We live in a world that continually pressures us around relationships. There isn’t something wrong with you if you are single. The problem is that it’s difficult to feel secure in your singleness with so many voices pressing in.
Particularly in faith communities and sometimes in close-knit families, there can be a spoken (or quite frankly, a ‘too spoken’) pressure to be in a romantic relationship.
There are a great many reasons as to why our societies lean towards being coupled. Survival, strength, reliability and a view to progress using family structure form a large part of the conversation. The Christian faith in the western world has a strong and somewhat assumed stance around people forming relationships. It’s greatly encouraged to shack up with somebody, and sometimes it can be an intense culture within the church that spurs people to pursue relationships with each other.
It’s often well-intentioned, but it can make young single people feel more isolated due to the jokes and nudges constantly signalling to them that something must be wrong if they are still single.
You may often hear things like Proverbs 18:22 cited ‘He [or she] who finds a wife [or husband] finds a good thing’.
We can ask a million questions – ‘Am I called to be alone?’, ‘Will I ever find THE ONE!’, ‘What’s wrong with me?’, ‘What’s wrong with them?’ – ‘Am I the one that’s called to celibacy?’ – the gift that nobody wants!
We all have a longing for some form of connection. A deep groaning to know and be known.
Q: Why do we sometimes feel the need to get into ‘relationships’? Where does our sense of security (or lack of security) come from?
A newspaper article from a few years ago noted the mental and physical effects of isolation. This might be one of the things that will drive us to want to be in a relationship.
‘The Department of Health is attempting to measure the extent of “social isolation” in the UK, after warnings that it has sparked spiralling levels of illnesses including heart disease, high blood pressure, dementia and depression’ – Telegraph, 18th June 2014 web.
It is thought that 45-50% of people in the UK would consider themselves isolated or lonely. A significant number of those people are in their 20’s. There is a generation growing up in a culture that is focussed solely on self-sustainability. It’s not a negative to be competent and somewhat independent, but too much of this can lead to walling ourselves up against others.
Stoicism seems to be the dominating philosophy that every person should be self-providing, leading to a strong sense of individuality. We’ve lost a sense of community, belonging, friendship, healthy relations, and even communal identity. A big question being asked in schools at the moment (early 2015) is “what is Britishness?” – they are having a tough time defining this because we’ve lost a sense of collective identity.
Single has become synonymous with loneliness and isolation. You can easily be thinking ‘I’m single, what’s wrong with me?’.
A healthy relationship shouldn’t come out of neediness but want.
There is a big difference between dependence and interdependence. When we feel like we ‘need’ somebody else to complete us, we can easily become dependant on romantic relationships. Being single is then interpreted as a failure, and we forever feel unfulfilled.
Dependency can be understood as excessive emotional or psychological reliance on another person. This is to do with neediness. ‘I am made complete in you’ is the phrase often heard around these types of relationships.
In the past, people have used phrases like, ‘I am made whole when I am with that special other’. This sounds okay, but it is actually an incredibly unhelpful thought.
From a Christian perspective, Colossians 2:10 says that ‘In Christ, you have been brought to fullness.’ (NIV).
For those of us who are Christians, we consider ourselves made whole in Christ. We are incomplete without Christ. When we replace the work of Jesus with a relationship – no wonder we are left feeling empty and unfulfilled.
It’s in Jesus I live, move and have my being. It is in Him that I have been brought to fullness. Jesus brings wholeness, and it’s out of the strength of that wholeness that relationships should be formed.
Put it this way – two broken people will only break each other even more. Two complete and secure people can share their strength to enhance each other.
Interdependence is more about a reciprocation type relationship. I bring something, and you bring something that enhances ‘us’. We are not needy by ourselves, but do more when we come together.
A healthy relationship can look like three podiums; The man stands on his podium, it is his life, and it belongs to him alone. The woman stands on her podium, it’s her life, and she owns it. Between them is the third podium, it belongs to both of them, and they own it together.
They can both stand on the middle podium, if and when they do, they stand for something together – but they cannot step onto the other person’s personal podium. They can see it, appreciate it and respect, but it is not theirs. This is a simple picture of loving another person, no attempt to change, dominate or invade. But appreciate and join with another person.
A romantic relationship, at its best, is one of interdependence. When we think about being single as a negative, we are often coming from a place of neediness and dependency. When you finally rid yourself of these types of insecurity, being single is no longer such a bad thing. A relationship of a romantic kind becomes something you want, but don’t necessarily need.
We can make excuses to either be in a relationship because there is social pressure or isolate ourselves because being single is odd. I want us to see that if we are not in a relationship, this is not bad. If you are married/dating/engaged, there are things that you can do to help build up your community. Equally, if you are single, you should not allow the feeling of oddness to stop you from fully engaging with the world around you.
There are 4 things that single people need to get over and rise above. They are not the big issues we make them out to be. They are an excuse not to relate to the people around us.
1) Being the third wheel – ‘I can’t build friendships with couples, families because I am the third wheel’. It would help if you rose above this. If a couple invites you over, they want to see you and spend time with you. We convince ourselves that if our relational lifestyle level does not match the people around us, then a connection can’t exist. You do not need to be in a relationship to relate to people.
2) It’s Valentine’s day and ‘I’m alone’ – It’s the same as any other day. People focus on relationships, sure. However, it is no different than if couples decided to go out on any other day. Somebody on a date on one day over another does not affect you either way so let’s not make this molehill a mountain. It’s okay for people to celebrate their love and it might feel a little ‘in your face’, but it’s possible not to be put off by this.
3) Treating couples like a package deal instead of individual people – You know how it goes – we lump couples together; ‘I’ve told one, so I have told them both’.
Sure there is a special bond. They have built something together, but they are still individuals with their own personalities. Interdependent, not dependant.
4) They are never free – When you have family and are spending time together as a couple etc… it can be busy. It would be easy after inviting a friend who is in a relationship after the third time of hearing ‘no’ to give up. Busy does not mean not interested in being friends… it means busy. Singles need to keep inviting, and couples need to help carve time where they can.
There is a genuine sense in which the person who I bind myself with matters. Whether I am single, married or building friendships – which I relationally influence and am influenced by is important in my walk with God.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belia? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God.
Yoke? Not egg yoke…
When a farmer would plot his fields, he would take two oxen, and he would put a wood block around their necks to bind them together – yoke them.
They would then pull the plough forward and carve a straight path in the field. To carve a straight path, they would need to be evenly yoked, if they were unevenly yoked, they would begin to pull to one side.
Paul is talking about our lives in spiritual terms; and not just for single people looking to date (especially as it’s not even a biblical thought), but for all believers – looking for business partners, who we peruse to marry and any other type of relationship where strong commitments are made.
If the person we are yoking/binding/joining with does not share our values, beliefs, love for Jesus or disciplines, then there is a veering off the path we walk. The yoke is uneven, and we get pulled away.
Imagine if you were prepared to move around the world, donate to ridiculous levels in your finances, share your faith with boldness, die for your faith and the person you are yoked with did not share in those sentiments… What a veering off our walk with God that would cause.
Single But Not Alone/Married And Not Alone
Seek first the kingdom of God. When we come to Jesus, there are so many things that change for the better. We are made new, we are being transformed, we a pressing into our faith’s goal, which is the salvation of our souls. However, one of the biggest benefits is that we are never alone.
We might be by ourselves at times, but we can never be alone. The picture of what it means to be a part of the kingdom of God is a powerful one.
The disciple John paints a powerful picture of Jesus as the bridegroom and we as the bride.
Married to Christ.
John the Baptist sees Jesus as the Bridegroom – The people are his Bride.
John 14 tells us this:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Being Single, but wanting to date
So what do you do if you are single and looking?
Well, firstly put yourself in a position to meet other Christians. Make a serious effort if you’re serious.
Ask some questions;
1) Do they love Jesus? (Even yoke).
2) Are they secure (interdependent not dependant).
3) Do they share the same values (reading scripture, praying together, living holy).
4) Set yourself some realistic standards – let these be focussed on character and personality.
5) Wait – hold out for somebody worth spending your life with (Adam is resting in the presence of God when The Lord brings him a wife). Look to God and don’t get hung up on being in a relationship.
6) Allow yourself to fall in love when you finally find someone who is worth it.
7) Make yourself accountable.
The biggest thing is that we need to look beyond those personal, intimate relationships. I can be single and not alone; I can be married and not alone.
We can allow ourselves to be isolated, and we can allow ourselves to isolate people.
We can also be the church.
We can be the community of believers that shares our lives, including people on the fringes of the community. I don’t need a relationship to feel content, happy, fulfilled.
I find that in Jesus.
I would want a relationship because I can build something, care for someone and fall in love. That might sound hopelessly romantic, but the drive is coming from a place of ‘wanting’ and not ‘needing’.
You can be single and incredibly connected to people. You can also be married and incredibly connected to people.
Run hard and fast for Jesus and if you are looking for somebody, find somebody that can keep up. Until we find our hearts being fulfilled in Christ, don’t worry about the single issue. It’s not supposed to be an issue.
Write down all your reasons for wanting to be in a relationship. Stop and reflect on these. Ask yourself if they come from a place dependence or interdependence. Make a commitment to become secure and comfortable being single before you start looking for a relationship. Learn to be contempt, and nothing can touch you!
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