You might know the feeling. It’s a feeling that somehow you’re slightly inadequate, in waiting, not fully alive. At least, that’s what you think. It’s usually perpetuated through words of “encouragement” by a well-intentioned friend or family member. And the encouragement usually sounds something like this:
“Don’t worry, God has someone AMAZING in store for you!”
Or everyone’s favorite:
“You’ll meet the ONE when you least expect it.”
Yep. When I least expect it.
It’s that feeling that accompanies the weary road of singleness.
Of course, they mean well. And there’s truth to their words. Yet, in the midst of the solo season, such words sometimes offer limited comfort.
Some people feel a strong call to live the single life as a vocation. In other words, a specific and unique way of life that God places in our hearts. Those called to the single life willingly decide to refrain from marriage or take religious vows, usually offering their lives as service in some specific way (taking care of a parent, being a missionary, etc.). However, for most of us, the season of singleness is a temporary state.
So, if we feel called to marriage but find ourselves single, how should we respond? I think we have to first accept that any vocation, like marriage, is a gift. Even though I feel a call to be married, am currently dating and believe that I’ll get married one day, there is no guarantee that I will be. Jesus tells us not be anxious about the future. Today, regardless of what happens tomorrow, I’m called to be single.
Singleness is not just a holding cell, a time of waiting for your future spouse. Trying to make yourself a better person, and therefore a more loving future spouse, can and should be part of it if you feel called to marriage, but being single is more than that. That mindset implies that your life doesn’t begin until you meet someone: that you’re in training, so to speak, waiting to get called up to the big leagues (or the altar). This attitude is fueled largely by our culture, which convinces us that the greatest happiness can only come through a romantic relationship. Of course, this isn’t true. Whether married or not, we know no one but God can fulfill us.
All vocations are a call to love and serve. This means that in addition to each vocation’s unique joys, they each entail unique suffering and sacrifice. Probably the most obvious element of suffering for the single life is the loneliness that can surface occasionally. There are some days when I find it difficult to be alone. There are times when I crave a woman to talk with, share my day, answer my phone call when I have good news, and simply be present with. I think in order to fully accept our singleness we have to accept that it isn’t always easy. It isn’t supposed to be, and it’s insensitive and unhelpful to deny the pain that singleness can cause. God doesn’t expect us to hide our frustrations and loneliness. The ache is part of the call.
Yet, despite the challenges, there are also tremendous gifts. The freedom being single affords allows me to travel, visit often with friends, pick up new hobbies, and serve others more fully. In fact, I’ve recently set a goal of publishing a book, something that I am blessed to pursue more intentionally due to my singleness. It also allows me the opportunity to nourish and foster deeper friendships, which also provides a great source of strength and encouragement during the more difficult days of my singleness. And my singleness allows me to focus on my relationship with God, whether that’s more time spent reading scripture, praying, or reading spiritual books.
I’m still single because God hasn’t invited me into anything else right now. And despite what I want, I trust God knows what’s best for me. Like any vocation, the single life is both a cross and a gift — both redemptive and fruitful. There is peace that comes with seeing singleness not as a less-than state of life, but one filled with the potential for great joy, service, and love.
“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you — oracle of the LORD — plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.” — Jeremiah 29:11