To the One: Letters on Singleness (it’s really OK)

Singleness can get a bad reputation, but truly? It’s not bad all the time. There are many gifts to this season and lessons to learn. We pray you’ll find solace, encouragement, and laughter in these words. Because, as always, we’re with you in the messy middle.

To the One Who is Tired of Waiting by Michelle Pineau

I won’t soon forget the towering stack of papers the closing agent placed in front of me that day, their crisp edges slightly disheveled. Black and white ink slurred across the pages in a dizzying mess of letters and lines: SIGN HERE. INITIAL HERE. DATE HERE. Apprehension grew with every pen stroke I made and with every moment I stole as my eyes glazed over each page. At some point I decided, it’s impossible. It’s impossible to read every document. Does anyone actually read every document? The closing agent tossed me a glance; perhaps she was reading my mind. Or my face. “Just pay your mortgage on time and you’ll be fine.” She nodded and flipped over a new page. At the end of it all, my title officer mercifully gifted me a bottle of wine.

And so, in a manner of moments and many tensed nerves, I became an official homeowner at the age of twenty-five.

Owning my own home has been a surprise blessing. It was nowhere in my ten-year plan. It was neither expected nor preferred, and it was actually my parents’ idea: “invest,” they said. So there are very few words to describe how simply off my radar it was, up until the point it absolutely wasn’t. It was nothing and then suddenly everything; a surprise akin to an unplanned pregnancy: an unanticipated twist that brings forth life. And in a world where so many circumstances outside of our control seem to go terribly wrong, it feels nice to think that sometimes our un-plans can birth good things.

Which also feels a lot like singleness at nearly-age thirty.

Unexpected. Yet full.

There have been well-meaning people who thought I couldn’t hear the second question in their voice when they asked: “Oh wow! You’re a homeowner?” I watch their eyebrows fly up and their their expression widen, taking in my age, my marital status. Some ask outright while others merely imply. And, it’s fair. Because I’ve asked this question to my own heart, too: Don’t you want to be married? Buying houses is something married people do. Don’t you want to be married?

What they might not know is that my heart’s answer has always been yes.

And yet, I’m not married. I’m a twenty-nine year old single woman who owns her own house.

There came a point in my adult life, some time after twenty-five and some time after therapy, that I decided I wasn’t going to wait to start living my life. Husband or not, this is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24). Life doesn’t start when all the chips fall into place. Life is today and life is right now, miraculously unfolding all around us. There are good works to do that the Lord has prepared for us. Let us walk in them.

Recently, our culture’s narrative behind the word waiting has made me uneasy. As if waiting somehow implies that your life is on hold, or somehow insinuates that the only life to be had lingers somewhere in the hazy distance. As if singleness infers a lack of maturity. We are waiting to ‘grow up.’ Waiting for a job. Waiting for a spouse. Waiting to get pregnant. Waiting to ‘graduate’ into the next life stage. Waiting for things that aren’t clearly promised in scripture while we forsake the blessings of today.

Sometimes we liken waiting to purgatory – it’s a place we get stuck in. It’s like we’re living halfway, neither here nor there, and in a perpetual state of limbo. We live like exiles, but in the worst way: forsaking opportunities to invest in and encourage others; forsaking opportunities to build welcoming environments that let others into our hearts and our homes. Forsaking the joy of today and replacing it with something less.

But we don’t have to wait to live. We can live fully right where we are. Right where we are is where God has placed us, and it is good. Because God is careful and thoughtful and wise, the compassionate father who gives perfect gifts.

As a twenty-nine year old single woman, I often get to give the gift of yes. I get to give the gift of time. In a world where others are constantly busy and weighed down with the obligations of family and kids, I get to give the gift of my availability. I can say yes to the late night call, the spontaneous adventures, and the ice-cream run because today was your rough day at work. I can say things like ‘be there in ten minutes,’ and ‘what can I bring,’ and ‘I’m coming with cookies.’ I can say ‘no you’re not crazy,’ and ‘yes, God is still good,’ and ‘maybe he really is just too busy to read your message.’ I can welcome you into my little home on the lake and you can find rest for your soul. I can have you over for dinner – even you who are married with kids – and we can talk about mental health and gardening. I can cook you some enchiladas from Half-Baked Harvest and if you want, we can eat them straight from the pan.

The gift of yes allows us to care for others – to love our neighbors as ourselves. Lord knows the way we treat others won’t magically improve once we’re married. Learning to love well now is an eternal investment that builds God’s kingdom here on earth. And although it’s often messy and imperfect, it’s something we don’t have to wait to do.

Maybe your version of living fully right where you are doesn’t look like buying a house. But maybe it does, or could, look like bringing dinner to a friend who’s struggling; speaking words of encouragement to others; buying that plane ticket and going on that missions trip. Maybe like developing your gifts and talents to bless others and impact your sphere for Jesus. It could look like so many things.

Please. Just don’t wait until you’re married to start.

To the One Who Thinks They Can Do It Alone by Alecia Hinston

I am prone to self-sufficiency. Or at least its illusion.

Quick to offer help. Slow to ask for it. Quick to say yes. Slow to say no.

Single or married, young or old, the sickness of self-sufficiency can creep into the heart of any unsuspecting individual. Its packaging may come in the form of false humility (“Oh, I don’t need to talk about how I’m doing. The other person is more important!”); self-pity (“No one would want to help me or care. I don’t want to be a burden.”); or fear of vulnerability (“I don’t want my weaknesses exposed! What if they betray me?”).

Self-sufficiency can quickly spiral into shame: I should be able to do this. Women are often praised for “doing it all.” Social media posts transform into CVs for superwomen who somehow graduate with a master’s, get married, cook blog-worthy meals, have a well-dressed baby, complete the latest workout program, and renovate a home — all within a single year, and 2020 no less!

Self-sufficiency in singleness is especially pervasive since the very definition of single is “unaccompanied by others; lone; sole.” Admittedly, the pressure as a single woman to “not need no man, thank you very much” while accomplishing everything under the sun with perfectly manicured nails and 7-8 hours of sleep is heavy.

And yet, here’s the reality that comforts me at times and at other times smacks me right across the face: I. Need. Others.

And so do you.

As a reflection of the Triune God, we as humans are relational beings. Yes, marriage is absolutely a beautiful picture of the Gospel for the world, intended to be a mirror image of Christ and His Bride, the Church. Yet, that is not the only relationship. If you are married, you need friends. If you are single, you need friends, and even all the more.

There are two common postures related to self-suffiiency in singleness that I want to address. The first posture is one of single bliss. This man or woman does whatever they want, whenever they want. Their time is abundant and they can move about as their whims fancy.

To those about whom this may accurately describe, singleness should not equate with selfishness. Just as we need others, others need us. Philippians 2:3-4 isn’t written just for those who are married or for us when we feel like and have time on a Saturday afternoon. We are called to live in partnership in the gospel (Phil. 1:5) with others in the Body of Christ, and to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than [ourselves]. Let each of [us] look not only to [our] own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

When you are married, you consider your spouse’s interests and die to yourself daily (or you should be). When you are single, you still consider others’ interests and die to yourself daily (or you should be).

Yes, you could spend your evenings after work watching Netflix, working out at the gym every night, or playing video games — or even just hanging out with people who are “easy” to be around. Those aren’t bad things, but might we be called to more?

This is not a call to fill your plate until you’re burned out or to things you don’t enjoy because that’s somehow “holier.” But it is a call to consider your time, your people, how you’re investing. Ask the Lord to show you — is there someone in your sphere that could use your time or the gift of presence?

The second posture is one of prideful autonomy. This man or woman takes care of themselves, rarely asks for help or support, gives often but does not allow others to bear their burdens.

To the one about whom this may accurately describe, singleness does not negate your need for others. Just as others need us, we need others. One of the greatest lessons I have learned lately is that true friendship can be humbling, holy, and helpful. I try to carry things alone, and realize I can’t. (Have I learned?) When I feel as if I don’t have anything else to give — energy, words, a “fun” presence — I have been humbled and honored to see that the friends I have are unfazed.

Friendship lately has looked like quick handoffs of homemade soup in mason jars to make sure I’m eating well. Voice memo prayers and vennmo’d coffee money. Sitting side-by-side on the couch, quietly working on a puzzle. It’s looked like I’m on a walk; can I call you? and How did it go? and I remember you said today was going to be hard so I’m checking in. Random day debriefs on Marco Polo. Podcast recommendations. Laughter. I know God’s love more fully through the gift of friendship, and I am humbled and grateful.

The second half of Romans 12 is often read at weddings. It’s a beautiful passage, and let’s be real, I’ll probably have it read at mine too.  But read the words below again slowly.  If you are married, how do these words characterize your friendship with not only your spouse but others as well — your neighbor, those in your small group, your co-worker, your siblings. If you are single, don’t wait to read these words at your wedding and expect them to suddenly characterize the way you love your spouse and receive love in return.  Such character is built over time, through humility and submission to the Spirit.  Allow the Lord to change you through the gift of friendship, because we are not meant to live alone. And we never will be. 

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and. do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Do not repay evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Romans 12:9-18

To the One Who is Tired of Being Asked by Sarah Lagpacan

Dear well-meaning inquirers into single friends’ love lives,

Thank you for your questions and thank you also for your advice

But you’ll have to forgive me when I fumble with your sentiment

Because I’m grateful but don’t want to put too much hope in it 

And excuse me while I hold solo karaoke sessions in my car 

With the windows rolled down and voice carrying far 

Because even when alone, I’m here singing for two 

Who knows, maybe I’m really singing for you 

In hopes that one day you’ll be able to see 

That there’s so, so much infinitely more to me 

Than a man who’s not here and may never be.

So maybe next time, you know, if you so please,

Don’t just ask about him; inquire more than that of me.


Your single friends

It’s satisfying to see how Jesus so frequently answered the questions that nobody was asking but really should have been. He saw below the surface and had no qualms about pointing out the deeper realities of a situation to those he was with – an example ripe for application in all areas of our lives, even the way we talk about romantic relationships.

John 4:1-26 recounts Jesus’ interaction with the woman at the well, a story many of us are quite familiar with, but as I was reading what comes right after in John 4:27-38, Jesus’ interaction with his disciples hit me right between the eyes:

Just then, [Jesus’] disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

Jesus, despite his exhaustion from the journey between Judea and Galilee, has just navigated a difficult but crucial conversation with a person in desperate need of hope, setting in motion the very salvation of nearly an entire Samaritan town, and all the disciples seem to care about is whether or not Jesus has gotten his caloric intake for the day…*facepalm*. They know better than to ask their impolite questions about the woman, but fail to act on their healthy curiosity about how Jesus chose to spend his time and words with her.

Yet aren’t we just the same? Each of us are (hopefully) doing the hard work of loving and serving the world Jesus came to die for, witnessing and participating in the very redemption of humanity from the realm of darkness, and yet if you listened to our conversations with each other, you’d think that all we seem to care about is whether or not we’ve gotten hitched yet…Folks, we can do better!

What if we followed Jesus’ example and took things deeper, even when only shallow options were presented to us? What if we talked about the “food” that others know nothing about – the ways God is working in and through us to do his will and finish his work? Would we stop waiting around for an elusive future fulfillment of our desires and see that the fields right before us are ripe for harvest? Would we recognize seeds being sown and yields being reaped and be glad together in a new and fuller way? For before we are single, dating, married, or anything else, “we are co-workers in God’s service” (1 Corinthians 3:9). Let’s ask each other more about that.

Some Potential “Better” Questions to Ask:

  • What’s God been doing in your life?
  • What have you been learning?
  • What has challenged or inspired you recently?
  • What do you want to see happen in the next year?
  • Where do you think God is calling you?
  • How can I support you?

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