Marriage isn’t a promise from God.
That is a sentence I have had to wrestle with, let sink in, and come to truly believe.
I grew up daydreaming about the man I would someday marry. As I moved through my 20s, mostly single, it was easy to wonder what was wrong with me.
People with good intentions told me that of course I would get married. They said not to worry– if I truly desired marriage, I would get married because “God gives us the desires of our hearts”. They encouraged me to be patient and trust God; marriage would come.
And then one day, I had a mentor tell me something vastly different that was helpful in my wrestling with God. She said, marriage isn’t a promise from God, but God does promise that you’ll never be alone. I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
Singleness isn’t “one size fits all.” Each person experiences it differently. But as I dig deeper to the root of my personal struggle with singleness, I realize my struggle has to do with feeling I’m not enough. I wonder if I’m doing something wrong or if I’ve missed some boat, and have been left to suffer from my mistakes.
Working through those kinds of feelings has not been quick or easy, and I will be the first to admit that it’s an ongoing struggle. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but here are three things that have been helpful in my journey.
1. Take control of the narratives I tell myself
I have to put forth specific effort to remind myself that I AM enough. I’m beautiful. I’m loved just as I am. In a culture that constantly tells me that I have to earn my worth, I have to choose to believe what God’s word says about me – that Being enough doesn’t come from anything I can do, but from Christ Himself. He loves me, He chose me, He died for me while I was still a sinner (Rom 5:8).
2. Singleness is not inferior to marriage
I turned a corner when I realized I viewed singleness as a level below marriage. Part of that belief was created in my own head, but the other part of it came from the culture I grew up in. When a friend got married in her late 20s, I heard people say things like, “My little girl is growing up!” Those kinds of statements subtly communicate that you don’t truly grow up until you attain the level of marriage.
I’m thankful for leaders and teachers who remind me that singleness is not somehow “less than.” In The Emotionally Healthy Leader, Peter Scazzero puts marriage and singleness on a level playing field. He encourages leaders to lead out of their marriage or their singleness. “Scripture teaches that human beings are created for intimacy and connection with God, themselves, and one another,” says Scazzero. “Marriage is one framework in which we work this out; singleness is another.” Embracing this truth has been key!
Community is vital
Another helpful milestone on my journey was when I learned how important community is for all of us, regardless of whether we’re married or single. I’m extremely thankful for my community of both married and single people. We point each other to Christ through our unique experiences, both difficult and joyful. I deeply desire to have kids of my own, but that doesn’t take away the joy of getting to be part of my friends’ kids growing up. Great community makes room for those kinds of tensions, and I am thankful to have it in my life. (For a great sermon on community, listen to Ben’s message from September 3, 2017)
As a 30-year-old, I realize I still have a lot to learn about singleness and marriage. I can look back and see how God has shaped me in my journey thus far, and I trust that God will continue this work in me. He will continue to teach me that I am enough.
I still desire marriage but I know that whether I remain single or not, I am known, loved, and not forgotten.
Again, it’s important for me to emphasize that this is my journey. Not every person who is single has the same journey. I would encourage all of us, married and single, to focus on listening and learning from one another. As we do that, our community is strengthened, and we give the Holy Spirit room to create understanding and ultimately, unity.
If you’d like to learn more, here are a few bonus resources:
- A Liberation Theology for Single People (Christina Cleaveland)
- Singleness, Sexuality, and Celibacy (Sex and Faith event)
- Jesus, Marriage, and Sex (Tim Mackie)
- Hey Singles, Why Aren’t You Married Yet? (a funny video!)