As a single person over the years, one of my least favorite conversations with married friends involved comments like the following…
“I never understood how sinful and selfish I was until I got married.”
“It wasn’t until I got married that I learned what it means to lay myself down for another as Christ did for us.”
“I never really understood God’s unconditional love for me until I got married.”
Although I don’t doubt that all of the above statements are true, the subtext of these statements always felt to me like, “You have to get married to be on the inside track to God’s heart.”
As a single person, I subsequently felt like a slightly inferior Christian in the face of the great and mighty sanctifier that is marriage.
Because of these experiences, I vowed that whenever I did get married, I would NOT become that married person. (And don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of married friends who don’t do that, and who have affirmed me as a sister in Christ and encouraged me in the ways God is using me. They have been great examples for me.)
So my own experience compels me to be mindful and respectful of the struggles that are unique to single people. But in addition to avoiding language that alienates my single friends, there is a second, greater reason that I refuse to draw such strict barriers between the faith of married Christians and single Christians.
While there are certainly lessons that Christians can learn in marriage (not to sound cliché, but I AM learning how thoroughly selfish I am, just in the short time I’ve been engaged), there is something to be said for the sanctification that occurs in long-term singleness.
When a woman does not get married right out of college and is single for years, she wrestles with a completely different set of issues that God can use to refine her. When you are single past the point of all your other friends, you face feelings of self-doubt, loneliness, poor self-image, and fear for your future.
That’s not to say that married women don’t struggle with these issues themselves, but as a single person it’s an almost constant reminder. Every time someone asks, “Why haven’t you gotten married yet?” it’s as if the world is labeling you an incomplete person. And it’s hard not to wonder if you really are.
Like I said, married women have to work through loneliness and self-doubt as well, but in the same way that marriage highlights personal selfishness in a way that singleness often does not, singleness highlights other struggles in a way that marriage does not.
All of that to say, no one has an inside track to the heart of God. We are all on different journeys, and God uses our varying circumstances to refine us in different ways. So the next time you single gals feel a little left out because you’re not only single, but also made to feel less holy as a result, remember Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7:34
An unmarried woman is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world.
When you remember this verse, remember it not for the sake of mere comfort, or as a reason to feel superior, but instead hear it as a call. Use this time in your life for the glory of God–you can either let guide refine you, or you can become bitter. I’m sure you know both types of women, so decide which one you want to be, and then run after it!