It was one of those nights I will remember my entire life.
All these years later I can close my eyes and effortlessly time travel back to that beautiful moment—the soft fibers of the red flannel blanket on my back, the smooth taste of an Izzy grapefruit soda on my tongue, the mesmerizing view of a million little skylights above as we laughed and laughed.
She was an incredible woman and she has had more influence on my life than maybe anyone else I’ve ever met. She taught me to value myself and to apologize. She looked deep into my eyes, saw every broken part of me and loved me anyway.
She taught me I was capable of love.
For a long time, I thought she was it, the one shot at marriage that I walked away from. This deep seeded pain was perpetuated by years of awkward set-ups, failed attempts at online dating, and a constant FBI-like interrogation about my love life from anyone in my atmosphere.
It’s not something I’ve talked about much, but for many years being single cut deep. At least it used to.
You see, to most people you aren’t complete unless you have someone to complete you. You can’t live a happily ever after until you find your true love.
If you’re single, clearly it’s because you’re not __________ (good-looking, funny, smart, outgoing, rich…) enough and if you’re not married by 27, there’s clearly something very, very wrong with you.
I don’t think those people mean to be a constant source of pressure, yet I can hardly make it a few days without someone asking, “So, what’s new in your love life?” which feels identical to, “when is your due date?”
… yup. super not pregnant.
… yup. super not engaged.
The truth is, marriage has been elevated within our churches to something beyond an idol: a god to be worshiped. To be single is something to be pitied, questioned, even mocked. All-too-often those of us in unmarried class are sentenced to some bizarre Twilight-Zone-like purgatory between “youth group volunteer” and “senior citizen” until we’re able to cross the Jordan into the promised land of the newly marrieds.
Honestly, I think our churches tend to be horrible to single people. We invalidate their entire way of living by constantly focusing on “family” and “marriage” sermons that isolate and marginalize a huge portion of our congregations.
The truth is I don’t want to read (or write) another article about singleness. I don’t want to add to the noise on this cultural obsession. Yet I recently had a breakthrough—I realized what the struggle is really about.
This world hates that you (and I) are single and here’s why:
1. You Don’t Fit the Mold
We’re obsessed with labels. We need everyone to fit into an organizable, email list where they can be sorted into the appropriate house/group/clan/faction (and if someone doesn’t fit we have an emotional break-down). We don’t know what to do with outliers or people whose lives and desires don’t match our own belief systems.
A person not insanely desperate to marry the first suitor? Gasp! How wretched a fate.
God made us all crazy unique down to 8 billion unique fingerprint patterns! (I mean, other than the twins and triplets… sorry guys). So why do we assume his plans for our lives should have IDENTICAL timetables? Everyone’s life story is a unique and beautiful gift from God. So calm down people.
Action Step: Instead of letting the world look down on your singleness take it for what it really is: a beautiful sign of your faithfulness in God’s plan. When you’re tempted to feel ashamed or lonely—when the lies of the enemy whisper there is something wrong with you—use it as a time to pray and praise God for all the goodness He has brought to your life.
2. You Won’t Settle for a Life Less than Extraordinary
Or a marriage for that matter.
In a culture that has, at times, had a divorce rate as high as 50% it’s pretty freakin’ obvious that happily ever after doesn’t begin with “I do.” In fact, Paul infamously said, “But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.” -1 Corinthians 7:28
Marriage is tough work; it’s not all roses and ponies and pillow fights… or so I’m told.
Here’s the thing, you’ve decided to trust God when plenty of people settle for good enough and that’s intimidating.
Action Step: If you truly want to be in a relationship, stop sitting at home with Ben & Jerry and start putting yourself out there. Take a risk. Meet some folks. Take a stroll around the block… and if someone comes along who isn’t much to call home about, choose to trust God has something better in mind (and leave him/her at the Seven Eleven where they belong).
3. You Take Your Life Seriously
Maybe too seriously in their eyes.
You make careful and thoughtful decisions. Discerning who to marry is one of the most important choices of your entire existence (no pressure). It will shape who your kids become and how you spend every day of your precious time on this planet. The fact that you haven’t jumped in desperation shows you’re brave enough to wait through the unknown.
A former mentor once told me, “Don’t you think you just need to pick someone and start working on it?”
No. I really don’t. I think we all need to have realistic expectations about who we are looking for, but choosing anyone with a pulse just to be married at the same time as all our friends…
Sounds like a great way to ruin your life to me.
Action Step: Know the kind of person you are looking for. Don’t waste time dating people for the fun of it if there isn’t a future. Choose to pursue someone who inspires you to be the best version of yourself. Choose someone who is Usain Bolt-ing towards Jesus and try to keep up.
4. You Are Happy and Content With Who You Are
You’ve taken time figure out what makes you happy and you could articulate that to your future spouse. You’re fiercely independent and don’t need anyone to take care of you… and that’s intimidating to anyone who isn’t that way.
*cough* most people. *cough* Sorry… uh… allergies.
You’re excited to invite someone into your future, but a relationship isn’t an essential part of your identity and some people may or may not be jealous of that.
Action Step: Realize that you actually do need people, no matter what you tell yourself. Never be afraid to ask for help or tell someone you’re struggling. The single life does not equal loneliness unless you make that choice.
5. You’re Way More Focused On Your Greater Calling
We are all created on purpose for a purpose. God has prepared good works in advance for all of us to do in our short time on this crazy planet (Eph 2:10).
Yes, your calling might be to be married and/or have kids… and it may not. Either way:
***Caution*** Controversial Sam Words Ahead:
I don’t think anyone’s sole purpose for living is marriage and kids.
(cue the hate mail)
I think marriage and kids need to be a huge priority if that is your calling, but I think it’s just a few slices of our French Silk Pie of our Purpose. To be more focused on God’s plan for your life than the way everyone thinks your life should look is downright rebellious. And the church doesn’t love rebels (despite being based on one).
Action Step: Spend time listening and discerning God’s call for your life. Check out my post 9 Ways to Discover Your Calling, spend some time discovering your purpose and chase that.
6. You’re Adventurous and Pursuing the Life You Always Dreamed Of.
You’re taking time before marriage to go back to school, to travel the world, to write a book, to work with homeless people, to enjoy being young and free.
You’re taking the time to settle into who you are before being joined with another human for eternity. And that by no means is that something to be pitied.
There are a lot of awesome advantages to getting married young; I always thought I would. Yet I also know these years I’ve spent healing have prepared me to be the strong, vulnerable husband I desire to be.
Action Step: Pursue a life that is fully and recklessly alive. Get over your insecurities about being alone by becoming laser focused on Jesus and his purpose for your life. Cancel your Netflix and go outside and live your life. Pursue healing for the pain of your past. Fill your time with good people, service, and FUN. Stop worrying about what God hasn’t put in your life and focus on all the good that is already happening.
Maybe people don’t hate you for being single… but this is honestly how it feels sometimes. Can anyone else identify with that? Does anyone else feel the insane pressures to get hitched ASAP?
Here’s the bottom line people:
We have to change the way we talk about and treat single people around us. We have to stop obsessing about their singleness and let them live out the story God is calling them to.
And we all need to learn to trust the goodness of God regardless of what season He has us in.
“For everything that happens in life—there is a season, a right time for everything under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 (VOICE)
There is a time for marriage and a time for singleness. There is a time for dating and a time for Double-Stuffed Oreos.
Daring to wait for God’s best isn’t something humans are very good at—we’re used to getting whatever we want whenever we want it. How dare God say no to our immediate demands?
Today I encourage you to stand tall and stop looking at your singleness as they do. Keep trusting God has better plans ahead than anything we leave behind. Consider praying and writing a journal to your future spouse or head to the library and check out, “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman or “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown.
If marriage is the desire of your heart, focus on getting yourself ready so when that inspiring person comes along you’ll be just as amazing as they are.
Sure, people might never give up obsessing about your singleness, but that isn’t about you, it’s about them. So if you’re struggling with your lack of marital status, dust yourself off, and go live your big, beautiful single life already. Stop worrying about what everybody else hates about you and listen to what God obsesses about: loving you.
You will always be more to God than your marital status. You will always be important, seen, and loved like crazy. And that is all that really matters.