Michael Warden, author of Alone With God, talks with RELEVANT about how maturity, obsession and the Church affect perceptions of singleness.
[RELEVANT magazine] Why did you write Alone With God?
[MICHAEL WARDEN] I want Christian singles to know—as I have discovered personally—that being single is not a curse, nor is it a definitive sign that you have issues with commitment or intimacy. Rather, when viewed from a biblical
perspective, it is one of the most intimate gifts God can give. And that’s true whether that call to singleness is for a year, a decade or a lifetime.
[RM] What’s your background?
[MW] I am the son of a southern preacher from the piney woods of East Texas and spent the bulk of my early years hopping around the state before finally making my way north to Colorado in 1989, where I now live contentedly in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. During that time, I’ve worked both as a minister and managing editor for a book-publishing house in Colorado before becoming a full-time writer in the mid 1990s. To date, I have published five books and contributed to more than 150 other books and magazines.
[RM] How have you struggled with being single?
[MW] On two levels, really. There’s the internal struggles that anyone can guess—What’s wrong with me? Am I doomed to be alone forever? How do I combat those recurring seasons of loneliness? Has God forgotten about me? etc. And then there’s the external struggles—the ones that come at you from the world and (especially) the Christian subculture. I still carry the painful memory of being told by my church leaders that I couldn’t take on any significant leadership role in my church simply because I wasn’t married. For lots of folks in the Church, Christian maturity equals marriage and family. If you aren’t married, the quiet assumption is that you aren’t mature, or that something must be wrong with you. Of course, the situation is even worse if you suffer the double whammy of being single and female.
[RM] What do you think are the key struggles for singles today?
[MW] Throughout church history, the prestige assigned to marriage and singleness has flip-flopped a number of times. There have been periods in the past when singleness in Christ was viewed as a more mature, healthier option for a Christian. Those who married were seen as somewhat weaker—dependent in some sense on the world’s system and unable to devote themselves wholeheartedly to God.
Today, the opposite perspective is in force. Singles have been done a great disservice by the Church in modern times—especially "family-oriented" churches, which includes most of them. Well-meaning Christians often cast suspicion on their single adult brothers and sisters. Questions flash through their minds: "Why aren’t they married? What’s wrong with them? Are they emotionally unstable? Are they immature? Are they gay?" These subtle suspicions come across as blaring accusations to most singles, who must also fight against the prevalent but ridiculous notion that marriage is a prerequisite for Christian maturity and the capacity to lead in God’s church. I wonder what the Apostle Paul would have to say about that. Or even Jesus himself … I wrote this devotional—in part—as a biblical response to this imbalanced perspective.
That said, I actually think a more basic struggle for singles today is our own obsession with our singleness. We get angry at others for defining us by our singleness, then turn around and do the same thing to ourselves—and each other. So many of the singles I know spend the bulk of their time thinking about the fact that they’re single. And I think we miss out on a lot of life that way.
[RM] Which Bible verses are the most helpful for those struggles?
[MW] I draw a lot of strength from the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:32, 34: "I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord … An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit."
Paul’s admonition reminds me that the goal of life is neither to get married nor to remain single. Rather, the goal of life is be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 12:1-2). For some that means getting married; for others, it may not. Like Paul, my wish for singles like myself is that we would all discover what it really means to be "free" from concern over our marital status and focus on living a full and redemptive life in Christ.[Margaret Feinberg is a writer and speaker based out of Sitka, Ala. She is author of God Whispers: Learning To Hear His Voice and Simple Acts of Faith: Heartwarming Stories of One Life Touching Another.]
BUY IT: ALONE WITH GOD
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