Singleness: A Personal Testimony
There are many privileges involved in preparing and giving Christian talks. One of those is growing in your own understanding, learning new truths and relearning old ones. Not so long ago I had to give a talk on singleness and in the course of preparing these are some of the truths that were impressed upon me.
1. We are defined by being In Christ or Out of Christ, not by our marital status
As I think of myself, the primary category I think of myself is being in Christ. As humans, we are either in Christ, or out of Christ. They are the only two options. And that status determines and shapes both our lives now, but also all of our eternity. We are not defined by our marital status. Being in Christ is what is most important.
2. Singleness is not Plan B
A Christian man came up to me one day and assumed I was married, and when he found out I wasn’t, he said ‘What went wrong?’ Nothing went wrong with my life. Nothing is wrong with your life if you’re single. His life wasn’t Plan A because he was married, and mine Plan B because I‘m single. Singleness is not a problem to be solved. You are still significant without a significant other. Marriage is not the goal of the Christian life. It’s a good gift, but it’s a sign that points to the reality for all Christians and that reality is our relationship to Christ. And in the new creation we will all be single, in that our ‘marriage’ to Christ will be fully realised.
3. My singleness is good
The fact that I’m single is not just true, it’s also good and right. I’m not single because God is punishing me. God is working it out for my good. And it’s not just good for me, it’s also good for others. It’s good for you. I’m single so that the church can grow, and also people who don’t yet know Jesus get to hear about him and have the opportunity to turn to him as their Lord and Saviour.
Last year a couple from our church got married and this is part of the father of the groom’s speech as he spoke on behalf of himself and his wife:
We taught him, that should he remain single, that would be a good thing, that he should marry that would be a good thing too. And that, should he choose to marry, we prayed that he would marry one who loves Jesus as well.
Now the father saying that about singleness, was so very helpful. It was helpful that his son had that growing up, that his parents acknowledged he may remain single, and if he did, that would be good. It was also helpful for everyone at the wedding to hear that. And at a wedding. When some single women and men can feel their singleness so much, that simple comment was actually a very profound truth. And such brilliant timing. It helped give us single women and men there dignity and comfort. Why? Because he spoke God’s truth into the situation. Singleness is good. And so much in our wider culture, and in our Christian culture, shouts to us that it is not good. That it is somehow lesser.
4. Contentment in singleness
Some of you may be reading this thinking ‘Please God, I know singleness is supposed to be good, Jesus, Paul, 1 Corinthians 7 etc.—but please may I not be like Jane and be single.’
Whether you’re single or married now, it may be that in a few years you’re single for a whole range of reasons. And for many of us that’s not a very pleasant thought is it?
But God just gives us one day at a time doesn’t he? Don’t try and imagine what life will be like in a year from now, or in 20 years time, otherwise we may just give way to fear and be consumed with things like, ‘Who will look after me if I get ill’. If we do get ill, that is when the church family should shine, and that is also the case if the married person gets ill—we as the church family should shine. Live life now. Live life today. And that very act of getting on and living your life, will help you grow in your contentment.
When I was younger I never imagined the deep contentment I’ve experienced for many years now. That contentment came for me really just by keeping on being Christian. Not being in denial about my single state. Being honest about it. But coming back to God’s promises. Trusting God at his word. Contentment for me didn’t come by reading lots of books on singleness. Some people do and find them helpful.
What I’ve found most helpful in regard to my singleness is actually just regularly sitting under God’s word in sermons, bible study with others, and private devotions. So in many ways, some of the most helpful people for me in understanding what it means to be a single woman, have been married men, men like my local pastors who have preached God’s word to me faithfully week in week out. They have taught me and helped me see what it means to live as a disciple of Christ. What it means to be a woman of God. What it means to be single this side of Jesus’ return. They teach and help me keep things in eternal perspective.
5. Being a child of God
Children are a precious gift from God whether they come via biologically, adoption or fostering. Some single people have children, some married people don’t. But what really matters from an eternal perspective is not whether you’ve had a child, but whether you are a child of God. And then as children of God we spiritually parent others, and so we become spiritual mothers and fathers whether we officially have children or not.
6. Being seen as a person
John Chapman never married and he said this when preaching at his home church on 1 Corinthians 7—
One of the things that has always been nice for me in this congregation as a single person is – I always get treated like a person. I don’t know if you ever think about me as being single, but I never think of myself as being single and I don’t think of you as being married. I mean, it has never occurred to me to sort of categorise people like that. I just think about you as you and that’s how I want you to think about me …
(M. Orpwood, Chappo, 191)
7. Negative stereotypes
There are many negative stereotypes of single people in our culture: the crazy cat lady, 40 year old virgin, commitment-phobe, the Seinfeld self-absorbed narcissists, with one reporter questioning, “What is it with the Hollywood film and TV industry, which finds it so intriguing, so funny and apparently so profitable to portray single people as buffoons, losers and otherwise pathetic characters that can only be redeemed from their miserable single state by finally getting coupled?” (Kim Calvert, http://singularcity.com/the-message-for-singles/ 23/03/15)
These stereotypes exist. But if you’re single don’t just complain about them nor conform to the bad ones. Rather get on with being like Jesus and you’ll be a positive example of what it means to be a Christian, and not a negative stereotype, because you’ll be godly, and godliness is so very attractive to other people, whatever their marital status.