if you’re single and you know it, say amen

photo-61This month on the blog I’m going to be writing about SINGLENESS, a topic that’s near and dear to my heart — and a source of a lot of consternation for me and my friends.   If you’re single, I hope you read along and let me know in the comment sections what you think, and what questions you have.  If you’re married, I hope you read along and follow the conversation, too, so you can have a better understanding and appreciation for your single friends.

With that being said, here’s post numero uno.

***

In March of 2014 I made some big changes.  I had been living in Portland, working as the Director of Communications at my church and working on some projects for a medical company on the side.  In March, I left my job(s) and moved to Santa Barbara, California…mostly for the sunshine.

I worked two days/week at an urgent care clinic, and spent the rest of the time traveling and speaking about themes from my book, The Invisible Girls.

Before I left Portland, I sat across the desk from one of the pastors on staff.  He wished me well and then said, “I’m excited for your California adventure.”

The he added, “And, by the way, you’re going to get married soon.”

“Excuse me?”  I said.

His comment caught me off guard.  I wasn’t dating anyone — and hadn’t dated anyone for a while, actually.  Why would I be getting married soon?

“Well, you’re attractive and talented and grounded, and I just have a feeling.  Just watch and see — a man will scoop you up any day now.”    I moved to California with those words still echoing in my head.

For the first few months in California, I felt unsettled, but I attributed it to all the life changes I’d just made.

Several months later, I realized the unrest wasn’t improving.  So I set up an appointment with a spiritual director.

She was a beautiful, slender, articulate woman in her late 50’s who sat and patiently listened to me lay out all of my issues and questions.

There were two main questions that I couldn’t answer, no matter how hard I tried.

-I’m single and spend at least half of the time all by myself.  The question I was asking was like the rhetorical, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?”  I wondered, If I spend half my life by myself and no one sees me in those moments, does it matter?  Does my life matter?  And if so, Why?

You can say that the solitude is time for God to spend one-on-one with me, but if He just wants to spend time with me, why doesn’t He just take me to heaven?

 

And then the second question.

 

-How is it possible that I am absolutely convinced of God’s love for other people and yet I struggle constantly to believe the same for me?  I know in my head that God is love and that God loves me and that if something’s true for the rest of the world, it HAS to be true for me, too.  But why can’t I get that from my head to my heart?  Why are my doubts so strong and so loud and so deep?  What do you do when God feels far away?  What do you do when there’s not a lot of tangible love in your day-to-day life?

After listening to me lay out these issues, my spiritual director closed her eyes and was quiet for a moment, “listening to the Spirit,” as she said.

Then she opened her eyes and said, “I think what we should do is meet together every week so we can pray for your life partner and prepare you for marriage.”

I’m usually pretty stoic, but I have to tell you, I had a visceral reaction to her words.  My body cringed and a wince flashed across my face.

“You disagree?” she asked.

I nodded slowly and tears welled up in my eyes.

She had completely misunderstood me.  The issue at the core of my questions was the absence of God, not the absence of a man.  I wasn’t asking her how to “fix” my singleness.  I wasn’t asking how to survive until a man rescued me at the altar.  I wasn’t asking for help to prepare for marriage.

Because, in spite of the marriage comments from her and the pastor in Portland (and the evangelical culture that often uses marriage as a mark of maturity and adulthood),  there’s something in me that believes that singleness is not regrettable; it is valuable.

That single people need community more than courtship.

That singleness is not a problem to be solved or fixed; it’s a unique opportunity that has not only unique complications, but also unique potential.

And I believe in my soul that it is possible for single people like me to not only “survive” this season, but to thrive in it.

The question is, How?

After lamenting the fact that no one seemed to have the answers to these questions, I decided that maybe it was time for me to search for them myself.

Thanks for sharing!

26 thoughts on “if you’re single and you know it, say amen

  1. Sarah,

    I read your book and really liked it. … Now I am following your blog.

    You are a really good writer … a warrior … a fellow pilgrim on the journey … courageous. I am a pastor who counsels pastors and leaders of faith-based nonprofits.
    I would love to sit down and have a cup of Joe if you are ever in the Champaign-Urbana area (a big 10 small college city in east-central Illinois). I admire you and hope you keep writing, as I feel I have a lot to learn from you.

    Your writing inspires me and fills me with hope…

  2. Saying AMEN over here. I completely identify with your questions. I’m a teacher/mentor/writer, passionate about bringing light and hope to people. But I have the same questions you do. I can easily dream big and speak truth about God’s love and wisdom to anyone, and believe it for them. But for me? Hardly. I’ve come to see that it’s a lie satan wants us to swallow. He plays dirty and wants to defeat us at our most vulnerable point. Still, it’s hard to refute the lie.
    I wanted to cry too when your spiritual mentor didn’t get what you were asking. Did she have tunnel vision?
    I know that singleness is a unique opportunity and not a problem to be fixed, as you said. But how to thrive? Too, how to keep a soft, beautiful, desiring heart without bleeding out? This is my biggy. Looking forward to more of what you write!

  3. Thank you for writing this. I lived alone for 6 years while married (a story of its own) and it felt like being single, the loneliness anyways. I agree that community is huge. The experience of being “a lone” puts you up close and personal with the dynamic and real feelings between you and God. It was a powerful time and also hard and messy and beautiful. I loved what you said about wondering if your life mattered if you spent most of your time alone, you put into words things I felt a lot I am so grateful for that time. Looking forward to reading the rest of your blogs!

  4. Sarah,

    I am one of your avid readers who is single and I will be following you along as you journey through your questions.

    I, too, have asked myself very similar questions and cried over similar “answers.” I am a college student at a bible college and was also raised within the evangelical environment, so I completely connect with your experiences. Before I left my home church in California to transfer to my school in Washington, I had several people come up to me (with good intentions) and say, “I will be praying that you meet someone.” I, as calmly as I could allow myself, replied, “no, that’s ok. You can be praying for something else for me, but not that.”

    I believe the way people approach singleness, especially within the evangelical sphere, needs to be spoken out on with the intent to cause others to love each other with more wholeness. Your blog may impact many people’s thoughts about relationships which will affect the manner in which they love their community around them.

    There are many other points that I want to affirm you on, but just know that I am in agreeance with you and will be reading along as you continue to share your mind and your heart with us.

    Thank you for taking the time and effort to communicate this subject to your readers.

    Love your sister in Christ,
    Theresa

  5. Love your focus on community. That is such a perfect focus. Finding depth in community will prepare and also give us opportunity for expression whether God is calling a single into marriage or into faithfulness as a single believer. The whole church needs to see this as the way to minister to singles. Develop community life and let singleness or marriage take care of itself.

  6. Sarah!

    Great name, hah. Singleness, especially within the church, is a real struggle, to be sure. People tell me that it will turn into a “meet market” or that “your generation just isn’t in church…” –aggravating, with a capital “A.” Anyhow, I could type out all of the defenses I have to this, but the one place where I have started to overcome this is in surrender, and God has REALLY been calling me out since I returned home from my mission trip this summer. He has been showing me that, while I would like to get married someday, it really *isn’t* one of my priorities right now. If/when I am capable of moving beyond wanting to fit in, I am more able to sacrifice the life I want (thinking of the times when Jesus calls his disciples to sacrifice their lives (he who keeps his life, etc., etc.)). That doesn’t mean that it isn’t still annoying as heck to have people say inconsiderate things, or that I don’t get bummed when that guy friend I was crushing on called to tell me how excited he was to go on a date with some other girl. It does help me to look at myself and my wants and needs, and to more easily discern the difference. This is partially accomplished because right now I am distracted with teaching, and whether I want to pursue missions more long-term, though. :)
    Getting people at churches to realize that singles, like other demographic groups, need a place to be, if we are going to call your church home, though…well, there’s a real fight. I’m thankful, though, that God is who does the fighting for us–we simply need to go.

  7. Thanks for this post! I am a 37-year-old woman and never been married. I’ve been a Christian since my teen years. Everything in this post rings absolutely true with my own experience. Like you, I believe there is purpose in my singleness, and I have to believe it’s for something greater than merely identifying with other Christian singles. I want to believe Paul, that singleness is a gift, but how come no one else in my evangelical world sees that? They only see it as a problem to be solved. Look forward to your next post!

    1. Oh…and check out the blog for a new post, 7 Reasons Why It’s Hard to be Single in the Church. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.

  8. Oh my gosh, how many times has this happened to me? I moved the opposite direction, from the Bay Area to northwest washington. Several (otherwise wise and loving) people said to me “I think your husband is there, that’s why God’s moving you.” 10 years later, nope. And I’m so wary of confessing grief over being single, because so often the solution is a singles group, a set-up, online dating, or a book about marriage and/or relationships.

    She had completely misunderstood me. The issue at the core of my questions was the absence of God, not the absence of a man. I wasn’t asking her how to “fix” my singleness. I wasn’t asking how to survive until a man rescued me at the altar. I wasn’t asking for help to prepare for marriage.

    Because, in spite of the marriage comments from her and the pastor in Portland (and the evangelical culture that often uses marriage as a mark of maturity and adulthood), there’s something in me that believes that singleness is not regrettable; it is valuable.

    That single people need community more than courtship.

    Yes. Amen.

    1. Glad the post resonated with you. I’m curious to hear more of your thoughts and experiences over the course of this blog series.

  9. Wow! I just read your book yesterday and had to find your blog. This series resonates with me. Being single and recently returned to the U.S. (after serving in the Peace Corps) to find most of my close friends married or in serious relationships has caused me to reexamine where I’m at. I so often feel like I’m defined by how I’m different, in a way that points to my singleness as something negative. The church doesn’t help in this, either. Marriage seems to be the common goal for all. I LOVE hearing another perspective to this – it needs to be shouted from the rooftops! Thank you for starting on a positive note and now I’m off to read the rest of the series!

  10. Greetings Sarah –

    I completely understand the challenges you face as an adult single in a Christian community. I became a believer at 20 and did not marry until 44 years old. I am now 56. One of my closest friends remains single at 52. The imprint of 24 years of singleness remains indelible. If you would like to dialogue more, I would welcome the conversation. Grace and peace, Lisa

  11. Hi. I read your blog while I was alone at the bar/grill restaurant. During I read your statements, I responded “Finally someone understands my struggling and frustration. It’s so hard and it’s so easy for someone saying that a single life is a blessing. I understand because the Apostle Paul wrote about the single life is wonderful for spend time with God. I agree but I’m struggling with myself. I don’t like to deal with a situation alone. My dream is to get married since I was a little girl but it doesn’t happening. I know God is with me always. I’m just tired of dealing with it while I was riding in a roller coaster. I continually pray for God’s help and I don’t know what to do except trust Him. Thank you.

  12. Hi Sarah,

    Thank you for writing and sharing your experiences.

    I’m not single at the moment, but I will be again soon enough. So far, I’m 0-3 at marriage. I seem to have a habit of marrying the wrong women for the wrong reasons, or something.

    I was raised in a Southern Baptist church, but stopped attending for various reasons too long to cover here. I have recently started to look for a new church where I would feel like I belonged that also had single women as members. While I have been single off and on for half of my adult life, I still want a family someday. Maybe I’m just crazy.

    I wish I knew how to figure out which churches/denominations/religions were more single-friendly, or the least single-unfriendly, as the case may be.

    Thank you again for sharing your perspectives. I will be following your writings, and wishing you peace and happiness. :-)

    Sincerely,

    Edward

    1. Hi, Edward. Thanks for taking the time to write. I hope you find a good, healthy community. Hang in there!
      Sarah

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