The Legitimacy of Singlehood

I write and delete quite a bit when I am writing on singleness. Because I fear what I say will be misconstrued or even so boldly taken as offensive. But what I struggle with more is the tension I feel within the church more and more for singles. My heart is for them, because I am one of them. It’s something I have grown into wrestling with over the years and now find as I look around the landscape a desperate need for us within the walls of the church and in the community.

You’ve likely heard the statistics that people now-a-days are waiting to get married later in life (27 ain’t that late y’all) and there are more singles than in years past whether from never marrieds, divorce, widowhood.

So we’re prevalent in numbers and also in need. We are a subset based upon our marital status has left us wanting community, wanting a safe haven, a place to be. To walk out lives of faith with others. Sometimes that means with couples guiding the way, other times that’s in similar communities, and invariably it means living life with groups of the same sex because we are often drawn to what we know and do daily.

But when I look at the landscape of churches these days, I don’t see much modeled in the legitimacy of singleness in leadership. Yes, you’ll have a handful in the pre-school or nursery ministries, maybe even in kid’s ministry that are singles. You’ll have a couple of singles leading life groups that are for singles. But what you don’t see are singles in pastoral positions for the most part. (I put a contingent on there because I know of ONE) I don’t see singles in other leadership roles within a church staff.

To me it seems that we aren’t counted worthy in the church until there’s a band attached to our fingers. That we cannot be taken seriously as leaders, servants in the church, unless we have a spouse. I understand the difficulties of leading in ministry, and when you are single, the inherent loneliness that surrounds you in that. I have seen it first hand and heard from others.

It just makes me wonder what the undercurrent culture we are building in the church is saying to those of us who are single. That we aren’t worthy? That we only matter yea far and no further? That we can be responsible for babies and teaching kids, but don’t get us near a group of grown adults? Or that we’ll read Paul’s words in the Bible, learn from words given him by God and then forget that he too was single. Or that frankly Christ Himself was single throughout His ministry here with us. The Son of God brought forth here in earth was never married. In His 30s.

And yet, we can’t be bothered to consider how singles can impact the world with their faith just by pouring a bit more into them? That we’d rather discount their abilities simply out of the lack of a spouse. We’d discount their calling God has given them, their spiritual giftedness, simply due to their marital status.

Maybe this is my soap box currently. That the church has moved corporately in many ways to the family, without realizing the very definition of family was long ago crushed and restructured by Christ-brothers and sisters defined by faith and not blood. That we are all the Bride of Christ.

Oh That Single Life We Weave

Singleness can be hard. Actually it is hard.

Yes I hear marriage is hard too, and I have seen first hand from friends and family that it is hard as well.

But some days, it is just plain hard.

You’re the one responsible for all the bills. You’re the one who has to figure out dinner, lunch the following day, laundry getting folded and live into this social life so that you might meet someone you’d sit across a table from on Taco Tuesday at Dave & Buster’s (oh that’s a post coming soon y’all, cause it happened).

You’re the one at night, after a day of just life, that comes in to an empty home and just want to bounce life off of someone else. Yes, friends are there. Yes siblings and parents are there. But it’s just hard when you’re single.

And we don’t talk too much about it. It sort of has a stigma attached to it that we get all this “free time” and what not, so we should hush up or we’ll be likened to a spinster. So we hush up and muddle on. Until we stumble…until we hit a bump or a quiet space and we just find it’s hard to be alone.

I don’t have a magic fix or application here today y’all…this thought of the hard single life has become prevalent in my writing privately at the moment, and my thoughts. When you’re 36 and single, you find the people around you are for the most part married up, having babies, and living their coupled lives. So maybe you’re single, recently so after the holidays (oof…another topic for another post), or maybe you’re just finding yourself at a place in life that your marital status as a single is just hard.

IT’S OKAY. It is hard. That’s what I am slowly going to start diving in around here. Giving you all a glimpse of single life (if you’ve not been privy to it as a married up for a bit) and talking through some of finer points of dating in your 30s (oh the joys and hilarity that ensue), navigating how your faith and singleness intersect and maybe dropping some truth bombs on what it means to be #wifematerial.

 Friendships and Singles

As a single lady it’s often hard to define the relationships I have outside of marital status with certain friends. “Yeah, he’s my friend, and that’s his wife.” When you are single in your 30’s and beyond, it becomes an interesting thing to have friendships that aren’t in couples or defined by the status of ones romantic relationships. It becomes harder for many to navigate the boundaries (or even know what they are) within the confines of friendships of the opposite sex. 

Recently I read this great article from Paul Maxwell that does one of the best jobs I’ve seen outside of Gary Thomas’s Boundaries books in laying out some specific parameters and cautions, as well as benefits in being friends with the opposite sex. 

Yes, he defines it in Christian terms, but I do think across the board this applies to any friendship between men and women. Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below on this topic we often shy away from in Christian circles because it’s just not something we navigate well-at least not from lack of trying…

A Single Thanksgiving

Over the last few years I have celebrated Thanksgiving without the family. There’s been one or two thrown in over the last decade where I spent it with my sister and her family, but for the most part it’s been solo…and that’s been okay for me. For several years I used that as an opportunity to serve in the local rescue mission-preparing the dining room and then serving the meals to the homeless. It is something I really enjoy doing, and hope many of you choose to spend your day doing as well (but go serve there in January, April and July too).

This year is different. The parental units have foregone their annual beach sojourn to be at home…and the kids are coming home. Yep, no solo Thanksgiving prep this year. I’ll get to assist the master chef herself (my mother) in prepping everything with her fancy new stove Santa just dropped off.

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So I thought about those years I spent solo at Thanksgiving and thought I’d share some tips for my fellow singletons (and their family and friends too) for this upcoming holiday.

  1. It’s okay if you want to do Thanksgiving solo. It’s okay if you have no plans and no family or friends around that you want to spend the day with. If you’d rather have T-Day your way…let me be the first one to tell you, that it’s okay.
  2. It’s okay to NOT want to spend Thanksgiving solo. If you are yearning for company, swing open those doors my friends and invite people to your place. Or share with others that you are spending it alone, and you might get an invite. For several years I got invited to friends and friends’ families’ homes for Thanksgiving. I had let them know I was going it solo and I do believe there was pity on their part. But that’s okay. You are fine if you want to go over (take a side or dessert, do NOT go empty-handed) and spend time engulfed in someone else’s world.
  3. Families and friends: please do not ask about the dating world to the singleton. This is the last thing we want brought up because breaking news, WE KNOW WE ARE SINGLE. The dinner table, or the couch in front of the tv with football on, is not the place we want to discuss why we are single at holiday time.
  4. Have an attitude of gratitude this Thanksgiving, even in your singleton state. I have friends who are trying to balance multiple stops with kiddos and tense family situations on short notice…that’s their reality. Yours (and mine) is a single life that permits us to choose to check-in and check-out of the holiday spirit if we so choose…but we must be thankful for the current situation whether we are choosing it for ourselves or not.
  5. Families and friends: if you know of a singleton this holiday who might be spending it solo, offer up a seat at your table (or couch). They may not be able to get home on this short holiday weekend, or they may be without family, and really don’t want to impose by inviting themselves. Extend the gratitude, and fill them in on the fun you put in the dysfunction that is every single family in the world.
  6. Lastly, use this as an opportunity to revel in the delight that is this season of gratitude and thankfulness. No matter what your choice is or where you find yourself celebrating. You get to choose as a singleton and the choice is always thanksgiving.

 

Are They Having Fun Without Me?

That question didn’t plague me until my mid-twenties. Never more did it haunt my thoughts than when I thought about all the other women in the singles ministry at my church.

You see for most of my life I preferred the company of boys. I grew up in a neighborhood full of them, and with a seven year age gap with my sister, I found the boys much more apt buddies. As life progressed for me throughout those awkward middle school (cause let’s just admit we are all awkward in middle school, okay?) and even through most of high school I migrated to being one of the guys. I could count on one hand the number of female friends I had, and down to one or two fingers the besties I would find in the female genre.

I just preferred guys. Things were easier, there was less drama, and they weren’t competing for attention at that point (at least not that I chose to see). Even into college I had two close female friends, and a multitude of male friends. Some of my closest friendships from college were with males, and it didn’t help matters that I was working and majoring in sports administration.

It wasn’t until several years later, as I settled into life as a young professional with a job and a home church that I began to crave that female friendship more. The desire was met by some amazing women in the singles ministry at the church I began to call home. Quickly I realized that all those years of being around the guys had not prepared me for the massive insecurity I felt among a group of women, in various age brackets and stages of life.

Nervously I tiptoed around the women to observe and marvel at how they navigated the large group dynamic, often squaring off to “call mine” on a single man within the ministry. I laughed at this in my naïve heart, not knowing that this is often the case in singles ministries as women are about a billion to 3 ratio to men. (*not scientifically proven, just from a multiple experiences y’all) There were nights though that I wondered if they were all off somewhere having fun without me. Simply because I wasn’t secure enough in my relationships with women to know any different or include myself in more conversations.

Anxiety would rise up as I sought to belong, “be in community” as they often preached from the stage, to know I had a place with these women. No where did fear, doubt and insecurity play a bigger and louder song on repeat than in those first months dipping into a ministry at a church. Admittedly this has happened since then as well, as I navigate visiting a new church, seeking out the home I wanted to call mine in a new city, desiring others who would welcome me and challenge me as that first group did many years ago.

Now I sit on the opposite side, desiring to create women’s ministry within my church as once again our ratio sits at about a billion to three males. I am one of a tight group of women who seek to serve and love others within our church because we are called and commanded to do so. My heart goes out to the new faces and new hearts that step through the doors each week, because I was once in those very cute heels myself. Wondering if I was being judged for what I had chosen to wear, worrying that women were saying “Oh great, another single female when there’s already a bajillion of us here”, or never being engaged in conversation simply because I am overlooked, because I blended.

I know those doubts and lies that our hearts want us to believe because our hearts are flesh. They deceive even on our best days. When our heart yearns for community, we will never feel more alone than in a room full of people. Our minds tell us that everyone else is having fun without us, and we weren’t meant to be in community. When in reality, we are all desiring after the ability to be known, by others and by God. We take those steps into church doors because of God’s whisper for us to be in community with one another, loving one another as we love Him.

So if that’s you…the one who believes fun is being had without you I challenge you to step out one foot more, lean in just a bit closer and cast aside the fear of remaining unknown. And if that’s you…the one who is already in ministry I challenge you to step out one foot more, lean in just a bit closer and cast aside the fear of rejection.

 

We are not having fun without you because we are without you in our midst.

You know you’re dating a Christian woman….

When she refers to Proverbs 31 as her “how-to” manual.

When her small group knows more about you from their background checking than your boss does.

When she plans her outfits on Saturday for church on Sunday.

When she asks you out to a large group function planned by her Sunday school class so her friends can do play by play.

When she says she’ll pray for your ailing relative, and means it.

When she’ll ask what you do on Sunday mornings in order to find out if you go to church or not.