Cultivating Singleness

Megan. Hater of Coffee. Flying solo. Mom to none.

Since this is a blog post, I thought I’d start out by introducing myself in typical blog-bio fashion. This type of introduction usually includes one’s affection for coffee and a description of the author’s marital and parental status. I despise coffee and am single, so mine sounds a little less winsome than some.

If I didn't lose you with the coffee confession, let me ask a question about the other part of the bio: why do we so often define ourselves by our relationships, except when we're single? I could have put “daughter” or “sister,” but probably never would.

Our culture often talks as if the only adult relationships that truly matter are marriage and parenting.

If we're honest, the church isn’t much better. We constantly hear about the importance of loving your spouse well, prioritizing date nights, and maintaining consistent family time. But when was the last time we encouraged singles to cultivate their singleness? Do we even know what that means? Most of the time when we address the single lifestyle, it comes out something like this: “You’re single. You have no idea how much free time you have. Come serve your church and babysit our kids!”

We define the concept of cultivating singleness not by the health of the individual, but by how they give of their time.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve found so much joy in serving the church and babysitting children. However, in the process, I’ve reached a fair share of breaking points and hurt the people around me. I want to share a few pieces of advice about cultivating singleness so that you might avoid the same mistakes.

1. Prioritize communion with God

I believe this part of the singleness stereotype is true: it is a gift to be able to devote yourself fully to the Lord. Paul, an apostle who was single, talks about this in 1 Corinthians 7:32-33:

“One who is unmarried is concerned about things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife.”

We should embrace this undivided time as a gift. I am so thankful that I can decide at a moment’s notice to ride my bike to a park to read my Bible, pray, or go for a walk. I don’t have to check in with anyone. I don’t have to arrange child care. I take it for granted, but it is a gift to have so much freedom and flexibility to commune with God.

If you're single but don’t feel that freedom, I challenge you to take a look at your schedule and priorities. We all have busy seasons: work, school, residencies, internships, family emergencies, etc. But if your busy season has turned into a busy life, it may be time to make some changes. For me, this meant leaving an enjoyable part-time job so that I could intentionally focus on cultivating singleness within the busyness of grad school and work.

2. Prioritize deep relationships

I’ve heard that one of the best parts of marriage is to have the commitment and covenant that no matter what you do or say, your spouse will be there to love you through it. Singles don’t have that guarantee, so it may take more effort to create relationships with deep levels of trust and vulnerability.

(And in my experience, once that’s achieved, they get married and move to another state, so you have to start all over again).

We need to give singles just as much if not more time to cultivate vulnerable relationships. This may take the place of them volunteering or babysitting. But not only is this "okay;" it’s healthy.

Creating deep relationships will look different for each person. Maybe you're the type who needs to sit down with coffee in hand and a listening ear across the table asking intentional questions. Maybe you enjoy conversation while hiking in the great outdoors or taking a stroll on a nice day. Discover how and to whom you open up and make time for that consistently. This is vital for both men and women to thrive in singleness.

3. Prioritize serving

My concern with the second point is that singles will use it as an excuse to stop serving completely and spend all their time hanging out, traveling, and avoiding babysitting. That is not at all what I want to communicate. Ultimately, the church is a family. Healthy families prioritize their time with one another and cultivate healthy relationships. Out of that love, they also serve one another.

The Bible tells us, “God has placed the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose” (1 Corinthians 12:18). God designed each one of us, both married and single, with specific roles in his church. When we have a healthy rhythm of prioritizing communion with God and deep relationships with our brothers and sisters, we have a clearer sense of where God is calling us to serve. Our motivation changes from guilt to love.

Now I can serve in Soma Kids and babysit on Friday night, not because I feel like I have to, but because I want to love and disciple children, my brothers and sisters (or potential brothers and sisters) in Christ. Or maybe God is calling you to move across the country or world to participate in building his kingdom in a different city. When we cultivate singleness, we can better discern where God is calling us to serve.

I must admit that I feel like a hypocrite as I write these words. I fail daily in these areas; but by the grace of God, I can start afresh the next day. Cultivating a healthy singleness is not something that happens overnight. Like a healthy marriage, it takes time and effort. But let us not lose heart, for it's a beautiful picture of God’s love when we see healthy singles thriving in our church family.

So how, then, would I write my blog-bio? I would choose to define myself less by my marital status and more by who I am in this season of singleness:

Megan. Tea connoisseur. Wanderer of the world. Dependent on community. Born broken, but being restored by Christ. 

Image: "Catherine of Siena Writing," by Rutilio di Lorenzo Manetti. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons