3 Dec

'voiceless:01' photo (c) 2008, threephin - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/Last week I started getting sick. Over the course of an evening, my throat grew sore, and it kept getting worse. The pain was strong enough that it woke me several times during the night. There were no other symptoms, just the sore throat. But it was excruciating. The next morning I had a sinus headache and still that persistent sore throat.

Because the museum where I work was only a week away from our second biggest fundraiser of the year, I took the day off. I told my boss I was perfectly capable of working, but I didn’t think he would want me infecting almost our entire staff by coming in to work. I did work Saturday (when I work alone), and by then I was certain what I had was a nasty cold.

My colds always go a certain way. They start with a sore throat (though not usually this bad), then progress into the sinus congestion, sniffling, sneezing, and coughing. The last symptom to go will be the cough. Ever since a nasty case of bronchitis years ago, my coughs seem to linger.

And one thing I can always count on with a cold–I lose my voice.

Being physically unable to speak loudly (or, today, at all) makes you have to think a lot more about your communications with others. There are a lot of things that can be done via text message or email, but it feels awkward to write a note for someone to, for instance, pass you the salt.

Of course, living alone makes that unnecessary, but it also forces you to decide if you’re going to answer the phone and struggle through a phone conversation, because you don’t have anyone else around to answer it for you.

Being without a voice has also made me realize how much I talk, even when I’m alone at home. When I’m writing, I speak my dialogue aloud–it makes it more authentic. I talk to myself, I talk to my cats, I sing along with my music. When I pray, I usually pray aloud. It feels more conversational, I guess.

For me, being voiceless is a temporary thing. Next week this cold will mostly be over, I’ll have my speaking voice back, and a couple of days later I’ll have my singing voice back.

But it has me thinking about people who are always voiceless.

Jesus spoke for people who had no voice. More than that, he helped them find their voice and listened to them. He didn’t always rely on speech to make his point, either. Remember the woman caught in adultery? They dragged her in front of Jesus and said she must be stoned. What did Jesus do? He knelt and wrote in the dirt!

I believe we Christians are called to speak up for those who have no voice. Whether those voices have been taken from them by oppressive governments, by the oppression of poverty, by sickness…by whatever power. We should look at the people around us and ask what stories they have to tell.

Then help them tell it.


7 Ways to Make Holidays Easier for Singles

24 Nov

Like I said last week, Thanksgiving is a great holiday that isn’t always single-friendly. For that matter, a lot of holidays seem to emphasize relationships that don’t exist for single people. We’ve all seen commercials where diamond retailers suggest every woman needs a diamond for Christmas. New Year’s Day isn’t seen as complete unless you have someone to kiss at midnight. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day don’t apply to a lot of single people (although they do apply to a lot of singles, and I would imagine they might even be more painful for single parents than they are for single people without kids). And of course there’s also Singles Awareness Day Valentine’s Day.

What is it about these holidays that requires coupledom? Is it just societal expectation? Is it the commercialization of our holidays? Is it our inclination as a species to pair up?

Whatever the reasons, holidays can be difficult for singles. So what can we do to make them easier?

  1. Invite your single friends to your holiday events. I know, this seems obvious, but a married friend pointed out recently that as soon as she got married, her single friends stopped inviting her to things. She also admitted she wondered if her single friends would feel uncomfortable hanging out with her and her husband. I can’t speak for her friends, but personally, I would rather be included and given the option of feeling uncomfortable than to just be excluded all the time.
  2. If you’re single, think about getting other single friends together to provide emotional support for holiday-related tasks. Maybe everyone could get together and write out their Christmas cards together. Maybe you have a gift-wrapping party with eggnog and carols. Maybe on New Year’s Eve you host a no-pressure game night or movie night.
  3. Let your single friends vent. A lot of singles are happy to be unfettered by romantic entanglements. A lot of singles aren’t. Either way, everyone experiences loneliness, and everyone needs a safe place to express sadness, frustration, and fear. Sometimes what your single friend needs is simply for you to listen while she expresses her feelings. Not your advice, not your judgment, not your suggestions…just your sympathy.
  4. Include your single friend in some of your family traditions. Maybe your single friend doesn’t bother putting up a Christmas tree in his apartment, but that doesn’t mean he hates decorating. Invite him over to help decorate the Christmas tree (or at least to climb on the roof with you to put up the lights). Maybe your single friend loves to bake but can’t eat all those cookies by herself. Invite her over to help you and your kids make gingerbread men (or even better, NINJAbread men). She’ll have a blast, your kids will benefit from having another loving adult in their lives, and who knows–she might even go home with her biological clock silenced by how horribly your little devils have behaved. (Kidding!) (mostly)
  5. Exchange gifts. Okay, this is kinda tricky, since it involves finances. But a single adult might have few people (or even no one) to give him presents. They don’t have to be expensive presents. It can be just one present. For that matter, get creative and offer your jet-setting friend a set of coupons for home-cooked meals with your family. Make a scrapbook for your friend who loves to travel but hasn’t had a chance to do something with her last set of vacation photos. Give your friend who bakes a copy of your great-grandmother’s super secret devil’s food cake recipe. You don’t have to spend money. Just make sure your single friend knows he isn’t forgotten.
  6. Offer to baby-sit. Or pet-sit. Or plant-sit. Whatever. If your single friend has kids, she might need time to get out and do some Christmas shopping without the kids in tow. Maybe the kids need someone to take them out and help them pick out presents for their mom. Maybe she just desperately needs to escape and drink a Peppermint Mocha Latte all by herself. If he doesn’t have kids, maybe your single friend has family out of town or across the world; he might need someone to feed his cat, watch his dog, or pick up the mail once or twice. Maybe his plants will need to be watered once or twice. Maybe he just wants a light turned on so no one will break in while he’s gone. I think a lot of times, people overlook the most practical ways to help someone. You don’t have to be good with words or a huge fan of Hallmark to provide emotional support to someone through a rocky time.
  7. Above all, care. I promise you, caring goes a long way. As 1 Peter 4 says, love covers a multitude of sins. You may feel awkward and unsure of what to do or say to a friend who is celebrating his first Christmas after the death of his wife. You may be uncomfortable approaching a friend whose husband has divorced her right before Thanksgiving. You may think Valentine’s Day is a horrible time to hang out with your single friend. But I promise you, just showing your friend that you care will do a lot to make his or her holiday better.

What do you guys think? Have I forgotten something? Is there something you’ve done for a single friend? Are you a single who wishes your married friends would do something specific? Let me know!

Thanksgiving as a Single Adult

21 Nov
English: Photo showing some of the aspects of ...

English: Photo showing some of the aspects of a traditional US Thanksgiving day dinner. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I hate the holidays.

Not the meaning behind them, because I think it’s great to take time to ponder all the blessings in our lives. And not the food, because my mom’s butterhorn rolls and pumpkin pies are possibly the best foods in the world.

But the social pressure? Yeah, I hate that.

As a single person, I’m not divided about what family I spend Thanksgiving with, at least. My mom generally hosts Thanksgiving and invites her family and my dad’s family (neither side is very big). I try to show up early and help Mom in the kitchen. But honestly, there are times I wish I could skip Thanksgiving entirely.

I tried that exactly once, about ten years ago. I stayed at home by myself. I was lonely and miserable. Late in the day I ended up ditching everything and driving to my grandparents’ house, where everyone had gathered.

But the thing is, I spend hundreds of other days by myself without experiencing misery or loneliness. Sure, I get lonely, but not on a frequent basis, and often not just because I’m at home alone. I think the reason I felt lonely that day was because American society has this image of the perfect Thanksgiving, watching the Macy’s parade and carving up a turkey and laughing with your family over a candlelit dinner table.

It’s not exactly a cozy image for a single adult, is it? What about singles who live hundreds of miles away from their parents and don’t have the means or opportunity to travel there? What about the divorced man whose ex-wife has custody of the kids for the holiday? What about the woman whose husband of forty years has died, leaving her alone?

I have this dream that some day I will be able to celebrate in community with all of my dearest single friends. They are mostly women and mostly Christians, and I think we’re all within about ten years of each other in age. I think that would be an amazing way to spend Thanksgiving!

A series of posts at Rachel Marie Stone’s blog has had me thinking about how we celebrate Thanksgiving. Take a look at Plagues and Famine: Better Not to Know?, How Knowing Things Saves Lives, and Can I “Eat With Joy” While Others Can’t Eat At All?, and let me know what you think. (Let her know, too–these are great posts.)

I think next year for Thanksgiving, I will plan to spend my day in a homeless shelter or at one of the area food pantries or soup kitchens that are providing Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless and underprivileged in America. I don’t think it will be possible to feel lonely in such surroundings, and it’ll have to be better than watching another Three Stooges marathon or watching my aunts bicker about how one is eating too much and the other not enough.

What about you guys? What are some of your Thanksgiving traditions? What sort of alternate ways do you have to celebrate the holiday?

We’re All More Than We First Appear

19 Nov

My blog name makes me uncomfortable. It didn’t start out that way, but in the time since Passover, when I started this blog, I’ve had various people comment on the name. I’ve had someone ask me if I’m a racist because of my blog name. I’ve had someone else tell me the “white” part seemed weird. And I find myself, more and more often, talking about SWC instead of Single White Christian.

So why Single White Christian?

I was trying to accomplish two things with my blog name. I wanted to be 1) funny and 2) honest.

Funny, because it’s like a personal ad, right? SWF seeking SWM, GWM seeking GWM, SWM seeking SWF for FWB LOL. Except, of course, it isn’t funny if I have to explain it.

Honest, because I need to acknowledge upfront that, while I feel my life has known hardship, I am still speaking from a place of privilege. I can’t pretend to speak from any other point of view than a single, white, Christian woman. I can’t speak for gay people or black people. I can’t speak for men. I can’t speak for Asians or Frenchmen or Australians, for that matter, but I thought Single White Straight Lower-Middle-Class USian Christian might be too hard to remember.

I want to open a dialogue with people of other backgrounds and worldviews. I want to ask questions and learn from people, and maybe find something I can teach others. And if I start off by using language that is off-putting to others, I’ve already put myself at a disadvantage.

After my last conversation about the name of this blog, I started thinking about renaming the blog. I talked it over with a good friend who’s been super supportive of this effort…and who finally admitted that she felt a little weird about the white part. Rather than renaming, though, she suggested a redefining.

SWC means Single White Christian, yes. But what else can SWC mean?

  • Seeking Welcoming Church
  • Saved With Christ
  • Sharing Wonderful Companions
  • Shoulda Woulda Coulda
  • Sleep/Wake Cycle
  • Single Without Children
  • Snarky While Charming?

What do you guys think? Did the name confuse you? Make you angry? Make you ask questions? Would it be better if I found something else to call this blog? (And if you say yes to that, you’d better have some clever suggestions!)

Or do I own this name? Do I inhabit this name? Do I say, “Yes, I called it this. Yes, I realize now that it makes people uncomfortable. Yes, I know better now. But no, I’m not covering up this mistake?”

Or do you think it wasn’t a mistake at all? Do you actually (gasp) like the name? Did you see the blog name and think, “Yeah, I can identify with this chick?”

Let me know!

Can I Get a Vaccine for the Season of Singleness?

15 Nov 'INFLIGHT' photo (c) 2011, Person of Interest - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Today I want to discuss a phrase that, to me, is like nails on a chalkboard. It’s one I see thrown around all the time on blogs about singleness, marriage, family, and loneliness. Yes, it’s the dreaded season of singleness.

I have a lot of problems with this phrase. For one thing, it implies something temporary. This too shall pass. April showers bring May bridal showers. That sort of thing.

For another thing, it sounds awfully close to something nasty and unwanted. Flu season. Fever season. Singleness season. Yech!

The thing about implying that singleness is temporary is…well, sometimes it’s not. Some people are going to be lifelong singles. Happy or sad, content or kicking-and-screaming, some people will not get married. Take me for instance: I know thirty-six isn’t old, and I know I may someday still get married if that’s what God wants for me, but trust me–my singleness hasn’t been a season, it’s been an epoch.

Another good reason to avoid implying singleness is temporary is the accompanying implication that everyone should desire to end their singleness. When I hear season of singleness, I hear, just a phase, she’ll grow out of it. It comes across as misunderstanding at best and condescending at worst.

Statistically, maybe a lot of people will end up marrying. But then again, we’re at an all-time high ratio of singles-to-marrieds. Almost half the population is single. Sure, some of them have been married before. Some of them are in long-term dating relationships, or have some sort of committed partnership that, for one reason or another, they haven’t formalized. But the fact is, people are waiting longer to marry, and more people are not marrying at all.

Implying that singleness is temporary, or a state to leave behind, is not necessarily honest and not necessarily helpful. If I view singleness as a transitory state, I’m more likely to:

  • put off embracing adulthood
  • be less responsible with my finances
  • spend all my time craving an end to this “season”
  • focus on my relationship with men instead of my relationship with God
  • require dating and/or marriage to validate my self-worth

This is where the real danger of viewing singleness as a season comes in. If I don’t view myself as a real person until I’ve survived my season of singleness, I’ve missed out on a huge opportunity.

Single people have to make a choice to fully inhabit our present lives. 

We can’t live our lives in a constant holding pattern. We have to seek out God’s will for our lives. We have to learn to build others up, regardless of whether those others are parents, significant others, or friends. We have to leave our future in God’s hands and concentrate on what He’s doing in our present.

Remember what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7: 32-35,

I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs–how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world–how he can please his wife–and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world–how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.

Read that last sentence again. Do you get that? Singleness is not a restriction.

'INFLIGHT' photo (c) 2011, Person of Interest - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/


Singleness is freedom. Freedom to be devoted to the Lord. Freedom to live in a right way. Freedom from the affairs of this world. Freedom from pleasing anyone but the Lord.

Paul reframes singleness in such an amazing way here. Rather than saying we’re worth less than those who have married and had children, he says we’re free! He says we should have fewer concerns than married people!

Isn’t that an amazing feeling?

So let’s stop looking at singleness as a season, as something to be escaped or inoculated against. Let’s stop acting as if singleness is temporary, something we’ll outgrow. Let’s take a look at where we are right now and vow to thrive here.

We are single adults, and we are free.

Married People, Help Me Out

12 Nov

Dear Married People,'Begin Two Way' photo (c) 2011, niXerKG - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

What do you get tired of hearing from singles? What misconceptions do we singles have about your married life? What would you like to tell us about yourselves? How can we, as single people, be encouraging to you? How can we better understand you? What should we learn from you? What can we teach you?

I do a lot of talking about what it’s like to be single and how you married folks can better relate to us and encourage us. But this shouldn’t be a one-way street. I’m interested in a dialogue.

Please chime in and address issues you want us to talk about. Better yet, if you’re interested in writing a guest post for Single White Christian, let me know! I would love to listen to what you have to say.


Single White Christian

4 Things To Say to Parents of a Single Adult

8 Nov

On Monday I posted 7 Things Not to Say to Parents of a Single Adult. But I try to follow up my “negative” posts with something more positive and affirming. So today I’m going to present four suggestions of things you can and should say to parents of a single adult.

  1. You must be very proud of your son/daughter. Finding a mate and procreating is something that happens at almost every level of biology. It isn’t really something unique to homo sapiens. So let’s stop acting like marriage and parenthood are the only accomplishments in life. Every adult, single, married, or in-between, has done something to be proud of. Instead of focusing on marital status, look at the other things. Maybe she’s published a book. Maybe he just sealed a major business deal. Maybe she heads up a charity that impacts lives. Maybe he leads a Bible study in his home. Those are all things to be proud of. Celebrate those.
  2. It must be nice not having to share your child with inlaws during the holidays. Growing up, we rarely had this problem, because one set of my grandparents lived in Florida, while the other set lived fifteen miles away, so Dad didn’t see his folks for the holiday. But occasionally we spent the week of Christmas in Florida…and then my mom didn’t get to spend Christmas with her parents. As a single adult, I don’t have this problem. I celebrate Christmas with my parents the way we always have–we read the Christmas story, then open presents on Christmas Eve (it used to be at midnight, but as we all get older, this starts earlier and earlier in the evening). There are almost always bookish presents for everyone, so we stay up late reading our new books, and sleep in late Christmas morning. I don’t have to compromise on Christmas plans, and my parents don’t have to share me.
  3. (When a child moves back home) Aren’t you glad they aren’t married and bringing their spouse and children back home to live with you! Because yes, I actually know a couple of people who moved back in with their parents, with a husband, two kids, and a dog in tow. At least when I moved back, my parents were getting what amounted to an adult boarder in the upstairs. I contributed financially as much as I was able, and in labor, and I didn’t wake them up for midnight feedings or early morning walks.
  4. How has your relationship changed as your child has grown older? Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your friend with single adult offspring. Just don’t focus those questions on the marital or parental status of said offspring. If your friend wants to talk about her kid’s marital status, let her bring it up first.

Single readers, what do you wish people would say to your parents? Parents of singles, what do you wish people would say to you? Chime in!

7 Things Not to Say to Parents of a Single Adult

5 Nov

'SHHHHHH.....DON`T SAY A WORD!' photo (c) 2006, andrea silva - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/I’ll be the first person to admit I’m incredibly blessed when it comes to my parents. They don’t believe I’m defective just because I don’t have a spouse. My mom has had plenty of bachelors and bachelorettes in her family. My dad’s brother didn’t marry until he was in his 40s. So my parents have never put pressure on me to get married and raise children. My mother has known since I was very young that I would probably never have kids, and she’s fine with it.

Unfortunately, other people don’t seem to understand my parents’ attitudes about being parents of a single adult any more than they understand my own attitudes about being a single adult. To help those people out, I’ve compiled a list of things not to say to parents of a single adult.

  1. Why don’t you just tell them to grow up and settle down?  Excuse me? “Grow up and settle down?” As if we aren’t grown up if we haven’t decided to get married? Do you realize how patronizing that sounds? Single adults pay their own bills, have their own relationships, and make huge contributions to society, church, charitable organizations, and businesses. Sure, some of them are also perpetual kids, but I know plenty of married people who act much less grown up than me and my single friends.
  2. You haven’t really lived until you’ve held your first grandchild.  Yes, people have actually said that to the parents of a friend of mine. My friend is in her 30s and is content as a single woman serving the Lord. She doesn’t have children, and doesn’t currently anticipate having children. And somehow that invalidates all the experiences her parents have been through? They have grown up, married, raised two wonderful, godly daughters, served God for decades, but they haven’t really lived? Please.
  3. You should introduce your daughter/son to a nice single person.  Okay, I’ve always wanted my parents to like the guys I have dated. I even dated a guy my mom introduced me to once, though Mom honestly didn’t have any ulterior motives, since he wasn’t available at the time anyway. But this statement doesn’t take into account the fact that the single adult may not wish to meet someone. The single adult may have no desire to be married. And if the single adult does wish to be married, is it really going to make them feel better to get pressure from their parents along with everyone else in society?
  4. You should kick her out of the house.  Yep, this one was aimed at my mom. I moved back in with my folks after a catastrophic job loss many years ago. When Mom asked her friends to pray about the situation–meaning me having no money and no job and being depressed about it–her friend said they shouldn’t be supporting me. This infuriated me, because I was doing my part around the house–housework, lawncare, running errands for my folks in my free time, etc. It also infuriated my mom, because my parents actually liked having me back home with them, and they were concerned for me, not about me.
  5. Why don’t you tell him to get a place of his own?  This one goes hand-in-hand with #4. An increasingly large number of my fellow Gen-Xers, as well as Gen-Y, have graduated from college into a crappy economy, or have experienced job loss because of said crappy economy. Maybe the situation isn’t ideal for anyone, but let’s look back a mere 150 years ago, and we’ll realize that for centuries upon centuries, the common practice in family life was to have several generations living together. Many single adults lived with their parents all their lives, and the only stigma they faced was that of “spinster.” There’s nothing wrong with single adults living with their parents.
  6. Maybe she’s gay.  When I asked my mom for input on this blog post, this was one of her suggestions. Which tells me that at least one of my mom’s friends thinks I’m a lesbian (possibly the one who says only lesbians get tattoos, or maybe that one who says women who wear flannel shirts are all gay). I told her next time, she has my permission to say, “I don’t care if she’s gay or straight, and what business is it of yours, anyway?” Because…seriously, what business is it of yours, anyway?
  7. Oh, she’ll change her mind and have kids someday. First of all, you don’t know my mind. My mind has been firmly anti-having-children since I was a very young kid and refused to be the mom ever while playing house. Secondly, you don’t know just how grossed out I get by the idea of growing an alien life form inside my body for ten months. Thirdly, my mom knows me better than you do, and if she is certain I won’t change my mind, who are you to question her? Or me, for that matter?

Here’s the thing–you can’t automatically assume that a single adult is defective somehow. And you can’t automatically assume that the parents of a single adult believe their child is defective somehow.

Next time, I’ll talk about some things you can and should say to parents of a single adult. But for now, are there any real doozies I missed in this post? Weigh in with a comment!

BOOK REVIEW: A Year of Biblical Womahood

2 Nov Year Of Biblical Womanhood Cover

I know I’m not the first person to review Rachel Held Evans‘ new (and apparently controversial) book A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master”. But I might be the first person to emphasize that this is a singles-friendly book.

Let me admit this right up front: my first reaction, when I see a book written for Christian women, is to turn up my nose. Oh, look, another book about how to be a great wife and mother, I think. I bet it talks about praying for your spouse or, if you aren’t married yet, your future spouse.

Year Of Biblical Womanhood Cover

Year Of Biblical Womanhood Cover

And no, Rachel doesn’t write a great deal specifically about singles, and she does write a great deal specifically about marriage. She is, after all, married. But she is clearly a married woman who is aware of the concerns of single women.

The premise of the book, for those of you who are male or have been living in a media vacuum, is this: Rachel Held Evans spent a year trying to imitate, as literally as possible, various Biblical depictions of women. A lot of people have disparaged the book as mockery of the Bible, while a lot of people at the opposite end of the spectrum have disparaged the book as old-fashioned or unnecessary. But if you’ve truly read the book, it should be obvious that for Rachel, this was a labor of love.

She didn’t set out to mock or disprove the Bible. She set out to wrestle with it. She set out to live in the tension. She set out to surrender to God’s stories.

And in the end, she didn’t come away with a blueprint or job description of a Biblical woman. She found plenty of descriptions of women in the Bible, though, and she found that the Biblical concept of womanhood is simply too complex and varied to be summed up as a to-do list.

Case in point: the chapter on the Proverbs 31 Woman. Did you know that in Jewish culture, it isn’t the women who memorize Proverbs 31? The men do! It isn’t a recipe for how to be a great woman, it’s an example of how men should praise their wives. The Hebrew phrase used in Proverbs 31, eshet chayil, is best translated as “valorous woman”, which means a lot more to me, as a single woman, than “a wife of good character”.

What really made me, as a single woman, love Rachel’s approach, however, was when I reached page 178 and saw this quote

Growing up in the Church, I must have heard a thousand times that my highest calling as a woman was to bear and bring up children. While men could honor God in varying capacities through work, family, and ministry, a woman’s spiritual aptitude was measured primarily by her ability to procreate. Even as a child I noticed that the church deaconesses hosted dozens of wedding and baby showers each year, but never a housewarming party for a single woman or a celebration dinner for a woman who passed the bar or graduated from medical school.

That passage told me two things: Rachel Held Evans understands how single people are overlooked in the church, and Rachel Held Evans doesn’t view me, as a single woman, as someone who’s worth less than a married woman with children.

I could go on and on about what a great book this is, but frankly, there are lots of people who’ve done a better job than I could–Ben Witherington, for one. I could talk more about the controversy that has grown up around the book, but Rachel Marie Stone has done a great job of discussing that.

I just want to recommend that single women not pass this book over thinking, “Oh, it won’t address single women.” I want to recommend that men not pass this book over thinking, “Oh, it won’t address men.” It does both.

And I, for one, am living for the day someone calls me eshet chayil.

9 Literary Figures Who Wish They’d Stayed Single

1 Nov

Art by http://www.flickr.com/photos/nihonjin/ used under Creative Commons license

I’m feeling whimsical today, so without further ado, I present to you nine figures in literature for whom marriage truly did cause, as Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 7, “distress in this life”:

  1. MacBeth – How much trouble would he have gotten into if it hadn’t been for that wife of his? After all, he was content to sit around waiting for destiny to happen to him. It was Lady MacBeth who insisted they had to kill the king to make destiny come true. I bet he wished he’d just ditched his wife and waited on fate.
  2. Samson – Okay, maybe he wasn’t actually married to Delilah, but I think long-term monogamous relationships count as no longer single. *G* And you know he really regretted being with her, right about the time they put out his eyes. Sure, God redeemed that situation. God can redeem any situation. But I bet Samson would have preferred to keep his eyesight and his bulging biceps.
  3. Arwen Undomiel – She was like a thousand years older than her husband, not to mention immortal. He lived to be 210, but they were only married for about 140 of those years, and to a woman who’s supposed to live forever, dying after only 140 years together had to be a bitter pill to swallow.
  4. King Arthur – I have to think if Arthur had known all the trouble he was going to have with his wife, he probably would have skipped marrying Guinevere and stuck with the tried-and-true bromance he had with Lancelot.
  5. Penelope – You know, the lady who was stuck at home weaving for ten years while her husband fought a war, and another ten years while he tried to find his way home? Odysseus got to kill people, build big wooden horses, see his men turned into pigs, and sleep with a nymph, and what did she get? All her hubby’s boorish friends got home ahead of him and harassed her to forget about him and marry one of them. All the bad points of being single, with none of the benefits.
  6. Romeo Montague and/or Juliet Capulet – I’m not sure which of them got the worst end of the deal. They fell in love, they played some elaborate tricks on their friends and family, saw family members killed, and eventually ended up committing suicide. Then again, imagine if they’d lived–they would probably have bred some seriously messed-up, impulsive, devious little kids.
  7. Hosea – Don’t you guys ever feel bad for poor Hosea son of Beeri? God told him to take a “wife of harlotry” and name his kids things that translate to “not my people” and “not pitied.” Then Gomer runs away and Hosea has to go find her and bring her home again, because God tells him to. I mean, I know artists suffer for their art, and prophets suffer for their faith, but really, Hosea might have been happier as a bachelor.
  8. Eddard Stark – Yeah, I went there. How much trouble could Ned have avoided if he hadn’t left behind a woman more protective than a mother bear and clearly out of her mind with grief? Come on, if Catelyn hadn’t been dead set on revenge …er, justice, how many of her family members would have come through everything safely. Then again…
  9. Catelyn Tully Stark – …the case could be made that, without Ned’s somewhat naive sense of honor, she wouldn’t have had to deal with 1) a bastard to raise, 2) a beheaded husband, 3) a betrayed son, 4) a back-stabbing ex-lover, 5) a bargain-breaking sister… Okay, I’ll stop there.

Of course, I’m being flippant in this list. After all, for the two Biblical figures mentioned in the list, God redeemed their situation. After Delilah’s betrayal, anyone would have been justified in thinking Samson’s life was ruined, finished, kaput. Samson’s buddies probably sat around and said, “Man, that woman destroyed him. It would have been better if he’d never met her.” But in Samson’s weakest moments, blinded, chained up, captive, he was finally humbled enough to cry out to God, asking for one last moment of strength. And in that moment, he destroyed his enemies.

Similarly, Hosea was stuck with a bum deal. An unfaithful wife who probably didn’t really want him to begin with, and certainly didn’t want him after she’d born him three kids. Unable to see what a good deal she had, she ran away from him, only to be pursued by him, because he loved her. And through Hosea and Gomer’s stories, God illustrated His own relationship with Israel–and His relationship today with us. Even though we didn’t know we needed Him, He chose us; even when we turned away from Him, He pursued us; even when we shamed Him, He loved us.

It makes you wonder what God could do with the lives of Ned and Catelyn Stark.

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