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We had a great discussion the other day on how we talk about singleness and God’s will. 

Tons of comments, and lots of really insightful back and forth, and I want to continue the conversation today.

I wasn’t that involved in that conversation at the time (or any of the comments sections this week) because we’ve been finishing up The Great Sex Rescue, our new book that’s coming out next spring. Rebecca, Joanna and I wrote it together, with Rebecca and me doing most of the writing and Joanna doing all of the stats (which was likely the largest part of the job). We had 22,000 people answer our survey in the fall, and that gave us so much data, and it’s incredible.

But best of all–the book is done! Seriously, I’m so happy, because I’ve been working so hard. It’s not done-done, because there’s still the editing process after the publisher gets back to us, but we’ve at least got something written, and I actually really like it!

We had one of those moments yesterday afternoon when we were just losing it. Rebecca and I were looking at our notes for a chapter and we came across this gem:

Ridiculous Edits - How Can the Church Handle Singleness Better?

I thought the bit in blue was the funniest (and I have no idea what we were originally trying to get across), but Rebecca thought the last line took the cake–we couldn’t find a metaphor for a metaphor.

Anyway, because of how busy I was, I missed out on the comments section. But several people brought up some interesting things I’d like to highlight. And if I don’t highlight your comment, it’s not that I didn’t appreciate it! It’s just that I’d like to pull up sections from comments that all brought up a new point or looked at something from a different angle!

Be careful not to get smug if you’re married

Becky made a great point:

I always hated when well-meaning Christian ladies would toss that verse about “it’s better not to marry” at me, as if it was somehow sinful for me to wish to marry. I honestly had to go to counseling in my later 20s, because I really was questioning whether my singleness was either a punishment for that bad college relationship that I mentioned last week, or whether God somehow loved me less than the majority of my friends who did marry in the couple of years within finishing college.

Those of us who are married need to remember how hurtful it can be to tell people, “well, God says you’re better off anyway the way you are!” My rule of thumb is that if I wouldn’t want to walk in their shoes, then I shouldn’t try to convince them that they should enjoy those shoes, either.

What happened to all the men?

Several people got into some interesting conversations about where all the men are, too, and why there are so many more single women.

Why are there so few good Christian men? This is not an American problem. I majored in religion studies and this is something that is very common all over the world. What is it that make men less interested in faith and religion?

Anon

It’s a relief to know that it’s not God deliberately making me single

This comment made me so sad, although I do believe Arwen is at peace about her singleness now. But I just read this and I so want to set her up so badly, especially because I feel like  know her from all her comments over the years! I really hate it when people are single and they don’t want to be, and I hate the rejection that she still is feeling, even if she finds it a relief to know it’s not God doing the rejecting:

I just find it odd when pastors preach that maybe it’s not God’s will for someone to get married but when you look around the Church all the good looking people are married, you start questioning God. Instead what we need to realize is that marriage is one of the many areas God has given us free will in. So instead of blaming God let’s face the harsh truth, someone deliberately chose not to sacrificial love you.

I think that’s harder to accept because it’s easier to just say, i’m waiting on God’s timing. Part of living in a fallen world is living with the bitterness of sin. It was such a mind shift for me, i read it on a singles blog where she explained it in detail! I actually feel vindicated and a burden was lifted from me. Now i know if i never marry it wasn’t because God favored other women over me it was because all those single Christian men didn’t want me. And that is far more freeing to me. Because i would much rather be unloved by a man than to be unloved by God. 

Arwen

Are we treating marriage like the meaning of life?

Bre brought up this great point that many debated afterwards:

“It’s as if Christians can’t see marriage as part of the Christian life and there’s a reason for it: they see it as the meaning of life and as such, they see as transcending the rest. It’s utter foolishness….When we finally realize that marriage is just a part of life instead of the meaning of life, we have a far more holistic, positive view of life.”

Bre

She goes on to say that between her mental health issues and ASD issues (which we had a great discussion about a few weeks ago) she thinks she’d be better off single. I think that’s noble, honestly, to realize that you weren’t really cut out for marriage, and so you’d rather pour yourself into service. I don’t know why we think that’s a bad thing, or that we have to talk anyone out of it. I sometimes look at couples who are really struggling, where one person was honestly never cut out for marriage, and I think to myself, “if they were given permission to stay single, maybe they would have and then their spouse may have met someone else.”

Women have a timeline that men don’t

The sad thing is that women are definitely at the disadvantage here, and not only in terms of raw numbers of single men vs. single women. We have a time line that men don’t:

Also, a lot of Christian guys seem to be commitment-phobes until they’re much older – by which point, although they can start a family with a younger woman, it’s too late for women their age to have kids.

Anon

But then Catherine also gave this interesting perspective, which I wholeheartedly endorse! I know a single woman in her 40s who just adopted a lovely sibling group from foster care, and I’m so happy for her!

As far as the woman’s biological clock ticking and a deep desire to have children and being single……I personally see no reason why adoption isn’t an option. Yes, it’s difficult as a single mom. But some are in positions to do so or have extra family help etc. and if so, then we are called to care for orphans. Plain and simple. Is it ideal to being a child into a fatherless family? No, not ideal. Fathers are so important. But life isn’t ideal, and many of the situations orphans are in are even less ideal. So perhaps you won’t be getting married at all or in time to have biological kids before menopause…..I think this is a legitimate option that some singles should consider. And for those who get married later in life, adopting older kids in need of homes is also an option!

Catherine

Are women too picky?

And Anon also raised this point, which I’ve talked about as well:

I also know women who are single because they are way too fussy – I’m not talking about women who want a husband who loves Jesus, but women who reject a potential date because he has a beard, didn’t go to the right college, is 6 months ‘too old’ or ‘too young’ or a couple of inches ‘too tall’ or ‘too short’.

One of my friends is desperate to get married, and has expressed envy that I have ‘found a man’ – yet my fiance has at least 4 things ‘wrong’ with him in her eyes that would wipe him off her list of possible future husbands! Her list is literally pages long and has really specific height, weight, age, hair (no beards or baldness), education, career and income requirements.

Anon

Check out a post I wrote answering a woman asking if she was being too picky!

Finally, it’s not only singleness where the church says really hurtful things. It’s infertility, too.

A few women brought up how hurtful the infertility discussion and issue can be as well, when people talk like God planned it, or ignore the fact that you’re struggling.

How about infertility? What do you think that’s all about? There’s a shortage of single men in the church, so that explains why some Christian women remain single. That’s not God’s plan, but it is a fact in a sin-stained world. What about infertility?

Also, can we talk about how the church has a bad habit of idolizing marriage and child-rearing, creating very little space for those that are single (beyond their 20s) and those that are infertile?

Andrea

My last ladies event I attended there was my last because I was the only one at a table of 10 not joining in on the pregnancy/labour stories. I’m not exaggerating when it went on the majority of the night and I couldn’t join a different table without causing a scene because we were in groups. As the evening went on I didn’t have the ability to attempt to causally change the subject because I was knew if I opened my mouth I would completely break down. I eventually made a lame excuse to leave and bawled as soon as I got to my car. I was incredibly hurt because of my struggle and hurt that no one seemed to care about the one person who remained silent the entire evening and no one seemed to give thought to why I wasn’t joining in the conversation.

Please. Take a look around the group next time you’re with a bunch of people. If someone hasn’t said a word, reach out to them. It doesn’t have to be deep. It doesn’t have to be related to the subject that everyone else is talking about. Just be considerate and make them feel included and important to the group.

A

I really appreciate all of you in the comments, especially this week when I haven’t been replying to very many!

And I just want you to know that if you’re struggling with not wanting to be single, or with infertility, I am sorry. I wish I had something better to say to you. I won’t pretend to understand. I married early. And while I have had miscarriages and my son die, I also never had trouble getting pregnant (and I even got pregnant right after Christopher died, too). So I haven’t walked in those shoes, and I don’t have any great words of wisdom or comfort, and I don’t want to insult you by giving you false comfort.

I’m just sorry if you’re hurting, that’s all.

But here’s my question for YOU if we can keep the discussion going, and it’s a two-pronged one: If you’re single, how do you feel about people trying to set you up? And if you’re not single, have you ever tried to set anyone up? How did it go? Let’s talk in the comments!

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