Monday, May 4, 2009

Singleness (Without Bitterness)

Following the service, the young adults at my church tend to congregate in a certain section of the lobby. As I exited the sanctuary yesterday, I approached one of the girls who happened to be standing by herself at the time.
"Hi! How are you?" I asked.
"Tired," she responded, with a grumbled tone. "I couldn't stand that sermon. What am I supposed to do? Apply it to my cats?"
Though I, too, was not an especially big fan of the service, a part of the current parenting series, I found myself a bit taken aback by her negativity regarding the situation. Though I must admit I have heard similar comments in past conversations, both with this girl and with others.

I've come to realize there are two approaches to the world of female singleness. You can let it make you bitter. Or you can let God use it.

Please understand that, in writing this, I am not trying to imply that my current state of singleness is especially easy for me. I frequently struggle with finding contentment in my present circumstances. Nevertheless, I can look back, even within the past few months, and see just how much God has used this time in my life. And, while it can be difficult, I realize just how beneficial it can be as well.

As I begin, I think it necessary to mention that, no matter what your marital status may be, your primary focus should be strengthening your relationship with God. If you are not spending time with Him each day, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of doing so.

In a state of singleness, you are at an extreme advantage in this area. Developing the habit of spending time reading the Bible each day is certainly not something that suddenly becomes easier once you are married. Yes, I realize you are busy. We all are. But the number of distractions with which you presently find yourself is fairly limited in comparison to others. Use that advantage. Let the Word become a part of your daily life. I guarantee it will make a difference. (If you don't believe me, ask me about it sometime.)

Read Scripture daily. Read whatever else you can. A friend asked me recently about my routine in doing so. The following is what I shared with her:
I like to start my day by reading the Bible. By doing this in the morning, I find that it sets the tone for my day, plus I am guaranteed to have time for it. Because I like structure, I use this reading plan. I know there are many others available if you prefer something different. Then, I save all other reading for later in the day. Typically I will read from a Christian formation book immediately prior to bedtime. This usually ends up being a chapter or less, and sometimes even just a few pages. And any other reading time I happen to have that day can be used for whatever else I am reading. Though your schedule might be entirely different than mine, I encourage you to find something that works for you. And stick to that.

That being said, here are a few additional ways I have found I can allow God to use my current state of singleness:

1. Become skilled.

Though I do not speak from experience in saying this, I am fairly confident that loving and serving a family is not an easy task. So learn all you can beforehand. Opportunities to do so are abundant:

Learn to cook. One of my single friends cooks a meal for her parents and siblings once a week. Another just makes a big batch of something and freezes it in individually sized portions. Or use cooking as a means of practicing hospitality, and invite others over.

Learn to clean. I feel kind of dumb including this, since keeping your house clean should not be limited to those who are married. But I have found many instances in which my roommates or friends have come to me asking a housekeeping question. Sometimes I know the answer, and sometimes I don't. But the more "weird" little tricks you pick up on now, the better. Plus, I think it is probably good to practice keeping things clean now, because it is not a habit you will immediately gain with marriage.

Watch other people's children. In doing so, you will not only gain experience but also can be a huge blessing to that family. You can learn various practices which you want (or in some cases, don't want) to use. Sometimes you can even pick up on little traditions which you would like to make a part of your own family someday. (I keep an ongoing list on my computer of potential "future traditions" that I add to whenever I hear an interesting idea.)

Learn whatever else you can.

2. Pray.

Prayer is one way you can be loving and serving your future husband, even if you do not yet know who he is. And I acknowledge that it does feel kind of awkward at first. But, just as God is using your singleness, He is also using the singleness of your future spouse. So what better way to support him than in prayer? I used this template to get started, though it is actually for married women. Once you get in the habit of doing that, add prayer for your future children as well. My mom previously wrote of the importance of this.

3. Save.

Establishing positive financial habits now will certainly prove beneficial in the future. You have no idea what kind of debt with which your husband might be entering the marriage. Saving now will enable you as a couple to pay off that debt more quickly. And build a good credit score. This could be extremely helpful to you as a couple if he has had past financial difficulty. And if he, too, is in good financial order, the money you saved might better enable you to buy a house. Or allow you to stay home with your children someday. Or pay for their college education.

4. Establish relationships.

Once you have a family, your husband and children will become a priority. As it should be. But this will obviously detract from your ability to invest in others. Community is an essential part of the Christian faith, whether or not you are married. But it takes more effort when you are single. I would encourage you to make that effort. Build up your friendships with other believers. Learn from them. And take the time to help others along in their walk with Christ. While this certainly can take place within friendships, I find it to take other forms as well. Maybe it is with the children you babysit. Maybe you teach Sunday school. Maybe you mentor. Or maybe you simply make sure the new girl feels welcomed. Whatever form it takes, if you enable God, He will use you.

I realize this post, while certainly longer than I originally intended, is certainly not exhaustive. What would you add? What do you wish you would have known when you were single? What were you glad you knew?


Miss Liss said...

Good points, Laura. Reading your Bible is a big one. Many people, although in their head know they will still need God as much when in a relationship, may not realize that to the full extent in their heart. Whatever time you're at in your life you need God, and developing him into your routine is the best way to know you aren't neglecting this.

Laura said...

I completely agree, Melissa. In certain stages of life it can be far too easy to forget just how much you need God. But it becomes much more difficult to forget when His word is embedded into your daily schedule (and consequently into your being).