Conversations about singleness often revolve around answering questions such as: Is singleness better than marriage? Is one more holy? Is marriage more sanctifying than singleness? Is singleness truly a gift? (Or is that just something people say to make singles feel better…) Can contentment and desire for marriage co-exist?
Spoiler: I will not be answering those questions here. In fact, I think these questions often lead us to miss the point. Instead, I hope, that in a culture where there seem to be more single women than ever, today’s conversation can help us find ways to all love one another better.
As a woman who is single, I can speak confidently to the “obvious” struggles that singles face. Yes, loneliness can be extreme at times. Cooking for one can get old. So can asking people for help for every little thing and hoping they have time for you. In some circles, singles are treated as less than, as if they haven’t yet “made it” by obtaining a spouse and family. And it’s a reality that well-meaning people might only talk to you about your dating status or finding a spouse as if that’s the goal for your life and nothing else. Is it too much to ask that I get a ‘How are you doing?’ and possibly a ‘What has the Lord been putting on your heart?’ first before you talk to me about online dating again?!
But, being a woman who is single and who is also in full-time ministry, there are some other issues that are maybe even more important, that we as a community of believers are forgetting: It truly feels like people often don’t know what to do with me.
Singles Are Not a Special Project
I have had my leaders feel it’s their responsibility to make decisions for me as if they are my parents. Some have felt they must help schedule my time. Others have felt their role is to decide what is best for me when it comes to financial decisions, vacation time, or to determine what I needed for a healthy spiritual life. Rather than feeling helped in these situations, I felt controlled and treated like a child. It also dealt a major blow to my confidence and trust in what the Holy Spirit was actually doing in me.
On the flip side, I’ve had other leaders seek understanding by asking questions about what the Lord is speaking to me and how I am doing. They draw out and encourage what the Lord is doing in and through me while helping me process through decisions. These brothers and sisters first treat me like a sister in Christ. They value my perspective, giftings, and trust what the Lord is doing in my life. In their presence I feel even more confident of my identity in Christ. 1
Singles Are Not a Threat
Another issue I have faced is feeling like a “threat” to the marriages in my community just because I’m a single woman. This communicates to me that I am a danger and unsafe to be around solely due to my relationship status. It also ends up hindering brotherly and sisterly relationships from happening and limits how we function as the Body of Christ.
Thankfully, I also know what it’s like to have brothers in Christ who are married but don’t look at me like a threat. Instead, they treat me like a sister and genuinely care for me. Their wives do the same. Just like with my biological brothers, with them, I feel safe and protected. I am thankful for these deep friendships with brothers and sisters who are married. I learn a lot from them and their walk with Jesus. I need them in my life, and I feel they need me.
When I am invited into families, I am reminded of what Jesus meant when He redefined family, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven are my brothers and sisters and mothers.” 2 I have felt the love of Jesus from my married brothers and sisters in many ways: from being included in family dinners and devotions, to letting me live with them for periods of time or joining them on vacation.
Singles Are Not One Size Fits All
I have also experienced people making assumptions about my giftings and how and with whom I want to spend my time just because of my relationship status. Some expect me to serve the body only by babysitting or doing administrative tasks (which is not my gifting and drains me). Others think I want to spend time with other singles only. I am thankful for those who don’t automatically expect these things, but rather give me space to choose. I feel very loved when people seek to know me, then intentionally give space for me to utilize my unique giftings.
I am often not seen as my own “legit” unit. This leads to being overlooked in group gatherings, not given space to speak, or even not included at all. Some younger brothers who barely know me have tried to teach me things as if I don’t have any basic knowledge of scripture, I’m assuming because of the simple fact that I am unmarried.
On the other hand, I have brothers who advocate for me. These brothers remind others of the value of inviting me to gatherings. They give me space to speak in group settings and intentionally make sure I’m cared for and not left behind. They seek to hear what the Lord is showing me in scripture and seek to learn from my experience in making disciples. I am treated as a co-worker, fellow servant of the mystery of God. 3 Seen as a part of the Body of Christ that is essential for the building up of the Body 4. I am reminded in these instances of the women in Luke 8 who were with Jesus and an integral part of His ministry. As well as the ten women listed by Paul as his co-workers in Romans 16.
Getting Rid of Us and Them Mentality
Singleness does actually have its benefits. I have the ability to choose how I spend my time and who I spend it with. I have the flexibility to travel and take part in ministry opportunities that I might not otherwise. I understand the blessing that Jesus promised when He said that those who leave house or family for fields for the sake of the gospel will receive a hundred times as much at this time and in the time to come 5. I have many stories of the Lord meeting my needs in various creative ways, where I otherwise might experience the same provision through a husband.
As you can see, there can be ways to really utilize and strengthen your single brothers and sisters, and often it can be as simple as asking the right questions. I recently was asked to be on a panel at a conference to bring a single person’s perspective. One particular sister who is married asked really great questions on how to love singles well. I was blessed by her heart to want to understand and grow in this.
At the same time, I was struck with the realization of how our natural tendency to be around those who are similar to us creates division in the Body of Christ. When there is an “us”, there is a “them.” We can first view people as “single” or “married”, before we see one another as brother or sister in Christ. We do the same with gender, race, ethnicity, cultural background, age, etc. These different aspects of who we are can lead to marginalizing others.
Singles Give Glory to God...Like Everyone Else
One of my favorite quotes I first heard while traveling in Asia is “same same, but different.”
At the end of the day, we are all headed for eternity with Jesus. For the believer, the seasons of singleness and marriage look radically different than singleness and marriage of the world. Or at least it should. Seasons in life are like giftings that He gives us, whether permanent or temporary, it’s all meant to glorify Him, for the building up of the Body, and for our good. We all experience reliance on Jesus as we grow into his likeness. Our season of life reflects that in very different ways, but the cornerstone of it all is Jesus and the gospel. There are way too many facets of God to reflect than can be shown through just one season or role in life.
While I am single, I get to proclaim and demonstrate in a unique way the eternal truth of the Gospel. Jesus is the Bridegroom and we are the Bride of Christ. He is our Head. He is the only one that satisfies every desire of our soul. He is coming back! What hope we have in this truth. On the other hand, if you are married, you also get to reflect the same truths! “This mystery is profound, and I’m saying it refers to Christ and the Church.” 6
Key Questions to Ask
Seeking understanding goes a long way towards loving one another. Here’s a challenge for this week: Find a brother or sister in a different season of life than you and have a conversation with them.
Here are a few simple questions to start the conversation:
- How are you doing?
- What’s hard about your current season of life? What are you most thankful for in this current season?
- What has the Lord been speaking to you recently?
- What ways have you felt most loved by others in this current season?
- How can I best love you?
May the Lord bless these conversations and use them to make us more like Jesus as we eagerly await His return.
- I am a daughter of God and His Spirit dwells in me (Acts 2:17), I have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16 ), I have every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3) , He has prepared good works for me to walk in (Eph 2:10), I am a disciple-maker and Jesus is with me always (Matt 28:18-20).
- Mark 10:30
- 1 Cor. 4
- Eph 4
- Mark 10:29-30
- Eph. 5:23