There are a few voices that dominate and lead the conversations on sexual dispositions of the culture. Living a healthy celibate life as a single is not one of them. To the dismay of many, Cosmopolitan does not publish articles like “10 ways that will blow your mind spending time with close friends!” I read Cosmo over the weekend for research, of course. Just kidding.
The Socrates of our culture silently whispers, “A chaste life isn’t worth living,” and goads us to believe that lie. It is easy to internalize such sentiments along with good desires for oneness in flesh that are, for whatever reason, not fulfilled. With the average age at which people are getting married on the rise, it has been my experience in the church that many do not seek resources that would equip them to live a healthy single life. Perhaps, the Christian culture did not see this shifting demographics and failed to prepare against an epoch where casual relationships are mainstream.
After wrestling with subject over the past decade, I have come to the conclusion that it is possible to be healthy and thrive in singleness. At least to me, the answers to the question of how to deal with unwanted singleness did not come readily. Here are some ways that God has provided for me that I have found to be indispensable in this life stage. If you are in the same boat, or if you are married and willing to walk with someone in their journey, I hope this might be a starting point.
God as Your Spouse
I know. That sounds really kooky. This is so dopey that I probably wouldn’t share with my secular friends until they know that I don’t do drugs and my IQ isn’t lower than shark fertilizer. Even if you are a Christian, in some ways, this is hard to explain, as it is more felt than telt. Yet, in my opinion, this is one “gift” of singleness. In our loneliness, we are forced to pursue God relationally as our options to be someone’s best friend and closest confidant are limited. God will, in His perfect love, meet and listen to us. Since God is more concerned about our joy than we are, He cannot help but provide for us that which will give us ultimate joy. I cannot tell you how that joy may come to you, as His ways and methods are tailor-made for each of us. While our culture reduces sexual desires to mere Newtonian mechanics, we as believers experience the true depth of what those desires point to. George MacDonald writes, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul, you have a body.” As God guides us as our friend, father, and spouse, we flourish as soul-bodied individuals even in singleness.
The Church as a Family
God has blessed me with churches and families in who have welcomed me with open arms, especially at Iron Works Church. This experience has etched in me the truth to see church family as not just a pit stop until I get hitched, but forever. What I lack in an intense relationship with one person is distributed among many in the church whom I consider as parents, sisters, brothers, and even children (Mark 10:30). The church family relationships have helped me to build a bulwark against the baits of the world and to a live a life of “holy protest” toward its offerings.
Wesley Hill, a same-sex-attracted Christian who seeks to live out Biblical view of sexuality writes, “The New Testament views the church—rather than marriage—as the primary place where human love is best expressed and experienced.” It is possible to live without sex and marriage; it isn’t possible to live without friendship and intimacy. I found being rooted into a church as the answer for such friendships and intimacy. The world notices such lifegiving love in the Church.
Use of Creative Energy
God blessed Adam and Eve and said, “Be fruitful and multiply.” That is an immense privilege and a blessing to couples who are able to bear children. In a Christian worldview, we can behold what that means. A marriage has a potential to bring someone into existence, and that being will last for eternity, for better or for worse. Since we are made in the image of the Creator, and we have been given creative talents and energies, for those of us who aren’t “creating” children, we can still do His creative work, the results of which will last for eternity.
If that’s a stretch, do some yoga. I found it to be helpful to channel what God has given for constructive and creative work rather than what leads to impotence. G.K. Chesterton puts it in the way only he can: “Chastity does not mean abstention from sexual wrong; it means something flaming, like Joan of Arc.”
Despite these gifts, singleness can still be challenging, with loneliness, struggles, and legitimate grief. Hill, in his book Washed and Waiting, writes, “It is not as if groaning means I am somehow doing something wrong. Groaning is a sign of my fidelity.” It is possible to be a Christian single and be groaning. And perhaps our groaning is a sign that we are actually doing something right, rather than embracing the cultural view of sex and relationships with frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness. In light of eternity, this groaning is a momentary affliction that will not compare with the glory that will be revealed to us. The God we serve is personal, loving, and generous. He has given us Himself and the Church for our journey. When we ask for bread, He doesn’t give us a stone. Instead, He throws us a feast.