Singleness - National Marriage Week 2019Marriage and Family
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be married. My life plan was this: get married at 24, have children at 28—after four years of wedded bliss—and then probably throw in a nice house in the countryside and a happy home full of Jesus, joy, and hospitality.
However, as is often the case with dreaming about the future, my plans were not God’s plans.
I’m now nearly 32 and there is no sign of a husband or a baby in sight. At times, this is a source of intense grief for me. Proverbs 13:12 says ‘hope deferred makes the heart sick’, and my heart at times feels very sick indeed. There is a great sadness in waiting for something that feels like it is happening to everyone else around you. The danger of this sadness, as with all longing, is it can turn into resentment and self-pity: resentment that God has ‘forgotten’ about me, that I always have to go to events alone, that I single-handedly have to make all major decisions—as well as the usual difficulties associated with loneliness and childlessness.
As I reached the dreaded milestone of my thirtieth birthday, I was fed up with being single. But more than that, I was fed up with being fed up. I wanted something to change and desperately wanted to find some contentment in being a single person. That year acted as rather a crucible for me. As I began to share more of my struggles with others, I found that God moved in my life in a number of ways.
Firstly, he helped me see that I had an idolatry around marriage. I truly believed that marriage was going to make me happy. Slowly, I am beginning to learn that the Disney stories I grew up with about living ‘happily ever after’ simple aren’t true. Marriage can’t fulfil us; only Jesus can.
Secondly, I began to understand the gift of singleness. It was actually as I understood marriage more, and the missional call God has placed on married couples, that I began to reframe my life as a single person. I realised that I too had a missional call on my life which was unique to being single.
Finally, I realised that the greatest consequence of my singleness is that it ensures I remain dependent on God. Singleness is my thorn in the flesh, and it keeps me humbly going back to God, asking him for strength and contentment in him alone.
I can now honestly say that I think singleness is a true gift. I am able to live my life devoted to the Lord and be anxious about the things that please him, without the ‘worldly cares’ that Paul speaks of. Whilst it is right and proper that married people are concerned about pleasing their spouse and caring for their children, it must be acknowledged that singleness has a unique benefit to it. There is a liberty in singleness to follow the Lord’s will wherever he may ask you to go, and much more freedom in your time to devote yourself to serving the Lord and his people. That’s not to say that life is all rosy, but somehow as I have depended on God more, he has increased my contentment and joy.
All of this is to say, that marriage cannot be seen in its fullest glory unless singleness can be seen in its fullest glory. Both of these gifts manifest the gospel in their own ways. Sam Allberry, a pastor and well-known writer on the topic of singleness, describes the beauty of both states of life: ‘If marriage shows us the shape of the gospel, singleness shows us its sufficiency. It’s a way of declaring to a world obsessed with sexual and romantic intimacy that these things are not ultimate, and that in Christ we possess what is.’
As we celebrate National Marriage Week, we must see marriage for what it really is: a gift to demonstrate the unity of the gospel, as man and wife come together to become one flesh. It is a joyful partnership of two Saints on co-mission together, to glorify God and to bring about his kingdom on the earth. Together with the single person, our unique missions coalesce to join the Great Mission of Jesus as one family together.
Ultimately, I look forward to the marriage that lasts forever: the wedding feast of the lamb—Christ and his bride, the Church. Whether married or single, that is the marriage we are truly longing for and one in which we will all partake, when everything will be made complete in the new heavens and the new earth.