Single Divided, Single Together
As a single adult male, I’ve grown in the world where, unbeknownst to a large group, I came across a truth about being a single male in the church. (Although this applies to women to, I’m speaking from a male point of view because, well, I’m a male). This truth is: when one is told on how they are to be, even if it isn’t a part of the traditional teaching, it has an effect on the person. The teaching of being a man and what it entails can be hazardous to the person. I know it was to me. When one is told that a man takes care of their family, is financially responsible, etc, etc, this can be equated with the image of our self. This is who he is and what he does. This is who I believed I was to be. What I should attain. I know I often found myself asking these questions: If it is Biblical, and the preacher teaches it, and you see it in society, and it is what you desire, why can’t I have it? What is wrong with me? (Yet why does this picture of a man fail more and more? The divorces are crazy and people being hurt are rampant in relationships which can be avoided.) I have had to realize, we all have to realize, that not everyone will be married in this life. But is this a correct interpretation of Scriptures concerning our gender roles, or even what all God created us to do with our lives? Is this just a teaching which was influenced by society, let alone how deeply engrained marriage & partnership is within our doctrinal system? Are we being taught to see through rose colored lenses?
From my experiences, readings, and talking with others, I say yes. Why? Why should a relationship make us fulfilled if we cannot be happy with ourselves? This same concept even applies to work. The wall I found myself against is that no matter how often I gave myself away to the woman I was with, how happy I tried to make them, I could not be happy without them giving back. So my happiness was based off what they were receiving from me, in hopes that I was making them happy, and they would in turn share that same action. It never worked. I will admit, the American culture I grew up in, was based off giving in hope of receiving. When it doesn’t work, we seek someone else, or we stick with that person in a relationship where it becomes a strange cycle of reward and punishment.
We can simply look around and see that there are three areas where people struggle in, and these areas which the church teaches us that men and women do: be married and have children, have a job and provide for their family (either in tradition or non-tradition roles). So we see 3 desires here: having a spouse, being a provider, and having a family. Are not these three desires in all of us? Are these not also the basis of our culture and even what we desire? Yet the question is, why limit them, as a single person, to how married people are telling us, or how we perceive what others tell us, and we tell ourselves, how we are to fulfill them? I’d like to present a different way of approach. But first I want to say this: I am in no way saying that one, nor forbid, you to marry. Like any other single, I get lonely and even want to share my life with someone, yet to just pursue this is like holding back a bow string without the arrow! If you let go, all that energy from the string which is engaged by the bow, can ruin it when you let go of that string. You need the arrow for the bow to work properly. In the Christian life, the main thrust of our belief and existence isn’t to just get married, live life and teach our children. It is to uplift, through our life, the name of Christ, the name of God, and for him to be glorified in our life, and to spread the Gospel of the Christ, and also to help others who crosses our path. This is our “arrow”.
So how can we see these 3 areas which in a different light as a single, and yet still carry these over into our marriage with our help-mate? I want to bring out firstly, that our life can be compared to a field. This field is our life. We have friends, neighbors, even strangers and our work mates who are a part of this field. Image your talents, or gifts, even your personality, let alone your job, or even school, is in this field. We tend to this field because it is our life. If we stop tending to it, we stop growing. Our talents lessen, our work or school suffers, and weeds start to overrun our field. These three areas are a part of this field.
1. A marriage partner, or help mate: This can be a difficult one. We all desire someone to share life with, even when we habitually end relationships out of fear. Yet it does not have to be like this. When we join with someone, we let down walls and we build bridges, understanding the other person in a way that is intimate, and I am not talking about any type of sexual involvement. Although relationships which are strictly platonic have certain “limitations”, a friendship, either with the opposite sex, can prove fruitful. These friendships unfortunately rare can happen. But a special one can only be achieved with your spouse. But that does not mean right now in your life, you should avoid friendships with the opposite gender. They can happen with effort and correct belief about friendships. I have had a female friend now for about 10 years. It has proved well enough for me that what I was told to avoid by the church and not to, “fall into temptation”, was wrong. To even have a friend of the opposite sex I have found, I cannot be afraid to fall into sin. How? Because I’m not looking to sin! Why give some effort to the enemy’s tool when you know your focus can be more on growth and development as a child of God? As far as any type of sexual element in such a relationship, why give it heed? First off we’re all human. Secondly, motive proves very useful in the understanding of sexuality in any type of relationship, whether friend or marriage. I know this can fly in the face of traditional teachings, but there comes a time when we have to shake off the shackles of these self enclosed teachings which can hinder growth. I am not speaking of Christ and what he’s done and his love for humanity, I am talking about the traditions made by men.
Friendships are an important part of life. They show how we interact with others and can help open us to new opportunities in life. Regardless of failure, or fear of anything, if we do not take time to build relationships, how can we build a proper relationship with a spouse, let alone, the Father?
2. Providing: Being self sufficient is a wonderful thing. Yet nothing lasts forever. I must ask myself at times, am I providing by my own hand, or while I work, do I trust my Provider? Being dependent upon God is not a sign of weakness, nor weak, like being able to go along side another isn’t weak. We are beings who are communal and are made to have each other, regardless of gender. We do not just stand on our own; we always have someone who has encouraged us and give us guidance. For me, I know if I did not have others, and if they didn’t have me, we would not be where we are now. Friendship outweighs co-existence. Love doesn’t barter feelings or suffer self depravity to the point where we allow things to just happen when we could stand up and do the right thing. Trusting God allows us to know him, others, and even ourselves more. It opens doors to helping others, and humbling ourselves to where we allow ourselves to open our hands to the help of others.
3. Children: Children are not just someone you have to help, watch grow and guide with lessons, they are an investment. You invest in them, not necessarily for the return, but that they themselves will invest in others. This is just how it is being single. Who in your field are you investing in? Is there are chance that you can open to others to invest in? Investing means you stretch yourself, not just for the exercise, but for the chance to become more involved with God in others, and even see how God is involved with you. I know that opening to others has proven effective for me and helped me to overcome obstacles which have built up walls. If I had not taken time to allow others to invest in me, and in turn, invest in others, I would not be where I am today. I believe a good reminder is in order. From Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People (1982), he reminds us of one of the most profound principles in history, “Principle 1: Become genuinely interested in other people.” (pg. 112)
I hope and pray this blog encourages you, if not challenges you, like it has me learning these things and even writing it. I recommend another book which goes into more detail. They Were Single Too, by David M. Hoffeditz.
Remember that there are other singles out there who feel the same you do. Any type of singles ministry, let alone friendship, does not exist without others. Even if you are a single parent, mother or father, you are not alone.