Christianity, Sexuality

Singleness According to Tim Keller

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?”

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2 thoughts on “Singleness According to Tim Keller”

  1. One advantage of the changing culture is that we become more open to different lifestyles. For the older folks, being single is deemed to be a bit odd, because that is not part of our (we older folks) culture. This probably will not change with my generation, although we are getting better at seeing things as they are instead of as we wish them to be. So…if an older person asks a dumb question like “why are you still single?” just ignore it, for their children will probably be more open to other lifestyles and choices and won’t ask you those dumb questions. Be patient, be tolerant, and be forgiving. Be yourself and whatever you want to be. It is OK.

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