By Debbie Holloway, Crosswalk.com
Krysti Wilkinson is single.
And Krysti Wilkinson, at the risk of bucking the good-Church-girl narrative, likes being single.
As she recounts in Singleness Does Not Have to Equal Loneliness at Relevant Magazine, she once explained to a dating panel,
"I mean, being single is hard. Being in a relationship is hard. Life is hard. I don’t think life is any easier when you have a cute boy to hold your hand; I don’t think life is any harder when you don’t have someone to text goodnight."
I can relate. Though I’ve been married for two years now, I also truly enjoyed being single. And Wilkinson is right – every season of life is hard in its own way. Some of the most difficult times I’ve ever been through have happened since I gained a significant other. I’ve lost friends. I’ve lost family members. I’ve probably cried more in the 4 years since I started dating my husband than in all the years leading up… combined. I’ve had to deal with painful shifts and breaks in other relationships because I’m married – even specifically because of who I married (and nobody warns you about that beforehand).
Author Nicole Unice paraphrases the difficulty of marriage in How Can Young Christian Women Embrace the Season of Singleness? by explaining a conversation she had with a young, single friend who was preoccupied with finding “the one.”
I took my shoe off and I held it up to her, and I said, "Is there anyone asking you how much you paid for your last pair of shoes? You have the opportunity right now to be independent, to develop your own understanding of your money, your time. You can get on a plane and go fly somewhere, you can go buy yourself a pair of shoes without answering to anyone about how much those shoes actually cost."…Don’t waste the season because you want the next one to come.
This has been an increasingly common refrain from Christian authors and bloggers over the past few years. Many suspect that more people would learn to enjoy singleness if the church didn’t put marriage on such a high pedestal. In 3 Ways the Church Can Stop Treating Singles Like a Problem to be Solved Kristen Wetherell writes,
According to Paul, the church’s primary job is not to create family units through marriage. It is not to solve singleness as if it were some kind of problem. Rather, the goal of the church is to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ both in unity and in spiritual maturity, so that every saint knows Jesus and looks more like him as a result….
Does all of this mean the church cannot and should not encourage marriage? No! Marriage is indeed a wonderful gift, an illustration of our union with Christ, and a means of grace within the church. But marriage is not the point of church. It is not the ultimate goal of the saints.
Singles are given a rough time of it by their fellow Christians. Women are often taught to expect marriage, but be passive when it comes to pursuing it – promised that their future will fall into place if they just wait for God’s timing. Others are told clichés like “You’ll meet your spouse when you stop looking!” or “You’re being too picky!” Still others (like me) get erased or ignored from conversation, because it’s so hard to imagine a person content in their singleness.
Emily Maynard explains this feeling in I’m Single, But I’m Still a Whole Person:
More than people asking me why I'm not married yet, I am tired of the assumption that I am not a whole person. I'm tired of people saying, "Oh, it will happen to you someday, and you will meet your other half and you'll understand." I don't believe in magical solutions to anything or from anyone. Not even from God. Not even Jesus shows up to fix everything about my life; He sent me the odd, mysterious, whispering Spirit. I have to do the so-much-work of listening to Spirit. I have to practice at it. That Spirit invites me into my life, this wild mysterious wonder, where things grow out of other things breaking down into dirt.
Wilkinson concludes her Relevant article by reminding us:
We all get lonely, because we all strive for deep, meaningful connection—and that’s hard to come by, even in relationships. There’s miscommunication and selfishness and bad days. Personally, I’d love to hear more about “How To Handle Loneliness In Marriage.” Singles need to see that it actually exists post-wedding-bliss, and couples should feel freedom to express their struggles. Christians need to stop painting this picture of lonely singles, because, without meaning to, it paints the picture that marriage is the solution to loneliness…
The problem comes if we put our lives on hold or think we can’t be truly fulfilled until we have someone. We shouldn’t buy into the lie that our lives really have no worth until there’s a ring on our finger. We don’t have to wait until we’ve found our soul mate to start living a life of purpose.
What do you think? How can the Church do more to build up singles? How can Christians, single and married alike, encourage one another through times of both loneliness and joy? Share your thoughts below!
Debbie Holloway is the Family Life Editor at Crosswalk.com
Publication date: July 22, 2015