I had an “interesting” and mercifully brief conversation over the weekend with a stranger who warned me about my childless state and my ticking biological clock on the happy occasion of Father’s Day. In the moment, I could think of nothing logical or humorous with which to flip a very awkward interaction, so I did what any sane person would do these days and posted the synopsis on Facebook.
The post generated far more feedback than I anticipated, which led me to believe that this was a topic ripe for discussion. So in the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve complied this helpful list of four confessions of a 30-something single Christian.
Editor’s note: I feel as though I need to add the “Christian” disclaimer because I find that the situations which elicit these confessions to be more prevalent in, though not exclusive to, Christian circles, so take that for what it’s worth. Additionally, I can only speak from my perspective and the interactions I have with close single friends. This isn’t meant to paint a wide, stereotypical brush for all single people; it’s just real and personal observations…
1. Many (though not all) single people desire to be married or in relationship. That desire often falls on a spectrum, ranging anywhere from despair that love will never find you to near-delight at the notion that you have absolutely no one to dictate your time, money, or interests (like taking a week-long vacation to visit friends in Brazil just because you can). Rarely is anyone static for long on one spot of that spectrum, so don’t assume that someone is at one extreme or the other.
2. Even if a single person has wondered, legitimately, whether they have Paul’s “gift of singleness”, it’s rarely up to you to ask or assume this (if this Christian colloquialism is confusing, check out 1 Corinthians 7:7-8 for Paul’s own explanation on his state of singleness). I can count on two hands the number of people with the relational capital between the two of us to ask or imply any sort of question this deep. If we’re not close enough to discuss, say, what medications you’re on, we’re probably not close enough for any serious conversation about relationships and singleness issues beyond the Christian-ese pleasantries.
3. Honestly, sometimes Paul’s “gift of singleness” truly feels like a gift. I’ll admit it: there’s a big selfish part of me that looks at the sacrifices and compromises required of a good, God-honoring marriage, and I wonder whether I’m up for it (sorry, mom and dad*). I recognize this is a quasi-heretical statement to some people, even some single friends, but hear me out. I’m in a season of life where I have wide latitude to serve God in a lot of different ways, and LOTS of single people I know recognize this as a gift and serve God faithfully in lots of ministries. But that also means I can book tickets to Seattle to visit a friend without a second thought. I can arrange my budget how I like. I get to pick the movies I watch. And a lot of the times, this freedom is fantastic. (But not all of the time; see #1 above.)
4. People are single for lots of different reasons. For the most part, I’m around people who simply haven’t found the right person yet. But I know plenty of people recovering from divorce, broken hearts, broken marriages, or the death of a spouse. Unless you know someone’s story, it’s a bit dangerous to assume anything about it. To the (again, well-meaning) woman who warned about the fading hours of my child-producing years: what if I had lost a child? What if I had health issues that made biological kids impossible? While I have little problem discussing these things with people interested in real conversation, not everyone shares this level of vulnerability (see #2 above). Be careful that you’re not pouring salt on a wound.
I’d love for relationship and family to be in my future, but since they haven’t happened yet, I’m content in this space and time and place right now. And I’m absolutely OK with that. But based on personal experience (and about 40 comments on that original Facebook thread), the most helpful thing for me and my tribe (stay strong, fellow singles) probably isn’t to warn us of impending infertility or ask “why the heck aren’t you married yet?!” Because if I could answer that question, I probably wouldn’t be single.
If I haven’t alienated every blessed reader yet: what about you? What do you wish more people knew about singleness? What were some of your best or worst memories of singleness if you’ve moved out of that season of life? What do you wish you had done while you were single that would be hard or impossible to do now? This is a safe space, friend, so comment away…
*–For the record, I don’t count myself among the people that are truly and honestly OK w/ life-long singleness, in case anyone was confused (read: mom and dad).