For a longish while I was a single Christian guy (yes, we do exist!) and I used to find the opening chapters of Genesis a bit tough.
In my guts I really resonated with the phrase “it’s not good for a person to be alone” (as someone involved in Church leadership I felt that horrible loneliness of feeling alone in a crowded room, feeling sad behind a smiley face). To have someone “really understand you” was what I craved most in Churches full of candy floss banter and polite conversation.
Alone-ness is not actually just about being single or married, although I remember hating going home to an empty house after and eventful day, but actually about the quality of all our relationships -including your spouse and kids if you have them.
Shane Claiborne, himself celibate for much of his ministry until he married comparatively recently said: “you can live without sex, but you cannot live without love”. Sadly, many people end up having lots of sex whilst craving love and as lothario Russell Brand said recently on a vlog “it is empty and unfulfilling”.
I read in Phillip Yancey’s “What’s so amazing about grace” of a young man struggling with his sexuality who said “it is easier to get sex on the streets than a hug in a Christian Church!”… Something is badly wrong.
Which is why it is so important that are Churches are real, deep and authentic communities that love and care for each of us beyond shallow superficial niceties, through-out scripture we see Godly friendships enabling individuals to be able to step out beyond our comfort zone to all that God has for us; Abraham and Lot, Naomi and Ruth, David and Jonathan, Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest, Peter and John, Barnabas and Saul and Paul and Silas. It is so important to have friends to share our joys and sorrows, to spur us on in all we are in Christ.
I would suggest we all need these friendships, perhaps our need is more obvious when unmarried, but still I would argue needed.
Also, as a young guy in my 20s full of hormones it was an ongoing challenge to wait and seek Miss Right rather than succumb to “Miss Right Now”, and I am forever grateful to Godly mates who on a couple of occasions stopped me making some stupid mistakes -the importance of Godly and accountable friends who love you enough not to remain silent and say what you want to hear! We all need to cultivate these kinds of friends, and -despite the discomfort- attempt to be this kind of friend too.
Someone once said to me “Only dead Salmon swim with the tide” but as a single Christian guy it felt at times like a tough swim up stream against the competing tides of a sex obsessed world and a marriage obsessed Church (I remember at theological college the -not so subtle- comments about marriage and match-making every time I spoke to anyone female above 18 and bellow 81!) I felt at times very ‘out of place’ in the Christian Community with people wanting to marry me off so I could be ‘normal’!
This sense of ‘abnormality’ came in part for a misunderstanding from the understanding of “one flesh” where people refer to their spouse as ‘their other half’ as though some-how marriage completes us -certainly in some senses a good marriage we bring out the best in the other person and together our gifts complement each other to become more than just two individuals together- but this in no way makes us ‘half a person’, Jesus single and a virgin and yet was the most fulfilled and whole human-being ever to exist in the history of humanity.
Too often we can become so preoccupied with trying to meet the right person that we can over-look all that God has for us. When I was younger there was a large Church locally which to be honest was not that great, but I had friends who went there purely to do “sanctified sharking” -basically going to Church on the pull- yet, it felt wrong to compromise your discipleship simply to meet someone.
For me too, I fell for the lie (which many of us fall for) that the grass is greener in a different life-stage or set of circumstances -and although I thank God every day for my wonderful wife and family- marriage and kids (though great) can also be challenging. We all at times look at other peoples lives with envy, we all think everyone else has a better life than us. We forget that fulfilment and wholeness is not about new things, new relationships or change in circumstances (I’ll be happy if….) but it is only in our relationship with God through Christ that we find true happiness and satisfaction. Indeed, we may have the most idyllic ‘perfect’ looking life but if we do not have Jesus then we have missed the point of our life on this planet.
As we think of relationships we need to remember our value does not come from other people’s opinions of us, our attractiveness/skills/giftedness or whatever but from who we are in Christ.
Yet, I would challenge us all -married and single- to let’s help build Church communities of love and depth where we value people and welcome them into our lives, homes and families rather than just weak smiles over weaker coffee after Church services in our Sunday masks.