Dear Married One Who Speaks in Public,
We’ve been down this path of tone being tricky in writing. And it is. I know that these “letters to the world” may have run their course and been a bit overdone. But a letter is more relational than a post or an essay or a manifesto. And this isn’t a letter to the world, this is a letter to you from me. And it’s not meant to be a manifesto, but a conversation. I have chosen today not because it’s Veteran’s Day in the U.S. (get it, veteran’s day?! See, I have a sense of humor), but because it’s it single’s day in China. November 11th or 11/11 – get it? All those ones.
Several months ago I was listening to a video when the author being questioned said, “If I wasn’t married, what would I write about? Or a father? It would just be me at coffee shops.”
I grabbed my notebook and replayed the last minute of the interview. Nope, I had not misheard.
He went on to say that he writes out of his life. I wanted to snort, “You don’t seem to have a very high view of the life single people are living.” But I was in the section marked Quiet at the library. (Not a coffee shop, wink.)
He said what others have said from a more public place: the pulpit. I have heard, “Marriage is the most sanctifying relationship.” Which is ducky if you’re married.
This isn’t meant to be a rant against you, but a call for all of us who have a public forum to do and be better. And more importantly to have a higher view of God at work.
I know that being married can be hard and that parenting can strip your skin off and leave you raw in ways that look like the angel of death passed by and got distracted halfway through the job.
With gentleness, I proclaim God is interested in growing, stretching, challenging, and molding every single one of us (pun definitely intended).
God cares about the character of a three-year-old as the little one is learning about patience. God sees the momma staying up waiting for her 17-year-old to arrive safely home as she is growing in being long suffering. God walks with the man who didn’t get the intended raise as he enters a new chapter on disappointment and value.
God isn’t the God of “waiting until” – until you get married, until you have kids, until the cancer is healed, until you get the perfect job, until the kids are out of the house, until you retire to get to work. He will wait with us, walk with us, celebrate, mourn, and listen with us.
It is not a given that the singles you know will get married, stay married,or have kids in the way a person envisions. The old joke goes only taxes and death are guaranteed. But I’d add one more. God is at work. Even when it is hidden or quiet or in an undesired direction.
Dear married one with a microphone, you might think I’m writing on behalf of myself (how can I say I’m not), but what pushed me to share these thoughts was a young woman named Lauren. We met at a seminar for folks coming back to the U.S. after living abroad. During one of the meals she leaned towards me asking if she could ask me a question and I had a sense where the conversation would go. I’m often asked by younger singles what it is like to be an “older single” in the body of Christ.
The heart of the question often isn’t about my experience; instead, can I offer them hope that they will have a place regardless of whether or not they get married.
I do have hope and I try to offer it.
On the last morning the leader of our group ended with a teaching on The Last Supper and commented how if you are married, you would be sifted like the disciples were sifted. I sensed an energy shift to my right, where Lauren was seated. We were a room of 12 adults, each of whom had been sifted.
He didn’t say, if you’re a Christian. Or if you’re an adult. Or if you work with people. He said if you’re married and eliminated a third of us in the room.
I looked for Lauren after the session and assured her that God was at work in her too.
And really that’s my hope, with a small change in words, we can affirm that God is in the business of sanctification. I want the Laurens of our lives to know there is room at the table for them.
Is God using your marriage to sanctify you? Of course he is and I am grateful he is! But God is more interested in your character and in you reflecting and embodying his character, than in your marital status. He’ll use the ingredients of your life and mine to sanctify us because he’s interested in us now.
Please know that when you hold a microphone, you hold a responsibility and unless you are at a marriage workshop, most likely there will be non-marrieds listening to you. Divorce can be sanctifying. Widowhood. Single parenting. Never married. Please feel free to reference and illustrate from your marriage! But find ways to include the Laurens too.
Thanks for listening and for sharing your life with me.
Grace and peace,