myself this question: Why? Why is it so important to get hitched?

Single has become such a loaded word. "Single" often translates to "romantic opportunity"(i.e. "She's cute and single, go for it!). Instantly a persons identity is found in his or her availability rather then in their character and purpose. I often feel as if my maturity is being sized up by my relationship status as well. Whether intended or not, I can't help but feel as though when people back home ask, "So, are you seeing anyone right now?" it is no different then if they were to ask, "So, have you grown up yet?"

In a culture that has demonized the single life, I began to realize that I have bought into many of the lies...along with the rest of the church. Singleness is often viewed as a trap to escape rather then a gift to appreciate while it lasts, or a calling to embrace for life. I laughed (a sad laugh) to myself when I recently visited a well know christian singles website only to discover that it is sponsored by eHarmony as if to say, "There is still hope!"

It is fairly easy to recognize the gift of married life. One pastor explained that marriage is God's way of helping us understand what it means for God to live in perfect community with Himself (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), as well as to teach us about the love between Christ and his bride, the church. Likewise, one of my pastor friends preached one Sunday from Genesis, pointing out that the only thing that wasn't good before the fall of man, was that man was alone. I find this fascinating. Adam walked in the garden with God, yet he was created with a need for relationship with other people. In essence, marriage is all about community.

So while marriage is all about community, singleness is all about...community. I will say flat out that I hate the term "single". It implies being alone, but no man is an island to himself. Whether married or not, we were created for community. God calls us to himself and into his church. In a sinless world, where man met face to face with God, he still had a need. That need was community with people. Our community is the Church.

Yet it isn't a struggle for most singles to recognize that they need people, the problem is when that truth is skewed: the lie, "When I meet the right person, then I will be fulfilled," or "If only I weren't single, then I would be happy." It's this problem of putting all our hope in one person. I have dated a couple of very wise, very kind, and very godly women, but no person could ever fulfill the deep longings of my heart. I long to wander through the garden with my creator, feeling the grass between my toes, the sun on my face. To breathe in the lilac sweetened air and learn from the One who knows me better then I do. I am not single, I am the bride of Christ, walking through the garden with Him, and the rest of the church walks with us.

Just as being married opens a person's eyes to see and understand God in ways others can't, being single opens opportunities to see and understand God and this world in ways that a married person can't. One of my favorite books is "Who's Child is This?" by Bill Wilson, the story of the the beginnings of Metro Ministries in Brooklyn, New York. Bill started a Sunday school ministry to 22,000 children who would have never heard Jesus name outside a swear word; children who hear gunshots and screaming more often then laughter and singing. Children who know what it means to be hungry, and how it feels to be hit. Bill has loved kids in a neighborhood where he has been stabbed and had his face bashed with a brick. He lives right amongst the people he has chosen to love and serve, rather then in the safety and comfort of the suburbs. He is surrounded by violence as he lives ministry. A tough question can be asked: how would Bill's life and ministry look if Bill was married and had children? I am not saying that at no time would it be appropriate for a family to live in this type of neighborhood and minister there, these are the type of questions couples must decide together, but a single person has more freedom to go where the need is without concern for the safety of family.

Paul puts it this way to the Corinthians,

"I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband."--1st Corinthians 7:32-34

To be married is a blessed and rewarded life, a special gift from God. It is time for the church to embrace and recognize singleness as a blessed gift as well. Singleness is not a disease that needs to be cured. Rather, God is using brave single men and women to "cure" broken people with his love.