By Rachel Freeny
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman raised in the church must be in want of a husband.
I have no idea how to be single.
This strange realization hit me, seemingly out of the blue, one night as I drove from Birmingham to Atlanta. I say strange because I am twenty-three years old and have been single the whole time. You'd think that by now I'd have the whole single and ready to mingle thing down pat.
Truth be told, when I graduated from college I felt more prepared to be married than to be single. Churches and campus ministries had done their job well. I had several notebooks filled with notes from multiple “Dating and Marriage” series, a few creative sermons on Song of Solomon and plenty of advice on how to be a godly wife (thanks, Proverbs 31).
Classic Christian dating books lined my bookshelf. From Lady in Waiting to Passion and Purity to When God Writes Your Love Story, I left no stone unturned while learning how to prepare myself for my future spouse.
The problem was when senior year rolled around and there was no future husband in sight. Suddenly all those years of prep to meet Mr. Right and blow him away with how Proverbs 31-like I was seemed like a real waste of time.
Like many a single Christian sister before me, I irrationally concluded that God had called me to be a female Paul, blessed with the gift of singleness. My assumption was further confirmed when I spent Christmas break watching BBC miniseries with my cat.
My resigned acceptance to a life of spinsterhood was just starting to settle in when a professor chased a rabbit in class one day. Dr. Marler, with her crown of gray hair and eyes that literally sparkled when she spoke, told us that the best way to prepare for marriage is to stop looking for our other half. The healthiest marriages, she said, are comprised of two people who are whole on their own.
Her words sank deep into my soul, and I knew then what I had to do. For my own sake, and not for the sake of my future husband, I needed to discover who Christ had created me to be. I felt free for the first time in years.
Still, here I am at twenty-three learning what it means to be single. All those years of prep did teach me how to be single, but only in light of a future marriage. I think the church does a disservice to its young men and young women when it only teaches them how to become the kind of godly men and women that someone would want to marry. The church should be teaching us how to discover and wrestle with our identity as Christ-followers for the sake of God's mission in the world, not solely for the sake of a theoretical future spouse.
I must clarify that in no way am I anti-marriage or anti-godly dating advice. That's not at all what this is about. This is a challenge for the church to start thinking about singlehood in a new light.
I have seen and experienced firsthand the hurt that can come from years of being told, maybe not in so many words, that if we prepare ourselves to be a godly spouse by reading all the right books and praying all the right prayers, we will get the promised spouse. Singlehood has been treated like a waiting room before “real life” begins.
This line of thinking cheapens the work of Christ in our lives. We were not created primarily to be someone's spouse. We are created to bring glory to God and do the work of the kingdom. If that means marriage and kids are some of the ways we get to do that, great. If not, that's okay because God's work in our lives is not limited by the ring, or lack thereof, on our finger.
The time is now for the Christian community to start engaging singleness beyond “Dating and Marriage” seminars. I don't have a magical solution, but seeing singles as more than spouses-in-training is a pretty good place to start.
Rachel Freeny is a recent graduate of Samford University with a degree in Journalism/Mass Communication. Originally from Nashville, she is a first year student on the Global Christianity track at McAfee. Rachel is excited to be a part of the Tableaux team because she loves to tell stories that matter. When she's not studying, she enjoys exploring and eating her way through the South.