“I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has a particular gift from God, one having one kind and another a different kind. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am.”
1 Corinthians 7:7-8
1 Corinthians 7:7-8
In light of the recent political debates around marriage, the single life is unconsciously restated as less desirable. Whether you are religious or secular, singleness seems curiously odd to both. It encompasses the divorced, widowed, and never married. Described in relation to marriage and not given its own identity. Welcome to the single life, more precisely, in the Christian community, the single vocation. The following reflections derive from discussions with Christians living both the single and married vocations.
Ugly Duckling Complex. In the Hans Christian Anderson story, the swan was an outcast because he did not look like the other birds. He finally grew into an adult swan and was accepted. Those who are married, and even some of the single laity, view those who are unmarried in the same light. You are an ugly duckling until married. It is reflected in asking questions about whether you are dating anyone, offering hope that someone is out there for you, and encouraging you to use your extra time to volunteer in the church. Instead, let’s encourage the individual in their faith journey and emphasize the goodness and blessing of God in their lives.
Bi-polar: Depressed and Partying. Two extremes used to generalize the state of singles. The first one encompasses a view that the single vocation is lonely because you are not in a relationship. It is a state of life akin to sitting in a drab waiting room with Kenny G playing over the speakers while you are forced to re-read the same self-help magazines over and over and over again. The other stereotype is the view that this lack of relationship with oneperson means you spend your time partying and living up life. The second one was either created by a married person using the “grass is greener” argument or a single person trying to compensate for their inability to embrace the vocation God has placed them in. Everyone has a cross to bear. It does not matter your vocation. Instead of stereotyping, strive to learn about each person as a unique child of God.
Worry-free Illusion. There certainly is stress from learning to work in constant collaboration with another person in marriage. Sin and temptation does not discriminate by vocation. Singles may, or may not be parents, but they are a part of a family. They are not immune to the struggles that come from being a sibling, cousin, aunt/uncle, or godparent. The lure of materialism in this world remains. Lastly, deciding to live a life of chastity in a society that is drenched in a base view of physical intimacy is a challenge. The 1 Corinthians 13 definition of love applies to all believers.
Celebration Blackhole. Over the past decade of my life, many of my friends have gotten married, started families, and added an extra set of celebrations to their lives. Of all the differences between single and married, there is a distinct inequality in the number of celebrations one has built into their vocation. One of my friends is, jokingly, dreading all the parties and social rituals that accompany the time from engagement to marriage. There are struggles in being single and married, but a single person must be intentional in celebrating moments in their lives. While the married vocation gives us microcosm of church life, the single vocation emphasizes the need for forming and fostering the Christian community and communion of saints.
All Christians were made with the same dignity. Our baptism connects us all in the roles of priest, prophet, and king. We are all called through our faith to follow the Great Commission and share the love of Christ with the world. We are called to encourage and edify each other in our faith journey. These are the things that bind us, no matter our vocation, in the larger community of believers.
**This article was written for Today's Disciple (a magazine published by my parent's church in Orlando, FL: St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church).