For most of the past two years I’ve been single, in the sense that I’ve not seriously dated anyone for any serious length of time. For the entirety of my life I’ve been single in the sense that I’ve never been married. The past two weeks of my life have been very quiet and full of inactivity. I do a pretty good job of defining myself by not only what I do but also who I surround myself with. And for these past weeks I’ve been surrounded by married people and Neal, who is married to his job (I don't think there is anything wrong with that, by the way). In past blog posts I’ve said that I think that marriage is great and that whoever is called into it is blessed beyond what I can probably understand at this point in my life. But for me, right now, I’m not called to marriage. I’m called to singleness, and some might say loneliness. Before you feel too sorry for me let me say this: stop. Part of the reason why I write this blog is so that someone might be able to identify with what I’m going through and not feel alone. Not so that those who don’t can pity me. I don’t mean to sound harsh, just to the point. And now that I have that through on to the thesis of this post.
If I am a Christian, and if I am to subscribe to God and Christ’s teachings about everything, what do they have to say about singleness? What does the Bible have to say about such things? I first started my research at what I think is an appropriate place: the beginning. Genesis 2:18-25 says:
“Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’ Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said,
‘This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.’
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”
(Side note, I’ll be including the surrounding scripture to what I use. It’s a big pet peve of mine when pastors and teachers take only what they need and don’t let the Word speak for itself, so I’ll be avoiding that if I can)
So right away I find that “It is not good for the man to be alone.” I can agree with that, I haven’t much liked being alone the past two weeks. Unfortunatly I can’t do what God did and make a woman for me, so I’m “doomed” to wander about until I run into her. Or am I?
1 Corinthians 7 (Verses 1-9, 17, 24, and 32-35 highlighted)
Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. But this I say by way of concession, not of command. Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.
But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.
But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?
Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And so I direct in all the churches. Was any man called when he was already circumcised? He is not to become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? He is not to be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God. Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called.
Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that. For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called.
Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy. I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you. But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away.
But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.
But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin daughter, if she is past her youth, and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes, he does not sin; let her marry. But he who stands firm in his heart, being under no constraint, but has authority over his own will, and has decided this in his own heart, to keep his own virgin daughter, he will do well. So then both he who gives his own virgin daughter in marriage does well, and he who does not give her in marriage will do better.
A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. But in my opinion she is happier if she remains as she is; and I think that I also have the Spirit of God.”
Ok, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” I think we can all be on board with that, unless you’re married right? Well Paul doesn’t seem to be saying that…he seems to be espousing the kind of life he leads, an un-married one. But he goes on to say that he only wishes that every man was like him, and that everyone has their own gifts. It seems that he is saying that singleness, or at least the ability to lead a life without a spouse, is a spiritual gift. Never heard about that one growing up.
The main reason why Paul wants the Corinthians to remain unmarried is so that they will be “free from concern.” It’s his logic that if someone is not married, they can put all their focus on the Lord and His work, if they are married the wife and kiddos come into the mix. Makes sense, it would be a whole lot easier for me to pack my bags and move to Beofra than my Dad or Brother. Nothing new there, it seems. Just simple logic.
So that is Paul. For a moment let’s take a little break from him and move on to someone else: Jesus.
“When Jesus had finished these words, He departed from Galilee and came into the region of Judea beyond the Jordan; and large crowds followed Him, and He healed them there.
Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?’ And He answered and said, ‘Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, “FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH?” So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.’ They said to Him, ‘Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?’ He said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.’
The disciples said to Him, ‘If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.’ But He said to them, ‘Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.’
Yeish. A marriage should stay intact no matter what, except in the case of sexual immorality. In my mind the disciples are thinking about all the marriages they see that aren’t immoral, but are a burden on those within them. I’ve seen those and it’s no fun to be on the outside of, much less trapped within. So they say “it’s better not to marry.” And does Jesus then go into salesman mode and protect the institution He helped create? Nope, He agrees and says that some have been given that statement, and some haven’t. I read that some have been called into marriage, and some have not. It’s not everyone’s bag.
I’ll let you look up 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and 1 Timothy 4:1-4. There are some more rules there for marriage, holding church offices, and such. It fills out the picture of who can do what a little more, so I’d encourage you to read through.
So what’s my reaction to all this? It seems that some are called to marriage and some aren’t. This isn’t something that I thought about before, but I suppose that it makes sense. There are some people who are made for it and some who would do terribly at it. But where does that leave me? I feel as if I am called to it…but don’t have it. Perhaps I’m overreacting to how life is right now. And maybe I’ve zoomed it a bit too much on my own situation and don’t have enough perspective. That’s fair and probably right. But as life is right now…I’m lonely. But that is ok. Weather or not I’m called to marriage is a moot point. I’m called to be right where I am right now and all I can do about it is try to connect to those around me while I can.
God has blessed me and my lonliness. God has blessed me with lonliness. Without it I wouldn’t have the freedom to hike to Maple Woods Nature Preserve and camp out the night before I get orentation at PT’s. I couldn’t even consider moving to Boston. But because of my lonliness, I can do all of that. And when you think about it, that’s a pretty good deal.
P.S. This one is for the local church: my job in life isn’t to get married and make Christian babies. My place is not with 20-50 single-somethings. And when I look at the groups that you’ve provided and find that there isn’t one single opportunity to connect with people in my age/career bracket that makes me think that you don’t care and that the important people are the marrieds, the young kids, the men, and the women. When you offer marriage courses but not singleness courses that tells me that you are willingly ignoring one of the two callings set out by God in scripture, and that’s wrong.