As a follow up to Raising Daughters for Marriage, this article considers the issue of singleness. Are not some called to singleness? I submit that singleness is in fact a gift, that most will not have this gift, and that singleness is intended for the specific purpose of ministry.
Far too many young Christians sideline marriage, delay marriage, and avoid marriage in an extension of adolescence that is truly unique in human history.
Before understanding the call of singleness, it is helpful to considering a biblical context of marriage.
Designed for marriage
Marriage is one of the few institutions begun by God before the fall (Gen 2:18). Rather than a fix for a fallen world, marriage is a part of God’s design for even a sinless world. In that same sinless context God declares that it is not good for the man to be alone, then distinguishes from other social outlets, marriage as the type of companionship man was created for (Gen 2:24).
This does not mean that singleness is a sin, rather that to be human is to be created with an innate desire for companionship and intimacy. As mankind is a clumsy swimmer, not designed with gills or fins for swift underwater movement, so too is he not ideally suited for singleness.
Gifted for singleness
Then there is Michael Phelps with an uncommon biology fit for amazing feats in the pool. So too are there exceptional individuals gifted by God for singleness. But they are not the prototype, and most of us should not be surprised to find a desire for companionship we cannot ignore and a sex drive we cannot suppress.
As Christians we cannot buy into the worldly view of single-hood. The world desires the single life in order to pursue personal goals and desires. The world seeks to indulge the sexual nature without consequence or commitment. If we are single and we follow this pattern, then we do sin. If we are single and we give in to those temptations, then we are not gifted with the tools necessary and we do sin to deny that reality.
Drastically different is the worldview the Christian single is called to hold, from the secular worldview that surrounds. It is doubtless a colossal challenge! “I am able to suppress my sexual desire to the point of death!” – not a statement one finds on Facebook. “The 40 year old virgin” is a mocking comedy to the world. Yet those are the realities a Christian called to singleness must hold close.
Beyond the question of gifting is the matter of purpose
Even if one has the gifting, it is not given to be used for personal ends, but for the building of the church. The reason singleness can be a gift is one’s attention and obligations are not divided but narrowly focused in devoted service to God. One who believes they have the gift and call to singleness should ask – am I scheduling my life with ministry pursuits accordingly?
Singleness then 1) is not in our design, but requires a unique gifting 2) requires sexual suppression and 3) as a calling is to particularly intense ministry. Christian singles should evaluate their willingness to fit those categories and if not, form a plan for intentional pursuit of marriage.
The accidental single
Perhaps you have the desire, but not the opportunity. What should such a person do?
First, know your situation and intentions. Evaluate whether you do or do not have the gifting discussed above. Are you called and gifted as an intentional single? Plan life accordingly. Or are you a transitional single – having the desire, the struggle, but not yet the opportunity?
Second, if you are the accidental single, if you are not in the game to be an intentional single, then be in the game to be intentional about marriage. You must determine what that means, but perhaps asking questions of yourself, involving the help and advice of others, determining how to give yourself the greatest chance of success.
You might ask – shouldn’t we wait on God? Isn’t that taking His will into our own hands? No one would suggest a man called to pastor should not pursue seminary and candidate at churches or the jobless person not submit resumes and pursue jobs.
“Instead of moving toward marriage unless God calls us otherwise, single women (and men too) have been taught that it is better to stay single unless God orders marriage. We have it totally backwards! God already ordered marriage in Genesis. Marriage is the norm God established from the beginning. Marriage is what we’re to pursue unless God specifically calls us to remain single.”
The matter is of course nuanced and deeper than a short article can address. One may do everything “right” and still be waiting – and that doesn’t render a person useless. We’ve been very blessed and thankful for the singles in our lives. Whether by choice or by chance, singleness is a difficult calling – we should pray for and support those singles that we know. My challenge to all is to think honestly, Biblically, and intentionally about the issue.
While researching the topic I came across the following for further study.
Martin Luther had some strong thoughts on the subject of singleness and a very interesting, comical path toward marriage of his own. Justin Taylor writes a great article on the matter for Boundless. Read it here>