As an unmarried male it’s hard not to get frustrated by the lack of literature we single peeps have available to us. It seems that every book on marriage is either for married or engaged couples. Granted, this does make sense. You don’t hand an NFL playbook to a peewee pipsqueak. You would, however, give such playbook to someone who had dreams and aspirations of being in the NFL; something it would appear hasn’t crossed the minds of many Evangelicals. Now, lest you misunderstand me, there are a plethora of books out there on the topic of Christian dating. My perusing of these, however, has produced further frustrations because I’ve found that the baseline message for a majority of Christian “dating” books is:
While the topic of sexual purity is an important subject, it has a tendency to give single people with the idea that sexual intimacy is something Biblically reserved for marriage (correct) while simultaneously we are hearing the message from our society that it is also
So because our faith tells us sex is so sacred, while society tells us that sex is so great, we find ourselves accepting some form of theology in which marriage is the highest standard to which a human could possibly attain, which is
Furthermore, nothing is more frustrating for a single person, completely lost in the world of awkward first dates, emotional roller coasters and eHarmony than hearing the crux of advice boiled down to what happens in the bedroom thus finding themselves waiting, not just for sex, but for the fulfillment of our person. When this line of thinking permeates our subconscious, we find ourselves with a view of marriage that’s completely unhealthy, in which our married selves will be some immaculate, perfected version of our oh-so-lonely single selves. One day we will emerge from this purgatorial limbo in which we now wander and skip down the isle to the “Walk to Remember” soundtrack where our spouse awaits us with the arms of Joshua Harris and will soon thereafter complete our destiny as a human being. Until that fulfillment, we must live to accept and “be content” with the idea that we’re just…
The problem with this line of thought is that marriage isn’t the fulfillment of our existence; rather it’s a testimony to what will be the fulfillment of our existence. Marriage is a personified, real, practical example of the relationship between Christ and the Church, but it’s not the end all be all. In fact, there are several reasons for why singleness can be better than being married
Whether or not we agree with Paul’s take on marriage, for those of us who are currently single we must learn how to be single properly, a concept that goes beyond knowing how to keep it in our pants. Since marriage is a way of worshipping God in partnership with a spouse, it follows that singleness is a way of worshipping God through the lens of a broader, less-intimate community. Thus, we who are single ought to focus not on figuring out how to be single and just get through it, but rather, we ought to spend our days learning how to be single well. In doing so, we will not only preparing ourselves to be better husbands and wives, but will also be developing in our ability to live lives that worship Christ.
So here are a couple ways that we single people can be living lives that will make us better single people. I present these to you, not as entirely inclusive or an end all be all on the subject, but with the hope of introducing this topic and returning to it in posts to come.
First off, learn how to be a good roommate. My current roommate is an extrovert who appreciates quality time, being loud and talking about stuff…a lot. I’m an introvert who likes being left alone, especially when the Green Bay Packers are playing. We’re complete opposites and yet I’ve never gotten along as well with a roommate so well in my life.
Part of this is because he has learned to respect the fact that sometimes I need to be alone in a book and that the time for us to bro out is not when the Packers are on TV. Furthermore, I’ve learned that for him to feel like I appreciate him for more than his ability to give me witty insight into Church History and correct my pronunciation of British names (the irony being that I’m the British one), I need to invest quality time in our relationship and do things with him like be social and talk to people. This is a minuet example to say the least, but I’m convinced that the ways I’ve learned to communicate affection and meaning to my roommate will one day correlate to how I communicate and love my wife.
Because anyone who thinks they’re marrying the right person will be sorely mistaken when they wake up, at some point in their marriage, roll over in bed and realize they aren’t sleeping with the angel it took 45 minutes to kiss goodnight way back on the first date. Marriage isn’t about being or finding the perfect spouse; it’s about seeking to become the perfect spouse. Learning how to love someone who is constantly in close proximity is not an easy endeavor. It requires overlooking the way they wake you up when they come in late at night, the way they don’t know how to pick up after themselves and those $@#$ moose calls they make when they’re congested. It’s an art that will take lots of practice when we’re married…so why not get a head start now?
Learn to be a good steward. It’s surprising how many Christian adults hear the word “budget” and wonder “is that a Greek verb?” What’s equally disconcerting is the testimony of recent statistics: the most common cause for divorce and marital strife is finances; a marriage is more likely to end over money than it is infidelity. Part of knowing ourselves requires knowing who we are as stewards of everything God has given us. As single people, we need to have a clear understanding of what we spend our time and money on, because (as a wise man once said), where we invest our treasure, there we will invest our hearts. If I don’t know where my time and money is being spent today, then I’m not going to know how to properly invest both of them within a marriage; it’s plain and simple.
Learn that relationships are less about asking, “what shouldn’t I have done?” and more about asking “what could I have done?” There seems to be a tendency among Christians to look for the “rules” of relationships. The ironic part is, when we are given rules, we don’t like to follow them. Furthermore, because we live under grace, everything is permissible for us, a concept we tend to appreciate to the point of horrifically abusing grace. Thus, when we focus on the question of what we shouldn’t be doing, we find that the answer is somewhat blurry and our faith suddenly turns into a rampant consumer of happiness. But when we focus on our love for Christ, we find that there are always, everyday, infinite amounts of things we could be doing to love Him better.
Likewise, in our day to day relationships with people, if we are always asking: “what shouldn’t I do?” we come up with a very dull and unoriginal ethic: We shouldn’t kill people when they cut us off in traffic, steal their Macbooks when they leave them in the library or sleep with their wives. Congratulations, 99.9% of the world believes the same thing.
But when we focus on what we could be doing to show God’s love to everyone we encounter, our lives take on a drastically different tone. If I can adopt this attitude now while I’m single, then when I’m married, I will find myself asking less questions like “gee, whiz why am I sleeping on the couch? Should I not have told my sweet that I think her friends are the spawn of Satan?” but rather waking each day with the natural, Spirit-filled desire to approach every situation with the goal of conveying God’s love to my wife.
Lastly (for now), sexuality is not all about sex. Yes, sex is obviously an important aspect of our sexuality, but it’s not the entirety of it. Though I’m not sexually active right now, I’m still a sexual being. This will be important in a marriage because (I’m told) that even married couples don’t have sex all the time.
I’ve been informed by some married folk that life in holy matrimony does not consist entirely of sex. You still gotta go to work, clean dishes, respond to neighbors complaints that you’re playing Marvin Gaye too loud and stuff. Nonetheless, the relationship between a husband and wife should always be sexual in nature, even when sex isn’t front and center. The love and passion between a husband and wife is displayed throughout all of their marriage, not just sex. Sex is the blooming flower of sexuality; it’s a plant that must be watered and nurtured in order for its flower to bloom and be beautiful. I’m talking the deep conversations, late night walks, acts of service and reading Nicholas Sparks novels together.
Likewise, as single people, we have to learn that our sexuality is always a part of us, even if it isn’t being expressed. This is completely counter-cultural. Society prompts us to believe that the only acceptable reason for abstinence is none. There’s a notion that abstinence is sexual repression, a notion Christians have come to adopt. But rather than see our time of abstinence as repression, we need to view it as a time of watering and tending to a plant whose flower will one day be beautiful. Because the passion with which we live out our daily lives will one day be transferred into the passion we convey in our sexual relationship with our spouse.
I realize all these points are merely scraping the surface of topics that require much, much greater detail. Indeed, I hope to explore all of them in the future. For now let me leave you with this:
If I want to have a marriage that will worship God and show the love of God the world, then the habits and foundation of that marriage are being built today. As single Christians, we must seek to live a life that is colored not by shades of repression or hues of agonizing patience, but rather lives that are painted with the marks of an Artist who is forever working on us to better worshippers of Him every single day.