I’m still replaying that scene in my mind even though it happened nearly three weeks ago. I was taking a class at my Alma Matter, Tyndale Seminary, and had just come back to the classroom after having a leisurely lunch outside. People were socializing as they often do when you re-emerge from your break, and as I took my notebook out getting into the zone, I wasn’t even really aware of where the conversation was headed. Then it happened. Seemingly out of nowhere, one my classmates mentioned that she had written an article with a readership of over 5 million. This peaked my interest. I have been a blogger now for about 5 years and I’ve had articles published in a few magazines, but I don’t think I’ve ever even had a readership of 5,000 let alone 5 million. Let’s just take a moment to let that sink in. 5 million – more than the entire city of Toronto, roughly the entire country of Scotland, reading one person’s work. So what was this girl’s topic and why did everyone feel like reading it? The answer becomes apparent when you read the title “26, Unmarried, and Childless.”. I was immediately struck by two things:
#1: This is such a stereotypical Christian girl thing to say. You’ve heard of #whitegirlproblems? Well this is #christiangirlproblems.
#2: I am exactly in the same boat as Amanda was when she first published this article. For I, too, am 26 years old, unmarried, and childless. And no, there are no potentials.
It doesn’t take a genius to recognize how much romantic and sexual relationships permeate our culture. In a recent lecture by Brett Ullman about youth culture, Ullman stated that one does not need access to the internet in order to purposefully view pornography. In fact, anyone who listens to the Top 40 in their car is being exposed to pornographic images multiple times a day. It doesn’t take long to really let the words sink into your soul. Top songs feature lyrics such as Ed Sheeran’s “I’m in love with your body” or the Chainsmokers “Something Just Like This” that suggest one doesn’t need a superhero but just “something I can turn to, somebody I can kiss.” Unfortunately, while the world has a “live for today” mentality where nothing is off limits, Christians are expected to be asexual until marriage and because that is nearly impossible for the majority of people, it is recommended that they get married by age 21 to avoid pitfalls and numerous temptations. This means that if you’re 26, unmarried, and childless something must be drastically wrong. You must have some trauma you’re still trying to work through, you must be some sexually frustrated woman, or you must be called to a lifetime of celibacy and you just need to accept that fact and live a contented life.
All of these statements are complete and utter rubbish, but unfortunately, they are the lies the church spreads and seemingly that many young women buy into. There is so much focus on “prepping for marriage” with ideas given that if you are still single, there must be a hint of immaturity about you, that it drives many women to desperation and entering into relationships which are not God-ordained let alone healthy, healing, and satisfying. Many women are told that they have to “settle” and not be “so picky” and as a result they may end up with a man who is not a capable leader, a strong husband, or even a believer. Truly, it is not so much about the man having it “all together” before marriage, but a woman must seek out someone who at least has the potential and drive to stick with her through life’s many difficulties, seasons, and storms. A man who is selfish and self-promoting often ends up getting his bride stuck when she should be soaring.
What I am trying to encourage you in today is to see yourself as truly so much more than MRS – those three letters that seem to carry so much weight and add so much unhappiness to many a single woman’s life. Instead of viewing yourself as incomplete or accepting the false identity the Enemy wants to place in you, please remember these three things if you suddenly find yourself 26, unmarried, and childless:
#1: Being Content in Your Circumstance Doesn’t Mean You Have to “Like It”
So many young women will make a life-altering decision simply on their emotional and physical state today. You may not be married yet, that doesn’t mean it will never happen. You may not have met Prince Charming yet, that doesn’t mean you never will. I love Converge Magazine. I think they have a lot of interesting and inspiring articles that relate well to my generation. However, my one annoyance with them is that they waste way too much time talking about the “Problem” of singleness. Toting happy single girls as heroes or else advising that unhappy single girls should be (usually those articles are written by a 21 year old who was married at 18). The truth is, you neither have to be happy nor unhappy about your marital status. It is true that as far back as Genesis we have been told that it is “not good for a [wo]man to live alone.” It is also true that throughout Scripture God uses the imagery of the Bride of Christ to help explain the high level of intimacy He wants to achieve with all of us. However, it is also true that God has used single women throughout history to do wonderful things for His Kingdom that would have been impossible if they had been tied down to a husband and a family. Think of the Prophetess Anna who was married only 7 short years and then a widow for 84. As far as we know, Anna never sought matrimony again. Perhaps there were things she missed about this lifestyle – an early morning kiss, a soft caress at the end of the evening, even a “hey honey, how are you?” as her grubby husband came off the corn field sweating. However, she had found something of much more immeasurable worth – spending time in the temple day and night, serving, and teaching others about God.
Ask yourself: who are the women in your life who are single and loving it? Do you have single friends who are your age and content? What makes them happy even though they don’t have a life partner? Do you know any older women who have never been married or who are widowed? How has God used them and how might He use you?
#2: You Don’t Have to Settle For Less
I have a confession to make. I just did a stereotypical Christian girl move. I walked into a Christian bookstore, noticed they were saving a sale, and came out with three books on singleness. Whether it’s a subconscious decision to try to change my state or if I was just looking for reassurance and validation, I don’t know. All I know is this: reading tons of books, trying to improve yourself or change your style or personality – none of that is going to bring the man you want into your life a minute sooner than God’s ordained timing and plan. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to better yourself. I believe self-improvement is a constant process everyone should be engaged in regardless of their life stage, but it is a reminder that doing something out of desperation and duty will never bring the delight you’d like to see take root in your life.
This is something that so many girls just don’t get. They will do all sorts of things they feel uncomfortable with just because they have been told that they are “less than” if they don’t have a partner. Girls will go out on set-up dates with guys they would never give a second glance to because they feel their social status will go up if they are with someone. Girls sometimes will even change their thinking and mentality just so that a man might pay notice to them. Honey, if a man can’t accept you the way you are – the way God made you to be, quirks and all, he isn’t the right man for you. You need to date someone because you see the intrinsic value in them and they in you – not because you are trying to earn that value.
If a man asks you out on a date, you don’t have to say yes just because you are single. You say yes because you WANT to. As my wise aunt always told me growing up, “It’s better to be single for the rest of your life than with a man who doesn’t treat you right.”
#3: Remember That Whoever You Surround Yourself With Will Rub Off On You
Since coming back from Scotland the one thing I have found frustrating is the Canadian mentality on dating and singleness. In Scotland I had many single friends who were over ten years older than me and content. They were content because they had learned that their value and worth doesn’t derive from any man, but from who Christ has made them to be. They were content because they had learned that there are many benefits to the single life and that all we need to do is seize the day and make the most of those opportunities. Rarely have I found a woman who WANTS to spend her life as a single (more power to you if you are that woman), but they found a peace in living in the here and now.
Now in Canada I find that all my friends are either married, engaged, in a serious relationship, or completely despondent and distressed in their singlehood. Come to think of it, I would have a hard time pinning down one friend who is truly enjoying this season in her life. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that we covet what we can’t have and crave what we were not made to have at this particular time.
If you are a single person, I urge you to spend your time with people who truly build you up. If you are finding singleness to be a burden, consider deleting your Facebook for a time. If Instagram posts are causing you to be jealous or apprehensive about other people’s marriages or kids, delete it. If you find yourself wasting endless hours on Pinterest creating a perfect wedding even though you don’t have a perfect groom, get rid of it. Likewise, you want to find a healthy mix between married people you can look up to and single friends you can chum with. The truth is that married people and single people have different priorities. This is not bad or good, but it is just the way things happen. Even the Apostle Paul himself taught us that a married person’s primary responsibility is to their spouse – how to make them happy or care for them, whereas a single person can enjoy a wider range of ministry and serving possibilities and further the Kingdom that way. Yet whether we are married or single, we should always keep in mind that the ultimate goal of any Christian is to please the Lord regardless of state or circumstance.
When I think back to that day sitting in that Tyndale classroom after lunch and hearing that my peer had written an article with a readership of over 5 million people I give thanks that God used her even despite a circumstance she may not have chosen for herself. I pray, too, that God may also use you in your singleness or even in your marriage to reach other people for His Name’s sake and for His glory. Don’t rush from relationship to relationship fluttering around like an aimless butterfly. Instead pursue godly relationships that are ripe with purpose and potential, ones that esteem your worth and help you to value and treasure the inherent goodness and grace of your partner. It’s only when we learn to romance the King and make Him our first priority, that He will introduce us to our Prince who truly sees us as his princess and leads with gentleness, chivalry, and respect.