For those of you who know me well (or even a bit!), you will have heard me ranting at various times over the years, about singleness and particularly the lack of teaching on singleness in the church. It´s been something that has been close to my heart for a long time, as I see so many people hurt or simply feeling ignored by the church. I´ve lost count of the number of times I´ve heard sermons about marriage, or sermon illustrations based on marriage relationships, yet I have never heard one sermon about singleness, or any sermon illustration that would apply to the single lifestyle of the significant proportion of the church congregation. That adds up to an impression that marriage is the ideal for everyone, and singleness is something to escape. But this actually isn´t very biblical. Paul talks very explicitly (1 Corinthians 7) and encouragingly about singleness - and that from a cultural context where it hardly existed!! We must realise that radicalness of that teaching. We must also recognise the society in which we live; everyone will experience some stage of their life as a single adult (before marrying, or after being widowed or divorced / separated and those who are single all their lives), yet we give very little teaching about how to confront the specific challenges of the single life and to celebrate it´s joys.
So anyway, I was really happy to be invited to the Guatemalan Christian Student movement´s annual camp at the weekend to share a workshop entitled 'How can I honour God in my singleness?'. Although it was a relatively short workshop, it was great to be with a bunch of young people animated by the subject, and willing to talk and share about their experiences.
We looked at and broke down some of the myths about singleness and marriage that are expressed in our society and in the church. One is about finding your 'Media Naranja'. This is a spanish phrase which literally means 'half orange' but is used to signify something like 'soul mate' or 'other half' - a partner that fits you exactly. The message that that communicates to singles, is that they are incomplete or only half a person until they marry. But the Bible teaches us different - we are created uniquely and loved by God for who we are. Of course we are fallen and broken people - but we find completion and healing only in Jesus, not in any other person. John 10: 10 explains that Jesus gives us life in abundance. Abundance - not half measures!
During the workshop, I asked them what are some of the advantages and disadvantages of being single. A group of young lads at the back suggested one advantage: that you don´t have to bother showering or washing quite so often!!!! I hadn´t thought of that.... but clearly single men have a different perspective! We then went on to talk about how we can confront the disadvantages and celebrate the advantages of being single. First and foremost, we talked about focussing on our relationship with God, and knowing our identity planted in him, and nothing else - so that whatever the world tells us about being 'left on the shelf' or needing to change something about our looks or personality in order to find a mate, we can be strong in knowing who we are. We said several times that our aim is not to find a partner but rather to honour God in whatever situation we´re in.
The other key thing is about not worrying or thinking over decisions or options that don´t exist at this time. This was my excuse for a photo of George Clooney!
My point is that George Clooney isn´t knocking on my door with flowers begging me to marry him. So as that isn´t an option for me, I don´t need to waste emotional energy thinking it over. Equally at the moment, I don´t know any man who I feel I could make a good relationship with, and who feels the same about me. So I don´t need to spend time considering this or worrying about whether or not I´ll marry in the future. I should only concern myself with the options that are relevant to me right now. I´m single, so my choice is about my attitude towards that, and how I honour God and obey him in that situation. For me, the best choice is recognising singleness as an opportunity and following God to wherever he leads me, without thinking of how it could be different with a partner.
Photo added after several complaints from readers!!!
I really enjoyed leading the workshop, and would love to do more of this type of thing. There are so many people who struggle with being single, and often times, the comments and attitudes of the church, can make that struggle even more painful. I long to see a church that appreciates and encourages single people in the unique gifts that God has given each one, so that they flourish and take their place as valued members of the body of Christ.