The Church And Singles: Please Don’t Pity Me On Valentine’s Day

The Valentine’s Day confession you’ve all been waiting for: It’s hard being single.

The real confession I’ve been waiting to make: What’s harder than simply being single is being single in the Church.

There, I said it.

I mean, I get it. Biblical marriage is good and it’s wonderful and it’s ordained by God and it should be celebrated at church. For sure—I’m a fan of celebrating marriage and family. BUT there are some in-between-the-lines messages about the unmarried (single or single again) that get sent alongside that celebration if you’re not careful.

Somehow it feels as though marriage is the standard of maturity and viability of an adult. But adulthood is changing. People aren’t getting married until late twenties or early thirties, for a variety of reasons.* This is not necessarily a bad thing—in many cases it is very, very good. But when the Church fails to recognize cultural trends, it fails to meet and love people wherever they are.

Somehow, when you’re single in the Church (and particularly when you’re a single woman in the Church) you’re approached with a downcast, mournful, I’m-sorry-your-life-hasn’t-started-yet tone. Whenever someone asks me if “there’s anybody in my life yet,” I want to respond with another question:

“Am I Not Enough?”

I know, I know. They’re only asking because they care and they want me to be happy.**  But they don’t realize the message that gets sent in the question: You’re missing something. You’re incomplete. You need a husband. You’re not enough. 

Can I just say—there are plenty of other voices in our lives telling us we’re not enough: we’re not thin enough, we’re not pretty enough, we’re not smart enough, we’re not competent enough, we’re not sweet enough, we’re not enough of this or enough of that.

Shouldn’t the Church—of all places and of all people—be affirming our value? Our completeness? Our enough-ness?

Fact: God says I am enough. God made me in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). God has called me His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10). God values my sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2). God does not require marriage (I Corinthians 7). God uses me as a living room for the Holy Spirit, married or not (I Corinthians 6:19). God loves me no matter what (Romans 8:38-39). God sent Jesus to die for me whether I’m married or single (John 1:12).

Valentine's Day Single Unmarried Church

Fact: I want to get married someday. But that’s not happening right now, and it would be wrong to make an idol out of marriage in my life. So for now I’m just doing the next right thing—whatever it is God puts before me, that’s what I’ll do. Right now, it’s being single, being the coolest aunt ever to 7 kiddos, and changing the world through stories with Shattered Magazine. I’m okay with that.

Fact: Here’s the thing—I may never get married. It’s very possible God does not have someone for me. I might never get married and eventually I’m going to have to be okay with that. And I need you to be okay with that. Because you not being okay with that is not helping me be okay with that. Okay? Okay. Thanks.:)

Hang On 

Let me be clear about two things. First, I am not alone in this plight. I’ve talked with unmarried women all over the country—literally—who are experiencing the same things I am. This not just an off-kilter perception in my own head. It’s a problem in churches everywhere.

Second, I’m very thankful for the people in my church who always respect and treat me like I am a real person, regardless of my marital status. Thank you—you know who you are, because I’ve thanked you for this before.

The Solution? Affirmation. 

What the unmarried need from you is love and affirmation. Affirm our significance and value apart from our marital status. Ask us what we’re doing for work—what we love about our jobs, or what we hate about our jobs (work is a love-hate relationship for everyone, isn’t it?), or how to pray for us in our jobs. Ask us what we’re excited about in the next few months—a road trip? A new ministry? The beach? Don’t avoid the topic of marriage entirely, but be aware of the tone and frequency of your comments.

Tangible affirmation is also a huge encouragement: Invite us to dinner at your house or out after church. Invite us to sit with you at the church dinner.*** Drop a Starbucks card in the mail. Send us your favorite recipe that can be frozen. Maybe, if you know someone who lives alone, give them something you might take to a wedding shower. Or pick up one of those small crockpots for that single guy who’s probably eating Ramen four days a week. Pick out some favorite slow cooker recipes or pick up the ingredients for an easy meal.

Whatever you do, whether tangibly or not—be you. Do something you would do—but be the you who intentionally cares for and loves and values and affirms people regardless of what’s on or not on their left hand.

Sunday is Valentine’s Day. Please don’t pity me because I’m single on Valentine’s Day. (Or any day.) It’s not a curse. It’s not a disease. I’m not miserable because I’m single, so please don’t assume I am. Don’t feel sorry for me about something I don’t even feel sorry for. Instead, just love me for who I am, and don’t pity me for what I’m not. Affirm my personhood and love me no matter what’s on—or not on—my left hand. And I’ll do the same for you.

*Reasons like: Unemployment, fear of making the marriage mistakes of the generation before us, prolonged adolescence, difficult/morphing dating social norms—to name a few.
**What if I am happy? What if it’s possible to be content and happy as a single person?
***Church dinners/potlucks are way up there on the list of most awkward moments for the unmarried at church.
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Dear 2016: You’ve Got Big Shoes To Fill

I confess. January is always overwhelming to me. December is exciting with Christmas, family, and rest, and then the calendar page turns and a whole new year is ahead!

Then, right on cue (about 12:05am January 1st) the melancholy half of my personality freaks out. We just finished a whole year and had exactly five minutes to celebrate all the cool things we did and that we survived another year, and now we have to start all over again. Yikes.

I know, I know. My brain is overthinking this. It’s just another day. Same clock, same twenty-four hours, same everything. And if I get too much in my own head, I could freak out about everyday and every minute, since we cannot get any moment back or bend the rules of time. So I try not to go there. But, the fact remains, January is hard for me.

But so far, it’s still January, and I’m actually doing pretty okay. Maybe because I felt pretty good bout 2015, or maybe because 2016 is looking more promising. Maybe because I’m gaining confidence or just simply growing up. I don’t know. But whatever it is, I’m grateful for it!

2015

You probably don’t want to read a sappy year-in-review post about 2015, so I won’t bore you with all the details. And I also don’t want to do a humble-brag thing, but I do want to take a bit of space to thank God for the grace He provided for three big things for me in 2015.

I graduated with a Master’s Degree. Don’t be more impressed than necessary—it is master of arts in English. Be impressed with my friend Bryon who earned his master’s degree in engineering, something I’m quite certain I could never do, nor would you want me to. I do words, not numbers, and Heaven help us if I have to do math and make decisions for the greater good of humanity. Let’s be honest. I took two film classes, where we watched a conglomeration of classic movies and then talked about them. Yeah, you could go to grad school, too.

I completed a half-marathon. This is probably more impressive than the master’s degree, considering my deep aversion to exercise in general. I finished, but I am always one of the last in the pack of every race, and many hardcore runners wouldn’t even consider me a “real” runner. I’m okay with that. I sit at a desk all day, so it’s good for me to move around every once in a while. But contrary to what I’m sure all the buff runners on the cover of Runner’s World are thinking, I don’t think I’m better than you because of my athletic accomplishments or rigorous training program. (Hint: My training program wasn’t all that rigorous.)

I started a full-time job. This might not be news, since not much is changing here, but here it is—I’m now working full-time for Shattered Magazine! I have been working with Shattered since September of 2014, and I absolutely love it. I recently moved into the role of Online Managing Editor, which turned full-time not long ago. At Shattered, we break down barriers to Jesus through the power of storytelling. We believe people everywhere connect on a story level, so we want to tell people’s stories to connect people with the greatest story ever told—the Gospel. We print quarterly and publish online weekly—join us!

So there you have it. 2015 was a good year, and 2016 –even though we’re only 8 days in—is going to be just as good too.

Okay, your turn—what was great about 2015 and what are you looking forward to in 2016?

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Gift: A Reclamation (Our Focus For Hope)

It’s an honor to write for my friends at Our Focus For Hope on my birthday. Begin reading here and then finish up over there, where you’ll find more thoughts and encouragement!

“This is for Christmas and your birthday.”

I’ve lost count of how many times that phrase has accompanied the neatly wrapped—in either Christmas or birthday paper—package handed to me. I don’t complain much, though, because when I do, my brother is quick to remind me it could be worse. His birthday is on Christmas Eve.

Nonetheless, the birthday-Christmas combo gift is the bane of December birthdays everywhere. Brethren (and sistren?), I feel your pain.

Of course, we’re not the only ones thinking about gifts in December. The month has all of us in the buying mood and dreaming mode, tempted to pick up and shake those boxes under the tree.

But I’m thinking of gifts differently this year. I’m wondering if the idea of a gift is platitude-ized. The idea and very word gift has become far too common to us; in our oft-entitled, consumer-crazed culture of Christmas we don’t spend more than a fleeting thought on it. It simply becomes another word in the cutesy Christmas platitudes:
“Jesus: the gift that keeps on forgiving!”
“The greatest gift wasn’t wrapped in shiny silver paper but in swaddling clothes.”
“The magic of Christmas is not in the presents, but in His presence.”

These clichés may reflect the truth of Christmas, but we hear them so often it’s easy to dismiss the depth of a true gift.

Back to the Basics
When I google my brain—though sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t—for the “gift” file in the “Bible” drawer, I always come to the same verse: Ephesians 2:8-9.

For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

It was one of the very first verses I ever learned as a kid. And, thanks to AWANA, I’ve known it for years. But today, my birthday, that one word—gift—is sticking out to me. And I wondered what kind of gift it’s really talking about here.

We have a few different ways to think about gifts. Of course, we have birthday gifts and Christmas gifts, which are already primed in your mind because it’s December. But we also use the word “gift” to describe a donation or otherwise semi-obligated monetary contribution. And we also use the word to refer to people having talents, as in “he’s so gifted,” or “you have a gift!”

But. This word gift in Ephesians 2:8-9 is specifically talking about…continue reading at Our Focus For Hope

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