Without a husband and no children, where do I fit in the church?
I am the only single in our church, and I try to make the best of it. Going to dinner at church involves my sitting in a group of married people and everyone talking about how great their kids are, when the next one is due, how great so-and-so looks while pregnant, etc. The three forms of “encouragement” I hear are, “Well, you can do whatever you want because you’re alone; you don’t have to deal with a husband and kids.” Or “don’t worry about it; you have loads of time.” Or “why don’t you just get out there and find someone?” (By the way, when someone finds where “out there” is, please let me know so I can move there immediately.)
I try to help out as much as possible with new babies among friends, helping with baby/wedding showers and cooking dinners, but even though I try so hard to be a part of all these married people’s lives, though they care about me, I just don’t [fit in]. I feel like I missed the boat that everyone else got on at age 22, so I’m trying to catch up by paddling alongside in a canoe. I can’t help but feel afraid this is what it’s always going to be. I don’t harbor bitterness toward my friends, but when they gush about their families, it hurts. In some ways, I think I’m just re-evaluating the situation now and trying to figure out where a mid-20s single woman fits into the scheme of things.
When I evaluate the situation, there is a great gulf of marriage and children fixed between me and them. Since I can’t discuss potty-training intelligently, I just don’t fit in. And though I have taken interest in my new career and can see myself living in contentment by myself if I do not get married anytime soon, the most depressing thing to deal with is just this: feeling completely out of step with everyone else. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
I commend your involvement in the local church and lives of families, especially since there are not other singles in your community. That is no doubt difficult. I understand where you are. Waking up one day and realizing that your life is not at all how you planned or hoped it would be can be frustrating. But let me encourage you not to lose hope in God’s plan during this season.
I first want to encourage you with a couple of truths I’ve leaned on during the very same season you are walking through — truths I knew in my head for years but didn’t quite “stick” until I was honest with myself and with others about the discouragement I faced. Most significantly, I’ve walked out the last decade convinced of God’s goodness. Growing up a pastor’s kid who was always at church, I would have told you I knew this, but it wasn’t until my 26th birthday that I was really pressed to believe it. I remember driving down the road with a tight grip on the steering wheel, telling God that the life I had planned for myself wasn’t happening and — much to my shame — I was blaming Him for my lack of happiness. God used that day and the weeks to come to show me how little I trusted Him. Now, six years later, the reality of Luke 11:13 is more firm in my heart than ever before. It’s the reality that God desires to give His children good gifts. If singleness is what’s best for me right now, then it is a good gift from God.
I’ve also learned of my deep need for Christian fellowship. We live in a society where single women are pushed to be independent and forward thinking in all arenas of life, and I have just enough of a strong will to sometimes think that I can handle this singleness thing on my own. I simply cannot, and I often need to relinquish the desire I have to fight this discouragement alone. The women God has brought into my life during this period of prolonged singleness have been such a means of grace, as they continually point me back to fellowship with Christ and the abundant life I have in Him.
While investing in family life will certainly look different based on what stage of life you’re in, an empty ring finger does not render you unable to fulfill Paul’s admonition in Titus 2 to train the younger generation. In fact, I’ve had many “spiritual mothers” in my own life that either never married or married later in life. Their experience with decades of singleness has served as an incredible means of encouragement and example in my own season of waiting.
Keep in mind that while you may not be able to discuss potty-training or napping schedules with experience, that doesn’t disregard your ability to genuinely connect with these young mothers. When another wedding, baby shower or pregnancy announcement feels like salt in the singleness wound, remember the command to “rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15). By investing in these families, you are very much in the process of preparing for marriage and family by serving the body of Christ the ways you do. You can gently remind your friends of this when they push you to “get out there and find someone” or place unneeded emphasis on your “freedom” as a single woman.
Further, remember that your femininity is rooted not in your marital or parental status, but rather in that God created you as a woman. Being created as male or female is not an afterthought in God’s design, but part of the grandeur of His wisdom.
Think of this extended season of singleness as something God has entrusted to you. Dealing with a career, living arrangements and other practical life matters can be a huge burden when your heart’s desire is to set up a home with a husband and plan for children. However, working and planning through these practical areas at this stage in your life will serve as an incredible help down the road, regardless of your marital status.
Finally, I know that feeling out of place in the circles you run in can be lonely, but don’t give into the lie that you are alone. I made a decision years ago that when I began to feel lonely or discouraged because I wasn’t married, I would use that as an opportunity to create community. Rather than sitting at my apartment and choosing to grumble, I would have a couple over for dinner, open my home for a movie night with the girls or find a way to serve someone else. Over time, this discipline not only turned my thoughts outward, but also began friendships I absolutely treasure to this day.
Be comforted by the nearness of God during a season that can be used to draw you closer to Him. He is aware of your heart’s desires and has your best in mind — because He is good. Leave a watching world and church family in awe of how you trust and praise Him, even on days when you feel way out of step.
Copyright 2011 Liz Lockwood. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Liz Lockwood serves as the women’s discipleship strategist at The Gallery Church of New York. She attended Southern Seminary, where she earned her M.Div. and Th.M. degrees in systematic theology. Liz is most content with quality conversation over a good cup of coffee.