You don’t hear many older folks advising the youth to prepare for singleness. Is singleness a lesser state of existence than that of the married existence? The apostle Paul was not married, and therefore was able to devote his life solely to Christ, unburdened by the stresses and responsibilities of marriage. I’ve heard it said that marriage and the raising of a godly family is the highest calling we can have as Christians. I say yes and no.
Marriage and the family are both sacred institutions created by God for our benefit and His glory. Indeed, for many of us, marriage and family are our highest callings (at least in a societal context). Depending on how you view marriage and family, it may sound to you as though I’m saying that many of us are called to be ordinary, but I’m not saying that at all. My beliefs lie with the sentiments of the great Lou Holtz who said, “I can’t believe that God put us on this earth to be ordinary.” Getting married and having a family is far from menial or ordinary. Essentially, all of society is built upon the institutions of marriage, and the family. As far as I see it (and I could be completely wrong) the biggest problem in this world is not the Lost, but Christians not living as Christians should—like Christ. Our culture is a mess, and this is because the church is in shambles, and this is because of families and marriages not putting God first. If we want to change this world for the better, forging strong godly marriages and raising up a family devoted to Christ is the perfect place to start.
I think very highly of marriage and the family, and many people are called to this. Many people can serve God best married, however, this does not go for everyone. Simply saying that marriage and having a family is the highest calling for anyone and everyone just isn’t true, and in an ultimate context, it’s nobody’s “highest calling”. Singleness isn’t a tier below marriage. It’s on equal footing. Of course, the quality of each state is also extremely important in determining the value of one or the other. A dysfunctional marriage is much less effective at serving God than a devoted single person using their life to honor Christ, and of course, a marriage serving God will be a thousand times better than a single living a life of self-indulgence. But my point is marriage is not necessarily better than singleness. Marriage and singleness are two different but equal states of life.Some are called to one, some to the other.
Yet you still never hear the advice to prepare for singleness. Why? Is there nothing to be prepared for? Is singleness just a breeze? You don’t have to know or do anything to be single?
To answer my own questions, yes. Well, “yes” to the last question. You’re already single! So of course, there are no requirements other than existing. You don’t have to know or do anything to be single—at least—in the same way as you don’t have to know or do anything to be married (besides going through all that legal stuff, and maybe having a wedding). Seriously, you don’t have to have a job to be married. You don’t have to know how to manage a household to be married. Age is the only requirement. But we don’t just want any old marriages, we want strong, God-honoring marriages, right? The same thing goes for singleness. We want God-honoring “singlages”. (Yes, I coined that term myself.)
So, chances are, if we have to prepare to have strong godly marriages, then we have to prepare to be strong and godly singles. If this is the case, then the question remains: how do you prepare for singleness?
In order to get an idea as to what the answer could be to this quandary, let’s look at what it takes to be prepared for marriage.
Ultimately, everything you need to be ready for marriage come from the inside—character. Money means nothing, a job means nothing, the ability to grow all your own food and make all your own clothes means nothing, and I’m sorry mom, but the ability to make chocolate cake also is not a prerequisite to marriage. Now, all of these things DO mean something, but only if you have the character of Christ first. They only mean nothing if you don’t have the right internal qualifications first. That’s why I said my list—Ultimately—means nothing.
What kind of character do we need to have in order to be prepared for marriage? “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” –Galatians 5:22-23.
We need to have the fruit of the spirit to be ready for marriage. We need to be selfless, kind, faithful, good, gentle, responsible, self-controlled, dependable, hardworking, diligent—in other words we need to have the character of Christ. Of course, this means we can never be truly prepared for marriage, because we aren’t perfect, and we can’t perfectly be Christ, but we can reflect Christ in ourselves.
But wait! You say. What about all those “heartwarming” stories about couples who say, *cue dramatic voice* “We LOVE each other, and that’s all we NEEEED-ahh!” As enjoyable as it can be to laugh at such expressions, they actually have it right. Really, all you need to be prepared for marriage is love. REAL love, not what our culture says is love. If you really love your spouse, then selfishness won’t be an issue. You’ll gladly sacrifice your needs for theirs. If you love your spouse, then young men, you’ll get a job to support your family before you’re married. If you love your spouse, then young women, you’ll be preparing to be a suitable helper. If you love, peace won’t be a problem. Patience? You realize you don’t have to be impatient. You do have time, in fact, “We have eternity,” you say. You can’t help but be kind and good. The thought of not being faithful never enters your mind, and you are nothing but gentle and self-controlled—if you have love.
Does it mean you don’t love your spouse if you ever fail to be selfless or kind or self-controlled or patient? No, it just means that your love is imperfect. It means you still have some work to do.
If these character traits—the character of Christ—is what we need to be prepared for marriage, then what do we need to be prepared for singleness? Well, marriage is tougher than singleness, right? So surely we can cut out some of the fruit of the spirit. Let’s see…love. We don’t need to have love if we’re single, right? Of course not. We all need love, and we are all called to love. Love the way Jesus directed us to love, which means sacrificing for others. No one is exempt from love. After all, the Christian life essentially boils down to loving God and loving your neighbor.
Okay, so we can’t cut love out. What about joy? Surely we don’t need to be joyful all the time when we’re single. What’s there to be joyful about? Look at all the fun all the married people are having driving all their kids around in 15-passenger vans. This may come as a shock, but we can and should be joyful when we’re unmarried. I know some people who see being joyful in all things as a burden, but it’s the complete opposite! Joy is a pervasive sense of well-being. It’s a confidence in Christ and faith that the Lord is in control. It’s believing that He will provide for us no matter what happens. Who wouldn’t want that? Sure, there are times to be sad, but never a reason to be depressed. Depression is the rejection of joy. Of hope. What Christ did on the cross is so incredible, that we should never lose hope.
I guess we have to keep joy. What about peace and patience? All the statistics show that married people live longer. This means I have less time to live than most people! I must be entitled to stress and worry then, right? Nope. Stress and worry are a sin. It shows a lack of faith in God. The Lord is in control no matter what our circumstances may be. If we really believe that He is Lord, and that He loves us, then we would never even think of worrying. Just got evicted? Have no job? No food? Serve God, and He will provide. Stress and worry are no fun anyway. Let’s just give them up, there is no reason to hang on to them. Unmarried persons have no reason to lack peace or patience either. These virtues are just as important to the unmarried as they are to the married folk.
That brings us to our next set of spiritual fruit. Now, this I will concede. Singles do not need to be kind or good. This is the one exception. If you are not married, you have every right to be mean and to do all sorts of evils, such as ding-dong ditching and TPing. (If you couldn’t tell, I was being sarcastic. Of course singles need to be kind and good. I don’t think anyone would dispute this.)
Faithfulness? Gentleness? Self-control? Does anyone want to argue that us unmarried people don’t need to have these character traits in our lives? I didn’t think so.
Putting on the character of Christ is just as relevant to singles, as it is to married people (Wait a minute…wasn’t Jesus unmarried?).
So if the things we need to be doing to prepare ourselves for marriage are the same things we should be doing if we are supposed to live an unmarried life (becoming like Christ), then why do people always talk about preparing for marriage, and never talk about preparing for singleness? Singles need to have jobs. Singles need to be responsible, and most of all, singles need to be like Christ too. The phrases should be interchangeable. Preparing for marriage is preparing for singleness, and preparing to be single should leave you off a perfect candidate for marriage.
Ultimately, when we really look at what is going on here, the focus is wrong. We shouldn’t be orienting and defining our lives by our relationship to a spouse—either having one or not having one. The chief end of man is not to find a spouse and raise children, and it’s not to be single either. The chief end of man is to glorify Christ and enjoy Him forever. Our lives should be solely focused on God, not on whether or not we have a spouse.
This means, we shouldn’t be focusing our lives around marriage or singleness. What happens when you get married? Is your life fulfilled? No! You have many more years left to live in which you are to glorify and enjoy Christ. They only difference is, you won’t be doing it alone. We shouldn’t be focusing on how to prepare for marriage, but rather on how we can become more like Christ: discipleship.
Now obviously, if you know you are going to be getting married, then it’s never a bad idea to pay some attention to preparing yourself for some specifics of that outcome, like being able to make chocolate cake for your wife. (Yes, you’re right mom!). If you know God is calling you to marriage, then learning the specifics of what it takes to be a good spouse and parent is a very good thing to do. But if you don’t know what God is calling you to, that’s okay, just focus on Him.
The danger of placing so much emphasis on “preparing for marriage” is that marriage can become glorified to the point where it’s more important than God, or at the very least, we can become discontent with singleness. Being discontent with singleness is never a good situation to be in. For one thing, you’ll be miserable, and for another, it will make you more vulnerable to rushing into things with someone you may not be compatible with. All sorts of problems can arise from that outcome.
Throughout this post, I’ve put myself on the side of the singles. Does this mean I think I’m going to be single my whole life? Maybe, maybe not, but that’s not my point. The point is, I’m single now. Right now I’m called to singleness. Singleness is my highest societal calling—right now.
Marriage and a family is not what I am being called to right now. This could change, but I know right now my highest societal calling is singleness, but not just singleness–a singleness devoted to glorifying Christ and enjoying Him. Part of that means enjoying the family I have now, and the place in life God has put me right now.
Never think that where you are now is just a staging area before your ultimate “highest calling”. Where you are—right now—is exactly where God has placed you; there can be no greater place. And whether you’re meant to be single or married, really doesn’t matter. Don’t put all your focus on marriage or the lack thereof. What matters is becoming more like Christ. If you do that, you’ll be prepared for anything.
Article from Reagan Ramm Blog