After the church service, after a fun dinner at a great restaurant, after driving home alone, it’s never fun walking into an empty house by yourself, is it?
Your pastor throws in token references to singles in his sermon, the singles Sunday School class gets yet another teacher, and almost every week some kindhearted grandmother asks, “Are we seeing anyone lately?”
With the constant drumbeat of friends getting married and having kids, and with the media’s bogus glorification of gorgeous unmarrieds, the last place we want to feel marginalized is at church. Yet, no matter our comfort level with singlehood, how often do we render only tacit acknowledgement that our marital status is not our identity?
Some of us act more petulantly than others and church-hop, shopping for a hip mix of trendy singles with just enough angst in common to mask our desperation. Others of us form cliques with similarly unbetrothed saints, marking time as two by two, couples pair up and split away. And then there are the brave ones who steadfastly profess our singlehood doesn’t gnaw on our psyche, even as we secretly wonder if we’re only kidding ourselves.
Singlehood: The New Reality
Unfortunately, part of this is simply how mating happens in our society. Part of this reflects the reality that romance isn’t perfect, even for believers. After all, just going to church won’t guarantee anybody a happily-ever-after until we reach Heaven, and we won’t have spouses there anyway.
Sure, we know we’re to be “anxious for nothing,” but for women with biological clocks approaching the eleventh hour, expressions of hope can ring hollow when preached by a married guy with three kids. God “rejoicing over us in song” (Zephaniah 3:17) can fail to fill the weary heart as we contemplate spending old age alone.
But should we simply endure our singlehood like some sort of rash? How can our churches participate in the nurturing of our faith as single believers? What role does–or should–the church play in our search for a mate, or at least our quest to reconcile unmet wants with our myriad questions and frustrations? What is the extent to which church is about us and what we feel we need?
Your pastor has taken a vow to assist you in your spiritual maturity. And to the extent that personal relationships depend on your spiritual maturity, then yes, your pastor and, by extension, your church’s leadership team should maintain a balance between the needs of all relational dynamics in the congregation. After all, singlehood isn’t the only marital status with its share of problems and crises. Anybody who thinks the grass is greener needs to take off their rose-colored glasses (1 Corinthians 7:28).
Indeed, marriage will not “complete” anybody, will it? (John 15:11) The only reason any believer should marry is to honor God through the metaphorical and divinely-ordained consummation of a committed love relationship. What does that mean? That means we don’t marry just for sex, although Paul says that if you can’t control your urges, marriage is the only way to cure them (1 Corinthians 7:9). We don’t marry simply to have children, we feel sorry for somebody, or we’re afraid of facing retirement alone. The church is the Bride of Christ because he desires to save us from ourselves. Should our modeling of that holy covenant simply be an emotional, economic, or convenient compromise?
How the Church Can Help
Not that every single Christian is desperate for marriage. Many of us simply want to be validated as legitimate members of our faith communities. However, some work on both sides of the pulpit remains to be done in many churches before the integration of single believers into our evangelical culture can be called a success.