Have you ever heard a comment and have the Holy Spirit sort of say, “Psst, are you paying attention?” I had one of those moments a couple days ago. In a TV interview, Whoopi Goldberg said, “I always thought if I was married I’d be closer to normal.” As I Googled her for more info, I discovered that she tried to be “closer to normal” three times, and is currently not married. While I enjoy watching Whoopi’s skill as an actress, I know any discussion we might have on spiritual things would be a lively one. 🙂
The moment I heard it, though, I thought, “Yes! I’ve never said it quite that way, but that is exactly how I have often felt.”
In 1978 I attended a large single’s conference at what was then Garden Grove Community Church in Anaheim, California. The week held marvelous speakers, good workshops, and a great time to rub shoulders with an eclectic group of singles. After a few days, though, I grew a bit frustrated because so much of it just didn’t speak to my personal heart. During a question/answer period with Robert Shuller, a man finally asked why there had been no workshops for those who had never married. All the workshops were for divorced or widowed folks. Dr. Shuller didn’t pause even for a second. “There simply aren’t enough of you around.” I was shocked. Even though at the time I was only in my mid-30’s, I already felt very isolated as a single in what seemed to be a married world, and now, I discovered I was in an even more minority group within singles.
Did I want to have gone through the pain of death of a spouse or divorce? Certainly not. I did, however, want to know there were others who grieved the loss of what they had never had. I wanted to know how I could relate better to God in all this. Instead, I felt my deepest heart cries were being ignored and now I was being told they were not even significant enough to address. I went through a long period of grief and anger against the God who said He loved the world so much He sent His Son to die for me so I could enter into eternal life. (John 3:16) I simply did not feel it!
Of course, now, there has been a huge shift in our society. There are more never-married folks for a variety of reasons. Seeing the pain of many shattered marriages has caused some to decide not to make that commitment to one person “for life.” Having experienced the pain of divorce of parents has made an indelible mark on lives of the children who are adults now, who remember how they felt when they were small. And, now, “friends with benefits” become easier if couples live together. Even many Christians have shifted their thinking in these areas, particularly if their children and others dear to them not only live together, but have children without the commitment of marriage.
I believe there are many of us out there like me, however. Some of us have “stayed the course,” fought temptation, and continue to live in the process of “working out our salvation with fear and trembling.” Understand that this does not mean that salvation comes as a result of our good works and intentions, however. Paul continues on in Philippians 2:12-13 that “it is GOD Who works in us to fulfill His good purpose.” Hallelujah! Even so, it’s good to hear an “atta boy/atta girl” from friendly cheerleaders once in awhile. Right?
Unfortunately, though, many of us are not found in churches. No matter how hard churches try to include everyone, many singles feel unrelated to as they age, and it is simply easier to not attend. Numerous books and articles have been written asking how churches can better minister to singles, but I know of none which has transformed singles’ ministries on a large scale. I have discovered, however, that consistent fellowship with other believers is part of the answer to “it’s not good that man be alone” talked about in Genesis 2:18. The richness I find in friendship with a wide span of generations in my church is priceless.
In the past ten years, we’ve had two sermon series on “God”s Design for Marriage” and one series on “God’s Design for Sex” – which again mainly addressed marriage. A few regular-attending single folks decided to skip those Sundays. I sat through every word, even though I had to figure out what was applicable to me. The rest I tucked away for possible future reference. It’s still in storage, by the way.
Fortunately, my pastor is approachable, and I became “Miss Burr Under the Saddle” when it came to requesting at least one sermon on singleness. I inundated his e-mailbox with a great many articles and quotes gleaned from the internet, and, of course, my own copious thoughts. I have to admit, it took a couple years, but it did result in a “God’s Design for Singleness” sermon. I still send him articles and, of course, have invited him to access this blog for the real scoop. 🙂
So, do I feel “closer to normal” now that I realize that may have been cause for a deep root of pain I allowed to grow in my heart? Actually, yes! God is still in the business of uncovering my real feelings which influence my relationship with Him others, and myself. The longings for a spouse to grow old – or older – with are planted in the heart by God. That is a normal thing! He knows exactly what’s on my mind, and years of talking to Him about those longings have drawn me closer to Him and have removed most of the anger and replaced it with contentment – most days..
So what do you think? Is this “normal” thing something you have struggled with? It’s possible that something you share here may be exactly what someone else needs to read.