One thing I have come to learn in recent weeks is that the things that people talk about most are the things they care about the most. I’ve eavesdropped on all sorts of conversations – from family to fishing, from shows to sports, from church to cooking. In Christianity, the conversation is usually centered on marriage and family. In this way, Christianity is sort of like the grandparent who is up-to-date about all the news and brags about it’s married children and their kids, but is hard-pressed to come up with very much to brag about when it comes to it’s unmarried and childless relatives.
When the church doesn’t talk about singleness it’s also minimizing the importance of those who are single. When the church doesn’t set up it’s schedule around the needs of it’s singles, then it’s saying that singles just don’t matter as much as married parents do. The time of single people isn’t as precious as the time of married people. And let’s face it – this is a changing world; one in which Sundays aren’t the same as they used to be. For some it’s a day of rest, for others it’s a day to work.
It’s important to talk about singleness, but it’s even more important to send the right messages. There are things that should be said and things that should not be said about singleness. Singles often hear the same messages that they’re immature because they aren’t married yet or they’re selfish for not wanting to share their lives or for putting their own wishes and dreams above that of the not so glorious aspects of raising infants and toddlers. The thing is that most Christian singles do dream of marriage and parenthood, but for some inexplicable reason it just hasn’t happened yet. They’ve read books like I Kissed Dating Goodbye and attended True Love Waits conferences as teenagers and have promised themselves to not be worldly about dating but to let God write their love story.
Singleness represents more than one station in life, it includes divorce, widow/widower-hood, single parenting, and never-married/child-free. Each has it’s own challenges and needs that need to be spoken to. Each group needs it’s own encouragement and support that differs from the others. When we watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” we need somebody to stand up for Mary the old maid / spinster and say that it’s okay that she never got married. It’s not the worst thing that can happen. It’s not better to be married – it’s just different.
Marriage shouldn’t be the focus of singleness, as if it were the cure to the selfsame disease or the solution to the selfsame problem. It’s time to stop centering our conversations on marriage, but to open up some serious dialogue on singleness.