GT Exclusive: On Being Single…

Gospel Today Editor EJ Gaines posed a question on his Twitter and Facebook timeline– 

Are there any Christian singles who have decided & accepted that they are called to be single forever?

The majority of responses he received were a simple and resounding “NO,” with the exception of one courageous woman of God who qualified her “no” with some of the most eloquent and poignant thoughts we’ve seen about “being single” in a long time. Her words are below… please take the time to prayerfully read them, and respond!

By Sheena Littlehale

Please let me start by qualifying my voice. I\’m 37 years, 1 month old. I\’ve never been married and only had a few long-term relationships. I don\’t believe I\’m “called” to remain single for the rest of my life, though as someone who has been walking with the Lord since I made a conscious decision at six years old to make Him my Savior, I continue to live a celibate life as I understand the Bible instructs. I see this as a season that will end when I marry, again because of how I understand the Bible instructs.

My “singleness” is my current season of life. For some, that season is short. For some it is long, and for some it lasts the duration of their lifetime. I\’m in this season because I have put God first and followed Him, and this is where He has brought me. Do I want to be married and have a family? Yes, I do. Do I want it at all costs? No, I don\’t. I have to trust that God gave me the desire to be married so He will fulfill it in His time.

Speaking from the vantage point of a single friend that has watched several friends go through difficult marriages, unfaithful spouses, and even divorce, I have come away with this conclusion: There are worse things than being single. Or as one of my divorced friends says, “It\’s better to be single and wish you were married than married and wish you were single.” The way I try live my life is to appreciate what I have while I have it. I\’ve watched too many of my friends become so desperate for something they don\’t have that they never enjoy what they do have. I never want to be that girl.

The Apostle Paul said that he learned to be content in every circumstance. One day, by God\’s grace, I will be married and, possibly, raising children. When I\’m in that season, there will be things about married life that I will enjoy that are not part of my life now. I\’m not just speaking of sex, though that\’s no doubt part of it. There will be companionship, partnership and perspectives on the nature of God and our relationship with Him that I can\’t fully understand as a single person. But there will also be demands on my resources, time, energy, emotions, etc., from which I\’m currently free. In fact, my whole life is at my own command, so I\’m determined to enjoy that liberty while I have it.

At the risk of sounding resentful (which I promise I am not), I have to say that someone who married in their twenties cannot possibly know what it\’s like to be in my shoes, in the same way that I cannot begin to know what it\’s like to have had a committed husband and companion for the last 10 or 15 years and be raising a family. Being single through the processes of life that establish you is its own unique path. Through your twenties, you\’re figuring out who you are and what the world is about. Then come your thirties, when you start to really know yourself, get comfortable in your own skin and find your feet in a career. You may even buy a house, but ultimately you\’re settling into a path that determines the direction of the rest of your life. To navigate this all on your own can be challenging and frustrating. All the while, your friends and siblings are getting married and starting their families while you seem to be in a holding pattern of singleness. It\’s not easy. That\’s where the choice for contentment is crucial.

I think the Church in the western world has much to learn about how to view singles and singleness. My experience is that the most outspoken views Christians express about singleness seem to be expressed by those that aren\’t actually single any more. The whole concept of someone being called to a single life (or as is often quoted from the Bible, a “celibate life”) seems to hinge in many people\’s minds on whether or not they can get someone to marry them, and if they can\’t then “they must be called to singleness”. I think this is a totally wrong paradigm.

The way I understand the Bible, singleness and celibacy are inseparable in the life of a believer. Everyone is called to celibacy and singleness; just for some, that season lasts longer than others. It\’s easy to see how the Church can support marriage and families. There are marriage seminars, parenting classes, mom\’s groups, etc. But how does the Church support singles– especially those who have continued to be single into mid-life? Where is the support to help combat loneliness, disappointment, and self-esteem issues that often go with long-term singleness? How do we, the Church, invite singles to take their place in ministry and in our lives beyond making them babysit or volunteer more at church?

Speaking as a woman, in my experience there is a common view with many Christians that a woman\’s life is “on hold,” waiting for someone to come along to marry her. We\’re raised that way. How many times have you heard a young lady say of her future that she wants to be a pastor\’s wife? Until marriage happens a woman is seen to be in some weird limbo. And the longer marriage delays, the more pitiable she is. There\’s a lot of shame in this, and a lot of pressure as a woman to somehow magically attract some Godly man. And if you don\’t, you\’ve somehow failed. I promise you– I\’m not the only Christian woman who feels this way.

I have several friends who do feel they will live their lives single, feel called to that, and want that. Some have committed to it in a formal way, others have just embraced it and gone on with their lives. The women I know in this position have no desire to have children. They love their lives as they are, and don\’t care if they don\’t go on anther date again. And yet well-meaning Christians argue with them and tell them if the met “the one” they\’d feel differently, or if they had a baby they\’d change their minds. As if there\’s something shameful about their lives as they are, or about these women being happy on their own.

On the other side of the coin are women like me who are waiting for God\’s best and trying to do it well. It\’s not helpful when well-meaning Christians ask things like “Why is a great girl like you still single?” or tell us (when we haven\’t brought it up) that God has someone for us and not to lose hope. Or, when they expect us to give all of our spare time to volunteer at church because we don\’t have a family to look after– we clearly have nothing better to do. Many of us have quite demanding careers, volunteer in the community, or do other things that we are only able to pursue because we don\’t have the same home commitments. Again, I come back to the question of how the Church can support singles in the season of life God has them in.

I truly believe that God\’s perfect plan for people is to marry and have families, and if this were a sinless world that would work out for all of us. But it\’s not a sinless world, and things don\’t happen the way they would if life was untainted. Children die of cancer. People divorce. People sell drugs. Some people rape and are violent to children. Some live in poverty. All of us have hopes that are never realized, and that\’s even more true when you add more people into the mix. One person\’s choice to walk away, or to do something differently, will change multiple lives forever.

I can\’t say with 100% certainty that I will ever marry, but I hope that I will and I still believe that God has someone for me. As the years go by and milestone birthdays like 35 and 40 (now quickly approaching) arrive, I find, more and more at those times, that I have to sit with the Lord and sort out with Him the sense I have that I must justify my life to those around me because I\’m not married. I have to find again the place of peace with the season He has me in. This last birthday was challenging for me because I was dating someone last year and we planned to marry this year. God made it clear to me that this man would not treat me the way God, my Heavenly Father, wanted me to be treated and so I chose to end it. Part of me really struggled with the breakup because I was keenly aware this might be the closest I ever get to marriage, and turning 37 just reminded me that my life isn\’t where I thought it would be by the time I got to this age. But I have to go back to the place where I trust that God is good and He is faithful, and He sees the sacrifices I have made to follow Him. I trust that, even if He does not bring marriage to my life, He is the Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, as I have. So, as Romans 8:18 says, I trust that the things I suffer in this life aren\’t ever worth comparing to the glory waiting on the other side.

Now I have to address the other part of this topic, which is the fact that God has given liberty to singles for a reason. We have a life that is only lived unto ourselves. Not because we are so selfish, but, by default, because we don\’t have anyone else we are responsible for. So my question to Godly singles is this: What are you doing with the liberty and resources at your disposal that non-singles don\’t have at theirs? Your time is your own. Your money is your own. Your house is your own. Your car is your own. Your vacations are your own. Why did God give you all that? What would He like you to do with it? Maybe you don\’t have everything on that list. Maybe you have time but not a lot of money. So where does God want you to use your time? Maybe God brought you to a challenging, yet rewarding and well-paying career, but not a lot of spare time. What does God want you to do with all the money you earn but don\’t have time to spend? I could go on, but you get the picture. To whom much is given, much is required. God has been generous with all of us in different ways. Will we singles fall into the trap of living for ourselves and wasting the opportunities God gave us when He gave us this liberty and these resources? What is required of us in this season of our lives?

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Post your comments below!