When I was in high school, I was nominated the person most likely to be married first by my friends. My dream was to be a wife and mother and nothing more.
I still remember my cousin suggesting that perhaps I should consider a career in medicine and thinking she was an alien from another planet. Why would I have a career when I would get married? I had planned my wedding dress, the style of my house, the number of children I would have and yes, even the babies’ names.
Then I went through my 20s – I had a few prospects – but it didn’t happen. Then came my 30s – with a few more – but still it didn’t happen. Now into my 40s and Mr Right is nowhere to be found. Life didn’t turn out quite the way I expected.
Few Pastors can Relate to Older Singles
When I was first asked to speak on singleness at a friend’s church, I baulked. Are you kidding me? Who wants to be the poster girl for singleness? Are you sure you don’t want another message on how to hear God’s voice?
Then I realised there weren’t many people talking about it. Over 50 percent of us are single in countries like Australia, the US and the UK*, but we’re under-represented in church life. In my denomination of over 1000 churches, I know of only one senior pastor who is single. Single pastors and leaders in church are rare. And even when they’re there, no-one wants to talk about it.
“In church life there’s a lot of talk about marriage and family, and singles end up with the message: ‘Just wait a while and one day, this will be relevant’.”
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Soon after I received the speaking request, a friend alerted me to a Facebook post. A prominent pastor had posted a meme giving advice to singles. The response was immediate. The page erupted with comments: “How dare you say that! What would you know? You were married at 21!” The post was deleted soon after.
The problem is most pastors are married men. Few can relate to the older singles in their pews. So in church life there’s a lot of talk about marriage and family, and singles end up with the message: “Just wait a while and one day, this will be relevant.” I’ve been in church all my life and sat through hundreds of sermons on marriage, but not one on singleness. No-one talks about what life should be like before marriage or after marriage or without marriage. Few acknowledge the challenges singles face or answer the questions asked along the way. So it’s time to talk about it. And not just for the sake of the singles. Marrieds need to hear this too.
The Impact of ‘the Curse’
The desire to be married; to love and to be loved, to know and to be known, is a God-given desire. It’s part of our humanity. Being alone was the only thing that wasn’t good about God’s creation (Genesis 2:18). It was God himself who said it isn’t good for humanity to be alone and marriage was his solution.
But at the same time, the curse of sin means that our need for romantic partnership can become distorted (Genesis 3:16b). There’s a reason why women obsess about finding a man and why men settle for a woman who isn’t their peer. There’s a reason why before he was married, George Clooney was considered the man and Jennifer Aniston was portrayed as a social pariah.
“The key is to look first to God, to fulfil us, and that can happen whether we are single or married.”
We are all subject to our fallen nature – for women, it often comes in the form of a desire for a man to validate your destiny. For men, it often looks like a need to have a woman to rule over or dominate. It’s only when God’s spirit and ways are applied, that we can be freed from these curses and be complete in God.
Be Freed from the Desperate Need for a Partner
There was a time in my life when I was looking for a man to validate me and fulfil my destiny on my behalf. I was so fixated on marriage, that I couldn’t see what God’s purpose was for me. But God was telling me, ‘You can do whatever I’ve called you to do, and you don’t need to be married to do it’.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting a date. But that desire becomes a negative if you can’t feel good about yourself without a partner, and believe you can’t live out your purpose on your own.
The key is to look first to God, to fulfil us, and that can happen whether we are single or married.
You can move forward in your purpose in him regardless of your marital status.
* In Australia, the proportion of adults living with a partner has declined during the last two decades, from 65% in 1986 to 61% in 2007 according to the ABS. (www.abs.gov.au). Almost two million Australians live alone, with solo dwellers the fastest-growing housing demographic in the country. By 2026, the single-person household is predicted to eclipse the number of nuclear families in Australia. (www.heraldsun.com.au, accessed 12/14/16). In the US, since the early 2000s, single women outnumber married women (Traister, Rebecca, 2016. All the Single Ladies, US: Simon & Schuster).