There I was, at a wedding, enjoying witnessing the uniting of two young lives. As a high school teacher, I was honored to be invited to two of my former students’ wedding. They were barely in their twenties, and I was just starting out in my thirties. I remember standing in the reception line, contentedly watching their playful interaction, and thinking through what I wanted to say to them. I had a sense of pride even, as I reflected back on my years of teaching them English and Bible. But my reverie was rudely interrupted by this question: “Lisa, how does it feel as a single woman to be at a wedding all alone?” I felt as if the wind had been knocked out of me, and responded with something like: “It’s fine. I enjoy seeing them so happy.” Looking back now, my response might be something like: “Why do you narrow another person’s scope of meaning and purpose down to one dimension – one experience – of this large life we live?” Being married, or being single, is just one dimension of being alive.
I Loved Being Single
As a single woman in my thirties, I would get responses toggling between envy (“Oh, to be single again!”), married people living vicariously through me (“So, what does a single girl set out to do on a Friday night?”), and even pity (“Oh, just wait. You will find what I have someday.”) What an assumption to make. Sure, there was a natural and anticipatory curiosity about finding a partner in life. But, believe me when I say I loved being single and I loved the community I had during those days. I felt blessed and grateful on a daily basis. And I was in single-minded, whole-hearted love with Jesus. The intensity of my devotion to Christ in those days is something I relish now as I juggle the responsibilities of wife and mother and friend and co-worker and daughter and sister. Life was much simpler back then, but also rich and complex – packed full of determination and purpose.
Marriage is Not an Answer to an Equation
I often wonder what role the church plays in this misunderstanding of single people. There is a formulaic approach to singles, at least in my experience: If you stay committed to Christ for such and such number of years (different for everybody), then you will win the prize: Marriage. And, even better: Marriage and children. Well, I am married and I have two feisty, beautiful little girls, but it was not an answer to an equation. It was quite a random surprise to meander into marriage at the age of 38. I loved being single. I love being married. And I love being a mom. But I was full and complete all along. I was my own equation. And the only answer I wanted, needed, and still want is: Jesus. This side of heaven, I gather as many experiences as I can and live life to the full. My goal, my prize, is Jesus Himself. Period. Same yearning, whether married or single.
Beyond the Labels
I have been talking with girls in their 30s and 40s who are single. They want to be understood by a label other than “single” and are tired of being lumped into “singles’ groups.” One of them is a personal trainer at my gym. She is a Christian and recently handed me a copy of a book her friend Cindy Johnson wrote entitled, Who’s Picking Me up from the Airport? I highly recommend this book, which you can find it on Amazon. In it, Cindy talks like a good friend who really gets it – she gets the struggles, the advantages, and the disadvantages of being single. She even mentions how Jesus attended a wedding as a single person in his 30s and made the most of it by turning water into wine. This is a comical, inspiring, and encouraging read.
A Christian Counselor Can Help You Find Meaning in Singleness
If you find yourself struggling to find meaning in your singleness, or are tired of being misunderstood by family members, married couples, or other single friends, it may be good to find a safe space to work through your struggles. If you sometimes feel very alone and want support and encouragement in your journey, please consider calling a Christian counselor. As a Christian counselor, I often feel much like a spiritual director as I facilitate a genuine and worshipful experience for people while they ask deep, difficult, painful, and curious questions of themselves and of God.