I just read a post by my good friend and colleague Anika Parker on ‘singleness and marriage at almost 40’. It’s authentic, sassy, insightful and hilarious; join the hundreds who have read it by following the link at the end of this post. Another younger friend recently posted a facebook status about being single, pleading for people to stop treating her as if she was sitting in a waiting room until marriage happened and she could finally start life. As if singleness was a sort of prelude to real life in marriage. I haven’t often seen that number of comments and ‘likes’ in response to a status update!
A married friend of mine recently shared about walking with friends now struggling in painful marriages entered into in the genuine belief that life would come together, insecurities and confusion cease simply because they were getting married. My friend had tried to warn them, but because she herself was married … ‘how could this married person possibly tell me, a single person that I might be better off not getting married – she’s obviously forgotten what it’s like to be single!?’
In the last few months I have also come across a number of women who have said ‘I don’t want to be 30 (or 40, or whatever it is) and still a virgin and I am pretty sure that’s not what God intended either’. Other conversations have had more the flavour of ‘God must be punishing me for something, that’s why I am still single’.
So it seems we are in a bit of a pickle! It seems that between our deep eternal longings for … something or other, and our innate selfishness, between our sexuality and society’s expectations and norms, we have pretty much lost the plot a little (or a lot).
Within us is a deep yearning for something, like a dream we can’t quite recall. Some of it comes from being made in God’s image and our longing to know and express their depth of community. Like so many areas of our existence we live with the longing for what could be and are daily faced with the harsh reality of our inability to come anywhere close to something vaguely like it. We long for community, yet relationships scare us and we are more likely to screw them up than not, but we keep hoping because something deep within us won’t stop. In our individualistic western society, we have rationalised ourselves away from the utopia and settled with the closest we can get in our imagination to the dream, which is a ‘life partner’ or spouse.
Then there’s our sexuality; from our gender and personalities to our sex drive itself. In our individualistic society and given our own innate selfishness it’s been an easy slide to place our happiness (or put another way self-fulfillment and gratification) as the goal of our sexuality. And if we think it’s any different in Christian circles, don’t be deceived, marriage is often set (whether implicitly or explicitly) as the ultimate in personal fulfillment with anything other viewed with suspicion or, more often pity.
But, really? I mean, seriously?!
Could it be that we have gone along with certain assumptions, allowing them to set themselves up like Mordor in the middle earth of our lives and they are now declaring war on us? They have been able to draw our focus almost entirely. They have allowed us to forget the things we were made to care deeply about; the things that God cares about, like justice and mercy, caring for the poor in our world and defending the weak, the fatherless and the widow. We are called to help put things to right. Deep down we know this, we know we have a job to do, a job that’s worthy of us, one that will make a difference. When did we let ourselves get side tracked by whether or not ‘I am a virgin’? When did we lower our hopes and settle for believing that ‘getting married’ or ‘finding the right partner’ was the ultimate in human existence?
Come on people, it’s time to wake up, there are fires to put out and a world that needs healing…. there’s work to be done!
(if you need a more gentle approach, here’s Anika’s post: https://anikaparker.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/singleness-and-marriage-at-almost-40/#comment-24 )