Monday, October 13, 2014

When Singleness Makes Me Sad






I've gotten some feedback from close family and friends hinting that in my efforts to combat some of the false assumptions about Christian singleness, I've over-compensated by only highlighting the positives.

Please know that while I still stand by every one of those positive posts, I'd now like to offer some intellectual and emotional ballast.

First, know that I'm still okay with being unmarried. In fact, 95% of the time, I'm totally happy with the arrangement. 

But I have to admit that there are still some times when being single makes me sad. 

When Singleness Makes Me Sad:

1. When I have to shop and cook for one. 

Here in the suburban United States, food portions come packaged in jumbo sizes, and it's difficult to find a way to buy, for instance, just one or two carrots at a time. This leaves me faced with buying an entire bag, knowing that many of them will go to waste, or resigning myself to eating nothing but carrots for the entire week. 

I guess if I were smart, I could start some sort of singles food co-op, but I'm worried that it might accidentally turn into some sort of weird dating service, as things for singles invariably do.

So... here I sit, all alone with my huge bag of carrots.

2. When there's a spider to be killed. 

Ditto a snake in the house, a bufo toad on the front stoop, or anything wrong with the internal workings of my car.

3. When other people carry on as if my marital state were a crisis of global proportions. 

As I've recounted in previous posts, sometimes people ask me why I'm still single. That's okay. I understand why. But it's a hard question to address quickly without sounding flippant.  

The real answer is that I don't know why I'm still single... and that I'm okay with not knowing.

It's the "I'm okay with not knowing" part that some people seem to have trouble with, and that's when being single makes me sad. 

When people ask questions or make comments that reveal their hidden assumption that there must be something wrong with me or (even worse) with "all these guys." When they pester me about it. When they won't let it go. 

I'm fine with the choices I've made, but I'm sad when other people can't be fine with them. 

I'm sad when people imply that if I'd only "put myself out there" in ways I'm not comfortable with and deem unnecessary, all my "problems" will be solved. 

I'm sad when they lament at length about my singleness as if this is some great tragedy instead of acknowledging singleness as a legitimate way to glorify God.

Please, if you have happy, well-adjusted single friends who are loving life and serving the Lord, treat their singleness as a non-issue, especially if they do so.

4. When I witness the perfect intertwining of two lives. 

I know there's no such thing as a perfect relationship, but you know what I mean. Those couples who have been together for fifty or sixty years, and can seemingly read one another's minds... still seeming to enjoy what they find there. 

A few months ago, as I listened to all of the CS Lewis-related online media from the Desiring God national conference, I became totally charmed by one of the lecturers who couldn't stop referencing his wife's thoughts and observations throughout his talk, always giving her credit for her original insights. It quickly became apparent that his wife had become a full partner in his research. 

It put a lump in my throat.


I know that not all married couples achieve the ideal of walking forward together through life, but knowing that I may never have a chance to do so makes me sad if I dwell on it too much. So I don't dwell on it.

5. When I know that I'm not experiencing the deepest level of human community and accountability. 

Of course I have a strong community of long-term friends and close companions who know me well and call me on my crap, but it's not the same level of intimacy and enforced community that marriage brings, nor should it be. 

The thing is, I sometimes worry that long-term singleness makes it far too easy to live for myself. Because I don't need to consider the thoughts, feelings, wishes, and desires of another person daily, I worry that I lack sufficient opportunity to die to myself. 

And that makes me sad.

* * * *

Yes, being single is a fine choice and a legitimate way to glorify God. Yes, it has distinct advantages. Yes, I am happy and content 95% of the time. 

But that 5%.... oh, that 5%.  

I list these reasons of sadness not out of a need for pity or attention, but as part of an honest ongoing conversation about the legitimate benefits and pitfalls of the single state. 

I have no real conclusion or advice to offer here, but a strong call to the members of the body of Christ (whether single or married, male or female, etc) to pull yourselves together, determining that no matter what your state, you focus outward and upward rather than downward and inward.

When we focus downward and inward, we're much more likely to be discontent. We see only the problems, the flaws, the shortcomings, and the pain.

When we focus outward and upward, we have a much greater chance of seeing life from God's perspective.
So if you have been raised with the Messiah, seek what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God. When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4

6 comments:

  1. Well written article. I know a few young and older Christians that are single and happy. We know as children of God that He holds today and our future in His hands. Whether single or married it is what He wants not what we want.

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    1. Yes. I always have to pray an echo of Jesus, "Nevertheless not my will, but Yours be done."

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  2. I think this post is necessary to complement the others. As I'm sure you are aware, there are many married people who are still missing out on many of your points.

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    1. Yup. Next relationship post: "Singles and Marrieds Have the Same Problems."

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  3. This post is on point. #3 is true. Although I am young and still have plenty of life ahead of me with marriage being a high possibility i still have many friends who are now getting married and joke about me being single. Which is fine but can get discouraging. I love your summary at the end. I always tell myself I must be content in Christ because if I am not that then there is no point in me ever getting into a relationship. Plus now I am happy being single and content and find so many opportunities to use this time. I think to many people look at singleness as a negative instead of seeing all the positives and all the opportunities they can have in singleness. You definitely are not one of those people though :)

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    1. "Although I am young and still have plenty of life ahead of me with marriage being a high possibility i still have many friends who are now getting married and joke about me being single. " Yup! And on it will go. Face it all with a smile - people are awesome even when they don't really know what they're saying. :)

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