The previous weekend I really enjoyed attending Island ECC’s Singles Conference. There I shared some of my own story and lessons learned along the way about the single life. I will share some of that here.
The single life, like any other mode of life, can feel empty or rich, or more likely some combination of both in various aspects. But one of the unique things about being single is that, largely speaking, the difference is up to you. In marriage, your spouse has a large impact on what you do and your state of being. The SYMBIS premarital counselling course tells couples that, ‘Your marriage can only be as healthy as the two of you.’ In other words your partner’s wellbeing directly impacts on your own. Your schedules, ability to commit to things, and ease of movement are more or less constrained by the life circumstances of both of you together.
However, if you are single, you largely set the limits. You get to decide how much to be involved in community, which organisations you want to volunteer with, where to travel, when to change jobs or go back to school, or even which country to live in. You decide whether to stay at home or go out. So, to the extent that loneliness or community is a choice, it is yours to make. That isn’t to say you can change your circumstances or build good relationships in one day. But if you start today, and continue for a month, a year, 2 years, it will make a difference.
I shared in my talk that it was while I was single that I started investigating and making plans to move to Asia and ended up in Hong Kong. If I hadn’t been single, I probably would never have come to Hong Kong, and not have been able to take advantage of the opportunities here to meet many people (including my fiancée) and to serve in so many different ways.
If you are married, I encourage you to invite single friends to spend time with you. This gives them a chance to see up close what a Christian marriage is like. The times I got to share with and get honest opinions from those who were married helped me dispel some of the myths of marriage that single people can have. Single people have been told, and generally know in their heads that getting married will not solve all their problems, but can still unconsciously feel and act as if it will. Seeing a real marriage at work can provide a more realistic picture and useful observational experience for them.
However, there are some good and not so good things to say to singles. Single people generally do not appreciate being grilled about their single or dating life. (Who would?) Unhelpful lines of questioning might include:
- ‘How’s your love life?’ (groan)
- ‘Why are you still single?’ (This is an unanswerable question.)
- ‘Have you met anyone lately?’ (If they had and they trusted you and wanted you to know they would tell you.)
- Saying ‘I can’t believe you’re single!’ doesn’t actually achieve anything. The single person in question might have difficulty believing it too, but they are living out that experience!
- Finally, don’t try to set them up without asking (and gaining) permission first.
A more helpful approach would be to celebrate singles in their freedom and opportunities, and encourage and honour them in their faithful service of God. Paul said that singleness is a better way for a person to singlemindedly serve God (1 Corinthians 7). So we should thank God for His work in the lives of singles by empowering them to use their singleness to serve others.
Be supportive of your friend and encourage them in their walk with God, as they try to honour God in their single life, regardless of whether they wish to date or not. Remember that singles are fully-fledged members of God’s family. (Also, some Christians remain single because even though they could, they choose not to date non-Christians. This may be a costly choice for Christians who want to live in obedience to God’s Word and should be honoured.)
For singles: Don’t be afraid to reach out and spend time with married folk. They often feel like single people wouldn’t want to hang out with them or are too busy, so take the initiative to ask a family out to lunch, maybe with 1 or 2 other singles so its not just you and them. Singles can learn a lot by spending time with married couples, especially if they’ve been getting all their marriage advice from other singles!
And if you do date, be respectful and gracious. All people are fallen and can make mistakes in this area. Remember that the other person is also made in the image of God, and is precious in His sight.
In the end, married or single, we are all part of the family of God and are journeying towards the same end goal together. We are called to carry one another’s burdens (but also our own!) and so help each other along the way. In this way, we will fulfil the law of Christ, which is to love one another. (Galatians 6:2, 5)