On being ‘single’
Everyone has been single at some period of their lives and learning by experience is a necessity whatever the state in which we find ourselves. We all differ in our needs and circumstances but there is always value in sharing our experiences because that is how the Lord in his grace deals with us. Many books and activities on the subject are available these days but it is also valuable to have fellowship with folks who share the same experiences. A danger to be avoided, as in youth work or with other specialised groups, is to become too separate from the rest of the church fellowship so that it becomes more difficult to become a natural part of it. Inevitably the following remarks will be very personal. Some things are almost too personal to share lest others should not understand – but often those are the very issues which strike home and one can be more objective in retrospect anyway. Obviously the perspective would be very different for a person brought up in an atmosphere where these things would be discussed in the light of the word. It was a steep learning curve to see the relevance of the Bible to everyday life after I came to know the Lord in sixth form.
I soon learned as a young Christian that the plan is the Lord’s and not mine and he always excels (Jer. 29:11-13). Therefore it is pointless to have too rigid an attitude to the future with regard to employment, location or the state of singleness or marriage because he holds the key of all unknown. We live in a fallen world anyway and we all live with different aspects of its imperfections but with a perfect Saviour. Whatever our state therefore, we can commit ourselves to the present as though it were going to continue and gain from the positive things. At the same time one must be adaptable and open to whatever the Lord has prepared for tomorrow. It will not do for us to adopt such settled patterns within our singleness that we have no room to adapt to other folk or to another style of living. As Christians we can never say ‘Never’ because the Lord plants unexpected things in our path! Also, throwing ourselves wholeheartedly into the commitments of the moment, adopting a responsible and conscientious attitude to our everyday employment including the work of the Lord’s kingdom, gives one a specific purpose which leads to the Lord’s will for the future (Col. 3:17,23-24). Concentrating too much on a future imaginary ideal can deprive us of the blessing in the immediate and the promised grace for today (2 Cor. 12:8-9).
Our society has changed with regard to the different pressures on people but some things have always been the same. A young Christian who wants to honour the Lord and does not follow the fashion in premarital relationships can be very frustrated and very lonely. On reaching adulthood there can be expectations with regard to the ideal of being married. These arise from personal feelings, from friends and from the Christian family as well as from the natural family. At such times suggestions and teasing can be hurtful because those are the ideas that can fill a young person’s mind anyway and it can be hard when there are no indications in that direction! It was particularly difficult when pressures arose, with the best possible intentions, from folk who were enjoying happy marriages themselves. The word says that it is not good for man to be alone (Gen. 2:18) so the perceived ideal was married life. It was easy to feel different and odd. Often one would feel that others must think that I had one of those hindrances in the marriage service so that I could not be considered suitable for the state of matrimony. Those were the times when the all-knowing Lord and his words were such a comfort and support (Ps. 139).
A young Christian has other desires as well. The experience of the Lord’s mercy is so fresh and real that doing his will heads the list. It is a great comfort to remember that our Saviour was a complete young man in every way and he can empathise better than anyone with every temptation and frustration and provide the grace to cope. As the single state settles into a life pattern and the possibility of a partner and children becomes more remote, other things begin to hurt and unexpectedly so. Some of the terms such as ‘old maid’ and ‘on the shelf’ and such like would engender very mixed feelings as one endeavoured to smile at the jokes. I felt particularly sorry for those ladies who had lost their sweethearts through illness or other tragedies. Social events could sometimes turn out to be difficult. Before long one’s siblings and contemporaries were married and bringing up families and I found comfort in Isaiah 54 although no one of my flesh would ever call me ‘mam’.
It is amazing to realise how much has been achieved in the kingdom of Jesus Christ by single people and by single women at that. I’m glad that the Lord led me to live with other people as well as on my own. This can avoid the danger of living in too much of a rut but becoming of a more independent disposition is inevitable. I consider it one of my greatest privileges to have been invited and welcomed into so many of the homes of friends and family to share in their complete family life and enjoy their home life, babies and children. There was liberty and time to enjoy holidays and activities which are impossible while raising a family, e.g. Christian camps and outdoor activities. One was able to cultivate one’s own interests and was free to be able to visit friends and family who were more tied to the home. I imagine it must have been easier to establish a pattern of daily devotions without distractions and I have an idea that the Lord in his mercy makes up in those times of fellowship for the lack of human fellowship in a busy life. I also had the privilege of trying to repay, to some extent, my parents for the sacrifices they made in giving me an opportunity and an education which they had not received. Being single I had the rare privilege of being my father’s companion and carer after my mother’s death and enjoyed a relationship with him on a new and more precious level. After his death I proved that the Lord has a very special way of comforting his single orphaned children, as other of my friends have found.
But life with the Lord is full of surprises. While I endeavoured with Paul the apostle to learn to be content whatever my circumstances and to lean on the promises in the word in my new state of singleness, he had other plans (Phil. 4:6-7,11,13)! Soon I was to become a pastor’s wife, a stepmother to three special children and auntie to a growing number of delightful grandchildren. Who would have believed it? But I was able to put the same principles to work in an entirely new lifestyle! The Lord’s goodness knows no bounds and he certainly is no person’s debtor.
Anne Davies is a member of the Welsh Evangelical Church in Aberystwyth. This article first appeared in Y Cylchgrawn.