i was scrolling mindlessly on facebook last night (really, is there any other way to scroll through your facebook feed than mindlessly?) when i stumbled across a status that knocked me out of my stupor.
my friend K posted this question:
I’ve been wondering, hypothetically speaking, what happens if someone prays for his/her future spouse and yet they remain single for his/her entire life? Was there purpose in those prayers or are they in essence “wasted?”
now, i’d love your take on that question in the comments but i thought i would throw out some of my own considerations on that first, and also share some of the conclusions K and i came to as we discussed this over text.
i feel as though it almost goes without saying that christian culture, in its effort to emphasize and value marriage, has done so to the point that singles often feel ignored, unwanted, and undervalued. i have often kept silent on the issue of singleness because i have felt my feelings would be dismissed as cynicism or pessimism since i have never dated and don’t have any immediate prospects for doing so.
it’s easy to feel less than, even when i know i’m not, even when no one is saying that.
i think, when we emphasize marriage as the inevitable destination for single people, we sacrifice the critical aspects of faith that single people can and should bring to their respective communities. we sacrifice the unique vision singles have of how paul and even Jesus served, which was not in the context of marriage.
paul says it is better to remain single. and i have to wonder why he says this. my best guess is that singleness refines us to holiness in a unique way, in a way that in direct defiance of culture calls us to give up, if we are women, what is often considered our highest calling: wifehood and motherhood. paul is writing in the historical context of the roman empire, and for the women of that time, i am almost entirely convinced that is what his urge to remain single means.
i’m not saying that marriage isn’t any less holy than singleness. i think the Lord uses one or the other to refine each person as He sees fit, as that person best needs and for how they are most effective in serving. we cannot emphasize one of these states as better than the other. that’s absolutely not what i’m advocating.
and so, sometimes, i think we pray the wrong prayers when it comes to being single.
i wonder if instead of praying for someone to marry, we might pray to be transformed into people worth marrying. i wonder if instead of praying for our future spouses, we might pray for the people who are in front of us. i wonder if there’s a way to pray for a future spouse that doesn’t assume we will have one. i wonder if it’s worth thinking about; i wonder how i think of anything else.
i don’t think it’s wrong to pray for a future spouse. i don’t think it’s wrong to pray you’ll have one or wrong to pray over one, but i wonder if when we do this we lose sight of “let Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” i wonder if we place our trust falsely when we focus on who we’ll marry and if we’ll marry and when we’ll marry. i wonder if we forget to pray for the Lord’s will in that, too, and i wonder if we even think of marriage as something to be surrendered to the Lord, in a way that if it comes it’s a pleasant surprise, and if it doesn’t come it’s not an unpleasant disappointment.
i wonder how people look at Jesus who never married and then wield a sword of matrimony at those of us who aren’t married either.
i just don’t see how that makes any sense.
i’m not even coming from a place of vexation with that. i’m honestly confused, but i’m content in my singleness. right now, at least. today. maybe tomorrow i’ll feel differently, but there’s 33 minutes until then and i’m not terribly worried about it right now anyway.
but i wonder how things would change if more people started looking at us singles and identifying us as individuals instead of future marrieds. my name is annie. not annie, future mrs., or annie, eventual married woman, or even annie, hopelessly single lady; it’s just annie. my name is annie and this is my Friend, Jesus, and today, that’s enough. today is what is resting in His hands right now. today is where He wants me to find Him and trust Him and hold on to Him and love Him and love His people and work for His kingdom. because today is where it’s at. today is where i lift my eyes to His face.