And by "we" I mean we single people, and it's about time that you recognize us (in all due respect, of course).
(Disclaimer: When I say "church," I am not speaking about my church specifically. Like the rest of this post, I am speaking in generalizations.)
(Disclaimer 2.0: I understand that God's will for some is to remain single, and I know the Biblical arguments for singleness; however, this post comes from a heart that desires marriage and trusts that God will either give her the desires of her heart or change her desires.)
Ok, let's get back to it....
We aren't college kids, young marrieds, mothers of pre-schoolers, or empty nesters--we are men and women who have been in more weddings than we can count, held baby after precious baby, began our careers, and tentatively moved forward in life--waiting and wondering.
We are single people...
...and we need you.
In a time in our lives that can often be marked by loneliness, confusion, questions, and self-doubt, we need the church (and more specifically our own church families) to step up more than ever.
We don't want to be forgotten.
We don't want to slip through the cracks.
We hate being lumped with other "life stage" groups that are near us in age, yet at this moment in time have little in common with us (i.e. college and young marrieds).
We'd like to not be worked to death because we're single and have so much extra time on our hands. Seriously.
We'd like to hear a sermon about Biblical manhood and womanhood that, for once, does not have "in marriage" tacked to the end of it.
We'd love to stop hearing that we're so young or that we have so much time still to get married because the alarm system on our biological clocks would certainly tell you otherwise.
We'd like you to stop feeling sorry for us as if we have some sort of ailment or disability. You can come along side us and understand our hearts without pitying us.
We're tired of married people telling us that marriage is difficult or marriage isn't all it's cracked up to be or marriage won't complete you or fix your problems. You think running a household alone, taking care of finances alone, making difficult decisions alone, and living alone is easy? Newsflash: we aren't looking for someone to complete us or fix our problems--we've figured out by now that we can manage alone (with God's help, of course), we just don't want to. We get that marriage difficult, but we also get that it's a beautiful way to display the covenant Christ had with His church, and we're more than willing to take that challenge.
We'd like to stop being told to use our singleness for God's Kingdom, because this cliche line often does the opposite of getting us pumped up about all the work we can do "in our free time," it simply makes us feel guilty because we never feel like we're doing enough (we can't all be blogstars, have our own small businesses, be ridiculously crafty, or write books--#thanksformakingtherestofusfeelbad).
We'd like to stop hearing about the GIFT OF SINGLENESS as if we'd won some huge prize when inside we're like a little child screaming, "BUT I DON'T WANT IT!"
Seriously. To most of us, putting the words "gift" and "singleness" in the same sentence is like pairing Brussels sprouts with ice cream. (Ok, that was a lame simile, but you get the point!)
We desire discipleship and deep intimate relationships--this, you can do.
Home groups/small groups/life groups can be amazing things, but what about the other six nights of the week? What about the times we return home from a difficult day at work only to find TV dinners or take-out and our usual spots on the couch? What about the nights we lay in bed alone and let the tears fall for the longing we cannot express?
What if our church families stepped up and reached out? Older men partnering with younger men--teaching them how to be Godly men and husbands and fathers. Older women taking younger women under their wings--living life alongside them, mentoring them, laughing and crying with them. Families inviting singles over for dinner or family game nights or out to a movie.
Until we're married (if that be God's will for us), we can and should still develop deep meaningful relationships within our church families. Perhaps if God's truth was intentionally poured into us in this way by our church families, we'd stop thinking that we aren't married because something is wrong with us.
We desire marriage and families--this you can certainly help with.
I believe Carolyn McCulley said it best in her blogpost entitled How to Serve the Singles on desiringgod.org:
You are not shepherding a dating service — wait, yes you are.
Churches should have a high view of marriage and uphold it without apology. But church leaders also need to recognize that when marriage is devalued in our culture, that brokenness comes into the church, too. There was a time when older members of any community worked hard to ensure the next generation married well. In our current hands-off approach, many single adults are adrift and need help to meet and marry wisely because that’s not a priority in our culture.
So to help unmarried adults meet and marry well, the church needs to be proactive about creating contexts for singles to meet each other and live out dating relationships in the context of community. What that looks like will depend on many factors specific to local communities, which is why church elders need to lead and shape this process.
What a concept--our church families helping us in this dating and marriage
We're crying out here (see picture above). Or, at least I am.
We don't have all the answers, but let's begin this much needed conversation.
We're tired of doing this alone. We're tired of being misunderstood. We're tired of desiring something so desperately and not knowing where to turn. We're tired of trying to figure out what's next when what we want to be next is marriage and babies.
How can you help us?
Are you willing?
(Disclaimer 3.0 or PS if you'd rather: I don't cry myself to sleep every night after downing a pint of Ben & Jerry's. I do enjoy the freedom and adventure that has come with my singleness. I am grateful for what God has done during this time of my life. I know and trust that God's timing is perfect, but I can't ignore this deep desire in my heart and in the hearts of other singles out there, and I can't ignore the fact that it seems like we often fall through the cracks--hence the above post.)
(Disclaimer 4.0: Of course, this post could go into far more depth on these issues, but, like I said before, not everyone can write books.)