(Two things before I get started. 1. This is not just for single ladies. Single gentlemen might appreciate this, too, though I apologize in advance for my female perspective. Sorry, it's all I've got. 2. It's long. I'm sorry. I kind of got to rambling. But it's all good stuff, me thinks. Ok, here we go.)
I recently listened to a podcast that was hosting an interview with Steve DeWitt, a pastor in Indiana. His unique story of being a pastor (a senior pastor at that) and single until he recently tied the knot at age 44 gives him a platform to discuss singleness and ministry on a level that most can't share. Just before he got married, he gave a sermon titled The Bachelor Pastor that touches on some important points of singleness that really resonated with me. I encourage you to listen to/read his story and be encouraged by it. Here are my thoughts on some things he said.
Having been single (in an I'm-not-married way) all my life and single (in an I'm-not-dating-anyone way) for the last six years, I could relate to a lot of thing things DeWitt said and experienced. He wanted to get married and was verbal about it. I tend to be that way, too. He was consistently having people ask him about why he's still single. I get that a lot. And by a lot I mean a lot more than a lot. (I have yet to come up with a really good reason...) He perhaps overvalued marriage in his life. I think I do that far more that I should.
While marriage will be a blessing that I will prayerfully get to experience someday, more often than not too much weight is placed on marriage as a precursor to "real life" or "being a grown up" or the like. And I'm to blame for that as much as anyone. In the grand scheme of life, what is most important? Living for the glory of the Lord. Is marriage required for that? No. DeWitt said "We tend to celebrate the gift of marriage more than we celebrate the gift of singleness." He makes good points about weddings and anniversaries being super exciting and sweet celebrations (and they should be), but there is a significant disparate when it comes to parties for those of us who have not yet tied the knot. (Thinking about this makes we want to throw an I'm-still-single party. Do you think people will still bring presents?) "The Bible does not look down on singleness," notes DeWitt. I think that's good for me to remember because sometimes it seems like the church does.
All that to say, we tend to focus on the blessing of marriage, but not on the blessing of singleness. And yes, I actually believe singleness is, and should be, a blessing. Don't ask me on a day when all I see on facebook are people getting engaged and I've just watched the sappiest chick flick in my library, but most days, I do see my singleness as a gift. [Disclaimer to any future boo of mine who might be reading this: I do see my singleness as a gift, but I will so look forward to different gifts that come with dating/marriage and will welcome them with open arms. And hugs. Hugs require open arms, too. The gifts of singleness are just different than the gifts of non-singleness, so I'm just trying to enjoy and be thankful for what I've got while I've got it. I do not value these things over being with you, but I am trying not to value being with you over these things.] Because I'm single, I have more opportunities to be flexible with my schedule and when I travel and how I spend my money. Because I'm single, I can more easily serve in ministry (both at my church and otherwise). Because I'm single, I don't have to shave my legs as often (sorry for any dudes reading this, but it's true, and it's a perk). If I had gotten married fresh out of college like I expected I would, the last few years of my life would look drastically different, and I have loved the last few years and would be sad to miss out on the memories I've made.
Then there's the whole spiritual side of things. I think marriage is certainly a great opportunity for men and women to glorify the Lord in that specific context. Selflessness, unconditional love, you know, all those good things. But marriage is temporary. It's a fleeting institution in light of eternity. It only exists in this world and not in the world to come. Yes, it's important here and should be a beautiful picture of Christ's love for the church. It's a means of having the most intimate of human relationships. But it's scope of impact doesn't last beyond this life. My relationship with the Lord and the fruitfulness of my ministry should have zero correlation with my marital status. Though a marriage would certainly impact my ministry and change it in many ways (and these changes will be met with open arms, as I previously mentioned, you may recall), I alone am responsible for how I invest the resources that I have been given and my personal commitment to Christ. Yes, a marriage will have a significant impact on these things, especially being the woman who will have to submit to the leadership of a husband, but I cannot expect my husband to do the heavy lifting of MY spiritual walk.
But I'm so lonely sometimes! And won't marriage fix that? (I'm not proud to admit I think this sometimes.) DeWitt asserts, "God never intended marriage or singleness to be the sources of our contentment." I've often heard that some of the loneliest people are married. (And I believe that can be true. As a single person, I don't expect there to be anyone holding my hand through things. I go it alone, and it can be a lonely road. But I cannot imagine the loneliness of having a person who SHOULD be going through something with me but still feeling alone.) But it's hard to internalize as a single chick. I would expect that having a husband would be awesome. Someone's always there to take the garbage out and watch a movie with (ok - let's be honest...and be a pillow for me while he watches a movie) and pray with me in the morning and all the other nice things I imagine could come with marriage. These may be realistic expectations, but they may not be. And I am always the one responsible for how I feel or for how I respond to a situation like loneliness. My contentment depends on me and my Jesus. Not me and my hubster (or lack thereof).
So where do I do go from here? I just been mulling over these things in my head for the past couple weeks or so and rambling on this blog for the past couple paragraphs or so, but now what? DeWitt doesn't leave this part out of his message. He says, "Be the kind of Christian man or woman that a godly Christian man or woman would find attractive: a life that is lived to the love of God." I can do that. I can depend on Jesus for my contentment. I can invest in my relationship with Christ (which hopefully my future Mr. will totally dig). I can spend my time in a way that brings glory to the Lord. I can work to weed out sinful areas of my life like pride and selfishness. I can learn patience as I wait on God's timing for my main man to make his grand appearance. After all, "There's nothing more annoying in all the world than whiney, single Christians," knowingly notes DeWitt.
So if the Bachelor Pastor can wait until he's 44 to marry his leading lady, my 25 year old self can continue to love on Jesus until the time he brings that special someone into my life (or until the time he comes again or calls me home, to get all churchy). I can keep living my life not in a waiting-for-it-to-start kind of way but in an I'm-already-living-to-the-fullest kind of way. I can serve the Lord with my singleness while I've got it. I can pray hopefully and expectantly for the Lord to bless me with a wonderful Mr. At the end of the day, I may be a single lady, but I don't have to be a miserable, lonely, bored, and single lady!
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