Single people in the 21st century continually face pressure from the world, our parents and our friends to speed up our marital process, but I have discovered those influences do not have to alter our way of thinking. I’m 29 years old and choose not to participate in a worldly style of recreational dating, so people often ask me why I’m still single. I’ll say, “Because I have baggage; and not just an overnight backpack for camp-outs, but luggage for a family of five visiting Disney World for a week kind of baggage.”
They’ll laugh for a moment and then ask, “Seriously, why don’t you date?”
After Christ called me into the kingdom three years ago, I really did want to wait at least a year before dating again just so I could change as a person, grow in my newfound faith and decipher the mistakes from my past to avoid repeating them in the future. My friends agreed with the new approach until they thought I should pick up the pace. “I want to love Jesus before I love my wife” bought some time with the Christian friends I had made, but it didn’t fly with my non-believing friends.
My own mother now puts immense pressure on me to marry as well. She is like most moms, and every four months she deceptively encourages me to marry soon, or at least begin a steady relationship. I respond with, “I’d rather be married for the first time at 40 than for the second time.” I know mothers just want grandchildren and for their kids to be happy, but the timing of our relationships and the date of our marriages should not hinge upon a mother’s wishes.
When I’m being completely honest, I’ll admit that I get lonely and tired of feeling pressure from others about dating. At that point I do consider jumping into a relationship that God may not approve of, but I’m not ready to do it just to avoid the harassment. I think the peer pressure is worst at weddings, and unfortunately, I have attended 10 in the last three years.
Each of the invitations was addressed to “Ryan and date,” but since no companion has accompanied me to any of those weddings, I have been forced to listen to unending sympathy from the brides. When I congratulate them in the greeting line, they mix in fake enthusiastic smiles between frowns and say to their new husband, “If I would have known he didn’t have a date, we could have tried to set him up with my dad’s cousin’s niece who lives in Honduras.”
Most singles learn to despise hearing, “You should meet this friend we have.” At first we like being set up, but then after the third or fourth unsuccessful attempt, we learn the code speak. “She has a great personality,” really means, “You should just stay home and play Xbox.” I also found out when women describe me as “such a sweet guy,” they’re really saying, “He fell down the ugly tree and hit every branch.”
Sometimes, though, we are single because the mistakes from our past hurt so much we would rather not put forth the effort that pursuing a mate and dating requires. Instead, we just hope and pray something miraculous happens. I have a friend who often prays God would allow him to meet an attractive woman who is perfect for him. He doesn’t help God out, though. He usually sits on the couch watching Court TV on Friday nights and never wants to go anywhere to meet people. My pastor once said of singles like him, “Try that with lunch today. Pray that God would drop a burrito out of the sky and see what happens.”
I believe God will provide what we need, but my guess is that the burrito falling from the sky is almost as likely as a beautiful, young, single, Court TV-loving woman knocking on my friend’s door. He supported an ex-girlfriend’s abortion before becoming a believer and has since struggled to move forward. The luggage he carries from his past has held him in chains and kept him from making another run at romance. His approach to waiting is still better than speeding through relationship after relationship, burning bridges and hurting hearts with each breakup.
Don’t get me wrong, it is not my intention to implausibly dream of making a top 50 most eligible bachelors list the rest of my life. I do hope God sets me up some day with the woman He wants me to marry, but before then He still has some work to do to prepare me for “til death do us part.” Until that old luggage is finally discarded for a new set of his and her travel bags, I plan to comply with God’s standard for marriage and will not compromise just for the sake of pleasing others or avoiding being alone on Friday nights.
So despite what the world and our friends and family attempt to coerce us into, or say about our lack of relationships, there is nothing wrong with being single. My prayer is that we would learn to embrace singleness while we still have the opportunity to enjoy it, and we would take full advantage of the friendships and relationships we have been blessed with, including one with Jesus.