In my time as a single girl I’ve been praised and I’ve been pitied for a status that really doesn’t have much to do with anything I have or have not done in the grand scheme of things. And now, I’ve encountered a new perspective on my single status. Apparently, it’s flat-out sinful. As the only single person in my Bible study (13 people, that’s right everyone else in the group attends with their spouse), things naturally tend toward the awkward side for me.
This week, however, brought forth a level of discomfort akin to watching a David Lynch sex scene with your parents (or just watching a David Lynch film in general). This discomfort occurred when the discussion turned to marriage as it correlates with the will of God.
One couple in the group was married while they were still in school. They explained how most of their friends and family were completely against their college nuptials, but they really felt that God was calling them to get married. This, however, wasn’t what raised my ire. What was upsetting to me was that the defense of their decision suddenly turned into an attack on those who don’t marry young.
It was suggested that the world tells us we need to establish ourselves, figure out who we are and begin a career before we settle down (perish the thought!) and this isn’t Biblical. They even went so far as to say that remaining single after a certain age is a sign of religious immaturity. An individual who is 35 and still partying is selfish and juvenile.
It was at this point that I had to jump in. I began my statement of defense by explaining that my singlehood wasn’t an assault on the will of God. The fact that I’m single has nothing to do with me following the “ways of the world” over God’s way. Marriage just hadn’t happened for me at this point and I am OK with that. It doesn’t mean I’m immature or selfish. It just means I’m on a different path than apparently everyone else in the group, and it hasn’t been an easy path by any means. In my opinion it is a much more difficult path with regards to Christianity.
In defense of the individuals who made the remarks, I don’t think they honestly believe it is sinful to be single. I think it was more an attempt at being supportive of the couples who chose to marry young. And the comments certainly don’t reflect the view of the church body as a whole. In fact, this church has been one of the best in terms of embracing its single population of any I’ve ever attended.
Still, this isn’t the first time I’ve felt like my lack of a wedding band might as well be a big red S emblazoned on my chest (no I’m not referring to Superman). Despite the Apostle Paul’s thoughts on matrimony, there are a number of Christians who look down on single individuals for a myriad of reasons, some of which were enumerated in the “against God’s will” speech on Wednesday evening. And though it’s never been a view accepted by any denomination that I’m aware of, many of churches have a long way to go
in making the single contingency feel like they belong on the same level as the families. Sure they have teen groups and outreach programs for college students, but once you get that diploma you better be paired off or you’re on your own from this point forward.
It’s hard enough to be a Christian single of a “certain age” without being made to feel like a pariah in the very place that is supposed to offer sanctuary from the struggles of the world. Christians who are fortunate enough to have found their smoochie bear while they were still in diapers should be supportive—not judging—of singles. (Also, keep in mind that “supportive” does not mean “patronizing” or “condescending.”) Understand that though their path is different from yours, it isn’t the wrong path. Be respectful and mindful of how you broach the subject of marriage and singlehood.
I’m not saying any of this to discourage singles from attending church, just the opposite. I know it’s easy to feel like you are completely alone—I’ve certainly been there—but you’re not. So, embrace who you are as an single and do what you can to bolster others in the same position. Christian singles should become a very vocal minority in their churches so that thoughtless, short-sighted individuals (also in the minority and also very vocal) don’t alienate singles to the point of driving them away from the church and Christianity altogether.