I have never not been single. My whole life. And I’ve enjoyed it. You can drink straight out of the proverbial milk carton. You can hop a plane whenever you feel like it. You can pursue a career that makes little to no money, because you are not responsible for anyone but yourself.
What is neigh to impossible, however, is holding certain identity in the eyes of others. As an unmarried woman, you make your way in the world differently. You wear rings on your left hand if you want to cut down on harassment, as if singleness means you can’t demand respect. You set your face with determination because if not, you must defend what amazing thing you must be doing that would keep you from having gotten married. People express bewilderment that you have chosen “incompleteness” and spinsterhood… it must be that you ran out of options, and this is pitiable. You have to ward off unsolicited set-ups on blind dates… “we just want you to be happy.” You must be in a perpetual suspension of waiting for the right person so you can be whole. Something must be wrong.
The Truth about Singleness
And the truth is, there are some drawbacks to being single (as there are to being married). You eat your meals alone. You struggle financially alone. You realize there isn’t any insurance that you’ll be taken care of by your kids in your old age. And it just might be a couple of months before anyone thinks to check your apartment when you haven’t shown up for a while.
This is how you make your way in the world as a singleton (cue Bridget Jones). This is not, however, how you should have to make your way in the church.
Jesus Creates a Family
Natalie Crowson finished teaching NSCBC’s spiritual formation class on Singleness in February. I have never heard such an insightful, Biblical view on the intentional place of single people in the Kingdom of God. We think of married people as a symbol of Christ’s relationship with the church, but we rarely speak of the Christian symbolism of a single person. We think of married people being the only ones that can fulfill the mandate to be fruitful and multiply, but what joy to hear someone speak of the New Covenant mandate being fulfilled by single people with spiritual offspring. We think of married people being the ones with family, but Christ’s kingdom is about relationships, with Him and with each other, and so there is no one without family.
Being married automatically comes with community built in, but our new identity in the Kingdom of God means sharing meals together, whether single or married. It means having a whole church full of partners that have your back when you are financially struggling. It means everyone’s children taking care of you in your old age, whether single or married, because you’re their spiritual mother or father. And our new identity means there’s always someone who will check your apartment if you haven’t shown up in a while, because no one is left alone.
I wrote this blog over two months ago. And now, with this pandemic, we are in a whole new world. The church is stretching its legs in a whole new way. The gifts of being a church family are still needed, and we get to experiment in creative ways to support each other. In the early days of the church, Christians were known for not only taking care of plague victims, but people who weren’t even “theirs” or in their family to care for. We can creatively care for each other and our neighbors.
Some singles who live alone have gone “home” so they could wait this out with family. Some have not and are literally alone. The occasional meals out with friends have been cut off. They aren’t being “annoyed” by anyone constantly being around. The possibility for human touch is now a life-and-death matter. But the church is up for the challenge. Our church is blessed with many singles, with widows and “orphans.” Reach out to them. Check in with them. Send video greetings with how your family is spending its time. Invite them to do activities with you virtually. Set up a Zoom meal. This is an excellent time for exploring spiritual friendship.
By Heidi Duncan