Facebook reminded me the other day to complete my decade-old profile. For one, it prompted, you still haven’t chosen a relationship status. And I’m sure it would have added, if collected data could speak, we know you’re obviously very single. Just admit it, lah.
I don’t refer to my singleness much, if at all. I don’t think a relationship status should add or subtract at all from a person’s identity, but the topic comes up too often in my social circles to be ignored.
Thanks to my fellow single friends, I’ve tried at least two dating apps (one starts with a “T”, the other a “C”) in the past two years to see what was all the rage. I didn’t last a month on either, but I came out of each social experiment with newfound empathy for those who often feel the scourge of singleness – because it is real – and a strengthened belief that finding your so-called other half cannot be the solution to the human condition of loneliness and the desire to love and be loved.
Today, I write for the ones society terms the singles. For the nights that feel exceptionally empty. For the uncomfortable questions at each annual gathering. For every friend you watched fall in love and find what fairytales call happily ever after. I acknowledge your pain, as it too has been my pain. I have cried myself to sleep after weddings. Craved human touch. Entertained ambiguous relationships thinking, perhaps this is finally the end of my life as a single.
But I have learnt these are just symptoms of a deeper longing – one that the media has severely misrepresented as a need for companionship, or a marker of social stability, and most dangerously, the completion of your person. Too many relationships have sunk from misappropriated expectations, and too few have started the way God intended them to be.
Strangely, the answer to the pain of singlehood may not lie in the opposite status – being attached – than it does in simply being what I call un-single.
YOU ARE MORE THAN A RELATIONSHIP STATUS
There is incredible freedom that comes from untangling ourselves from the persistent social construct of a relationship status. No more living life as a single, in a relationship, married, it’s complicated – because it really does not have to be complicated.
We don’t have to think about 10 Reasons Why Being Single Is Great to start seeing singleness in a positive light. We could just stop thinking about how single we are and start defining ourselves by things that really matter to us and God. My gifts. My passions. My faith.
The only single you have to be is single-minded – in pursuit, purpose and love for the One who walks with you.
We’re not singles who happen to be Christians, but Christians who really just happen to be unmarried. There is no defeat or glory in the status – and neither is there marriage in heaven (Matthew 22:30), which is pretty telling – so perhaps it’s time to ditch that unnecessary label and live beyond it. My status? I’m a follower of Jesus Christ, how about you?
In our pursuit of our God-given callings, we start seeing how remarkable God made us as individuals: Lovingly, meticulously, singularly. There is only one of you. The only single you have to be is single-minded – in pursuit, purpose and love for the One who walks with you.
Asking the question “What do You have for me to do?” over “When will I get to say ‘I do’?” helps keep our lives in perspective, and keeps our eyes on the only relationship that will last forever.
YOU HAVE NOT BEEN ‘SINGLED OUT’
If my friends weren’t getting attached or married every other month, I’m pretty sure I would have forgotten I wasn’t doing any of those things. A big part of the pain didn’t actually come from not having a life partner, but from feeling like the odd one out, like I wasn’t getting with the programme and moving on into the next stage of life.
The reminders of that, especially from the very experienced ones, are brutal. “Other people your age are mature enough to know how to settle down. What are you doing with your life?” “Do you think you’re too good for marriage?” “Have you even told God you want to get married? Because He needs to know you’re serious about it.”
All said with the best of intentions, I know, but every bit of marriage advice just ends up amplifying the dichotomy – it makes those who are single feel marginalised and embittered. Especially when us Christian girls have been told we should wait upon God for our spouses. How do we wait patiently in the Spirit when we’re told to rush to follow the clocks ticking in our bodies?
Here’s the truth: No, God didn’t single us out because He saved the best for last. No, He didn’t single us out because we needed more time to get our act together for marriage. No, we’re not singled out because our prayers for a partner weren’t impassioned or specific enough. Our singleness is not the result of some mistake we made or a heavenly test we unknowingly failed.
God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), and we can rest in the knowledge of His unchanging, unfailing goodness. He has a plan for all His children (Jeremiah 29:11), so let’s get with that programme.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO LIFE ALONE
Everyone feels lonely sometime. It’s part of being human. Being single doesn’t cause the pain of loneliness, just as being attached doesn’t cure the root of loneliness. There is pain in singlehood and as much pain in marriage, because there will always be loneliness in the imperfection of another person’s understanding of you.
But we’re only as lonely as we choose to feel. In light of the fallenness of our earthly relationships, our Heavenly Father has given us a precious gift, best exemplified in the Trinity: The gift of community.
Being single doesn’t cause the pain of loneliness, just as being attached doesn’t cure the root of loneliness. There is pain in singlehood and as much pain in marriage.
I’ve always loved hosting gatherings, and about a year ago, I started getting a group of my girlfriends together for random dinners every once in awhile. It wasn’t on purpose, but being the ones with more free time as opposed to those who were already married or dating, we turned out to be collectively single.
Not everyone was friends with each other at first – I was everyone’s mutual friend – but new friendships and sub-groups started forming over time. Cooking partners. Movie kakis. Shopping sisters. Hangout buddies. It was a really good thing, looking back, because in our being together I experienced firsthand how un-single life could be if we took the effort to reach out and build community. Our very own tribe.
And it’s not that we no longer desired romance because friendship was good enough. In fact, I believe we were even better equipped for deeper relationships because they were no longer the self-serving (and very mediocre) solution to any loneliness we had unwittingly attributed to singlehood.
YOU ARE SINGULARLY SPECIAL
Don’t allow yourself to be defined and defeated by the absence of a romantic prospect, or the lack of a ring on your fourth finger. You are fully loved and fully known by the Lover of Your Soul. Give Him your heart and your finite, carnal love. Exchange it for the love with which He loves – love that is selfless, patient, unconditional.
Practice it on those who already love you, those who don’t always deserve it, and those who have never experienced it. Practice it often.
And in that journey of single-minded pursuit, purpose and agape love, you will find that, in Him, you were complete all along.