One time I watched an episode of Say Yes to the Dress where the girl dress-shopping told the cameras, “I’m 23, so I’m getting married pretty young.”
I don’t think I was holding anything in my hands, but if I had been, I would’ve thrown it in the air and shouted “OPA!” because even though I don’t know what that means, I think it’s celebratory.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone in my own life say that 23 is young to get married. It seems like, especially in the Church, 23 is the age to get married, or maybe even to have already been married for a year or two. Is that a Christian thing? Is that an American thing? Is it a human thing? I’m not entirely sure.
I will be 27 this fall and I’m single. I don’t know about you who were or are single, but I have been told so many things because of my singleness, and it can wear a person down. Usually I just smile and say “thank you” or nod like I agree, but here’s what I really think about all the well-meaning singleness comments:
1. “Being single is a blessing. You can use this time to prepare yourself for marriage.”
That’s very true. Andy Stanley recently did an entire message about this very topic. However, please show me the place in Scripture where Jesus tells us that our goal is to prepare for marriage. I recall Him telling us to go into the world and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19), and I recall Him telling us to love Him with all of our mind, soul, strength, and heart and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39), but I can’t quite remember a time when Jesus tells us to change, transform, polish and refine ourselves solely for the sake of our future mate. Could you point that out to me? I’ll wait here.
2. “You know he/she is married, right?”
This usually comes when a single person remarks that a person of the opposite sex seems “nice” or “cool.” And sure, I appreciate my friend making sure I know the guy I just met is not available, but notice, I said, “He seems nice,” not, “Do you think he’d like to spend the rest of his life with me in a committed, monogamous relationship?”
Contrary to the enormous sign I must have plastered to my forehead saying “I’m measuring every person I meet against marriageable standards,” I’m not instantly wondering if I could marry the guy I just met. I am not a starving lioness on the prowl for a wounded wildebeest. I view people as people, not for what their potential relationship to me could be.
3. “I’m praying for a man/woman to come into your life.”
I absolutely know that you who are married with kiddies have experienced a life joy that I have not yet, and that you want me to have that same happiness. But maybe I don’t want a man to come into my life right now. Relationships don’t solve problems. In reality, a lot of times they create problems. They can be fulfilling and shaping, but they also take work. So I will give you something else to pray about, because I have plenty of things in my life I need Jesus to help me work on without adding a whole other human being onto the list.
4. “As soon as I decided I was OK being single, my husband/wife came along!”
That is awesome. I love when God works that way. Isn’t it fun? However, God does not always work that way. I have been in the “OK with being single” stage of life for roughly seven years now. Men have come in and out of my life. I’ve dated a couple of them. I haven’t married any of them. I’ve been single longer than I’ve dated.
So please don’t present an attitude of contentment as a magic formula to find a spouse. Every person on earth should work on cultivating an attitude of contentment regardless of what stage of life they’re in, and for no other reason than to be the complete and whole and confident person that God has created them to be.
5. “My husband/wife and I have been thinking about who we could set you up with.”
It’s so encouraging to know that people (other than my mom and her best friend) care about the details of my life! However, maybe you could just have dinner with me yourself instead of trying to find some stranger to have dinner with me. I spend more of my time wanting friends than boyfriends.
6. “Someday you’ll make someone very happy.”
I’m very flattered by your confidence in me. But what if I don’t ever get married? Maybe I’ll run an orphanage or a halfway house or a dorm full of college students or a church. Will they be very lucky? Will I make them happy? Is my small group lucky to have me? Or my family? Or will I still never reach my full potential because I’m not a wife? My giftings and personality traits were not put in me to make a spouse happy. They were put in me to serve this world, to glorify God and to point people to Jesus. That is my ultimate goal, not to make a man happy.
All this to say: Do I want to make a man happy, raise kiddies, and have family portraits in our backyard wearing blue jeans and mismatching white shirts? Do I want a partner in ministry, someone I can support and who will support me and be my companion on this journey of life?
Absolutely I do. Some days more strongly and unavoidably than others.
But there are also a great many other things I want, involving my career and my community and my family and my friendships and my abilities and my character.
So let’s not focus on one thing and pretend it makes up the whole.
Heather loves the Church and helping people discover their identities in Christ. She's currently the Communications Director at a church in Wisconsin.