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Moving beyond ‘wait’

h/t resurgence

I like poetry. Especially when it’s spoken, not read. By someone who looks like they stepped off ‘Project Runway’.

I love the rhythm of this performance and how it leaves room for the poet to interact with her listeners and take them on a journey with her. It’s very clever and she’s ├╝ber-talented.

I love how in poetry, you can deal in superlatives and it’s OK. Comparing your future husband to (the good aspects of) David, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, etc paints a beautiful picture here, not a CV.

This poet’s passion is clear. She’s tasted life in rebellion against God and she’s determined to choose the better way. Far from giving up on love, she’s purposed to value it, remaining hopeful.

That sounds like a good example of living for Jesus in singleness but the authors of Singled Out (previous reviewed here) ask whether it is the right message to send at a secondary level. In essence, this is a woman expressing her heart; but it’s another thing when it’s posted by a pastor as teaching worth single people watching. At that point, it’s no longer her declaration but indicative of the church’s teaching to single people.

Almost 7 mins of this video deals with ‘waiting for [Mr Right]’, with only about 40 secs on the end talking about continuing to live for God even if marriage never eventuates. So when you pass along this video, that’s the predominant message it sends – wait. Anything else is a postscript. The authors of Singled Out argue that most teaching to single people centers on this theme: wait for your husband/wife (and especially for sex).

They believe the first problem is that this promises something that may never eventuate. The language of ‘waiting’ assumes a consummation. If you’re not married, you’re either ‘waiting’, or ‘called to singleness’ – but how can you tell the difference? When do you switch? Would the latter mean giving up hope of marrying one day? Secondly, they argue that the language of ‘waiting’ presents singles as stunted in their maturity because they have failed to proceed to the next life stage, ‘waiting’ before they can move on. This is particularly damaging because it devalues the contributions of single people or sees them as somehow incomplete.

I got married when I was 23. I have very little personal experience of being ‘a single’ and no desire to diminish any pain or longing that singles might feel. Several people are on my daily prayer list to find spouses. But that doesn’t stop me from wanting to see singles equipped to flourish. One aspect of that is not winding up in damaging or ungodly relationships. It’s also treating singles with dignity. That has to mean not assuming that their singleness, however unwanted, is necessarily an impairment. There may be an absurdity to singleness but that doesn’t negate healthy, life-giving relationships or fruitful ministry. We must move beyond simply telling them to ‘wait’.┬áSingles are worth more than that.

Categories: Church Written by Tamie

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Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.

6 replies

  1. As someone that is fairly recently single (but never married if that makes a difference) I’ve been getting a bit more of an insight into some benefits of being single, even if I don’t really want to be. From what I’ve experienced and seen in others being single gives:
    -more time to spend on other relationships (people & God) and serving others (or at church)
    -freedom of decision and forced me to make my own decisions
    -an ability to relate to people differently that may not have been ok when in a relationship.
    (definitely not an exhaustive list)
    Both being in relationships and being single has brought times of growth in my faith and maturity as a person (even if it meant rediscovering being a kid again), both have been quite different and both have been good, even more so when they have been embraced as being good.

  2. So, I’m wondering if its helpful to think of singleness as a gift you have from God when your single. That is, it isn’t some sort of super special thing but rather a gift in and of itself.

    So in one sense the notion of swapping from ‘waiting for your future spouse’ to ‘gift of singleness’ is sort of an artificial one? I think I’m more inclined to say something like if you’re single, you have the gift now so use it. Fill your time with good things. Be the social butterfly at the church, organise things. I know when I was single I had way more time and was far more inclined to organise opportunities for people to hang out and do community.

    Again I’m speaking as someone who has married reasonably young (25), but I spent probably 5 years single when all my friends around me got married (Tasmanian Christians get married early). And that was the kinda attitude I took. I was on the look out for someone but at the same time just got on with life knowing that I might never meet the right person. There is no way I probably could have come to Melbourne if I hadn’t been single.

    I think you’re right though that we do have a tendency to make marriage and family a big big idol. Singleness was good enough for Jesus and Paul. Perhaps in someways its the singles who have it right!

  3. I agree Chris. I think the way we’ve traditionally talked about the ‘gift of singleness’ is entirely unhelpful. The authors of ‘Singled Out’ agree and built quite a case for both singleness and marriage being life stages that are gifts from God.

    However, one pastoral concern with that is that that can make singleness sound like all fun and games. Lots of singles don’t want to be single – if it’s a gift, they want a returns policy!

  4. Yeah, so how do you walk that fine line between affirming that genuine desire to be married, but also saying marriage isn’t the be all and end all. Confronting the idol i guess.

    Because you could probably argue a case that lots (some) married people – if marriage is a gift – want a returns policy as well! So you have the same pastoral struggle the other way as well.

    The grass is always greener

    (ps. i really like being married)

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