Educated, independent, attractive, talented, Christian…..Still Single.
It’s 2019, and I’m caught up in 2018 Déjà vu. I all but swore then, that I would have a boyfriend – soon to be hubby…by Valentine’s Day. January has slipped into eternity. By all appearances, I might just have to withhold my amorous intentions until Valentine’s Day 2020, when I hope I won’t – once again – buy myself chocolate and non-alcoholic bubbly.
To be fair, I think that I’m the kind of woman who ticks quite a few proverbial boxes. I’m educated to graduate level, independent, employed, attractive, talented, good with children….I cook. Hello! I used to say ‘forever the bridesmaid’, but I can’t even say that now, as most of my peers have done the wedding day thing and are almost through with the child rearing thing. Inevitably, I find that my New Year’s Eve companion looks like Häagen-Dazs and a movie. Otherwise, at a recital, I might find myself at the end of a row of empty seats, or seated behind a loved-up couple who appear to find the music rather stimulating.
In the article, “Where Are All the Men? Exploring the Gender Gap in Church” the author quotes Cathy Grossman of USA Today as saying “Women outnumber men in attendance in every major Christian denomination, and they are 20% to 25% more likely to attend worship at least weekly” (DeCelles-Zwerneman, 2016). Being a member of a fairly conservative religious community means that this shortage becomes a dearth. I wonder what single men have to say about this? Perhaps there are so many women that they don’t know who/how to choose. A friend of mine recently told me of a preacher who says we should all be polygamous. I am not that generous. “According to recent Pew data, the number of married Americans is at its lowest point since at least 1920. In 2015, only half of Americans ages 18 and over were married, compared with 72 percent in 1960. Put another way: Singles are on the rise and beginning to outnumber marrieds. The church, however, doesn’t reflect those numbers.” (Dalfonzo, 2017).
I was invited to lunch after singing at a church one day. I sat at the well laid table with the man of the house at the head, while his dutiful wife placed even more goodies before us before joining us some time later. The conversation quickly took what I now call ‘the usual turn’. “Are you married?” asked my host. I mind-prayed, ‘Have mercy Lord. Here it comes’. I put my fork down. Sighed. I turned to my host with as polite a face as I could manage and gave the answer that uncovered the lurking question. “Why aren’t you married?” he asked. How does one answer such a question? I mean, how can one answer that question and maintain good relations with the brethren and possibly get invited back? The best response is anyone’s guess.
Another contributor supports Dalfonzo’s unearthing of the Christian single’s conundrum. “According to a recent Barna study, while more than half of Americans (54%) between the ages of 18 and 49 are single, only 23 percent of active churchgoers are single” (Dalfonzo, 2017). Do these stats echo throughout Christendom? If per chance they do, wouldn’t that make the ‘why aren’t you married’ question that bit more unreasonable? That experience which would have cancelled my appetite if it were possible, is anything but unique. If I had a pound for every time a single friend or acquaintance said that he or she had been asked the same question, and was stumped as I was, well you know….
The hopefully well-meaning brother then went on to conclude out loud, that something had to be wrong. It would be fair to assume he meant with me. He asked whether I was single because I was too picky, because surely there is a great multiplicity of deeply spiritual, eligible, bachelors in my local congregation and environs, who are all poised on one knee awaiting my leisure. I had to be the problem. Is it any wonder that some unmarried church members want to escape the label and stigma? “Many single people don’t label themselves – or want to be labelled – as ‘single. It’s often seen as the modern version of ‘spinster’ – deprecating and inviting pity. This is one reason why groups lobbying on behalf of singles tend not to survive long – people don’t want to be connected with the label. The single state is generally the opposite of people’s aspirations and attempts to meet a partner – it’s a situation from which they wish to escape” (Pullinger, 2017).
I admit, I might have been inclined to repent of my sin of distressing the (supposedly existent) highly esteemed gentlemen awaiting my consent, but for the comments of a number of other single Christians, indicating that the above after-church-lunch-time-drilling seems to be a recurring narrative. Another aspect of the single Christian narrative is that of exclusion and isolation. Have you ever heard single Christians comment that married brethren often form cliques to which single, and especially single/no children persons need not apply? Some singles feel slighted and excluded from events, although any distinction is rarely voiced. It is even said that the structure of the church is geared toward families. Some singles view church as being for married people (Pullinger, 2017). When your age is closer to thirty in either direction, you still seem to fit in because there is ‘hope’ for you, but after that, it appears that you are more likely to face sympathy rather than encouragement when it comes to marriage.
From time to time, as a mature-ish single woman, I find myself looking for my place in society, or at least in certain pockets of it. Apart from your job, or the certificates you’ve accumulated, it feels like at the very core, something more is needed – validation in being more…someone’s significant other – spouse? It feels like you’ve got more to give. It also feels like one is demoted once the line of most likely to marry is crossed. Does this apply to Christian men, or do they just change into their sons’ clothes and carry on?
Let’s face it. Being single has its good points. I have uninterrupted prayer and bible study time. I’m jealous of that time and grateful for it. I also have time to be creative. I always get to decide what’s for supper. Yet, it can be a really lonely existence at times. Some feel compelled to make that extra effort to remain relevant or to belong.
The issues mentioned are only the tip of the iceberg. The purpose of this blog is to stir dialogue among female and male Christian singles and friends, to consider our challenges, needs and common experiences, from the angle of a Christocentric world view.
Since you’ve read this blog post all the way to the end, you’re probably a single/unmarried Christian (depending on the term you prefer). I would like to know whether you identify with any of the above, and whether there is more you’d like to share. I’d like to hear from single Christian men. Is the single life any different for men? Feel free to contribute anonymously if you would prefer.
Dalfonzo, G. (2017, June 30). What the Single in Your Pew Needs From You. Retrieved from Christianity Today: https://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2017/june/what-single-in-your-pew-needs-from-you.htmlDeCelles-Zwerneman, J. (2016, August 10). CAPTERRA. Retrieved from Where Are All the Men? Exploring the Gender Gap in Church: https://blog.capterra.com/where-are-all-the-men-exploring-the-gender-gap-in-church/Pullinger, D. (2017, August). Single-Friendly Church. Retrieved from https://www.singlefriendlychurch.com/for-churches/singleness-in-the-church-an-introduction-for-leaders