I wanted to give you a few things I have learned about singleness, and even about relationships and marriage. Yes! Marriage! Even though I have never been married, I have been given the sweet gift of access to view pieces of what marriage looks like for some of my family and friends. Amazingly enough, I have learned so much from these glimpses.
* Marriage is hard work. I am continually amazed at the amount of work that it takes to keep marriages strong. I know, full well, God's perfect picture of His relationship with His Church. But, I see the ways the Church, the Bride of Christ, often chooses the easy way out, or forgets the love of our God and turns her back on Him. In the same way, the husband is to love his wife. The wife to respect her husband. (EPH. 5) But, wow! I have seen how hard that is, to continually lay yourself down for another. And while I do that in some ways in ministry, singleness gives me the ability to go home and close the door and be done for the day. I know there are so many rewards in those hard places in marriage. I have seen it in the marriages around me again and again. But, for now, I am grateful for this space.
So while singleness can be lonely at times and the desire to simply share my days with someone still chases me around sometimes, I know that I am in a place that is exactly right for me right now.
* Marriage is not the purpose of life. This is something that is misunderstood by so many. Look at the American culture. While their focus on marriage might not be strong, their focus on love certainly is. I mean, consider every Disney movie. Consider the hot topics in most news headlines. Consider most songs you hear on the radio. Everyone is seeking love. Little girls dream of their wedding day, because that is instilled in our culture that that is the end all, be all. Here in Ghana, marriage is almost required before the age of thirty. I am now considered an old maid!
But here is where we have been confused...our purpose in life is not to get married and find love, but to bring God glory. And when we do that, yes, love does come. And it is an indescribable, beautiful, powerful, never-ending love from our great God who pursues and comforts and gives joy. And there is no prerequisite of marriage for this great purpose! I know some really amazing married couples who are glorifying God with their lives, but I also know some married couples who are struggling! Marriage isn't what they thought it would be. They thought it would complete them in some way, but when it came down to it, they weren't filled. The same is true for many singles that I know. Some are living lives that glorify God, recognizing their worth is found in Him alone, and they are pushing forward to use their gifts in amazing ways. Others are pursuing love, waiting for the day that "the one" will come, merely biding their time, and forgetting that His love is all we need to be satisfied.
So, pursue God. And trust his love that never ends and never changes. Our purpose is only to give God glory, whether married or single.
* Singles have been given incredible flexibility in the season of life that they are in. Because of my singleness, I am given the opportunity to travel, to live abroad, to do things that many with families would not even be able to consider.
When I lived in the States, I lived in the low-income community that I taught in. This might have been a difficult decision to make had I had a family. East Palo Alto is known for its murder rate per capita. But, I could choose to live and serve there as God had called me to be a part of the community I was teaching in. It was an easy choice for me.
When I moved to Ghana, while it was a tougher decision, it was an easy move. I didn't have to raise support for a whole family. I didn't have to worry about homeschooling or medical issues or taking care of my children or ministry vs. family. It's just me. And while there have been challenges in being a single person here, the truth remains that it is easier!
I have been given amazing opportunities to travel that might not have been able to happen had I been married or had a family. I have traveled to Australia, Morocco, all over the States. It has been so much fun to experience other cultures, other families, and to have the freedom and flexibility to go when I want to go.
But, sometimes this flexibility and freedom can also be taken advantage of. I have known single pastors who were paid less, offered less vacation, given less perks, not based on their work, but based on their singleness. I have seen singles expected to take the holiday shifts or the evening services. I have seen singles taken advantage of in ministry with longer hours and less pay. It's, honestly, not acceptable. Yes, while others might need to provide for their families and therefore require a larger salary, and while singles tend to have a more flexible or have a freer schedule, that doesn't make them any less human. The desire for time with family and friends remains the same. The desire to create a home for themselves is still there, even if they don't have someone to share it with. The Church should be able to understand this. They should be able to honor their singles in ministry with grace and understanding. So many singles in ministry burnout when they are young, used up and sent on their merry way, because the same support was not offered as those who are married or with families. This simply sends the wrong message. And more than any other place, the Church should get this right!
* Sometimes the Church paints the wrong picture of singleness. There are rarely positive messages spoken to the Church about the beautiful benefits that come with singleness. It leads to feelings of inferiority, that your impact is somehow lessened because you aren't married. I mean, Paul and just about every disciple was single and built the Christian church up after Jesus' resurrection. Singles have just as much purpose and significance as any married person!
So when every prayer that comes, every form of encouragement, seems to be aimed not at who you are and what God is doing, but what you don't have (a husband) and who you aren't (a wife and mother), it seeps in sneakily. The lie that you aren't enough. It's not intentional by any means, but it happens all the same.
This isn't to say that I want people to stop praying for these things for me. I know that if God calls me to marriage, I would walk happily into it! It is still a desire of my heart, whether it will ever be fulfilled or not, that is yet to be seen! But, there is so much more to me than just being single!
I loved, loved loved, this blog by Shauna Neiquist. She is the best anyway, but this...she may just become my best friend! http://www.shaunaniequist.com/significant-without-significant/
So here it is, people. Let's treasure the places we are all in. Let's spur each other on to greater glory. Let's be a community that expresses the value of each person, no matter where they are in life. Because we all have something important to offer the Kingdom. Married. Single. We are the Bride of Christ. Loved and treasured, pursued and adopted.
Let's bring Him glory.