"Yeah, yeah – singleness is a gift. But marriage is a greater gift! Don't you want someone that's going to be there for you all the time? How much longer do you think you can continue spending time alone? Don't you want kids? They are the heritage of the Lord, after all! It isn't good for man to be alone, two are better than one! The Bible says so!"
Sound familiar, single friends?
Even if it doesn't, and even if you don't find yourself feeling pressured by those around you to escape your oh-so-wretched solitary situation, there are pressures that rise up from within yourself.
"My married friends seem so much happier than me. I know they get on each other's nerves at times, but at least they have someone close enough to them that could get annoyed by them! And look at them with their kids – I want to experience a kind of love like that. Maybe I could experience God's love for me better if I was a parent to my own child? I always feel so awkward in my community group. They're all talking about their kid's school stuff and the play dates they had with another family this past weekend or the vacation their taking for their anniversary, etc. I don't feel like I have anything to contribute to the conversation. My lifestyle is so different from theirs. The most exciting thing to happen to me this week was the pizza I got to eat last night – alone. Maybe I could have more legitimate friends if my lifestyle was more similar to theirs… if I was married."
I was reading through 1 Corinthians today and approached chapter 7… "the chapter" for singles. I've read through Paul's encouragements for single people to remain as they are hundreds of times over the past four years as I've sought to live a holy life as a same-sex attracted guy. I've rested in these apostolic encouragements for much of my walk with the Lord.
But all the hypothetical single-people thoughts I laid out a couple paragraphs above are my own thoughts, lately. I moved to New Orleans almost two years ago with a group of people to start a church. There's one other single person in my church (thank God!), but the rest are young couples with wild and crazy - but awesome and sweet - young kids.
Generally, they are all surprisingly (as compared to many Christians) supportive and encouraging regarding my singleness. But even so, I still have found myself looking at them and getting down on myself. I've grown tired of standing out in my singleness. Tired of being the minority. I want to be more like them - so I could have more in common, more to talk about, more to connect through. I don't want to be the odd man out.
When I've read 1 Corinthians 7 in the past, my eyes have always latched onto Paul's positive outlook on singleness and seemingly negative outlook on marriage (in comparison to singleness… not in general). But today I approached it with a different attitude. I didn't want it to affirm my current singleness. So I gravitated away from the positive-single-stuff and toward Paul's instructions that some people should marry.
In doing so, I re-realized Paul's reasoning behind urging some people to marry. I'd seen it before and I'd known it for years. But it hit me today.
"Now as a concession, not as a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion."- 1 Cor 7:6-9.
As I finished verse 9, I had to ask myself: "Matt, what is your reasoning for not wanting to be single anymore?"
I've recently been desiring to escape singleness not because I burn with passion for someone of the opposite sex or am having a hard time restraining myself from women, but because I want to fit in better in the world. I just hit 25 years old a couple weeks ago, so the time period of it being socially acceptable for a guy to be single and not dating is coming to an end. I don't want people to look at me weird. And again, like I've said previously, I want to have more in common with the people in my church.
But my reasoning doesn't line up with Paul's reasoning. All of my reasons are really, really bad.
My motives aren't honoring to the Lord or considerate of His call on my life to make much of Him and His grace in Christ in every situation. I don't want marriage because I want to honor Him through sexual purity (I'm not even attracted to most women at this point in my life, so that would be of no real relief) or to glorify Him through the covenantal love that belongs to marriage.
I want it for selfish reasons. I want to fit in better with the people God has put in my life. I want to attain some perceived higher level of circumstantial "happiness." I don't want to be looked at like a creeper when my hair starts to gray and I don't even have any kids to blame it on!
But after reading this familiar passage today, I've found myself freshly convicted. Convicted that my spiritual sight is dim and set entirely too low. I'm living this life still pining after worldly comforts and acceptance. I'm still trying to fit into this world when I've been called into another. I've let my heart be driven by worldly desires in such a way that shows me that most of the time, I'm falling for the lie that this world and this life is all that there is. The longings in my heart (not for romance, but to "fit in" in earthly ways) tell me that I'm not setting my hope fully on the Day of Jesus Christ. I'm still setting so much hope on being fulfilled in worldly ways on this side of eternity.
I love the way Paul begins to sum up his thoughts on all this singleness/married-ness stuff:
"Now concerning the betrothed (engaged), I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away."- 1 Cor. 25-31
Love this. No matter what kind of circumstances we find ourselves in – whether relational or otherwise – we are to live as if those things are already over….because they will be, soon. "The present from of this world is passing away." Marriage will cease to exist (Jesus said this himself). The dealings of this world and its entire system… our jobs, monetary needs, physical needs, etc., will cease to exist. I think Paul is urging us all – singles and marrieds – to set our hearts on and live for bigger realities… lasting realities… Kingdom realities.
Easier said than done, but more than possible with His help.
I want to say once more - or to actually re-iterate what Paul wrote - that if you desire marriage for God-glorifying reasons (like sexual purity because of your lack of self-control), more power to you. Find a girl. Find a guy. Whichever one is opposite of you. And get married. ASAP.
But if you're like me and that's not your issue, but you're being driven to escape singleness by covetousness or jealousy and discontentment in Christ and His calling on your life, please join me in repenting! Join me in asking the Lord to widen my perception of what this life is really about (Him and the advancement of His Kingdom, as we all know but fail to know).
I'm not saying we singles should close our minds to the idea of marriage (I'm certainly not), but we should embrace our current singleness as a gift. From God. He is totally sovereign over the big things and the little, and He loves us. We can chill out with all the mate chasing. We can rest in Him and in His divine design for each season of our lives.