I’m a little scared to type this out but this is something that I feel like God has been working on in my heart, and it is a conversation that needs to happen. About how the church deals with single people. I’m 30 years old and I am a single woman, and while yes, I do desire to get married and have kids someday (and God, sooner rather than later would be okay!), the messages that singles receive over and over from the church needs to change. Needs to be discussed. It needs to start with a conversation where both sides are open to just hearing each other’s hearts on the matter. To come together as believers united in Christ. Because I feel like the message given to singles is so misleading, so misunderstood.
The message that the church seems to reiterate over and over again is that marriage is the goal. It has become some sort of idol. That somehow married couples have more to offer in ministry and for the Kingdom than singles do. I’ve never been told to embrace the beauty and freedom that comes with being a single woman from the church. Since moving to Maryland and trying out dozens of churches, the very first question that I am asked is if I am married and what my relationship status is, like that is what defines me most. And I don’t want that to be what defines me most, whether I am single or married.
I feel like the church is just full of these platitudes that they hand out, but they don’t actually help. “He is right around the corner.” “As soon as you stop looking for him, he will come into your life.” “God has a great man out there for you and will bring him in just the right time.” But the reality is, marriage was never promised to any of us. Becoming a believer in Christ doesn’t automatically mean your name is now on some divine list of God’s choosing, matching you up with someone to spend the rest of your life with. It isn’t a guarantee, but the church treats it like it is so much of the time. I have felt so lost in ministry because there isn’t a place for someone my age in the churches I have been going to. It’s like people treat me like something is wrong because I am 30 and single, but you know what? I am soooooo content in my life right now, just as it is. Yes, I would love to get married. Yes I would love to have kids. But I can also love my life just as it is and somehow that seems like a scary thing to say. Like the second I mention that it is possible to be content in being single, the church reacts to that.
The reality is, God doesn’t owe me a husband just because I am a follower of Christ, but that is what I have been taught to believe since I started following God and getting involved in the church at age fifteen. I was taught that the goal is marriage. Finding someone to spend the rest of my life with. That dating wasn’t just about getting to know someone, but about spending time only with someone that you could picture marrying someday. We need to stop treating marriage as some sort of goal to be attained. We need to stop making it seem like Christ isn’t doing His sanctifying work in us already. While yes, I believe there is a sanctifying process that happens in marriage that doesn’t happen elsewhere, the dialogue needs to change. I’ve been taught that marriage is the goal. That it is better than being single. But it’s not. Being married isn’t better—it’s just different. The message has been perverted into some sort of prosperity gospel, like God’s goodness is dependent on Him bringing a man into my life. Which I have yet to read anywhere in my Bible.
All across the board, I feel like this conversation needs to begin to happen in the church. Because singleness is a valid life stage. It is full of beauty. I have been able to do things because I am single that I wouldn’t be able to do if I were married. I have seen my married friends looking on at some of the freedoms that I have, not with envy, but with a little bit of longing, because I have a different kind of freedom than they do. I can experience growth in my spiritual life as a single person. I can experience the joys and freedoms and peace of my God. This may be earth shattering to some of the spiritual leaders who have taught me over the years, but I can be fulfilled as a single person. Singleness is just as valid as a life stage as marriage is, and the church needs to recognize that.
And let’s take it one step further. (Dad, if you’re reading, things are about to get uncomfortable). Let’s talk about sexuality in the church. All my life I have been taught that abstinence is best, but that is where the conversation ends. Yes, we’re told that looking at porn is wrong, that pleasing ourselves is a gray area at best, but it’s like this hush hush conversation that doesn’t happen outside the bounds of marriage. And yes, I believe that sex should be reserved for marriage, as God intended it to be, but we still need to be talking about it. Because let me tell you something (Dad, look away), just because you are single doesn’t mean you don’t have a sex drive. Yet the church treats it like we just have to pretend like this doesn’t exist until we get married and then all of a sudden on your wedding night this giant flip can suddenly switch and all that has been forbidden is suddenly a free for all.
It makes me wonder if sexual sin wouldn’t be such a pervasive thing in church culture if we were just willing to talk about it, whether single or married. Talk about these desires and drives that we have, and how to best honor God even in the struggle. But the prevailing viewpoint that that has been shared with me is that our sex drives don’t start until we are married, but try telling that to my body. I disagree. So why do we have to be so awkward about it and make it seem like this is a bad thing to talk about about as singles? There needs to be a deeper discussion in the church on sexuality than simply abstinence. Because really, God created us as sexual beings before we were sinful. Go read the first three chapters of Genesis. It’s a part of who He created us to be, so we have to be open to talk about it. We have to be open to talking about sexuality from a biblical standpoint. We have to acknowledge that this is a real part of all of our lives, whether married or single, and not just sweep this huge topic under the rug. Let’s talk about what sexuality means from a Biblical framework rather than avoid the conversation. Because I think it is about so much more than simply the act of sex, and so much more about being known, having a deep intimacy with others—which yes, can be physical, but can also be expressed in different ways.
I love this definition by Debra Hirsch: “Sexuality can be described as the deep desire and longing that drives us beyond ourselves in an attempt to connect with, to understand, that which is other than ourselves. Essentially, it is a longing to know and be known by other people (on physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual levels).”
It’s a conversation we need to start having that I think both marrieds and singles could benefit from. Because if we continue to avoid the conversation, that is going to lead to sin. That is going to lead to confusion and shame and guilt as people try to work it out for themselves. There is a whole book in the Bible that is about sex. Let’s talk about it. Let’s look at sexuality with eyes on honoring God in every single part of our lives—and this is a part of our lives.
All of this to say, I think this conversation needs to start to happen. I think that singles are underserved in the church. I think that by segregating people by stages of life, while it can be so great and helpful to connect with people in the same life stage as you are, can also be detrimental at the same time. Because it leaves people out. It defines people by their marital status when I think the most important thing about us should be that we are children of God and we are meant to live in community—all of us together. Not that I haven’t personally benefited from being involved (and actually leading) a young professionals group, but I think when we are hyper focused on labeling people by their marital status in the church, we are elevating it to something that it wasn’t meant to be.
My worth, my significance, what I have to offer the world and the Kingdom—it isn’t tied to my relationship status. Yes, I want to be married. I do. I want to have kids. My biggest dream all my life has been to be a mom. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have purpose and worth right where I am as a single woman in the church. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have just as much to offer as married couples. And it also means that all of the “just wait for God to bring that perfect man into your life” kind of lines don’t help at all. Because you don’t know that. No one can guarantee that. For whatever reason, God has decided that I can best serve Him right now as a single woman, and isn’t that what it should be about—how we can most serve Him? Glorify Him? Marriage, yes, brings Him glory, but so does singleness. And hey, the Apostle Paul was a big fan of being single.
When the church makes you feel like your singleness is a problem that needs to be fixed, then I think we are doing it wrong. We’re not having the right conversations. And that’s why I wanted to write all of this. Because I think this is a conversation that needs to start happening so change can start happening. Marriage is not the end game. Pursuing God is. Marriage is not the answer to fulfillment and joy and purpose—God is, and I think we can experience that whatever our relationship status may be.
And while I never want to be someone that speaks for other people, I do have to say from this single woman that church, this conversation needs to start happening. You need to stop leaving us out and treating us like we only become significant once we have a ring on our finger. We have so much to offer the Kingdom right where we are at—maybe more in a way, since we are flying solo and have a different kind of freedom. So let us in. Make a place for us. Let’s unite as the church is supposed to and make room for everyone.
This is a conversation that I would love to keep going, and I would love to hear your thoughts. Maybe you have felt some of these same things yourself, or maybe you completely disagree with me. But I think by lovingly coming to one another and sharing our viewpoints, we can love on each other and build connections that I think should be made. Because after all, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, and that unites us whatever our relationship status may be. So let’s start talking, and let’s keep talking.