twentybydesign

the life and times of a twenty year old designer

Wedding Season

with 15 comments

Something is happening to my friends. In the last four to six weeks, I’ve seen more than ten updates on Facebook, all advertising the same state of euphoria. [I almost inserted a witty remark akin to “No, I’m not talking about Tebowmania…” then decided I don’t want to be that kind of writer.] It seems that lately the engagement bug is spreading like the plague. And it makes sense. If you want your next step in life after college to be marriage, then you get engaged in December and spend your senior spring planning a lovely summer wedding. Engagement is a validation of the months or years you’ve spent in relationship with this person, working hard to determine whether you are ready to give the whole of your lives to each other. It is a beautiful step in the journey to lifelong relationship and covenant, and I’m truly excited to support some dear friends as they embark on this journey.

Even so, as a lady who has spent the last three and a half years in a state of persistent singleness, all this talk of weddings is at times a bit hard to take. In the spirit of honesty and openness, I’ll confess that initially it brings up all of the old frustrations which stem from a place of jealousy and are reinforced by a persistent societal inferiority. It is frustrating to have desires for oneness, closeness, and companionship left unfulfilled. It is frustrating to go out alone and feel like restaurants, movie theaters, and even grocery stores are not designed to be enjoyed by the single. It is frustrating to pursue close friendship with those who devote so much emotional energy to romantic pursuits that they have little time left for friends. It is frustrating to feel personally and socially incomplete. In short, it is frustrating to know that there is space in your soul for deep union with another and to feel the ache of that space being left untouched, especially as it seems your friends are getting something you’re not.

And then I realize, this is ridiculous. I’m twenty years old. I can’t even buy myself a glass of wine in which to drown my sorrows.  I’m far too young to be a bitter old maid. Because being single does not make me incomplete. My friends who devote so much of themselves to these relationships aren’t trying to hurt me or alienate me. I didn’t blow my one shot at eternal happiness by not dating in college. The whole idea that the purest happiness comes from marriage undermines the truth that the only way to fill that empty space is through genuine union with the heart of Jesus. That ache, that loneliness, that frustration, and that persistent sense that something is missing is more than the desire for a husband, it is the desire for a savior. And the gift of ultimate redemption, of being welcomed into the kingdom as one deeply beloved, is not reserved for the married. As John Newton wrote centuries ago, to the married and unmarried alike:

 The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

Why then, with such a beautiful and permanent promise, do I have any cause for worry or fear? Perhaps it’s because for a while it seems I’ve been told that my husband is out there waiting for me as I wait for him, that I’m absolutely entitled to a lifetime of marital bliss, and that just when I stop looking, that soulmate will come along and take away all of the ache and all of the loneliness.

These promises come from easily-resolved chick flicks, churches reinforcing the American concept of family above all else, fairytales in school, and even the examples of relatives and family friends. Somehow, I just haven’t managed to find many single folks to fill the role of mentor in my life. And while I’m grateful to have received personal and spiritual direction from married folks, I can’t help but feel a piece of my education is missing. Paul writes time and time again about how he thinks that it is better for man to remain single and how those who are married face many difficulties which often make it more challenging to pursue wholehearted service. And yet, it often feels as though all we see are announcements of weddings, celebrations of births, and the creation of a culture in which singleness is more of a disease to be cured than a gift to be valued. 

The body is bigger and more beautiful than any of that. It is not a place for married couples to meet other married couples and raise their kids and talk about their retirement plans. It is not a place for single people to meet other single people and get married so they can raise their kids and talk about their retirement plans. It is where single people and married folks find common ground and enter into life together. Yes, we rejoice at a wedding, but a wedding should plant a seed for deeper engagement with the kingdom and the community, not push the couple into focusing so much on their own relationship and family that they are no longer able to reach out.  And just as we take joy from a wedding, we should also rejoice when a man who is not bound to wife makes a commitment to devote his time, talents, energy and resources in an entirely different but equally valuable way to the contributions of the family man. It hurts our culture to elevate one state of being above all others, whether it is dating or single or thin or old or young or intellectual or artistic. We need everybody. Together. 

So, to my single brothers and sisters, take heart. Not everyone gets married right after college. More importantly, not everyone gets married at all. You are not an empty, unfulfilled, shell of a human being. You have been given a gift in this moment, a lifestyle and perspective that is different and valuable and important to be shared with your single and married friends alike. And, most important of all, you are not alone. The love and completeness you desire is offered freely by the your soul’s redeemer whether you marry or not. The church is more than just a place to meet your husband or wife, it is a place to form deep and authentic relationships with the body which challenge you in spiritual and personal growth. Some of you are called to singleness for a lifetime, others for just a season. But wherever you are, don’t imagine that the married folks are getting off easy, are completely fulfilled, or no longer desire your friendship. Take the hard step of reaching out, engaging with and learning from those who have been given a different gift. Your married friends still need you. And you still need them.

To the church, it’s been too long that we’ve seem marriage preached as the ultimate fulfillment and encouraged pastoral matrimony to the point where single leadership in the faith is hard to come by. I’ve visited at least a dozen churches in the past year, and engaged with half a dozen others through podcasts and blogs. I cannot remember a single church from the bunch that was not led by a married man. There are nearly three times as many books on Amazon written for Christian couples as there are for Christian singles (and even fewer for singles who aren’t trying to find a spouse). Our attitude, our culture, has got to change. Henri Nouwen, one of the most inspiring and encouraging, honest and genuine authors of the faith I’ve encountered, was celibate and single his entire life. The Apostle Paul never married, and yet authored a substantial portion of the New Testament. Many of the saints never married. Are we to assume that there was something wrong with them? Or is it possible that they were simply fulfilling the call of God in their life in the same way those who married young desire to do? Lift up the singles in your congregation, not as oddities, but as treasures. Encourage a life of singleness with the same ferocity you devote to the pursuit of healthy marital relationships. God loves the artist and the businessman, the explorer and the homemaker, and the husband and the monk with equal passion, and has placed a unique calling in each of their hearts with purpose and intention.Who are we to say any of those gifts are of lesser value or need to be replaced by a more socially encouraged gift?

And to my dear friends who are dating, engaged, or married, let me first say that I truly admire, applaud, and respect the path you’re on. It takes incredible devotion and strength of character, honesty and commitment, forgiveness and love, hope and faith to sustain such a close relationship between two people. The journey towards a lifetime of healthy commitment is far from simple or easy. I cannot pretend to understand the joys and sacrifices which comprise your relationship with your beloved. But I would, from my heart, ask you to remember that your beloved is only a part of the fullness of life God has in store for you. Fullness derived from engagement in community in which you have not chosen or been chosen by every member, community comprised of the sorts of folks with whom you would never have elected to spend the rest of your life, but are part of your family nonetheless. Keep a place in your heart for your single friends, even when it seems easier to hang out with other couples or spend most of your time with your spouse. Let your relationship bring you closer to God as you learn new ways to engage His heart together, and then share what you’ve learned with the body. Marriage is a public ceremony for a reason – the covenant is also with the community, and your responsibility to your community is just as important as your duties to your spouse.

In closing, some words from the blog of Andrew Arndt, pastor of Bloom Church in Denver. The original post can be found here

I also tried to draw attention to the fact that Jesus seems to think that marriage is not for everyone (this was the point that got the most response, especially out of our heavily singled crowd).  When the disciples say to him, “In that case, it is better not to be married!”, Jesus doesn’t reply by saying, “Oh no no no, marriage is great and everyone should do it!”  Rather, he says, “You’re right.  But some have been given the call to be married, and those who have should accept.”  This is basically similar to what Paul says in 1 Co 7.  ”Each has his own gift from God…”

So marriage is a high calling

And so is singleness

Both have an indispensable place in the church

My concluding points from all of this reflection were these…

1) Being single is not evidence of some kind of pathology, which is exactly the way we treat it in the modern church.  ”Married” is the normal mode of sexual life, and “single” is abnormal.  So we create “singles ministries” in the hopes of “ministering to the special needs” of single people.  This is exactly backwards from the early church, which understood that singleness was the “normal” mode of life for God’s new people in Christ, since, unlike Judaism, the religion didn’t grow by procreation but by witness and conversion.  You’ve heard it said, “God has no grandchildren”.  And that’s right.  So if you’re single, I said, EMBRACE THE MOMENT.  God may call you to be married, but you ought to carpe diem and give yourself over to the purposes of God in the very rich and marvelous way that Paul commends in 1 Co 7.

Carpe diem indeed, friends. Let’s go change some hearts.

(And for those of you who may not know much about blogging, I can’t tell you the difference a simple comment and willingness to engage makes to us lonely typists out there. Write back if you agree. Write back if you’re angry. Write back if you lost interest halfway through. But anytime you read a blog. Write back.)

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Written by Taylor Webster

January 12, 2012 at 2:07 pm

15 Responses

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  1. Thanks for the reference twentybydesign!

    andrewsporch

    January 12, 2012 at 2:51 pm

  2. 1. you are brilliant
    2. too often people, under the pressure of the society that screams ‘being not single equals being really happy!’, desperately want to be in a relationship just to change the facebook status to ‘in a relationship’ and by doing this to become ‘the normal person’ that everyone expects her/him to be. Especially, I think it applies to women. The moment when one realizes – there is no NEED to be in a relationship, there’s no need of someone to love, – is the moment of true liberation. This is thinking and living outside the box. Or, outside the cage.
    anyways, the text you wrote is truly beautiful. I totally agree.
    3. you are brilliant. did I say this already? good, because I can repeat this statement every second of my life. !

    Irina Yakubovskaya

    January 12, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    • Our Starry Night conversation about all of this made my heart so happy. I’m glad to be sharing life with you. Recognizing that relationships are not the only or even the most true path to completeness and freedom is among the first steps to seeing just how loved and valued you are right where you are, today. I’m looking forward to more great talks in the future 🙂

      twentybydesign

      February 5, 2012 at 1:26 am

  3. The point you make about Jesus being the ultimate fulfiller of hearts and purpose is paramount. You have challenged me as a married person in how I see the single life – even as a married person who often preaches singleness as a highly honored call. Thank you for the reminder and charge to bring about this change of perspective in the communities we are in. As I always say, in the eternal scheme of things, marriage lasts only for this lifetime. After death it ceases! That fact alone should give us some perspective to its deficiency in our souls fulfillment. The only one we will be married to eternally is Christ, and all of us have access to that endless relationship here and now. He should be our – a communal our – sole focus and source of identity, joy, peace, and fulfillment. So hear hear friend! Well said.

    Julie

    January 12, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    • Yay to community, to fulfillment, to unique callings, and to love flowing through and tying it all together! Your well-worded thoughts bring joy to my heart. Thank you for all the love and support and inspiration 🙂

      twentybydesign

      February 5, 2012 at 1:27 am

  4. I like your point about how most of the great apostles were single men.. I wonder how our churches would differ is single men had a more predominant role?
    I also think i’m very blessed to be living with such a wise person. 🙂 God is the only one who can fill our hearts!

    Sarah

    January 13, 2012 at 1:29 am

    • That’s on my list of things to ask the apostles when we all get to chill together in heaven! I’ll also say that I’ve been blessed to have you and Sarah as roommates and to see some truly blessed and God-centered relationships in action. You guys inspire and challenge me to think outside the perspective I’ve been given.

      twentybydesign

      February 5, 2012 at 1:29 am

  5. you have learned much grasshopper. your thoughts always bring a tear to my eye knowing someone cares so much for others. your gift of prose and poetry is serving the kingdom well. it has been a joy and an emotional journey to watch you grow and continue to seek His will. i have had similar thoughts over time. from one who was single for many years be comforted in knowing there is always fulfillment no matter what the stage of your life. the journey is the goal and as you look forward and i look back the perspective is different, but the prize remains the same.

    love you

    deedoh

    January 13, 2012 at 6:05 am

    • Journey is the goal. Might feel like a pit stop at times but remember to hop back on the road. God still wants to walk with you and love on you and surprise you. Love you love you love you.

      twentybydesign

      February 5, 2012 at 1:31 am

  6. AMEN sister. You have given me insight into how to communicate this with others. Thank you so much.

    On a related note…

    Royal Langer

    January 13, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    • Ah, yes brotha! I’ve seen this before and absolutely love it. Thanks for all your feedback and encouragement.

      twentybydesign

      February 5, 2012 at 1:31 am

  7. Wow, you’ve captured the beauty of what God has called us to in this life. It is so easy to get caught up pursuing this thing in which our culture places so much value. Thank you. I’ve noticed the same thing about a lot of people getting engaged (granted we know a lot of the same people).

    Devin

    January 13, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    • Thanks for reading all the way through, Devin, I know it was a lot of words 🙂 And thank you for the encouragement of your testimony this week. God has given us so many beautiful gifts right where we are.

      twentybydesign

      February 5, 2012 at 1:33 am

  8. […] writing Wedding Season, I’ve had a flurry of interesting and thoughtful conversations. It’s amazing to see […]

  9. […] year ago, Wedding Season was a beautiful opportunity for me to open a constructive dialogue on the role of the single soul […]


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