I'm single. I've been single for most of my adult life. And I'm ok with that. Mostly. I am a 33 year old woman, and I suppose by most accounts I should be panicking about my age and single status. And I'm not. There are days (thankfully few and far between) when I feel sad about being single, and frustrated that it seems impossible to find anyone. There are other days (thankfully most of them) when I don't think about it much at all. And other days when I feel genuinely thankful to be single. Marriage has a lot of great aspects and upsides. But so does being single. I love my freedom and independence. I love the ability to choose to minister to anyone at any time, unhampered by the responsibility of a family to consider. I love the freedom to travel at any time, or to stay up to 2 o'clock in the morning, or to eat something strange, or to not wash the dishes if I don't want to.
There are other times, when I feel the lack of a close, intimate relationship. Times when I wish I had someone to hold me. Times when I wish I had someone to help me with things that are difficult to do on my own. When I wish I had someone with whom to share the minutiae of life.
The main reason I'm single is my commitment to Jesus. If that were not the case, I would probably be with someone. It's not that hard to find available men. Unfortunately, most of those men are not followers of Jesus. And given the fact that that is the foundation, the goal, and the most important part of my life, I know it's a venture bound for failure to try to share my life with anyone for whom the same isn't true.
That's a viewpoint that most of the world finds insane. For most people, having an intimate life partner is the most important goal in life. Or, having the freedom to sleep with whomever you want is crucial. Most people cannot understand a “religious” commitment to an invisible God keeping you single and celibate. Try explaining it to a guy who is trying to woo or seduce you. They usually think you're crazy.
The one thing that can keep you from the dedicated pursuit of romance and sex, is if you have something in your life that's greater. That makes the right relationship worth waiting for, or makes life without that relationship not only bearable but even happy and fulfilled.
I read an article today that perfectly summed that up. It's titled “Jesus Is Better”. Here's what it has to say about relationships:
We were created to be in relationship with one another. However, when we seek for another person to fill the relational void that can only be satisfied in Christ, every relationship we encounter will be lacking in some way. Our spouses can never love us enough, our friendships will be marred by insecurity, and our children will suffer from the pressure of our relational demands. Fear of losing relationships leads to anxiety and worry. Despair at what we may never have leads to bitterness and anger. In Christ alone can our relational needs be fulfilled. No other person can make the promise, "I will never leave or forsake you" (Heb. 13:5). All other relationships suffer from the finite nature of the participants. Only an eternal God can promise that nothing will separate us from his love. Indeed, by growing in our affections for Jesus, all the other relationships we treasure are not lessened but increased. Jesus is better. (The Gospel Coalition blog, “Jesus Is Better”, by Melissa Kruger)
How can a single person live life free from sadness, loneliness, and the endless, sometimes desperate search for “that one special person” to make life complete? By being fulfilled by the perfect relationship, the only source that can do so, Jesus himself. From that perspective, a marriage relationship is an enrichment and a blessing to a life that is already complete, not one's all-in-all. And if that marriage relationship never happens, there may be sadness, there may be disappointment, but there is not a loss of life itself. We are looking forward to an eternity where marriage doesn't exist but where perfect unity and love between us and Jesus and each another will make it irrelevant.
Marriage is not the goal of my life. Jesus is. I don't do what I do to find a spouse. I do what I do to seek to please Jesus. Loving and ministering to needy people in his name is a greater thrill and joy (in a different way) than a romantic spark. I don't seek spiritual growth in order to “earn” a spouse. I seek it to be closer to Jesus, and to be more of a blessing to the people around me. Marriage is not the prize of a spiritual walk. Jesus is.
Not that there's anything wrong with marriage. But it is not the ultimate. It is one state in which people can walk out this life serving Jesus. Paul says if you can't hack it being single, then seek a spouse! But he also made it clear there are unique blessings, benefits, and freedoms to being unhindered by earthly spousal commitments in order to serve the One who is the true lover of our souls.
There is nothing wrong with wanting marriage, or with seeking it. But we have to be careful to check what is truly most important to us. If our desire for marriage is stronger than our desire for God, even marriage won't satisfy us if we find it. Nothing earthly can bear that weight. If we're happy and content in our relationship with Jesus, marriage can be another blessing added to life, without having to carry the impossible burden of being our everything.
And by that I am NOT saying (as I've unfortunately heard Christians say) “when you're content in Christ, that's when you'll find someone”. There are no guarantees in life. Not even as a Christian. God isn't a cosmic spouse-dispensing machine, and we mustn't be angry with him if he doesn't give us what we want because we feel we've been good enough. Again, Jesus is the goal of our life. Not marriage. If I live life with him and am never married, that will be ok.
Yes, it's a struggle at times. Yes, there are days when the grass looks greener on the other side. But the same is true of marriage. Sustaining a close, loving, intimate relationship with another sinful human being is hard work. Nothing in this life delivers us from struggle, pain, dissatisfaction, or the brokenness that comes from living in this world. No circumstance, person, job, location, or anything else is a magic ticket to a painless, trouble-free life or a talisman against hardship and heartbreak.
So I'm happy leaving it with God. If he chooses to bring me a spouse, then great. I'll thankfully receive that gift and transition into a different way of living. If he doesn't, then great. I'll continue seeking and serving him and trying to be a blessing to the people around me in the ways I feel he's called me to. Either way is a win-win. The occasional days of feeling lonely aren't enough to outweigh what I have in him.
A great realistic article on marriage, from a married person: "Marriage Doesn’t Solve Your Problems"