Today is my thirty-sixth birthday, and I have something I need to get off my chest.
I hate what people in the church call “the gift of singleness.” They talk about it like it’s a white elephant gift or one step below a lump of coal in your stocking. They call it a gift the same way my seventh grade health teacher tried to convince me my period was a gift. And we all know better than that!
The gift of singleness isn’t a present you open on your twenty-fifth birthday, when you realize all your college friends are married but you aren’t. It isn’t something that arrives in your Easter Basket, when you realize you don’t have anyone to share a huge, clove-studded ham and chocolate bunnies with. It isn’t something you get for Christmas, along with your annual AAA membership and airline tickets to Disney World.
The gift of singleness is sort of like the gift of patience. It’s something you know better than to ask God for. It’s a gift you want someone else to have. It’s a consolation prize.
Or at least, that’s always how it comes across when it’s discussed at church. It’s not something that’s really treated with the Paul-esque glory it truly deserves.
The gift of singleness is described in 1 Corinthians 7. Paul says, “I wish that all men were [single] as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.” (v. 7-8, emphasis mine)
Did you get that? It is good to stay unmarried. Paul considers the state of singleness as a state to be preferred. It’s better than being married. In fact, in verse 28, he even has to reassure people, “If you do marry, you have not sinned.” And then there’s the part of that verse that makes me laugh: “But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.”
So Paul is pretty clear in stating that singleness is better than marriage. He spends an entire chapter talking about this. And yet you know how my Bible describes this chapter? “Marriage.” Excuse me while I take a minute to LOL at this piece of editorializing.
So how does one get the gift of singleness?
I’ll tell you up front that it’s not available at your local department store. You can’t order it from Amazon.com. And to be honest, I didn’t really spend years of my life praying that God would grant me this gift.
It’s something that comes on slowly, at least in my experience. You move forward in your life, worshiping God, watching friends get married and have kids, trying to find your place in the world, making friends, losing friends. Sometimes you spend a lot of time wishing to be married. Sometimes you don’t think about it unless you don’t have a plus one to attend a wedding or other formal event. You pay the bills by yourself and learn to enjoy going to the movies alone (hey, no one talks during the show that way) and probably end up buying a pet.
And somewhere along the way, you realize that you are content with your life. You are happy living with only God as your life partner. You enjoy the fact that you don’t have to share the bed with anyone. You don’t open it like a present. It opens inside you like a blossom.
You’re single. And it’s a gift.