Single, but Still Complete
Telling singles to “wait well” leads to a multiplicity of unintended — but very real — consequences.
Stick with me for a moment. When you cook an omelet and you crack open two rotten eggs, you will wind up with a nasty-tasting omelet. Even if one egg is good and the other egg is rotten, you will still wind up with a nasty-tasting omelet. The good egg is not going to make the bad egg better. No, the bad egg is going to contaminate the good egg.
Simply put: One bad egg destroys a good egg and causes the omelet to become inedible.
What does cooking an omelet have to do with singleness?
Far too often, the discussions surrounding the topic of being single focus primarily on the future aspect of finding a mate. They focus on how to “wait well” until the joining together of the two “eggs” creates a marriage. In fact, most singles I talk to, counsel or pastor are so keyed in on finding their future spouse, praying for marriage or looking for a romantic partner that they altogether miss the benefits, purposes and importance of singleness. They miss the critical aspects of cultivating a healthy life themselves while also setting their standards high enough for their future spouse. When the benefits, purposes and importance of singleness are skipped in a person’s developmental process, you wind up with a rotten marriage later on.
Thus, my goal is not to advise you on how to wait well. No, my desire is to completely shift your thinking out of the waiting cycle. This is because, from my experience in counseling hundreds of singles over the years, emphasizing a “waiting well” mentality leads to a multiplicity of unintended — but very real — consequences.
To encourage someone to live in a posture of waiting for something or someone places that person in a perpetual state of conscious want, need and future-oriented thinking. It produces a mentality of lack. In thinking that way, the individual runs the risk of missing out on the now.
If this describes you, you run the risk of selling yourself short during your present. You run the risk of settling for less than the best in a rush to make the future happen sooner than it ought. You run the risk of exchanging a life you passionately embrace one day at a time for a life where you simply exist as you look for the next part to come along. And that is not what I want for you.
That’s not what God wants for you.
Kingdom single, you are not merely to learn how to wait well.
Now, don’t fear what I might say next. I’m not going to walk you down the all-too-familiar path for singles, telling you that “God is your husband” and that this truth should be enough. I understand singleness is not a permanent calling for most people. In fact, most surveys reveal that roughly 90 percent of all singles want to get married. Singleness is not some super-spiritual status chosen by everyone. I realize that many people are single due to the breakdown in our culture and a dismissal of family values. Divorce, selfishness, a consumerist mindset and overall relational dysfunction in families of origin and social circles have led to a cultural shift that has delayed the onset of marriage and availability of healthy (mentally and spiritually), stable marital options.
Yes, God is your husband (Isaiah 54:5), but that doesn’t mean He brings you flowers, opens your car door, fixes your garbage disposal, keeps your feet warm at night, helps you find your contact lens when you drop it, or gives you hugs when you feel vulnerable and alone. To say that God is your husband from a spiritual standpoint is true. But to say you have no remaining physical or emotional needs, whether as a man or a woman, is naïve.
One of my closest friends over the course of my life started out as my professor and mentor. His name was Zane Hodges. Zane passed away at the full age of 76 after decades of service to God as a seminary professor, Bible scholar, pastor and author. Zane loved his work and dedicated his life to it and to the people he shepherded. Zane was also never married.
I’ll never forget the somber, quiet tone he used one day in the latter years of his life when he told me: “Tony, there is a loss that comes with being single. With all the spiritual goodness and profits that surround it, there is this reality of a deep loss when you’re single. It is a space that isn’t filled; there is something you feel that is missing because there are physical and relational needs that are just not met.”
Zane’s words struck me with sadness. But then he continued, “That loss, though, does not have to negate your being content.”
That’s the dichotomy. There are chasms that exist in singleness that can’t simply be wished away or filled with ice cream, activities, shopping, addictions, or even church attendance. There is a polarity that produces real, felt struggles. Living as a successful, satisfied single will not come without intentionality. But it can come. It comes in learning how to walk that tightrope of waiting for the future yet also fully embracing the present, or longing for more yet still delighting if more simply never arrives.
It’s not easy to do, I’m sure. Everyone is different, and some things I say may or may not apply to you. God’s plans for people’s lives are as varied as the wildflowers in a field. Yet the overarching general principles threaded throughout “Kingdom Single” ought to provide a framework upon which stability, strength, and satisfaction can be woven into the unique tapestry of your own life.
Let me return to the subject of eggs.
In the 1999 hit movie “Runaway Bride,” Maggie Carpenter (played by Julia Roberts) struggled with making it all the way to the altar. Engaged multiple times, she would break off an engagement shortly before (or even on) the wedding day. The movie looked at the different reasons this might have happened to her, arriving at the conclusion that Maggie simply didn’t know how she liked her own eggs prepared.
Of course, that’s a simplistic explanation to a deep issue, but the bottom line was that Maggie found herself acquiescing to the likes, preferences, and desires of each man she became engaged to, all the while never quite knowing her own. When asked one day how she wanted her eggs cooked, she didn’t have an answer.
In short, she didn’t know her own passions, skills, dreams, and preferences because she was so focused on one day fulfilling the dream (and pressure) of being a wife. It wasn’t until Maggie identified who she was and truly became Maggie that she was able to marry.
This film’s storyline actually goes against the norm of how most movies portray the romantic relationship. Moving away from eggs and omelets and over to football and sports agents, we find the more typical scene displayed in the box-office hit “Jerry Maguire.”
If you’re like most Americans, you probably know by heart the scene I’m about to describe. Tom Cruise’s character stands in a room full of women, seated comfortably on couches and chairs, as he interrupts their book club evening with his emotional expression of love. As tears threaten to wet his cheeks, he says to his love interest (played by Renee Zellweger) standing across the room, “We live in a cynical world, and we work in a business of tough competitors.” He then pauses as the room draws and holds a collective breath. He continues: “I love you. You … complete … me.”
Starting to say something else, he is quickly interrupted by Renee’s character, who softly and sweetly replies, “Shut up. Just shut up. You had me at hello.”
The two characters then make their way toward each other as the music builds and they become locked in each other’s arms. The supporting cast cries and sniffs on cue, the romantic couple are now one, and countless millions of people absorb a distorted view of singleness and romantic relationships while applauding all the same.
This scene and its message (not the takeaway principle in “Runaway Bride”) is the overarching theme of relationships in modern media. It appears over and over again, whether in movies, songs, talk shows or articles. This theme spells out the purported purpose of romance and marriage, according to popular culture. Which makes it no big surprise that far too many people continue living in perpetual wait-mode — waiting for the “Jerry Maguire” moment of finding that special someone to whom they can finally say, “You complete me.”
But that statement is fundamentally wrong. It is also fiercely frightening, because when one incomplete person marries another incomplete person, you wind up with two incomplete people living together in what most often results in a hot mess. Don’t lose your pursuit of completeness because of your desire to be married.
If you are not yet complete, please don’t get married.
Many unmarried people are looking for marriage to achieve something it cannot do, namely fix their broken and incomplete selves. Often that means getting attached to another broken and incomplete unmarried person, creating defective and unfulfilling relationships. A kingdom single may want to be married, but the difference is that he or she doesn’t need to be married to feel complete and whole. If you need to be married, you have not yet fully understood or embraced your status as a kingdom single.
Far too many couples are married and yet still feel alone because they never fully knew what it meant to be fully single. So they are grasping for something both in and from their spouse that their spouse often lacks the capacity to provide. The nature of marriage is not merely what you’re getting from someone else, but also what you’re giving to someone else. And what you should be giving your spouse is a completely whole single Christian, not half of one who is incomplete.
Friend, you are not fully ready to be married until you’re a fully functioning kingdom single. Otherwise, like most people, all you’re doing is bringing your incompleteness into a relationship, expecting that relationship to accomplish what it is unable to do. All the marriage will do is reveal that you never fully learned what it meant to be single. To put it succinctly, you are complete in Christ with or without marriage.
You will know you’re truly a kingdom single when you reach that point where, even if you want to be married someday, you don’t need to be. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to marry at some point (which was God’s ultimate plan for single people before sin entered the world). But you don’t have to be married to feel complete and whole.
As a kingdom single, you have a divine self-image and a divinely ordained purpose to live out in fellowship with God under the authority of His divine revelation. Only when this is taking place at its fullest are you fully ready (emotionally and spiritually) to be married. Only kingdom singles can ever hope to enjoy a kingdom marriage.
Returning to our egg illustration, I’ll acknowledge, like most people, that two good eggs joined together can make for a tasty omelet. Marriage can be wonderful, yes. But a single egg served over easy, sunny side up, or scrambled can be just as wonderful. Singleness affords you the unique opportunity to determine and discover what kind of eggs you truly enjoy most.
Adapted from “Kingdom Single,” a Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. © 2018 Tony Evans. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Dr. Tony Evans is a respected leader in evangelical circles and a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars throughout the nation. He’s served as the senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship for more than 40 years. He’s also the author of more than 100 books, including “Kingdom Single.”