For the last six weeks I’ve been writing about singleness. I’ve been asking questions like, Why is it hard to be single? What unique opportunities does singleness provide? How can friends, family and church communities better understand their single friends?
As I’ve explored these questions, I’ve come to believe that one of the reasons why singleness is problematic is because we frame it in two ways that are vastly unhelpful.
First, some people approach singleness with sass, as if singleness is a license for unbridled hedonism. If you’re not attached to anyone, why not play the field, spend your discretionary income on whatever you want, and take advantage of not having to commit to anything or anyone?
Second, others approach singleness with sadness, taking a woe-is-me attitude, focusing on how unfair it is that other people get to be married while single people are left out like the cheese that stands alone at the end of Farmer in the Dell.
Both the sassy and the sad approaches are problematic for the same reason: they are egocentric, focused on what you have (or don’t have), what you need and what you want.
I think it’s interesting that Valentine’s Day is named after a single saint who, legend has it, was martyred because he was caring for Christians at a time when they were being persecuted. It’s not about romantic love; it’s about loving others so much, you’d be willing to give your life for them.
And now, as we enter Lent this week, it’s another reminder of what love is really all about. Jesus said, “This is the very best way to love: Put your life on the line for your friends.” (John 15, the Message)
He didn’t say that the greatest love involves a diamond ring and candles and roses and a white dress. He said the highest love is one that selflessly sacrifices.
The sassy and sad approaches to singleness make it so much about the person who’s single, we can lose sight of the opportunity to use our singleness to make a positive difference in others’ lives.
And that, I think, is what we’re all here on this planet to do. To love and serve and help other people. This not only fosters relationships and a sense of purpose; it makes singleness a valuable gift.
If you’re single, you don’t have to live in mourning. You’re not suffering from the absence of a partner. You did not draw the short straw. You are no less valuable than anyone else, married or not.
If you’re single, you also don’t have to live in an egocentric universe — which might seem tempting for a while, but will eventually leave you feeling empty and aimless. Instead, you can use your freedom to give your time and money and energy more generously.
So that’s what I’m going to focus on in the next blog series as we travel through Lent. How can we fast from our selfishness and shortsightedness? How can we use our resources wisely, begin to see singleness as a gift rather than a license or a liability, and open our eyes to the people around us?
How do we practice the highest form of love, lay our lives on the line, and give ourselves away?