This post was written by Becca Lafferty, a high-school English teacher in Singapore. Read more from Becca on her blog.
I’ve been writing this blog post in my head for several months now. It all started with a conversation with my friend Chelsie in her classroom. We were talking about our friends that were married, engaged, and single. We were talking about what it means to be a single female in our world…especially in the Christian world. We were despairing over the fact that our particular choices (to be single, to live overseas) are often seen as divergent and are often seen as “just a phase.”
Let me tell you, that didn’t sit well with me at all. Mostly because I realized that I had believed that same thing for so long.
I am 25 years old. I have been single for the past…25 years. I have never been kissed. I have never gone on a date. I have never received a note in class that said, “Do you like me? Check yes or no.” Listen, I’m an endangered species and I realize that. For the most part, I have been incredibly upset with all of these facts. Being single while the rest of your friends are dating boys, kissing boys, or at least, you know, flirting with boys (I still have no idea how to do this effectively), is pretty disheartening. I grew up watching the Disney movies too, I knew that I was supposed to find a prince of some sort at some point–even if that meant I chopped off all my hair to preserve my family’s honor while defending China from the Huns (Mulan was always my favorite).
I have been asked that question looming in the title of this post many times.
I remember when I finished high school, and I thought, “I’ll find someone in college, ya know, new start, more boys (I had graduated with a class of 23).” But then I went to Samford University in Birmingham, AL. Where there are hardly any members of the male species. At Samford all the boys are dating their high school girlfriends, are about to date someone else at Samford (because holy moly, the most amazing girls go to Samford) or have ZERO interest in you. That seemed to pretty much be the entire male population with whom I came into contact.
My parents made me promise not to date anyone my freshman year and I said, “Uh, no problem, trust me.” And it wasn’t. Junior year started and my magical college dating experience had yet to materialize. My parents (whom I love with my whole heart) sat me down and told me that they thought I should start dating people. I think they were afraid that I was pushing possible suitors away in deference to them. Ha. Ha. Ha. There weren’t any boys banging on my door, let me tell ya.
My senior year, when I was beginning to realize that I was being called overseas and that I was about to be offered a job to teach at ICS, I struggled hard. I know, I know, trust me, everyone around me thought I was crazy. I was having such a hard time accepting that God was leading me somewhere that I had always wanted to go. It was (and is) my dream! One night, I had a complete breakdown in front of my college ministers: Chad, Rachael, and Bradley. You want to know what one of the first things I said was through my ugly-crying?
“BUT I’LL NEVER GET MARRIED IF I MOVE OVERSEAS.”
Lovely photo from Allison Naylor
Oh yes. Oh yes I did. I said that. That’s a thing that I said. With mascara dripping down my face along with snot probably (Shout-out to Chad, Rach, and Bradley for still liking me after this). So this is a really interesting statement. And there are a lot of questions to ask, the most obvious being, “Why?” Why did I assume that moving overseas meant I’d never get married? But, I honestly don’t think that’s the most important question. I think the more interesting question is “So what?” This is essentially what Chad told me. Chad basically said that it didn’t really matter whether or not I was going to get married while I lived overseas, that it was clear that God was calling me there, and that I needed to get some clarity and that I needed to check my priorities. Chad’s a really great dude that way–he’s straight with ya, cuts straight through your heart with his piercing truth. It hurt, but it was true. So what? So what if I don’t get married?
Well let me tell you, “so what!” If I don’t get married then I am a sad excuse for a girl. At least, that’s what I can deduce based on context clues that society is lobbing my way. My Facebook newsfeed informs me that I should be getting engaged. My very well-meaning and Jesus-loving friends send me articles about singleness and how it is a season. Or they say things like, “God wouldn’t put the desire for relationship in your heart if he didn’t mean to fulfill it.” Or, “You will definitely get married.” I’m here to tell you that none of that is really true. None of that is really relevant. And NONE of that has anything to do with being contented and thriving where God has led me.
So while Chelsie and I were chatting about singleness we both expressed the frustration with being single in a Christian community. Specifically, being a single FEMALE in a Christian community. You see, when a guy is single, oftentimes that is seen as being his choice. When a girl is single, a lot of times that is seen as a sort of sad thing. A guy is single and moving overseas or chasing his dreams? Awesome! He’s following God and when he DECIDES to get married, he will! But a lot of times, for girls, it isn’t their decision. Right? Poor girl, she keeps getting passed over. So our Jesus-loving community tells us to be patient. It tells us to wait for “him.” It tells us to cling to Jesus–that if our relationship with Jesus is right, he’ll bring a man for us.
But guess what, my relationship with Jesus is not an indicator of my relationship status on Facebook or whether or not I will have a ring on my finger.
I have friends in all of these different stages: married, single, engaged, dating, in that awkward “talking” phase that we apparently made up in this generation. I think marriage is a beautiful, God-given gift. I am over-the-top thrilled when my friends get engaged and married to godly men. I love listening to my friends talk about their healthy relationships. And yes, I get sad sometimes that I’m not in one of those. But, I think that singleness is to be valued.
Not as a phase. Not as something leading into a relationship. Not as a test of our faith. Just as it is. I am single. I may be single for a long time. I may be single forever.
Singleness is not a waiting room.
It is an adventure, just like marriage or dating. It is VALID. It is IMPORTANT. It is not alternative or odd or “an interesting choice.”
And I didn’t really realize that until this past semester. Oh sure, there are plenty of moments when I find myself discontented with being single. But then I look around. I am doing life with a bunch of girls who love Jesus and who have left everything comfortable to follow Him and to serve Him with their lives. Most of these girls are single. Some of them crave relationship, some of them are carefree, some of them love being single, some of them hate it. In this place I have found my love for the richness of this time in my life. I have discovered how awesome it is to be single. I have been reminded that 1 Corinthians 7:8 is NOT just a consolation prize. Paul said, “However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that. But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I.” Paul calls singleness one of the divine gifts. I used to think that verse was such a cop-out. Singleness as a good thing? Pfft. Give me Prince Charming, please and thank you. Now, as I’m living this single life with others in various stages of life who share this same characteristic, I am struck by the beauty and truth in this verse.
Okay, so to recap: Marriage=good
In a healthy relationship=good
Harboring discontent in any of these things=NOT GOOD.
Follow Christ joyfully–single, dating, engaged, or married. And please stop asking your single friends when they are going to settle down.
“Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31