No unmarried person should be an island. Unfortunately, it sometimes seems (especially in the church) that island-hood is expected and/or encouraged for singles. I’ve definitely been to churches in which I was the only single woman over the age of 18 – or the only single woman not living with her parents.
Fortunately, I’ve had some excellent people (married and unmarried) in my life who have joined me on my Island of Singleness, wallowed in the Swamp of Sorrow with me, and then pulled me into their boats and taken me to the Continent of Personhood where everyone is treated like a person – not like a marital status.
Because I’ve lived in the extremes of No-Community and Really-Really-Great-Community, I thought I’d say a few things here on the value of community and why it’s important to find ways off the Island of Singleness.
Community builds skills:
- Conflict resolution skills – sometimes life is messy (literally and figuratively). Living in community brings more mess, but it also teaches me how to deal with mess and thus makes me a nicer person. This is especially true when I do life with people who are different than I am.
- Auntie skills – whether I have biological nieces and nephews someday or not, it’s good for me to be “Auntie Charity” to my friends’ kids. It reminds me of what it was like to start understanding the world, keeps me relating to people of all ages, and teaches me how to talk about Jesus in smaller words.
- Keeping-things-in-perspective skills – It’s easy to think I’m alone in the world, or that singleness is the ultimate suffering in the universe. But hanging out with people of all ages and demographics reminds me that there are bigger problems than mine, that other people are (or were) single into their 30’s, and that it’s nice to not have to wake up with kids five times a night.
Community provides opportunities
- To fight sin – it’s clear from the Bible that Jesus takes sin seriously (Matthew 5:29-30). It’s also clear that I can’t always see my sin on my own, that I need someone to point it out to me in love (Proverbs 27:5). I know from experience that having people who will ask me how I’m doing on something is a key element in fighting and overcoming sin.
- To be hospitable
- For me – I get to invite people over to my apartment pretty much whenever I want, and I have the time and income to serve people that way.
- For my community – My community gets to learn how to serve and include me as a single woman. In one church I attended, I was “adopted” by a family; in others, I’ve been invited for dinner or coffee or family events, at which no one has asked me about my current marital prospects (so refreshing!).
- To see what godly marriages look like – I hesitated to put this bullet point in here because I didn’t want to come across like, “I stay in community so that I can get a man someday, and so that I can spend all my time preparing to be a wife.” But it’s super important for me to have people around me to help me make good dating and marrying decisions. And it’s important for me to see godly marriages – not so I can put all my hope in a similar one someday, but so I can rejoice in the heavenly picture of Christ and His bride modeled in earthly husbands and wives.
- To serve other people as Christ as served the church (Eph 5:1-2, I Pet 4:10-11) – Can’t serve other people on a deserted island. Just saying.
- To submit to leaders (Hebrews 13:17) – The Bible calls leaders to lead well and followers to submit well. Can’t submit on a deserted island, either.
Community reminds me about Jesus
- Relationships with other Christians are more permanent and precious than relationships within biological families (Matt 12:48-49, Mark 10:29-30) – Jesus speaks strongly of the family that we have in the kingdom of God being much more precious than blood ties. I’m infinitely blessed to have parents and siblings who know Jesus; but even if I didn’t have them and never had a family of my own, I still have something better: the family of God.
- Singleness is only temporary and for my good (Isaiah 54, Isaiah 56:1-7) – In Isaiah 54, God promises spiritual sons and daughters (whom He will Father) to the barren woman. The training of those spiritual children is something that reminds me of a later promise in the chapter: God promises to be my husband, thus proving that my singleness is only temporary. Even if it lasts all my earthly life, it will only last until I get to heaven anyway.
Basically, community (especially Christian community) proves to me that
- I’m not a sloughed-off skin cell; I’m a vital part of the body of Christ (Romans 12:1-21).
- I’m not a leftover or an afterthought; I’m on purpose (Psalm 139:13-16).
- I haven’t been marooned on a deserted island; I’ve been rescued and given a new life and identity in Christ (II Cor 5:17).
But, I mean, even God Himself is in community, being three persons in one (I John 5:7, II Cor 13:14). When Jesus was out of community with His Father, that was the worst thing ever (Matthew 27:46). And He died so that we can be in communion with Him forever and ever (John 14:1-7).
Because of Jesus, I have a community. Because of my community, I have more of Jesus. And I think that’s the best reason of all.
Note: The processing in this post was initially spurred and partially inspired by Chapter 9 “Single in Christ: A Name Better Than Sons and Daughters” (pp. 105-116) of the book This Momentary Marriage by John Piper (Crossway: Wheaton, 2009), which can be downloaded for free here.
Another Note: I am in no way advocating that I can’t have community if I’m the only one I know in my demographic. Some of my favorite people – from whom I’ve learned (and am learning) the most about life and God – are married, or are gay or bisexual, or were born in a different decade than I, or have vastly more or less money than I do, or affiliate with a different or no religion, or were born or live in other countries.