13 Feb Loving Singles Well
The article below was sent to us by one of the singles in our church, This is something that they had come across in a virtual conference this week on Biblical Counselling. They thought it was important to help raise awareness of what life is often like for singles in churches. In reading this, I was reminded that we need a change in our thinking and operating as leaders, but also as congregants when it comes to how we interact with adults in our church who are single.
Several years ago one of my sons sent me a similar article, I posted it on our church news site back then. You can find it HERE.
Reading this new article, I realized how little has likely changed in our church culture since October 2013, I was convicted and embarrassed that most of us still don’t get it as a church family. We are doing better, but I think there is still a long way to go.
Please read this article and put yourself in other’s shoes, examining how you interact with those in our family who are single. If you find you are thinking, speaking, and interacting in a proper way, thank you! Please pray for the rest of us who may not be aware and gracious in our interaction and words. If you are unsure, perhaps ask a few singles in our church how they think you and all of us are doing in this area.
LOVING SINGLES WELL
(from a post by Sarah Louise Johnson, October 21 at 3:27pm)
I was attempting to explain to my sister the other day what it is like to not live in family…
You see I do have the most incredible family and am forever wishing I could go back to childhood, but they don’t live with me or around me. This has made adjusting to adulthood difficult. I have been blessed with incredible community, but it isn’t the same. Growing up I never had to wonder weather or not I was loved or if I belonged. As I became an adult, I’ve learned to fear rejection. I discovered that people can and do walk away. While this happened as a child, I could always go home to the people who didn’t have a choice but to be in relationship with me. We moved a lot growing up, but family always came with. My siblings are my truest friends. When you don’t have a family home base you are never in a place where you don’t have to be “on” or “try”. You have to decide who you are going to tell when you are not okay. You can pretend and people don’t notice. Your community is constantly changing; it is an exhausting revolving relational door.
I often engage in conversation with people about singleness and the church, and in doing so, I regularly get asked to write about it, so here I am finally doing it. I’ll be frank; it is hard to be single in the Church. Singleness, though quite common, is a bit of an anomaly to church life. I am blessed to attend a church that sees me as a person and not a demographic, but I too have been unintentionally hurt.
I personally write this as one who is thankful and grateful for this long season because it has been incredibly sanctifying. I have had to root myself so deeply in the Father’s love and in turn have become utterly confident in the goodness of His nature. I know who I am and that is a pure, joyous gift brought through singleness. I have learned to walk the tightrope balancing contentment and hope.
I’m choosing to be brave and speak out the conversations we single’s often have. I am letting you in through a small window because I believe with all I am you want to love us well; so here it goes.
1. When you hug us, it matters.
If you ask anyone in my family they will tell you I was not big on physical touch growing up. But as a single adult, I can go weeks without being held and it emotionally wares you down. If we’re honest, sometimes we just want to tell people to not let go because we deeply long for the safety of embrace.
2. Please don’t awkwardly hint, asking us about our usually non-existent dating life.
I don’t feel bad about being single until someone asks me about it, and I can see the disappointment for me on their face. It makes us feel like failures. Just ask us how we are doing or what is going on in our world. If there is something romantic happening, let us bring it up in general conversation.
3. Please tell us the truth.
Don’t speak things that God does not promise. While it is true that most marry, and that God does fulfill desires—he simply does not promise marriage. There isn’t a magic formula to getting married, and no one is “ready” or marriage. Maturity does not promise marriage. Satisfaction does not promise marriage. Waiting patiently or praying fervently does not promise marriage. All of these things are good, but marriage is not an equation. When you say things like “it will happen when you least expect it” or “it’s coming soon, I can feel it” or “God is waiting for you to be content”, it is hurtful and condescending. Please don’t try to come up with a reason for why we are single because our suffering is uncomfortable for you. Also, it is not a compliment to hear “You’re an incredible person, I don’t understand how you are still single?!?”, its painful and temps us to doubt God’s character and believe he is withholding.
4. Let us be friends with and talk to people of the opposite sex without you making assumptions.
Church events at large have become places where singles must avoid each other because of the repercussions of discussion when others see them talking. Don’t ask. Don’t ask. DON’T. ASK. Please, we beg you! If it is something, we will bring it up naturally. If you want us to meet someone, let us, without you meddling and creating incredibly awkward situations.
5. We don’t mind hanging out with you and your family; actually, we love it.
Please don’t assume we only want to be friends with other singles. Please don’t ditch us when you get married—we still need you in our lives. We miss family! It is not awkward for us to be friends with married people, its normal. Let us get to know your spouses. We need to see what godly men and women are like…and we need hope that there are still good people out there who love Jesus and live for him.
6. We need to see the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Marriage is an idol in the church. It is. It is presented as the height of Christian living, the only way to be truly sanctified, the fulfillment of purpose as biblical men and women…I could go on. Let us see it is hard, let us see it isn’t everything. Let us see it’s not all you are. Please don’t show us your perfectly edited world. Marriage doesn’t fix problems; it puts a magnifying glass on them. I know you know this, but let us see it.
7. Think through your theology.
When the pinnacle of application ends with marriage, it leaves us feeling helpless to walking out the Christian life. Application is not a tool to help people get what they want out of life; it is being taught to walk out biblical truths in every situation. We know we’re the minority and we’re not asking for all the attention, just some direction. When you say the purpose of men and women is as a wife/husband, you simultaneously tell us we have no purpose. The purpose of humanity is to glorify God. End sentence. Yes, God created us to bring him glory in different ways, but we cannot allow the function to become the purpose. I have purpose as a woman outside of marriage. I live my life to bring God glory, and singleness does not withhold any of that glory from him. I want to be a wife and mother, but God has not given that, so I will glorify him with all I am and have in this moment.
8. Please don’t tell us you understand singleness, especially if you never had a significant season of it outside of the home.
Its okay if you don’t understand it; you don’t need to in order to love us well. Contrary to popular opinion, you can have wisdom and know truth about situations that you have not lived. Just because you don’t know how hard it is to do the right thing in a given situation, does not mean you do not know what the right thing is. You don’t have to pretend you know how hard it is to be content in our situation—but the eternal truth is still true, and we need to hear it.
9. We don’t want another singles ministry.
We want permission to belong to the general congregation, to be in small groups, to have a place in the church besides serving. We want to feel like people, not projects.
10. We need you.
We may be fiercely independent—we must be—but we crave healthy community. Is not that we don’t want help, we’ve just gotten used to not having it readily available. We have learned to change our flat tires in high heels and a dress because we had to. It’s okay, you can lend a hand (or husband/wife), we won’t feel inferior, we’ll feel loved. Just know you may have to ask us more than once if you can help because its foreign territory.
We love you!
We know your trying, we know the things you do are from a good place in your heart. I don’t write this because we think you don’t care, but because we know you do, and we want to help you help us.
Please don’t feel shame, see our vulnerability and choose it too in the simple act of listening so you can love well.
Love, Christian singles