[Adapted from this past Sunday’s message at The District Church, “Being Single.”]
My friend Eugene Cho joked that it can sometimes seem like single is actually a compound word, made up of two parts: “SIN and GLE.” And Erin Dufault-Hunter, one of my ethics professors at Fuller, said in a class, “Being single in evangelical culture is one of the loneliest lives a person can lead.” That’s a reality that I’ve experienced at various points in my life; that may be a reality that you’ve experienced too—maybe that’s a reality that you’re experiencing right now.
This week I asked this on social media: “What burning thought/question/issue do/did you have as a single person?” A few folks responded, including some pastor friends around the country. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, many responses were very similar. In fact, they were questions that I’ve asked God at various points in my own story:
- “How long will I have to wait?”
- “Why me? What have I done to ‘deserve’ this?”
- “Did I miss my chance w/ so-and-so?”
I want to begin this blog series with an apology. I’m sorry for where we as the church have failed to provide a safe space for single people to be who God has created them to be. I’m sorry that we have not always provided a shelter and shield from the messages that say:
- there must be something wrong with you, or
- you’re not good enough, or
- there’s only one person and you may have missed your chance.
And I’m sorry that we have not always challenged you—in love—to refuse to listen to the messages that say you should have as much fun (read: sex) as you can before you ‘settle down’ for a life of boring monogamy, to refuse to be conformed to the mindset of the world that says sex is just one appetite among many that just needs to be fed, and to discover what life as lived to its full potential really looks like. I’m sorry.
Please know that it is our heart as The District Church to provide a home and a family for everyone, wherever you may be on your journey of faith and whatever your relationship status. I’m sorry if we’ve ever communicated that life doesn’t begin until you say, “I do.” Speaking as a pastor, I’m sorry on behalf of the church—and speaking as a pastor of The District Church, I’m sorry on behalf of our church; and I pray that wherever you are, God begins a work of healing in you for whatever harm has been done to you—intentionally or unintentionally—by the church or those in it.
Through this series, we have intentionally tried not to focus exclusively on romantic relationships for the simple reason that this is what the world—and, actually, the church sometimes—already does, placing an overemphasis on romance solving every problem or on meeting the one who will complete you. Fact #1: you are an incomplete, flawed, and broken person. Fact #2: you will not find your completion in another incomplete, flawed, and broken person. Pastor and author Tim Keller writes:
the picture of marriage given [in the Bible] is not of two needy people, unsure of their own value and purpose, finding their significance and meaning in one another’s arms. If you add two vacuums to each other, you only get a bigger and stronger vacuum, a giant sucking sound. (The Meaning of Marriage, 52)
The early church theologian Augustine wrote:
You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.
We are made for God, and God alone will truly satisfy the deepest longings of our souls. And that’s the starting point for where we’re going.