How many times have you been invited to a friend’s wedding and been forced to mark 1 on your invitation only to be seated at the very back table with other rando single friends of the bride or groom? Or been the only single adult friend or relative of the bride and been forced out onto the dance floor for the bouquet toss along with the flower girl and perhaps 3 or so other female children/adolescents? It’s happened to me a fair few times and it’s not that I dread that experience per se, but it is more than awkward to have your singleness displayed like that in front of strangers.
As I sat in church one Sunday morning a few weeks ago, I was met with a topic that often makes single Christians roll their eyes and try to find a way to slip out the back door- Marriage and raising Godly children. Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware that both of these are great blessings from God and if you have either of these, believe me when I say that most of us would love to be in your shoes. It’s also glaringly obvious that I’m in the minority of those at church who have never been married and never had children. As a woman in her early 30s, who’s never been in a relationship and gone on a total of about 3 dates in her entire lifetime, this awareness makes me feel like a social outcast among my secular friends, but more so among my fellow Christians.
My church just finished a sermon series about family and marriage and I haven’t felt so disconnected from my church family in quite a while. The pastor did the best he could to work in advice for those who are not married or don’t have children, and in reality this post has little to do with a specific pastor or even a specific sermon. I just can’t help but wonder when a pastor will give an empowering talk on a Sunday morning (let alone an entire sermon series) regarding the holiness and wonder of being single. A talk about what a blessing it is to have more time and energy to experience a life with little else to distract me from a true, real, and honest relationship with God. Please don’t take my words the wrong way. I know that there are plenty of ways that married couples and families with children have honest, loving, and real relationships with our creator. I also know, all too well, that not all single people have an abundance of free time or energy. As a single, though, I feel that we are often lost in the hub-bub of church culture that revolves so much around family units and emphasizes the importance of a God centered marriage.
I can’t help but sometimes feel like church is not meant for me, because I don’t fit into one of the groups that are consistently ministered to on Sunday mornings. I’ve also done my fair share of church “hunting” over the years and have not seen many churches with a designated singles ministry, let alone a singles ministry that focuses on something other than how to patiently and obediently wait for your future God chosen husband or wife to arrive. I mean, what happens if he/she never shows up? Jesus never says that a spouse is promised to everyone or that God has made “someone for everyone” despite how the saying goes. Where do I fit in then?
I know that most sermons are not geared specifically toward married or single people, but I’ve sat through numerous sermons about fostering a Godly marriage and raising Godly children. I’ve sat in the congregation as they announce a marriage retreat that is geared toward centering your relationship on Jesus and growing and learning together. There are also numerous parenting groups, parenting seminars, and general parent’s small groups, but I have yet to experience a Sunday morning sermon about Godly singleness or see an announcement in the bulletin for a singles workshop (although, I have heard that such events do exist, they are rare).
Why is it that singles are like the forgotten demographic within the church when Paul says that being single is good? Paul specifically says in 1 Corinthians 7:1 “it is good for a man not to marry.” He continues in verse 8 “now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.” While Paul goes on to talk about what to do if you can’t control your earthly urges (where he says that marriage is good), he explicitly states that singleness is good also, not some disease for which marriage is the only cure. I have to wonder why more pastors and Christians in general don’t talk about the benefits of remaining single or at least how to capitalize on the time that you may spend as a single, whether that be for a month, a year, or a lifetime. Do a quick Google search or walk through the singles section at your local Christian book store and you may find some resources for single people. These resources, unfortunately, tend to focus more on how to patiently wait for your future spouse and less on how to capitalize on this gift that God has blessed you with. The gift of time spent alone with Him and no earthly spouse or significant other to take your attention and devotion away from the one who truly matters and will always, always love you unconditionally! God will NEVER break up with you, He will NEVER cheat on you, He will NEVER do anything to cause you pain! Will we experience pain in our lives, yes, of course, but God will NEVER be the one who causes it and He will always be right there with you! He LOVES you!
While church as a whole is a welcoming place full of others who are working on their relationship with God and listening to His calling for their lives, I find it hard not to feel a bit like an outcast at church sometimes as a single person who has never been anything other than single.
However, while this may sound somber, I’m here to tell you about the glorious news about Jesus and His plan for us, no matter what our relationship status. I have found hope within the scriptures that I am not alone in my journey a single person and as a Christian who desperately wants to follow the path that God has laid out for my life. Paul was single and he helped to spread the word of Jesus across several different cultures. Jesus was single throughout His life as well and He accomplished the greatest act of deep, passionate love in spite of His singleness, so don’t let anyone tell you that as a single person you could never know what it’s like to experience true, passionate love (just perhaps, not in the same romantic way that people refer to).
If you leave here with nothing else today, I hope that you will know that whether you are unhappily single, happily married, or somewhere in between, Jesus died for you so that you would always be accepted for who you are. John 3:16-17 states that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Despite our marital status, Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross so that we won’t be banished to an eternity cast away from God and we won’t need to be stuffed in the back of heaven with the rest of the single folks at the single’s table, either. He died so that we may sit at the head table with Him and be in His glorious presence for all eternity. We NEVER have to be cast aside like social outcasts because of Jesus’ great gift. Through Jesus EVERYONE is always welcome at God’s table.