The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.
(1 Corinthians 7:32-35 ESV)
Tonight as I drove home from picking up my dinner, I heard a Valentine’s Day advertisement on the radio. This is a pretty typical night for me. If I’m not working, I get up from whatever school work I’m doing, drive to get dinner or make myself dinner at home, and then go back to what I’m doing.
These days I don’t have any dates to plan. I don’t have anyone special I’m coming home to, or I’m trying to find time to sneak away and see. So tonight as I drove home, alone, to an empty house I found myself jarred by this radio advertisement. Making your big plans?! Come on out to ____________ and have some drinks with your special someone! Sometimes it takes a stupid ad to remind you that there isn’t a special someone.
I remember hearing of people who had entered into their mid-20s as singles without any prospects of changing that and thinking, “Man, that life must be terrible.” Though I’ve known for a while that I’m living that life, it was just tonight that it hit me. It’s not that I haven’t been on dates—I have! It’s not even that I’m anti-social or that I’m some sort of recluse. If you ask anyone I know, they’d tell you that I’m one of the most social people that they know. Now that “terrible life” is my life.
I remember in year’s past not having dates on Valentine’s Day and being frustrated or angry. As I drove down the road, I heard that radio ad and the thoughts flooded into my mind. You’re still single. You’ll always be single. Everyone else has someone. You’ve failed at this part of your life. You haven’t had a date in months—something must be wrong with you.
A lot of singles take on hobbies, give themselves over to endless Netflix watching, become exercise fanatics, or any number of things to distract them from their singleness. It’s as if the moment we realize that we are single, we realize that this means that we are alone. Sometimes, one is the loneliest number. And so we push it deep down, and even though we congratulate our friends after every new engagement (seriously, do these things ever end? Can I at least ban them from my Facebook feed? Do you even remember what it feels like to change that status to In A Relationship?), we silently begrudge our friends. We become jealous of their happiness and angry at how our singleness has become a passing joke to them or, even worse, like the leper of conversation topics (Do Not Touch!). We quietly hate ourselves for failing to—to what? be attractive enough? find someone? fall in love?—do whatever we had to do to not be alone. And for many of us, if we are honest, have quietly fostered a nest egg of resentment towards God, who seems to be the parent who gives us everything we want except the thing we want the most. And when we begrudge our friends, hate ourselves and resent God, that is when we truly feel the weight of loneliness.
As the radio ad played and the frustrated thoughts flooded in, something else happened. Years of no Valentine’s Day dates, month after month of seeing friends find their match, and thousands of prayers prayed for God to send me someone came to mind. As they came to mind, they transformed. I found myself not caring that I don’t have a Valentine. For far too long in my life and the life of many other singles, Valentine’s Day has been a reminder of our singleness. Single’s Awareness Day. Not any more.
When it comes to an awareness of my singleness, you know what days stand out? Not Valentine’s Day. Not Christmas and its mistletoe. Not July 4 weekends when couples go to the lake, or New Years when lovers kiss as the ball drops, and not Halloween when the matching costumed couples come to the party.
It’s the small days that remind me I’m single.
I’m reminded I’m single when I plan out my week of 30+ hours of work and 15 hours of master’s degree classes.
I’m reminded I’m single when I have time to meet with a high school student only hours after he and his serious girlfriend broke up and he’s devastated.
I’m reminded I’m single when I meet with other single guys for times of confession, prayer, and then hanging out without a time limit or anyone I need to run back to.
I’m reminded I’m single on the weeks when every single night or every single lunch is booked with some sort of discipleship, counseling, or venting session.
I’m reminded I’m single when big opportunities come up and I consider uprooting my life on a moment’s notice.
I’m reminded I’m single, and have been single for some time, when I am able to walk with newly out of college guys through their struggles in singleness.
I’m reminded I’m single when I get to read on my night’s off for hours with little to no other distractions.
I’m reminded I’m single when I make decisions for others without much more than a second thought as to how it will require sacrifice from me.
The Apostle Paul calls this the undivided life. Too many of us have spent an unreasonable amount of time suppressing our devastation at the fact that we are still single. Our time would have been far better spent investing in others, and not creating a cycle of self-misery.
Dating is fun. Having someone is nice; it’s nice to have someone.
Marriage is a great and sacred thing. It is a picture of the gospel itself—a picture of self-sacrifice, servitude, and submission. We can not speak highly enough of marriage.
When I read the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, I can’t help but come away with the idea that singleness is not just an acceptable alternative to marriage for people who aren’t adequate marriage material. Instead, it seems that there is something about singleness that is better in some way. It’s the undivided life.
Sure, you may not have Valentine’s Day dates. But 24 years without a Valentine’s Day date is not a referendum on the quality of your life, nor a judgment of your likeability. It’s not a condemnation to a lifetime with Valentine’s Day dates, or a promise to remain single forever. No, singleness today is just a reminder that today and every other day that you are single is another day that you are able to live an undivided life.
If you’re single this Valentine’s Day, eat a whole pint of ice cream in your pajamas while marathoning Parks and Recreation.
Who’s to impress? You’re single.
More importantly, take Valentine’s Day and every other day and live it with your interests undividedly focused on the Lord.
After all, you’re single.
Single and alone on Valentine’s Day is far superior to being married and with someone who prefers the bottle. Just because you have a warm body next to you does not always equal happiness. Also, sometimes married folks look at singles with a little bit of envy (! It is nice to come home to a quiet place.)