Sep 23, 2014

Whose Fault is it that I'm Still Single?

By Heather Judd

I have married friends who waited year after year through the silent sorrow of infertility. It is a deeply proper sorrow, for it mourns the loss of that fruitfulness which God deemed good. These friends are able to turn to the poignant comfort of the many sisters who have cried to the Lord in such distress:  of Sarah and Rachel and Hannah and Elizabeth.  

There is also a sorrow in waiting year after year for marriage. This sorrow, too, mourns the brokenness of the very good creation.  But for those wracked by this sorrow, there is no Biblical precedent or encouragement.  No pious women of yore, virtuous maidens awaiting their bridegrooms unto the verge of spinsterhood, are recorded in the Scriptures.

This is a frigid realization for those sorrowing over their singleness.  Marriage is fundamentally different from birth, maturity, death, or the myriad other life events over which we do not expect to have control.  Unlike these, it is brought about through human efforts.  This leaves the modern 20-somethings and 30-somethings and all the other unmarried Christians wondering. We wish to marry, and yet we are single.  What are we supposed to do?

We could call for a reinstatement of arranged marriages, relying on wise relatives or friends to assign us a spouse.  We could steadfastly remain in our parents’ homes until a suitable mate arrives to court and claim us.  We could make lists of all the marginally eligible people we know and then begin writing pointed letters of marital interest.  We could . . . but it becomes ridiculous.  In some circles, in some places, schemes such as these might prove beneficial, but in most of this tired, broken, twenty-first century world, such solutions are neither practical nor advisable.

So it falls out that single Christians wait and wonder in their solitude.  Am I supposed to get married?  Am I doing something wrong?  How long, O Lord, how long?

A few will be called to celibate life, and God will mightily bless this gift of His (I Corinthians 7), but there is a reason that the Lutheran church does not build monasteries or call for monks and nuns.  Long singleness into adulthood is not inherently a good thing.  Man and woman were created for each other, and each marriage is a little portrait of the eternity for which we long: the Church everlastingly joined with her bridegroom Christ. God brought together the man and woman in Paradise, and in Eve, Adam recognized his own nature and hers.  She was the suitable helper absent before in all creation, “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh,” so marvelously suited that this man without earthly parents proclaimed, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:23-24).  The desire for marriage is etched into our souls.  Underneath all the distortion of sin, we still feel in our very core that we were created for it.  As we very much were.

The longtime single who has discerned this truth cannot help seeking an explanation for her unnatural state.  It must be my fault.  I am too picky.  I am too shy.  I am too na├»ve.  I am not flirtatious enough.  I am not looking hard enough.  In other words, the devil has a heyday. My kneejerk reaction is to look inside myself for answers and to blame myself for my condition, which means, of course, that I will also be ready to take the credit if it changes.  It is the sadistic scurvy of the sinful nature:  I curve inward upon myself.  All blame for bane and all credit for blessing I ascribe to myself.  I make myself my own god.

Then again, sometimes I shun this self-idolatry and piously ascribe everything about my unmarried state to God.  Since I am not married, that must mean that God does not desire for me to be married, at least not now.  God must want to teach me contentment and patience, and that is why He hasn’t given me a spouse.  God must be restraining me from mediocre matches until the perfect man crosses my path.  God is directing my life; ergo, I should stop thinking about marriage until He makes it happen.

So, which is it?  Is it my fault that I am not married (in which case I should spend more time hunting down potential mates) or is it God’s perfect plan (in which case I should remain quietly passive until Prince Charming arrives)?

It is neither.

In this matter, as in so many others, Christ Himself echoes the gracious and prophetic words that Joseph spoke to his brothers: “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).  The lack of marriage is meant by the devil for evil.  He wishes to create loneliness and despair, cynicism and selfishness.  But in His grace, God uses this unnatural state of singlehood for good.  Because I do not have the vocation of wife, I can stay after school to talk with the student whose family is in crisis.  I can drop everything and pick up my friend whose car broke down.  I can make a meal for the family weathering medical problems.  I can babysit my friend’s children and volunteer at my church and stay up late making that crazy slideshow for the farewell potluck.  In fact, I can hardly turn anywhere without seeing how God is using me in my state of singlehood to accomplish His good purposes.

So I may go out searching or I may wait quietly, knowing that no matter what I do, “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).  Was I too shy with Gentleman X so many years ago?  Then God used my bashfulness to prevent a relationship that was not best for me, and perhaps He was also preparing me to be more confident when Gentleman Y comes along.  Are my fine-toothed searches resulting in frustratingly few potential husbands?  Then God is guarding me for other purposes and better plans than I can know right now.  In itself, it is not good for me to remain unmarried while I long for marriage, but my God, Who is goodness itself, thwarts Satan’s malevolent plans and works even this for good.

More than all this, I have the assurance that God knows the desires of my heart (Psalms 37:4) and “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).  And should it be God’s will that I remain unmarried in life, there yet remains this great joy:  I, along with all the Church, am Christ’s bride, and at the Last Day I will be presented to Him, holy and spotless to enjoy the wedding feast forever.  To Him be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever.  Amen!

***

Heather Judd is currently a sister, daughter, and teacher in a classical, Lutheran school in Wyoming.  The last of these vocations demonstrates the divine sense of irony since she (a) was homeschooled for her entire K-12 education, (b) only became a classical education enthusiast after earning her B.A. in education, (c) attended just about every denomination except Lutheran growing up,  and (d) had never been to Wyoming before moving there for the teaching call.  When she is not spending time in the eccentric world of middle school students, she enjoys reading, writing, acting, baking, playing organ, and pondering the mysteries of theology, physics, and literature.  

Title Image:  From "The Arrival of the French Girls at Quebec, 1667" by Charles William Jefferys

11 comments:

  1. I really appreciated the examples you gave of being free to drop everything and serve others due to singleness. I've always thought about being young and single as a (selfish) blessing - it is a great time to travel, do what I want without restrictions etc. But you point out that that singleness is also a vocation and as such full of opportunities for serving neighbor and God. Thank you for your incite!

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  2. Paragraph six and your words on Genesis...absolutely beautiful. ~Rebekah Theilen

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  3. Thank you so much for sharing and encouraging us with your article!

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  4. Well as a Single man looking to meet a Good woman to settle down with, i would certainly say that God is to blame. Especially when i see so many other men and women that were Very Blessed to have met one another and have a family, and many of us men would had wanted the same thing too. But with so many Not so nice women out there now, that certainly has a lot to do with it as well since we Can't ever Blame ourselves.

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  5. Like Anon before me, I'm a single man (turning 35 in a few weeks) and have had a lot of time to think about this on the back burners while working on various things (work, grad school, caregiver for elderly parents, parish ministry & apostolates). I think that a third angle is that the role of the community within a church is different. Our generation is dealing with very different economic and social factors than those of even our parents, so Christians (regardless of denomination -- I'm Catholic myself, but that makes my life experience as a single very close to yours, just with the added unhelpful "you should be a priest!" comments) don't have that same circle of support in building their young lives and finding potential spouses. I don't mean direct match-making, but in having a larger "extended family" of faith where each knows various other relatives or families in neighboring churches and could make introductions to potentials for you. Instead of "many hands making light work," we have to opt to do all that ourselves via Singles Ministries or Internet Dating and are then chastised for the 'selfishness' of focusing so much on our search for a spouse. And it's not even a "blame our parish/congregation" issue, as much as no one adjusting to a new economic reality of different jobs and moving families where we're a sad side effect -- you could call it a Fallen World thing, but it comes with enough material progress that saves lives that I don't know how much to pin even on the Enemy here too. I see the beginnings of talk among different churches on how to deal with this among families so that children today adapt when they grow up, but I think that churches don't realize how many of us in the meanwhile are in that Generational Hole (since our churches all pulled back into Nuclear Families over recent decades and American Christianity and global churches alike are focusing on threats to nuclear families). It's an unfortunate situation with many fathers as it were that we need to find out how to get better institutional/community support on.

    --Brian

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  6. Well God is certainly to blame for my singleness since he really blessed so many others to be married with a family, and i very much would've wanted the same thing for a single man like me that is all alone now. And for many of us that are all alone today, the holidays do suck for us. Doesn't It?

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    1. The holidays are indeed hard times when they are reminders that we do not have the blessings which we long for. I really like this article as an acknowledgement of that, but also a reminder of hope: https://birdchadlouis.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/a-tree-decorated-with-tears-the-dark-side-of-christmas-is-why-christmas-exists/

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    2. To Anna, thank you for your support.

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  7. God bless you for even writing about this. It is good to see there are fellow Christians (fellow single Lutherans, in particular) who wrestle with these feelings. Knowing that helps more than anything else.

    In my own life, I do not want to blame God, nor do I want to blame women. Both seem rather trite. However, I am not so sure I can exonerate myself with a little bit of gospel. There are things I could be doing to rectify my current state, and I am not doing them. Until then, I accept the blame and having to put up with the head-shaking of old people ("He should'a been hitched by now") and the stale advice of married friends ("Do this and you'll be happy, just like me!"). It is my cross to bear.

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  8. Many women are certainly to Blame why many of us Good men are still Single today since so many women today are so very high maintenance, independent, selfish, spoiled, greedy, and very money hungry. And there is No reason why many of us men will Never blame ourselves since so many women have certainly Changed over the years which Most of them were Never like that years ago when the Good old fashioned women were around that made it so much Easier finding love in those days like our family members were very Blessed to meet each other back then. Many women today will Never go with a man that makes much less Money than they do which makes it a real shame when many of us men Don't really care how much Money they make when we would be very happy to meet a Good one that will Accept us for who we really are.

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  9. God's fault, that is for sure.

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