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Your Turn: Tricycles, Sidecars and the Importance of the Third Wheel

My junior year of college, I found myself ninth wheeling it to our Christmas banquet. If you’ve worked that out mathematically, you have probably figured out that there were four couples and me. My friends were going, so were their boyfriends, so I went along. It wasn’t until a girl came up to our table, pointed at me and said, “Oh, Claire! Aww. Wow. You’re so great for going along without a date” that it even occurred to me to be bothered by the situation.

So many people get really hung up on the faux pas that is the “third wheel,” and I will admit that it is uncomfortable when the waiter asks how to split the check, and you basically have to raise your hand and say, “Hey! I pay for my own food.” But is this moment of discomfort worth not hanging out with your dating or married friends?

Why is there disconnect between marrieds and singles? More specifically, why is there disconnect between marrieds and singles in the church?

It would be easy to think that I am blaming married people for sucking themselves into their own world when they get married and pulling away from their single friends on the basis of “we don’t have much in common anymore.” However, I’m not convinced that’s the root of the problem. Instead, I believe single people are just as likely, if not more so, to separate themselves with the notion of “they don’t want to hang out with me any more.”

I recently attended a reunion with some girls from college. At one point in our lives, we had everything in in common. Now I find myself one of two that aren’t married and one of three that aren’t parents. If I’m being honest, that was a hard weekend for me because I desire the things that they have, and I felt like I had little to contribute to conversation.

So much of what we are taught as young children in church is that we are created for marriage. You were created to be pure until you find your prince charming, who will also be pure; then you will get married, have awesome sex, make babies and spend your days living out Christian culture’s version of the American dream. Obviously that’s a gross overstatement and far from most people’s reality, but it’s still a struggle when my friends are seemingly getting everything I want but don’t have. But is this too much to overcome? Can we still be friends who get each other on an incredible spiritual level like we used to? I really think so.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:28, ESV).

Long one of my favorite verses, I think there is a lot to be said here. Jews, Greeks, slaves, free, male, female — and I think it would be OK to add two more — single, married: We are all one in Christ. Somehow the fact that I don’t get a break on my taxes and still use my parents as my emergency contact does not make me a different type of Christian. I’m not incapable of relating to my friends, and I’m not incapable of relating to the 65-plus Sunday School class at my church. Yet most churches are divided based on age and marital status because of the idea that they relate well to each other. This is a pretty far cry from the early church in the book of Acts, and it leaves a lot of room for gaps. There is so much to be learned from people at every stage of life, and we miss that opportunity when we are sequestered with people only like ourselves.

All of that to say, singles, don’t count out your married friends. Yes, you are single, but you have value, and you have a lot to offer conversation. Let them talk about their husbands and kids, and listen. Contribute when you have something to say because your words and your wisdom have value.

And, marrieds, please be patient with us. We may be struggling with nasty, commandment-10 style envy. Try not to monopolize conversations with talk of married life and children. Ask us about our lives and our jobs. Even though our lives look different, we still have passions, and we still know how to love.

The Great Commission is not going to be fulfilled by married people, single people, black people, white people, adults, children, or even Baptists or Methodists on their own. Instead, the entire body of Christ will fulfill it, and to this single girl, that’s encouraging news.

  Claire Kinney lives in Lexington, Ky., and is a middle school teacher, very part-time blogger, lover of trivial knowledge and a passion-induced writer. 

If you would like to contribute a post to the Boundless blog’s “Your Turn” Friday feature, see “Writers Wanted” for more details.


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