“Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.” -- Luther
"Maybe I have that gift that everyone speaks so highly of. It's funny how nobody wants it" - Derek Webb 'Can't Lose You'
Typically, a heading like that grabs attention. Clickbait. Fodder for argument. The gloves coming off as another “bachelor till the rapture” enters the cage in a Jesus Didn’t Tap shirt, equipped with an Xbox controller, Chicken in a Biscuit crackers, and 2 cans of Cheez-Whiz. But alas, that is not my intention. Though I do enjoy Cheez-Whiz.
I’m in Seminary. I’ve even come to love being there. The Lord has grown and stretched me in a way that I’ve never been before. I’ve been immersed in the “weird question asking, milk crate full of books toting, Rollie backpack dragging” nerd herd for quite some time. I’ve also been exposed to some of the saintliest, hardest-working, salt of the earth, men and women you will ever meet. It’s not hyperbole, there are many there to be admired. But, Today, something weird happened. I say it’s weird, but I am probably being a little dramatic. I was told “No” for a job. Not that far out of the ordinary. Not a word I haven’t heard before, both from my parents, and girls I’ve fancied over the years. But this one came with an explanation. “We won’t be pursuing employment of you because we would like the person we hire for this position to be married”. I was left with a choice. Do I cry and retreat to a can of Pringles and Season 3 of New Girl? Do I bust out a bunch of New Testament knowledge on someone who likely knows more than I do about The Apostle Paul? Do I kick down the door Rambo style, with a copy of Wild At Heart in One Hand and a case of Silver Bullet in the other? All of those things came to mind, but luckily none came to fruition. Instead, I said “Thank You” like a decent son of the South would do, and I asked people older and wiser than me for advice. Not because I’m good, but exactly the opposite. Because I’m a sinner. And sinners need help. But also because most of the advice for dealing with singleness in the church is just bad.
I don’t believe they necessarily intend for it to be. It’s just kind of a weird spot to be in. It’s different. There are many folks in the struggle and I think I have found a couple of ways to help navigate this maze. They aren’t perfect, nor are they one size fits all. Nothing is. And many folks much wiser than myself have spoken on this, and much like every guitar pick I’ve ever owned, I’ve taken the liberty of stealing a few things from other folks.
1 1) Pursue Jesus: In order to operate in this crazy world, we have to know the objective love of God on our behalf.
This is easy to forget because there is no dating manual found in the Bible. And because of this single Christians, and married Christians offering advice, have a tendency to lose their minds in this area. However, scripture is permeated with this truth. Adam and Eve sinned, and God covered them with animal skins, ( a precursor to the cross) Israel wasn’t chosen because She was a mighty nation, She was chosen because God chose to choose her. The only way to navigate the sometimes painful world of singleness within the church, is to know that your relationship status is not the truest thing about you. The truest thing about those who belong to Christ is that you belong to Christ, and because He was forsaken on a cross, you will never know what that feels like. You’re beautiful and ugly. And by his mercy, God is making you who you are to be. It won’t be today, and it won’t be tomorrow, but there is a day when every tear is brushed away by his nail scarred hand.
22) Pursue Community: In order to be a part of the Church, You must be a part of the Church.
This one is difficult. My pastor says “If you act like a visitor, you will always be treated like a visitor”. In the context of South Charlotte, where I live, this can be difficult for single folks because it can appear that everything is geared toward families. We can even hear the Pastor reiterating the importance of families and kids, and watching Downton Abbey, or going to the Farmer’s Market with your spouse. None of those things are bad, yet Singles abandon the Churches where they attend for “places where other singles go”. Which creates a catch 22, because singles will never come if singles do not stay. They are chasing their tails. At the Church where I attend, you can likely count the single folks on two hands. I was faced with a choice. I could run to the “shark tank” next door. There is no shortage of those around where I live, and embarrassingly t admit, I tried doing just that on several occasions, and what always brought me back to my current congregation is the knowledge that the folks in the shark tanks didn’t love me. The church where my membership was held, those folks did. And they would call. And text. And Email. And stop by my house. They refused to let me go elsewhere. It wasn’t because I can set up chairs, or make funny jokes on the mic, or teach their kids about Jonah and a Fish, It was because when I joined the church, when I stood up front and made vows to commit to her purity, they made a vow to help me keep that commitment. I’ve been given a far greater picture of what the kingdom truly looks like in the church, than you would ever find outside of her walls. Our hearts must be like the Psalmist who would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord than to dwell in tents of wickedness.
33) Pursue Holiness: Repent. Believe. Fight.
This is hard. It’s supposed to be. Enough people are talking about it, but I am not sure its landing in the way it should. Character matters. I tried my entire life to get by on charm, and that well has run dry. As RUF big wig John Stone says “When you think about yourself well, then you can think about dating well”. We must see ourselves rightly, and order our rank of affections accordingly. When we see ourselves rightly, we will find a sinner. A hostile hater of God. When we see ourselves rightly we begin to see the Lord rightly, because at the end of it all, before the throne of God above,we find that God is surrounded by people who were once his enemies. He saves sinners. He also sanctifies sinners. Justification. Sanctification. Glorification. This is the ordinary way an Extraordinary God deals with sinners who trust and rely on Jesus alone for their salvation. His grace gets all over everything and that gives us a glorious freedom to pursue the things of God. We can begin to look at our sin seriously, and seriously fight it. A “cokes and jokes” approach to life will wear everyone out around you. Ask God to make you into someone who is worthy of being fallen in love with, and wait upon the Lord. Changing your wardrobe or exercise habits will not be the cure for singleness or the cause of your singleness, The Providence of God will, and whether he gives it to your or not, nothing comes into your life that doesn’t first pass through his hand. As Paige Benton Brown writes so eloquently “I want to be married. I pray to that end every day. I may meet someone and walk down the aisle in the next couple of years because God is so good to me. I may never have another date and die an old maid at 93 because God is so good to me. Not my will but his be done”.
I am deeply indebted to Tim Keller and his book "The Meaning of Marriage", Les Newsom's article on Dating and Freedom, and Paige Benton Brown's Article "Singled Out For Good" as well as multiple conversations with Richard and Brenda Seitz, The fine folks at Church, Dennis Fuller, and the 20 friends who have allowed me to be a groomsman in their weddings.