how to be single
Last week you all reacted in such a kindly manner to my piece on singleness & celibacy - I was overwhelmed and touched. Thanks for that. Josh's piece articulated what I didn't - we don't need another singles group, more books rehashing the same old approaches, or some never-before-heard tactic for getting married: we need YOU to weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice. That sounds simple, but if you've ever really been there for friends enduring true grief, or had to rejoice with those rejoicing when your own heart was broken or bittered, you know it's hard.
In that piece, I mentioned that the expectation is in a conservative evangelical environment young people will marry by 22 or 23 - the second you graduate Bob Jones, Liberty or Pensacola. Fail to meet that deadline, or attend a more liberal school, you're on your own.
But I didn't go to college because it wasn't financially possible at the time. Naturally God's hand is plainly visible in that NOW. Then, it felt like there was no hope or future, either of meeting anyone OR for a career.
Is God faithful? Yes. Do I forget that on a minute-by-minute basis? Yup.
Did I fail by not picking up a husband by 22? .... nope.
You will be deluged with conflicting and unhelpful advice as an adult single.
- Stop caring, because that's when it happens.
- But look put together, because that helps and you never know when you're going to meet THE ONE.
- Don't look like you care, that turns guys off.
- Be agreeable! But not desperate.
- Flirt, because how else will they know you're interested, but not too much! No one likes a whore!
- Go to college TO MEET SOMEONE. HOW will you meet ANYONE if you don't go to a CHRISTIAN college...
- Go to a bigger church. How will you meet ANYONE in that little church?
- How will you meet anyone in THAT state? You should move to [fill in blank].
- Well, I met my spouse when I was [older than me] and I know a friend who had a baby at [biologically improbable age], so, you know....
- I know God has just the right one for you, when [you/he] are ready/when [you/he] have worked through your [problems/sin]
If someone is saying these stupid things: nod and smile. Life is short, don't spend it correcting people who probably mean well.
Meanwhile, in the "real world":
- Celibacy is mocked. Marriage is mocked. Child-bearing is mocked.
- You should find yourself. Travel.
- Date and sleep with as many people as possible so you know what you like.
- Celebrate your sexuality! If it's not working, try another one!
- Get that career! Get a fancier apartment or a nicer car!
- Do ALL THE THINGS, EXCEPT have children when your body is at its peak of fertility.
- Don't acknowledge that you want kids to a guy, EVER - you're meant to catch a guy and then trap him into having kids. (Actually, it may literally come down to that.)
(For the record: self-actualization is good, as is travel. It's healthy to have a job. It's not wrong to have nice things. But "dating yourself" is no more a thing than "dating Jesus" is. SMDH.)
You'll have heard that Browning quote "Grow old along with me"? Ideally, if you married young, you get to do that! It's a process, and when you're present for it, it's less shocking.
We don't age overnight, generally - the wrinkles, sags, and grays arrive gradually.
There are wrinkles around my eyes that weren't there before! I have lines on my neck! I am cranky if I'm not home by 11! Pretty sure my roots are gray! Aging by yourself is scary! And I am worried that, biologically speaking, this makes me less valuable in the meat market.
But I am making peace with the body and the life God gave me (while also trying to be healthy and a good steward).
What I'm trying to figure out right now is how to settle into this epoch, which is offering no clues as to duration.
How do I take care of my own needs without becoming selfish? How do I serve others without making that an idol? How do I step up for my family, my friends, my church? I hate saying no to a request for a visit, help with a project, extra work — but by the time I'm burned out, I'm generally also discouraged, and it takes a while to recover.
Trying to achieve this kind of balance without a spouse to encourage you in perseverance or check you in your stubbornness is hard, and the answers to those questions are found only in scripture, prayer, and the church catholic.
Not introspection, travel, or work, not any "top ten reasons", nor yet any articles, even this one. :)
The response to last week's piece was, succinctly, "you're not alone".
Good. Let's talk more.