Singleness of Heart: Celebrating Singleness on Valentine’s Day
It’s been on my heart to write about singleness for sometime. Because many of my lovely friends are single. And this blog is not just for wives or mothers. But I was a little reticent about writing on a topic like singleness, as it seems to be a tricky topic to get right. I mentioned to a friend who is single that I wanted to write about the issue of singleness, and her response was ‘Oh please do’. Maybe it is a subject that needs to be talked about more. I am aware that the issue of singleness can be a sensitive issue and I wanted to be careful not to be patronizing or condescending in any way, as I’m aware that some ministry to singles can sometimes be. But nor do I want to dismiss the pain that many single people carry, especially on a date (pardon the pun) such as Valentine’s Day. Not that I am suggesting that singleness is in itself depressing, in fact there are a myriad of different ways of thinking about singleness. But if one is single on Valentine’s Day, images of happy smiling couples, chocolates and red roses can become trite rather quickly. For some singles, the sentiment of celebrating Valentine’s Day may seem like an oxymoron. For many the day may bring back memories of loved ones lost, or may be associated with loneliness. But getting married doesn’t always solve loneliness. And what if happiness is not necessarily found at the end of an altar?
I am happily married. Eight years ago God blessed me with a wonderful husband. But I had to wait for this. It seems that once upon a time, it was the norm in society to marry young. And while many people in my current circles married young, or met their life partner in their teens or at university, statistically speaking this is less common than it used to be. In fact it seems to be a worldwide phenomenon that people are marrying later or not at all. There may be many reasons for this, and it’s not always by choice. While my grandmother married at 18, and my mother at 21, I married in my late twenties. So I have some appreciation for what it is like to be single, as do many of my friends.
I have many friends who are single, some who have been married, some have gone through the trauma of a painful divorce or bereavement. But many of my friends have never married. They are beautiful, intelligent and most importantly good natured people that have very much longed to marry, but have never met the right person. Some of them are happy and content with their singleness. And for others of them, despite leading full lives, they would admit that they carry pain associated with unfulfilled dreams. I once listened to a radio programme on Rhema about why people are delaying marriage and child bearing. I really wanted to write in because no one seemed to mention one obvious answer, that it often really isn’t a choice for many people. They aren’t being fussy, or whatever stereotype others might attach to them, there simply hasn’t been anyone suitable to marry. Often our culture seems to idolize romance, and how much more so on Valentine’s Day. It’s everywhere. And while the world seems to idolize romance and relationships, it seems that in the Christian church, much emphasis is placed on marriage and family. I have heard from many friends over the years that they have felt the pressure to marry from leadership and the culture in their faith community. As if they are a second class citizen if they are unmarried. I find this really sad. I had a flatmate once who said that he thought that women often viewed marriage as their salvation. An interesting insight. Perhaps this is because of the perception of pressure to marry. It’s possible that the Christian church places so much emphasis on marriage as they are wanting to build strong marriages, and because so many marriages struggle. But there is a fine line between encouraging something and having this result in people feeling pressured. I have seen a few people marry the wrong person or ‘settle’ because of the cultural pressure (as well as the desire to marry), with devastating consequences.
But the Bible talks about singleness in a positive light. There is nothing wrong with being single, and because a person is single, it does not mean that there is anything wrong with them either. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul says ‘It’s better to be unmarried than to marry.’ How often do we hear this preached? And why? ‘Because Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. 27 Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a woman marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this’ (1 Corinthians 7:8-10). This does seem to be true, that married people, especially those with families, may face many pressures. And what about the blessings of being single? How often do we hear about the blessings of being single from the pulpit? On the value of being single. I can reflect on singleness in a different way now that I have been married for some time. And if you are single and reading this you may think ‘Well it’s easy for her, she’s married.’ But marriage isn’t easy. Probably any married couple could tell you that. Often by marrying one transfers one set of challenges for another. And the idea that marriage will make you happy is a myth, even a good marriage. I didn’t expect my husband to meet all my needs because he is only human. My purpose, fulfilment, security and identity was not found at the end of an altar, or in saying ‘I do’. As a Christian my identity, purpose and fulfilment is found in my relationship with God.
So how can one celebrate Valentine’s Day without romantic love to celebrate? Valentine’s Day is not just for couples. After all, St Valentine was a bishop who gave up his life for another, his legacy really had nothing to do with romantic love. One could celebrate that they are brave, that they would rather walk alone than be with someone unsuitable for them. I don’t know about you, but I think it would be preferable to be single than in a miserable marriage any day. That they have decided that whether or not love ever arrives, they are going to thrive. One could celebrate that they can love themselves, just as it says in the Bible – ‘To love others….as we love ourself’ (Matthew 22:39). One can celebrate because they realize that they are the cake, and that a relationship is the icing, but with or without icing, a cake is still a cake!
Most importantly, consider meditating on these words of the Lord. He says,
‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’ (Jeremiah 31:3)
‘I will make you like my signet ring for I have chosen you’ (Haggai 2:23)
‘You will be called Sought After’ (Isaiah 62:12)
‘You are precious and honoured in my sight’ ‘ (Isaiah 43:4)
‘See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.’ (Isaiah 49:12)
And perhaps the best way to celebrate His love is to give it to someone else. Many in our world are longing for true love, for unconditional love, and this kind of love can be shared between friends. In fact, Valentine’s Day may be a good opportunity to celebrate the friendships that God has blessed us with.
And whether we are married or single, if we are a believer, we are called to have a ‘singleness of heart’ in our devotion to God. In the book of Jeremiah it reads ‘I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them’. (Jeremiah 32:39) And in the book of Ezekiel it similarly reads ‘And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, so they will obey my decrees and regulations. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God’. (Ezekiel 11:19) Because whether we are single or married, if we are a believer in Jesus, we need to be single hearted in our heart for God. Singleness of heart indicates a unanimous singleness of purpose, whether we have a spouse or not.
I hope that this Valentine’s Day, whether married or single, that we would be encouraged to focus on the One who loves us more deeply and honestly than anyone else could. And that we would know that we are complete in the arms of the Lord.
‘For know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future’ (Jeremiah 29:11)