on being single in church

Some of you will know that I have a host of thoughts and feelings about being single, and especially being single in church. I came across this article, and found myself nodding at a lot of the points. Like these:

–Stop pretending you know what it’s like.

A lot of people seem to think that singleness is to marriage as junior varsity is to varsity. As a result, married people sometimes mistakenly believe that they know something about singleness when in fact they don’t. Singleness isn’t a junior varsity version of marriage. It’s an entirely different sport – and if you haven’t played it, you haven’t mastered it.  The average marrying age is 29.8 years for men and 26.9 for women. If you got married before these ages, then it makes sense to acknowledge that your experience as a single adult is below average. In other words, you don’t know a lot about singleness. This calls for humility.

This one always really gets me. If you’re with your high school sweetheart or got married in college, you have no idea what it’s like to navigate adulthood alone. So stop giving me advice, well-meant or not. I don’t tell you how to parent your kids, you don’t tell me how to be single.

–pastors that only talk about being single in terms of abstinence.

the pastor (who is quite the scholar) gave a profound, rousing sermon on the beauty and holiness of marriage. Even as a single person, I was inspired by his sophisticated, lovely depiction of a Christ-centered marriage. It was that good!

At the end of the 40 minute sermon, the pastor looked up from his notes and began to ad lib: “I know that over 40% of you are single, so I should probably say something about singleness as well.”

My ears perked up. Since this pastor was such a scholarly guy and since he had just given an exceptionally thoughtful sermon on marriage, I just knew that his brief thoughts on singleness would be equally profound. I leaned forward.

“Here’s what I want to say to all you single people: Don’t have sex before you get married. Then when you get married, make up for lost time. [wink, wink]”

Once the laughter died down, the pastor gave a benediction and returned to the pew where his wife awaited him.

Having your whole being, your hopes and dreams and ambitions and talents and all the things you’re doing right now, reduced to whether or not you’re sexually active? No. Just no.

–marriage as the norm.

Marriage is the norm, the gold standard. If you don’t adhere to it, people ask questions. Case in point: I’m out-and-about in the Christian world a lot these days. As a result, I meet new people all of the time. The fact that we’ve just met doesn’t stop Christians from asking me why I’m not married. Out of the blue, and with a quizzical look, they’re like, “How come you’re not married?” It’s my most frequently asked question. Seriously.

When I first got to Salt Lake City, one of the leaders of the small group asked me if I was in SLC by myself. (In her defense, I think she was trying to be tactful.) When I said yes, the conversation stopped. Because once you know I’m not married or partnered, there’s obviously nothing left to ask me about myself.

Or, the other day at church, when the minister talked about the importance of connections in a Christian life, and only offered up the sacrament of marriage as an example. Sure, because those of us not married are floating around, unconnected to other people.

–I’ll add one of my own: singleness is often talked about as a state you should end as soon as possible. You know, as much as I’d like to find my special someone (why else am I going on all these dates?), I have a pretty great life. I get to travel, I love what I do for a living, the library here is amazing, and I’m not living in Germany any more. All awesome things I wouldn’t give up for the world. And I’m not willing to partner up with someone who can’t keep up with me, even if that means waiting for a while longer. In the meantime, I can buy myself that KitchenAid, thank you very much. (Well, I could, if I weren’t a poor grad student. But you know what I mean.)

(Another great post about being single in church can be found here. I’d add my thoughts about her article to this list but this is long enough as it is.)


8 thoughts on “on being single in church

  1. Iris-Aya says:

    Hi Saskia! Very well spoken! I’d also be rather single and doing whatever I want to do, pursuing my dreams than being married and stuck. Being divorced for exactly this reason, I know what I am talking about 😀

  2. heidikins says:

    This is perhaps one of my favorite posts you’ve written. I hate that so many people assume your self-worth is somehow tied to your marital status, it drives me bonkers. (I am now facing the same crowd, only now it seems my self-worth is tied directly to how many babies I have/want to have. Ugh.)

    Off to check out the rest of the article!

  3. David N. Jansen says:

    “Those of us not married are … unconnected”: that also happens in Schiller’s „Freude, schöner Götterfunken“, which I do not consider a Christian text. The third stanza contains: „Wer ein holdes Weib errungen, / Mische seine Jubel ein! / … / Und wer’s nie gekonnt, der stehle / Weinend sich aus diesem Bund!“

  4. RA says:

    Oof. I am very sensitive to the “Why don’t you have kids?” line of questioning, and this feels similar. I really REALLY hope I have never put anyone in the awkward positions you describe here.

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