Some friends of mine recently encouraged me to write some thoughts on my experience of ‘singleness’. Much of what I write may appear cynical, but these are earnest thoughts. It comes from a place of great failure, but also of great joy.
The greatest prize is God himself. No person can be more than that and bear the full force of our worship or desire apart from Jesus. That same force of desire on someone else will end in ruin.
These thoughts come in little snippets, as I find this scattered/vomit way of writing a little easier than a concise essay. Good luck.
I’ve only ever been to one church in my life where the criteria of ‘I want to have sex with them’ was coupled with the usual godly wisdom on picking a spouse. This is actually incredibly liberating.
It’s possible that a concentration on ‘godliness’ and other Christian characteristics can slip into gnosticism (a dualism that favours the mind/spirit over the flesh/body/material, or at least regards the material as evil). I think this is due to the pervasiveness of porn and other sexually immoral uses of the body. We combat proclivities towards lust by censoring and possibly even ‘de-activating’ our ordinary sexual feelings – instead replacing them with spiritual-focused ideas. This is very slight distinction, and the doctrine of the Incarnation helps us out a lot here.
John 1:14 states that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us – the combination of the spiritually unseen God and the historical/material. That same Word, declared all formally ceremonially unclean meats as ‘clean’ (Mark 7:19), but made it clear that sexual immorality makes one unclean (v. 21). Paul also talks of some teachers that disregarded marriage along gnostic lines of thought in 1 Timothy 4: 1-5. God also included an entire erotic book in the OT.
Modern culture and porn has left a trail of confusion and we react. I’ve been down the route of both ‘the spiritual view’ and ‘the body view’, and either been frustrated or deeply heartbroken (all while wounding others in the process).
Make sure its a both/and.
I distinctly remember a period a few years ago where I almost forgot that I even desired a relationship at all. The secret to this contentedness was due to the ways that I could bless others. I was part of a men’s group and because at the time I was student, I had time that I used to visit them at their workplaces. This was also alongside times where I took on responsibilities for others spiritually in Bible study and found that work very fulfilling, along with my studies.
In the last couple of years, it has taken a similar shape in the form of hospitality.
I don’t wish to downplay the value or gift of romantic relationships, but they are overrated and it isn’t God’s fault. It is kind of refreshing to admit as much, as I placed an incredible onus on them until recent years. My early 20s was me watching everyone around me get married. Given the community I was a part of, it was awkward being the single guy, so naturally you try your best to start something so that you can also partake of this new chapter of life – but you only look more desperate. It only revealed how ill prepared I was for marriage it. Knowing married couples and their joys and frictions, I can say that you should not go into marriage with rose-tinted glasses.
I joke with a friend that my singleness means I am simply available at the beck-and-call of my married friends to run errands. I was regularly running errands for him, actually – delivering or picking up artworks. This was only possible due to my availability because, you know, single people have more time, right?
Families should understand how great a gift it is sharing their family with a single person. I grow a ton seeing the way my male friends interact with their wives and kids.
Once you place some time and distance away from desiring or pursuing a relationship, it becomes easier not to be in one. Before you say ‘duh’, I just want to say that there’s something to say about how your focus shapes your desires. If we aren’t as focused on certain things, we may find that those (good) desires grow weaker, or they may be replaced with better ones for now.
I fear that I’ll completely lose all interest in romance or marital bliss.
I’ve been lead to the question: is it right for me to have a relationship?
I began to think about whether or not pursuing anyone in a romantic way would just lead me to disappointment. At some point I’ll be disappointed and they will probably be too. This looks cynical at first, but hear me out. If the desires I have are too strong, then the object needs to be bigger to handle them. What I think this means is that perhaps those desires are for God and not for another person. This doesn’t mean that a person can’t make me love God by being godly.
This is all beginning to sound like CS Lewis…
But this is a tricky question because its answer may be painful. What if we aren’t supposed to have a relationship? For example, our personalities should be taken into account and might make us ill-suited to the venture of marriage. This is not to say that awkward or difficult people couldn’t be married, but there are certain proclivities I know about myself that I’m not sure I’d want to share with someone.
These are not necessarily evil things, these are just aspects of personality to be taken seriously and honestly.
You can trust in God’s providence, or begin to understand how to trust Him to lead you by reading His Word and praying to Him.
He always supplies us with the friends and support that we need.
I think its a really valuable place to be when you are an eligible bachelor, whom God has gifted in many things, and be content without a relationship. I think it says something to a world that puts an onus on relationships – it speaks of God’s ability to satisfy. “How can he be happy? Is he married?” This position is also a better place to be when thinking about adding someone to your life.
Also, being someone who is eligible carries a whole host of temptations that others may not have. If you have been blessed with characteristics and talents that are attractive, you will attract people from all different kinds of backgrounds. Your ‘options’ may extent further than others and you will need to be mindful of the temptations that follow.
These thoughts are not stationary because things change all of the time. It is entirely possible that everything will change and I could eat my words.
God can confound and surprise us!