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.

This was the illustration used on the sifting teaching

This was the illustration used on the sifting teaching

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,

Amy

p.s. Mark Allman, your name was drawn for a set of Holly’s cards. Check your inbox for details. Thanks to all who entered.

Leave A Comment

  1. Bethany November 10, 2013 at 5:45 pm - Reply

    I love this! Thanks for writing for all of us who are not {and may never be} married. Marriage is not the only path to growth in Christian maturity, although there are enough comments that can nearly make one believe otherwise. “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.” Yes. Exactly this.

    • Avatar photo
      Amy November 11, 2013 at 9:21 pm - Reply

      Bethany, your quick reply blessed me greatly … thanks for letting me know I’m not alone. Grace and peace, Amy

      • Nicole November 30, 2013 at 12:22 pm - Reply

        Oh, you’re definitely not alone!
        I add my thanks to you for speaking out on behalf of the Lauren’s of this world!

  2. Such a great reminder to those of us with children and a husband. It’s hard to see outside the bubble of family sometimes. It’s hard to write/talk to those who don’t have that sphere of influence in their lives, when that is what you are enveloped with day in and day out. Funny, we magnify marriage and children (as wonderful as they are) but Paul said he wished everyone single as he was. We all have our calling. There is no such thing as a Varsity Christian. Great reminder.

    • Avatar photo
      Amy November 11, 2013 at 9:22 pm - Reply

      “There is no such thing as a Varsity Christian.” …. love this line. And now I’m thinking of what Varsity Jackets might look like if such a thing existed :)

  3. Vicky November 10, 2013 at 6:08 pm - Reply

    You, young Amy, are a gem. Preach it, sifted sister :D

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      Amy November 11, 2013 at 9:24 pm - Reply

      From one sifted bit of wheat to another :)

  4. CQ MB November 10, 2013 at 7:00 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this, Amy. Ive been waiting to read this this since we talked about it over lunch at the hotel last winter.

    Favorite comedy line: “Which is ducky if you’re married.”

    Favorite serious line: “God isn’t the God of ‘waiting until.'” Truth. So much truth in this.

    And Also

    “But God is more interested in your character and in you reflecting and embodying his character, than in your marital status.”
    The question is, am i??

    Thanks for writing this Amy

    • Avatar photo
      Amy November 11, 2013 at 9:25 pm - Reply

      MB!!!!! I had forgotten about our conversation until your comment and then it all came flooding back. And now I’m a bit sad we won’t be having another conversation this year. Sigh. Maybe next? I think you are just swell Ms. MB. xoxox Amy

    • Nicole November 30, 2013 at 12:23 pm - Reply

      Amen and amen!

  5. LeAnne P November 10, 2013 at 7:52 pm - Reply

    Truth, truth, truth. Quit expecting singles to believe their lives begin in a wedding dress. (Then, for the record, let’s stop acting like marriage counts only once there is a baby then always asking when the next one will be here. God has an awesome purpose for whatever your life looks like NOW as well as when or if there are changes!)

    • Avatar photo
      Amy November 11, 2013 at 9:27 pm - Reply

      The God of the NOW (with a plan for our character in the future). Love it. And Love that you are a champion for the under dogs. Every. Single. Time. LOVE that about you.

  6. Jim Walters November 10, 2013 at 7:54 pm - Reply

    Bullseye, Amy!

    I remember once when I was a single adult Christian, which I was for some time,by the way, that an older man, one who had married right after puberty, I think, said this to me:

    “Well, you are not really a complete man until you are married.” I was dumbstruck! (And that doesn’t happen very often.)

    It had never occurred to me that I was anything less than a complete person — I had ten fingers, ten toes, etc.
    What I should have said, and actually already “knew down in my knower,” was this: “I understand what you mean, Bubba, but Jesus who indwells me makes me a complete person in whatever circumstance I am in.” See Philippians 4:11.

    Or I could have said, “Oh, so you think neither Jesus nor Paul were complete men, either, you moron.”

    Or, I could have just punched him in the mouth. He could have then decided for himself if I was a whole man or not.

    A BLESSING on all single adults today!
    Jim

  7. Megan November 10, 2013 at 8:02 pm - Reply

    Thank you again for being the voice of the singles! I have been there, done that. What an encouraging post. : )

  8. Lyli @3-D Lessons for Life November 10, 2013 at 8:36 pm - Reply

    Amy, although I am now married, I was single until age 42. Your post brought back all those feelings … the ones where I sat in church and felt invisible.

  9. Diane November 10, 2013 at 8:37 pm - Reply

    Amy, even though I’ve been married for almost 30 years, I still resonate with your letter, and am shrieking a hearty “Wahooooooooo and a Hurrrrrrrraaay!” I was single until age 34 and was appalled by the thoughtless ways singles were excluded, skipped over and even joked about. They simply did not know what to do with singles in a married world. So they usually implied we were “on hold” until the big M might occur. I do now have a wonderful marriage, for which I am totally grateful. But I will always hear the marrieds-with-microphones through my “single” ears.

    Thank you, Amy, for your candor and courage!

  10. Shelly November 10, 2013 at 8:44 pm - Reply

    Thanks for writing this letter, Amy. I would say that the last few years of my life in a close community of women has been a sanctifying work. Hard. Enriching. Stripping me bare in the way you described parents raising children. Life with others–those like us, those unlike us, those who enrich us and those who challenge us–sanctifies us. As singles we can choose to isolate ourselves more easily than in marriage, but even in marriage one party can isolate and not engage in the gift of sanctification human relationships offer. So the offer God makes to us all–marrieds and singles–is this: will you submit to the sanctifying work I [God] want to do in you through human relationships? If I accept His offer, it will require me to face my fears, resist the lies I have believed for too long, humble myself and ask forgiveness, receive hard words whether spoken in love or not, and trust God in the midst of all this, believing that He wants more for me than I could ever want for myself. If not, I suppose I can keep living life parallel to others, not fully engaged, or just stay away from people altogether. Though the former sounds harder, it promises to be more rewarding in the long run.

  11. emily thomas November 10, 2013 at 9:04 pm - Reply

    Very gracious tone while covering a touchy subject. Loved reading this and I am thankful for your perspective, Amy.

  12. JoDee November 10, 2013 at 10:47 pm - Reply

    Amos, you have again tackled one of those touchy subjects and very succinctly and accurately put into words what I have felt in various situations. This is especially frustrating in the church where we should be accepted because we are one in the body of Christ. I think I have grown tired of gently reminding people that just because I’m not married doesn’t give me less of a life or make my life “EASIER”. My life is very full of God’s blessings and I wouldn’t change my circumstances because they are just right for what I need to be made more into the image of the One who made me. Who someone else thinks I should be just really doesn’t matter, even if he/she is “holding the microphone”! Thanks dear friend!

  13. Morielle November 10, 2013 at 11:44 pm - Reply

    Ah! Thank you so so much! I just heard the most lovely sermon on just this. Most specifically your sentence “God isn’t the God of ‘waiting until.’” See 1 Corinthians 7, whose main message is, I think, exactly the same. God calls us NOW in our current circumstances.

    Thanks for being a leading lady who looks out for us singles in a way that also respects marriage!

  14. Tanya Marlow November 11, 2013 at 5:00 am - Reply

    Um… YES!
    And yes again.
    And it’s bizarre how often preachers talk about marriage as though it’s the end of the story – cos marriage is only temporary. No marriage in heaven. And death parts spouses. So at some point, all of us who are married are going to be single again. Issues of singleness are ALWAYS going to be relevant to 100% of the congregation (except maybe those who die before their spouse… Hmm – I quickly end up in a morbid place!!) whereas stuff on marriage is not.

    So yes. To all of this. And friendships are SO important in the kingdom of God. Jesus was quite keen on them, as I recall.
    I could rant for some time on this.

    Preach it. :-)

  15. Holly Barrett November 11, 2013 at 6:46 am - Reply

    Love your posts for the singles! I’ve been single again for 20 years (twice as long as I was married). My kids are grown and on their own (praise the Lord and glory hallelujah!!). But God is still interested in my life. He still calls me to be His, to work in His kingdom, and to bless the lives of others. I better quit before I go to preachin’! Thanks for a great post on Singles Day!

  16. sonyamacdesigns November 11, 2013 at 6:50 am - Reply

    Amen Amy, keep rocking the light!

    As I am fifty with teens & never been wed … All fall short of the Glory of GOD! And we don’t need to translate a little word like all. It is what it is. No translation needed. No context to weed it.

  17. Caleb November 11, 2013 at 7:28 am - Reply

    God Bless you Amy! Keep talking…and by all means, get a microphone!

    I’m engaged (finally) and so happy to be! BUT I have been sifted in ways that no married person will ever experience. I soooo appreciated a sermon that I heard in church last week about the Biblically high view of singleness and it blessed my heart and I believe it challenged a lot of people in my fiancé’s church.

    Not many disciples were married and I believe they were sifted like crazy. Even if Paul had been previously married he wasn’t with her when he ministered. I’ve recently been amazed at the beating Paul’s body took. The man must’ve have been able to walk.

    • Caleb November 11, 2013 at 7:29 am - Reply

      Oops! “barely been able to walk.”

  18. SoDanica November 11, 2013 at 9:08 am - Reply

    YES! I am married but I remember the days living single in China and people would tell me how much harder their lives were because they were married or because they had children and how easy it is to be single.
    The pressure within the church for women to marry and have lots of children can definitely be blinding for those making life altering decisions. I have yet to see church folk lining up to bring cassaroles to single women (or widows) during a difficult time or helping them find employment if a job is lost. Life itself is difficult everyone has their own burdens, it is always easy to look around and think everyone has it easier than you but it really does seem like singles really are not treated as equals in the church, they are often viewed as less than ideal, and that really does not align with scripture at all.

  19. Holly November 11, 2013 at 9:35 am - Reply

    Amy…yes! This was so well written (as usual). Full of grace and truth. Thank you for being willing to venture into a touchy subject and handle it with so much graciousness. Very thankful for you and your perspective!

  20. Sarah J November 11, 2013 at 10:45 am - Reply

    Thank you for writing this, while I am married and have a kid, we have been going through a somewhat opposite problem. The church we are at acts (and sometimes) says things that makes you feel that your children (especially young ones) are not welcome in “the body of Christ” (and that you as a married person with children are only welcome under very specific guidelines). This has been very hurtful to us and has also encouraged us to speak up in regards to incorporating the ENTIRE body of Christ in as many functions as possible. While I am sorry to say that we have not been very successful I am glad to see that you are speaking out for this as well. While we are in different categories of life it is nice to see others speaking out for keeping the body of Christ (married and singles, young and old) all together.

    Please hug a married lady with a child today and let them know how much you value them and their children in the body of Christ, and I will hug a single lady and let them know they are valued in the body as well :) Maybe all of us working together will see a change and the body become more unified.

  21. Anna@stuffedveggies November 11, 2013 at 11:01 am - Reply

    Excellent post. I was married for the first time in middle age. BTDT! My Mother spent most of her life as a Widow – raising kids alone. Marriage is a *blessing* from God! It greatly disturbs me when people complain about being married or about their spouse (even if they couch it in terms like “this is what God is teaching me” or “I am being sifted” or “you don’t know what it’s like”). We should thank God for his blessings, and honor our spouse to others.

  22. Joshua Brooks November 11, 2013 at 2:31 pm - Reply

    Nice article Amy.

    I’m thankful that you are speaking up about how being single is often disparaged in public. Married life is wonderful. God created Adam and Eve to be together. However, it’s quite possible to be single and satisfied. I know, I know, it’s a revolutionary idea. See, for instance, exhibits A and B: Jesus and Paul. The great Roman Catholic leader, Pope Francis, is doing an excellent job too.

    These articles encourage me to continue to be faithful and satisfied as a single, male in his early 30’s. :)-

    Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 1 John 2:15-16 NIV

  23. Susan November 11, 2013 at 2:46 pm - Reply

    Dear Amy,

    You are so right! I’m married 35 years and wondered if I’d ever marry at 29. I did. And life with Christ, on either side of the line is just that, life with Christ. There is the good, bad and ugly of sanctification on either side of the line and either side has its own pressures. I love your writing & content to pieces. I like the thought of being a Sifted Sister instead of a Wicked Sister. Keep writing!!!

  24. Hannah November 11, 2013 at 3:08 pm - Reply

    Loved this, thanks Amy!

  25. Meredith November 11, 2013 at 4:59 pm - Reply

    Wow. This is really eye-opening. I am married, but I think as a married person, we often forget that our relationship with Christ is personal, and if for some reason the worst happened, and I no longer had my spouse, I know that He would not forget about me! Such a thought-provoking post, and I’m glad Emily Thomas pointed me to it. :) And, I’m Mormon too, so I think there are many single people in my religion that feel “sifted out” by my very family oriented faith.

  26. Elenna November 11, 2013 at 6:55 pm - Reply

    This was soooo good. Thank you, Amy, for sharing this. I can affirm that being married, being single, being widowed, being a mother, and being a single widowed mother for the past 13 years have ALL been and continue to be sanctifying experiences in my life. I really appreciate and heartily yell (in my mind, since I’m in my office right now) AMEN to your statement, “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.” That is absolutely true. I don’t think I can adequately describe how irritated I feel when someone quotes to me the Isaiah verse that says my Maker is now my husband – as though the Lord somehow became my life partner in exchange for my husband, upon his death. And then, should He decide to introduce me to another flesh and blood husband, he’ll quietly step out of that role in my life? No! No. The Lord wants to be our first love and number one relationship, completely and always, whether married or single. Not some substitute or consolation prize – but The Prize.
    Keep up the good work, and God bless you as you bless others with the wonderful gift He’s given you!

  27. Mary DeMuth (@MaryDeMuth) November 11, 2013 at 7:38 pm - Reply

    Girl! This needed to be written, and you elaborated beautifully. Thank you.

  28. Mark Allman November 12, 2013 at 7:33 am - Reply

    Amy,
    I am bothered by how singles are treated. I see the heart ache my oldest daughter endures at the hands of “friends” and the church. It is as if we consider them cursed and if single and not dating they are worse than cursed. We too often view the world through the lens of who we are. If you are like me then all is well but if you are different then something is wrong with you. We have so much pride in who we are at times it blinds us to the beauty of other souls who are not like us. We don’t even look at them. Besides people who are single we treat anyone not like us as less than. We have got to change how we look at people; at their value. We have to look at people’s souls and not their circumstances or their physical characteristics.

  29. Mark Allman November 12, 2013 at 7:34 am - Reply

    Thanks to Amy and Holly for those great cards. I appreciate that.

  30. Kristi November 12, 2013 at 8:00 am - Reply

    God gives us what is best for us and what will give Him the most glory in our lives. We seem to think that some of His gifts are better than others. That is not true. He loves to give good gifts to all His children – married, single, young, old, rich, poor, etc. He also, in love, withholds things from us that would do us harm. He withholds no good thing. So if He is withholding something form me it is not good fro me at least at this time. He works in the lives of individuals married or not. We are in relationship with Him personally first and corporately second. Whether that be as the church, as a married couple, in family, or as friends. Thanks so much for this post. Yet another that hits home.

  31. Paula Phillips November 13, 2013 at 7:27 am - Reply

    Very well said, Amy! As one of those “really old single and never married” women, I can attest that God indeed interested and intentional on growing, changing, molding, and sanctifying us regardless of our age or the details of our life here. After all, we are HIS children and like most parents, HE will go to great (or, in HIS case, the greatest) lengths to to do HIS best for us. I have had the privilege of experiencing all of the emotions, trials, joys, and tribulations that life has to offer without being married or having children – the context in which I experienced them was different than that of a married woman, but none the less intentional on moving me more towards HIM than anyone else’s experience. At this point in my life I can say with all confidence that God grants us the desires of our heart – the desires HE chooses and the desires which will allow us to reflect HIS glory, not ours. Our life belongs first to HIM and the time we have here on earth is short – we choose to allow HIM to work in us, married or single!

    thanks so much for your eloquent, truthful words!!!

  32. Elizabeth Trotter March 6, 2015 at 7:05 pm - Reply

    Just found this post, Amy!! Honestly, I thought it was strange what that guy said in your intro, because I purposely leave out much of my marriage and parenting experience in my blog, both for privacy reasons, and also because I want what I write to be universal. The thought of being stuck always writing about either parenthood or marriage makes me feel a little panicky!

    I also thoroughly disagree with the premise that marriage is the most sanctifying thing. It has not been for me. I find the most sanctifying relationships to be with irritating church people. (Oops, did I just say that??) They make me check my motives and my attitudes and my sin nature far more than my marriage ever has. I realize I have a very happy marriage, and many people cannot relate to that, but I find it interesting that the very statement you dislike as a single, I also dislike as a married person. And I think, perhaps there really is something wrong with the idea!

    So glad you took on this idea. My husband did too, did you happen to see that? http://www.alifeoverseas.com/the-purpose-of-marriage-is-not-to-make-you-holy/

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