The Gospel and “Single Awareness Day”

with 3 comments

I’m not single.  But many of my closest friends are.  Moreover, many of them are single without any prospect of finding “that special someone” in the near future.  For many couples, Valentine’s Day is a greatly anticipated day of romance, dates, candy, and, most of all, being with the one you love.  I haven’t been married for long, and I’ve only had one other Valentine’s Day spent as a couple (last year with my fiancé, now wife), so I know that for me, and many singles, Valentine’s Day is a catalyst for discontentment, frustration, betrayal, fear, bitterness, anger, and loneliness.  This could be because:

  • He or she considers themselves completely undesirable or defeated.
  • Someone in the past has betrayed or left them.
  • They have seen the fragility of human relationships in parents or family members who have been divorced.
  • They have been abused by men (or women), either emotionally, mentally, or even physically.
  • A spouse, fiancé, significant other, or “prospect,” has died.
  • They are afraid of dying alone.

Many more factors are involved in this spectrum of thoughts and feelings, brought on by “couple-focused” holidays like Valentine’s.  Singles suppress this in many ways–such as in sarcastic tweets or Facebook statuses about “Single Awareness Day,” or jokes about someone who hurt them, or sarcasm about the corporate nature of the holiday, or making fun of the “ridiculous” romantic desires of the opposite sex.

Specifically, in the Christian community, I believe that much of this angst among single adults is catalyzed by a hermeneutic, a position largely held by many in the Christian church (whether explicitly or implicitly), and supported by comfortably-married pastors and leaders, that marriage is “the norm” for Christians, and if one is not married, they are either weird, abnormal, or at the worst, disobedient to God and out of his will for their lives.  Before I came to seminary, right after I told people where I was going to seminary and what I was going to study, their eyes would light up and they would say to me, “Oh, I bet there’s some lucky girl up there for you just waiting to get married!”  “You better get ready for the ice cream socials!”  “I bet you’ll find you a wife!”  Maybe this hasn’t happened to you, so I’ll try from a different angle.  Maybe you are so tired of the fact that you CANNOT have a conversation with a married person without them asking you about who “you have your eye on” or who they can “fix you up with.”  You know…that awkward feeling when you realize that a married couple invited you to dinner, not because they wanted to get to know you, but because they wanted to hook you up with somebody.  Sadly, most Christians do not realize the damage that they are often doing to singles with their words and schemes.  Essentially, marrieds are saying, “It would be much more exciting to talk to a single person if they were married or on the road to getting there.”  This fails both exegetically and pastorally.

I write this for two reasons:  1. To apologize to single-Christians who are treated like second-class citizens. 2.  To offer encouragement to singles.  Here is an excerpt by Dick Purnell from a chapter titled “Single Adults in Your Ministry: Why They Stay and Why They Stray” in the book Pastoral Leadership for Manhood and Womanhood:

I have heard pastors say, “If you have the desire, then God has someone for you to marry.”  But is that true, or is it simply an assumption?  The Bible never says a word about that.  In fact, many of the biblical characters were unmarried, or at least nothing indicates that they had a spouse.

Here are some of the singles in the Bible:  Jesus, Paul, Timothy (probably), Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Jeremiah, Hagar, Ruth, Naomi and Anna (and countless other widows), Simeon, the Ethiopian eunuch (and all the other unnamed eunuchs in Bible times), Jephthah’s daughter, and Tamar.  Queen Vashti was dumped and divorced because she was honorable.  Isaac did not get married until he was forty years old, and Moses followed his example.  Nothing is mentioned about Nehemiah, Daniel, and Mark having families.  The Bible does not portray marriage as the norm.  If it did, all of the above would be abnormal and unappreciated.

I desired to be married through my twenties, thirties, and into my forties, but God didn’t bring anybody into my life whom I cared to spend the rest of my days on earth with.

Some of my single friends are in their sixties, and they still want to get married.  God just hasn’t brought anyone into their lives.  The sovereign God has not revealed to me why some people do not get married.  But marriage is not for everyone.  Population statistics reveal there are more women than men.  Not everyone will get married.  Yet I believe a person can be fulfilled without being married.  The message of the Bible is that Christ is our sufficiency.

For singles reading this, I don’t want to (and can’t) reduce your desire to be married.  Rather, I would hope that with every bit of desire you have for another warm body, your desire for Christ would zoom exponentially beyond that.  Because that is what this whole thing pointing to after all.  And, for married people reading this, single people bear God’s image just as much as you do, and can display the gospel just as much as you can.  As a married person, you do not experience more of life, but a different perspective on life.  For every inkling in you that loves being married, I would hope that your affection for Christ would zoom exponentially beyond that.  God’s desire is for singles and marrieds alike to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, who walked upon the earth as a single man and whose daily bread was to do the will of God.


Written by keywoodblog

February 14, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. Good thoughts, brother. And in a few months you can pull this post out, dust it off, change a couple words and run it again on Mother’s Day. Many of the same thoughts will apply quite well in regards to those (married and single) who wish they were moms but are not.

    Hope you guys are doing well. Blessings.

    Pete Scribner

    February 14, 2012 at 6:40 pm

  2. really great post. thanks for writing it!

    mary beth j

    February 15, 2012 at 4:06 am

  3. As a woman, I am especially struck by this post. First everyone at church asks when you are going to get married….then they want to know when you will fulfill the “highest calling” of motherhood. I am a wife and mother, and believe my highest calling is Jesus Lover. Good words. (I found you through your wife’s friend Brooke.)

    accidental devotional

    February 15, 2012 at 4:06 pm

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