So it finally happened. I guess it was inevitable. My first invitation to speak on singleness.
My gut instinct was to say Sorry, too busy. Not free that date. No. Can. Do.
The last thing I wanted was to become the poster girl for Single Christians Everywhere. Someone else can have that on their bio.
Then I thought about the times listening to sermons on marriage in church. How in my early 20s I’d sit on the edge of my seat eagerly taking notes while years later I’d be thinking about the weather and my list of things to do next day.
I thought about those speeches I’d heard over and over again at pastors’ conferences – “I’d also like to thank my beautiful wife. I couldn’t do it without her,” and wondering how on earth I was ever going to pioneer a church on my own.
I thought about the wedding ceremonies I’d attended where they quoted the poetry of Ecclesiastes: “Two are better than one… If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity the one who falls and has no one to help them up.” Bad luck you.
I thought about all the things I’ve learnt that I wish someone had told me.
I said yes.
It was the most vulnerable message I’ve ever given.
The truth is I don’t like being single. I used to feel bad about that. God fills every need doesn’t he? We would sing those songs in church: “You are all I need.” I’d sing them out loud while thinking, but what about this deep ache? Then I would feel bad about feeling bad.
Those songs we sing – they’re true and they’re not true.
Didn’t God himself say, it was not good for humanity to be alone?
God is spirit. He doesn’t manifestly appear to give hugs when you’ve just received news that breaks your heart. He doesn’t meet you at the door after work and ask, How was your day? He doesn’t stand beside you at that party when you look like a loser because there’s no-one to talk to.
We receive God’s love primarily through other people. His love has to take shape in human flesh at some point.
For singles that means finding healthy friendships and investing in them. While marrieds attend seminars on how to spend ‘quality time’, improve communication skills and keep emotionally healthy, singles hear, “You have more time to ‘serve’ God!” We quickly fill our timetables with ‘ministry’, becoming human doings rather than human beings.
But the truth is everyone has relational needs, whether they are single, widowed, divorced or in intimacy-deprived marriages. We all need to spend time developing our relationships.
There are boundaries of course. But sometimes in our striving to keep those tightly bound lines we never engage at any heart level until one day our driving needs smashes through them and we do something we regret.
God doesn’t always provide for that gaping need in the shape of a spouse. Sometimes his provision comes in the form of friends and community. Whatever season of life we’re in, we need to identify those God-given people who love and believe in us, then do whatever it takes to invest in them; protect them; fly around the world to be with them. It is not good for us to be alone.