One of the worst things about being single are the comments that come your way from well-meaning friends, relatives, and acquaintances. My favorite (by which I mean my least favorite) is the question, “Why are you single?” Sometimes I am tempted to pull a Bridget Jones and pretend to have a skin malady of hidden green scales. One time I sarcastically responded, “I don’t know. Why don’t you tell me why you think I’m single?” I was met with uncomfortable silence. There is simply no good answer. If there were a specific obstacle keeping me single, I would do my best to remove it. And anyway, that question just highlights the fact that I am alone, with an unpleasant undertone of “and that’s not okay.”
Knowing my abhorrence of this trend, imagine my delight when in chapter seven of The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller lists four common Christian explanations of singleness….and a sassy retort.
- “As soon as you’re satisfied with God alone, he’ll bring someone special into your life” –as though God’s blessings are ever earned by our contentment.
- “You’re too picky” —as though God is frustrated by our fickle whims and needs broader parameters in which to work.
- “As a single you can commit yourself wholeheartedly to the Lord’s work” –as though God requires emotional martyrs to do his work, of which marriage must be no part.
- “Before you can marry someone wonderful, the Lord has to make you someone wonderful” –as though God grants marriage as a second blessing to the satisfactorily sanctified.
I love Tim Keller, but never before or since have I so dramatically screamed in agreement to something he wrote. Being single means feeling alone, not only because of a lack of a romantic relationship, but because the Church often ignores or belittles us. It feels amazing to have such a theological heavyweight at my back. I hope his words are equally encouraging to other singles reading this, and a reminder to everyone to watch our words. Well-meaning platitudes can be damaging.
If you find yourself talking to a single man or woman, instead of offering advice or asking mildly insulting questions, try this one instead: “What is being single like for you?”