I wanted to tell more than just my stories on this blog; I wanted to get stories from other people – men, women, dating, single, living at home, living not at home, etc. So I recruited some guest bloggers. I’m excited to share Ryan’s story with you today.
It is a privilege to write a few of my thoughts about singleness, and I have been encouraged by Charity’s thoughtful and gospel-centered writings about this subject. We all long to belong. God has placed eternity in the heart of man (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and there is an intense desire to find fulfillment and purpose in our lives.
Many of us, like myself, have struggled with singleness, yet Scripture makes it clear that there is a calling within the church to edify the body of Christ through the gifts He gives to the church. For some of us, the notion of being single is hard to grasp, and for others there is a reluctance to trust God, wondering if the right person will come along to share life together.
I have wondered the same thing now, having just turned 40, which I am thinking is my new 30 (at least that is what I tell myself). For me, singleness has been hard to deal with; yet I have also enjoyed its benefits, all the while knowing that God has more in store.
We see in Genesis that when God created man, He said that it was not good for man to be alone. He created a suitable partner for Adam and gave them a beautiful place to reside in the Garden of Eden. They were in harmony with God and enjoyed His presence until Genesis chapter 3 comes along to radically change relationships and how man relates to God. Yet we see God pursue Adam and give a promise to restore the broken relationship between man and God.
I didn’t grow up attending church, nor did I think much about marriage until later in life, asking God and resigning myself to thinking that it might not happen. I felt a bit ashamed when people would ask me, especially once I started attending church, “When are you going to get married?”
For the most part, I didn’t show much initiative; nor did I realize that God gives gifts to his people to play an instrumental part in His body, the church. I also felt the pressure from my mom who wants to have grandchildren, asking from time to time, when the day would come that I’d provide them for her. But one thing I have learned is that God is faithful, and He works things out to teach His people to depend on His provision and to make us more like Jesus.
Once I started going to church, I met a few women who I thought might be a good fit, yet I always got so deflated when they would say “no” or “not right now” (which meant no). I set up a few dates only to find out that other plans came up. One time in college, I asked a girl out to see the Phantom of the Opera. She had to cancel, but I went anyway and was struck by the lyrics and the story of a deep longing to belong.
A few years later, I started a long-distance relationship that renewed a sense of hope in thinking there might be someone for me after all. Though the distance was tough, I did open up more to her and felt excited. However, I wasn’t completely honest about my past and was looking for comfort through another person rather than in Jesus, who ought to be my single-minded focus in my life. I felt ashamed and weak not being able to confess some sin and I ended up breaking up after about 7 months. Repentance, true godly repentance, has been important as I look to my Savior and receive the forgiveness of sins through his life, death, and resurrection.
I fought a recurring theme in my past about my parents’ divorce and the pain and sorrow that ensued through bitter fighting and court battles. This is the one thing that has affected me more than anything else in regard to pursuing a relationship; and though it has been tough, God has used it to teach me to rely on him more and more.
My identity doesn’t come from being married or single. While I was still a sinner, God sent his only Son to take the punishment my sins deserve and calls me now a child of God. By faith in Him, I am adopted into His family and given an inheritance that will never perish or fade. This is my true identity, and as I have struggled with my singleness, I have been reminded that I am not alone.
God is with us and gives us more than we could ever hope or imagine through the work and person of Christ. There are times when I don’t feel this way, hoping that things would be different, desiring a change of status. Yet God knows what we need, drawing us to Himself through His grace and love, and reminding us that His Word speaks a greater truth than the circumstances we face at any given moment.
Over the last few weeks, I have been blessed to pursue a wonderful woman at church, and I am excited about what God has done. It has been humbling to be able to pursue her, praying that I first look to Jesus and ask for help in pointing her to Jesus as well. I am also reminded that I need Jesus every hour, minute, second. He is the giver of life, and in Him there is life eternal.
My greatest need is to know I have been rescued, and that He is my greatest treasure. Jesus and Paul were both single, and God used them mightily to proclaim the good news of the gospel.
It can seem like at times that the world lifts up singleness as the way to go because marriage is too much work; yet the church at times can seem to elevate marriage for its inherent accountability for leaders. But God uses his people as broken vessels who are in need of God’s grace every day.
In more recent years, I have noticed in the church an emphasis on marriage to carry out the mission of the church. In other periods in history, the church emphasized singleness and celibacy for its leaders. The pendulum of opinion will swing back and forth, yet the call is clear: to look to Jesus and trust in His ways. His ways are higher than ours, and He is our gracious Lord and King who is coming again to make all things new.
Whether married or single, look to Jesus and rest in His promises. He loves you more than you can imagine and calls you to a life that looks out side of yourself, beyond your circumstances, and to remember that he cares about you and knows what you are going through. This is the single-minded focus that will sustain you and give you hope when the obstacles of life and sin seem to have the upper hand.
God gave us marriage to remind us of his relationship with the church. His tender love and pursuit of His bride is most demonstrated by the fact that He laid down His life. There is no love greater than this.
Ryan Carr is a San Diego native and graduate of Point Loma Nazarene University. He attends Kaleo Church El Cajon and works as a sales and service professional at TaylorMade-Adidas Golf. His hobbies include reading, playing golf, and dating Charity’s new roommate.