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...And it Vexes Me So....

Okay.  So.  I realize I touched on this topic on my blog a few weeks back (and I've written on it before), but I think I need to revisit the subject.  I hate to beat a dead horse, but sometimes I get going on a topic and I just can't quit.  Apparently, according to an inventory I took tonight, it's partly because of my secondary spiritual gift of exhortation.

So, here is what I would like to exhort tonight: Singleness.

I have nothing against marriage.  I believe it's a sacred institution, created and blessed by God.  I am a total hopeless romantic.  I'm a sap.  I believe we were all created to live in relationship and community with each other, and marriage is a vital part of that.

However, I am getting frustrated with certain attitudes in the church about marriage.  Maybe it's because I'm a bit more of a cynic than I was in my teens and twenties.  Or maybe I'm just more realistic.  Whatever the case, I'm a little fed up with pastors and authors trying to push the idea of marriage on me as though I'm somehow lacking and deficient without it.  

Did you know, for example, that there are whole books that have been written on the subject of how to land a guy, within the context of the church?  Since when did we start taking our cues from Cosmo and Glamour, anyway?  Call me old-fashioned, but while I'm not exactly sitting around waiting for Prince Charming to ride up on his horse, I'm not really interested in going out and trying to lasso him, either. 

I don't think there's anything wrong with affriming the blessings of marriage and acknowledging that most of us (especially women?) want it.  But there's also nothing unbiblical about realizing practically, that all of us may not get it (at least, not as soon as we would like to), and learning how to cope with that.  Even rejoice in it!  There's this weird notion that's been floating around the last half-decade or so that to be single indicates a lack of spiritual development, that it's somehow laziness on our parts.  While certainly examples could be made, I don't think it's fair to say that's the standard.

And quite frankly, I think there's enough pressure on women outside the church--all the negative messages surrounding beauty and self-worth...why must we in the church add to it, when we all know (at least in theory) that we are supposed to find our fulfillment and worth in God?  All the emphasis seems to be unbalanced and a trifle unbiblical, too, since we are given examples of both singles and couples equally being vital to the Kingdom!

I know I touched on this issue recently when I talked about my biological clock.  Let me be clear and honest: Yes, I'd like to be married someday.  No, I'm not sitting around feeling sorry for myself in the meantime.  Please don't feel sorry for me or give me advice on how to wait.  I know how to wait.  I'm learning to live with the reality that I might never be married.  If I do, it will certainly be much later in life than I ever expected--but that's part of the problem, isn't it?  We sort of expect these things to just happen, and when they don't, we wonder what we did wrong. 

I'm not going to apologize for being single, or outspoken, or female.  I come from a generation of women who grew up with Princess Leia and Wonder Woman as their icons & role models.  My idea about femininity may have been shaped in part by such cultural icons, but it was also informed by the church.  And recently, I've begun to rethink some of my earlier-held assumptions about Godly Femininity.  That's a topic for another post another time, but the issues are related.  I'm not a man-hater or anything like that.  I'm just tired of feeling guilty for (and limited by) being a single woman. 

I made the choice a long time ago to trust God with my future, whatever it entailed.  Sometimes I feel a little adrift and have no idea where my life is headed.  Actually, that happens a lot.  But guess what?  Despite our cultural standards suggesting otherwise, that's pretty typical for a life of faith.  I'm not perfect, and I have to work at being okay with not knowing what's coming next.  I have to work at patience and trust and contentment.  So I get pretty pissed when I read stuff that undermines my hard work and makes me doubt myself and my path.

If you have a single friend or relative, do them a favor and be kind.  Don't give them advice on how to find a spouse or point out their flaws as an explanation of why they're single.  Instead, encourage them to seek God first, and His kingdom.  Because single or married, all the other stuff that comes along with life can really get in the way of that. 

PS: There are other books that actually offer good advice & encouragement in this area.  One is "Now and Not Yet" by Jennifer Marshall.  I did see a couple others on Amazon that sounded promising, but I haven't read so I can't vouch for them.  As Brianne pointed out, there's always Lauren Winner's "Real Sex," too.  Know of any other good resources?  Feel free to share!


Carol said...

Just point out 1 Corinthians 7:27-38 and see what people say.

Grace said...

I am so sorry you're having to deal with this at church. It's ridiculous for anyone to think that YOU need to do something different to find a guy. You are an amazing, talented, sweet, and genuine woman who loves God and is an incredible friend. Any guy would be lucky to land you and not the other way around. And on the topic of flaws, we all have them. Your significant other is supposed to love ALL OF YOU flaws and all, because the flaws are part of what makes you you.

I love you!

J. M. Richards said...

Thanks, Mom. :)

And thanks, SuperGrace! Fortunately, I'm not actually having to deal with this at my church. I've just noticed it in general Christian circles over the last five or six years.
But you're very sweet, and I could say all those things about YOU, too! Thanks for the encouragement. :)

Anonymous said...

No advice in this comment. I assure you. Being "single" is totally awesome! I loved it! Sometimes I miss it. No, really, I do.

All the married people trying to push the single people to get married. Half those people weren't even happy in their own marriages.
Personally, I believed they were just jealous of my happiness and wanted to pull me down into their pit. Now, was that too harsh? I can never tell. Heehee. ;)

Sidebar: Singles Ministries are totally UN-biblical. I could talk on that subject for hours.

My older sister would call me up once in awhile to "encourage" me and let me know that she was praying for my husband to make his way to me.

This is an account of an actual conversation:

Me: "Sis, why don't you pray for me to fulfill God's will for my life for right now. I'm not worried about my 'singleness'. You shouldn't be either."

Sis: "Oh, but marriage is soooo wonderful! I just want you to have what I have."

Me: "Oh, but I just want to have what God wants me to have...*grits teeth* right now."

Sis: "Well, how do know for sure that God is not wanting you to get married?"

Me: "Because I asked him and said 'Not yet, just wait, he's coming, I'll let you know when he gets here'.

Sis: "How do you know that was God and not Satan?"

Me: "Uh...Satan wants me to focus all my free time on the ministry of the church?"

Sis: "Well, there's temptations."

Me: "I'M NOT DATING ANYONE! What temptation?!"

Sis: "And there's things you can't learn about yourself being single."

Me: "Yes, I know that. But according to God I don't need to know those things right now. I'll spend time on those things when I get to that book."

Sis: "Well, okay."

Me: "Thank you. Is there's anything I can pray for you (this was meant to be sarcastic)?"

Sis: "Yes. Pray for me. My husband has been irritating me all week."

Me: "Kind of makes you want to be single for a week, huh?"

Sis: "You betcha."

My reply: "HA!"

I love it!
Cynthia G