22 Feb Singlehood – A Gift and A Calling!
‘Oh the bliss of single life’ is what I often feel in spite of challenges I face as a single person.
“I am very jealous of you Aunty, you are so free to move about and happy. See me, tied to household responsibilities, looking after husband and children. . .” said one of my nieces one day, though she is happily married.
One of the most powerful strategies of extending God’s Kingdom on earth is the Christian home.. At the same time it does not mean that those who remain single have missed something or they are incomplete. The world including the Christian society in general, may look at single women in particular, as second class citizens and as unfulfilled people. The fact that a believing woman is not married does not deprive her of the fullest usefulness in God’s service or in any other field.
My family members had been expressing their loving concern and support since my younger years and also after joining the staff in the UESI. Many marriage proposals were brought to me by the family, senior graduates and UESI staffworkers. As I met graduates in Conferences and during travels, I respected many for their spiritual maturity and Christian stand. But the Lord did not lead me to consider marriage. My parents then said that they would trust me to prayerfully choose my own life partner. I respected that freedom and support from family and UESI friends.
When I joined the UESI as a staffworker, it never entered my mind until nearly 10 years later that the Lord would ask me to be single. I had been praying and asking God by then what he had in store for me – marriage and singleness and that if he wanted me to remain single, I would be willing with His enabling.
In finding out God’s will or even accepting the role God wants us to have, an understanding of who God is, is very vital. The truth that our heavenly Father who is God of all love and knowledge, has a plan for our life should grip us. Will he plan anything that is not best for us? (Ps. 84.11; Jer. 29.11). God has a plan for everyone consistent with His character (Ps. 145.17) and He will fulfil His purposes for His children (Ps. 138.8).
As we learn to understand God’s character, we also learn to rest upon His Sovereignty . The knowledge that He is Sovereign and that my life is in His care, has deep significance for single women. There is no place for feeling of inadequacy or failure, of having missed the boat or being passed by. God has done it, it is enough.
Each one of us, , will have the God given desire to love someone, to be loved by someone, to have a home of our own and to have children.
Having believed in God’s character we need to make a total surrender of the desire to be married, leaving it to God’s wisdom. It is not at all easy.
Commitment to God depends not only on sentiment or emotion, but also on the will – a very definite act of the will. Though a job was waiting for me in the College which I left, if and when I returned and though proposals were coming for marriage, even as late as at the age of 42, God enabled me not to be tempted but to be firm in my commitment with no regret with the support from UESI fellowship and family.
One day I received a cute and special proposal from a suitor through my colleague, a staff wife! As I entered her home one morning, she said that just then she had sent a marriage proposal to me through her husband. I laughed and asked her why they were not taking seriously my call and stand to remain single. She had a mischievous smile on her face and called me inside. Then she told me that her 7 year old son came to her that morning and said to her, “Mummy, I want to marry Prema Aunty”. We both laughed a lot. I said, “How sweet!” The boy had gone to school then. I had enjoyed playing with staff children during staff conferences at Highfield and knew all their names. That little suitor of mine is no more – was drowned in a lake at the age of 14 or 15.
The fact that a woman is single does not mean that she cannot have any normal co-operation and relationship with men. There are vast and varied spheres of activity in which she can engage in a normal association with men, where a woman’s contribution is as essential as that of a man’s. This is so not only in Christian ministries but also in industry, commerce, in the medical field, in teaching and in many other fields.
At home I was quite close to my father and am close to my brothers. So normally I would not have any hesitation to move and work with men. I am privileged and grateful to have understanding, cordial and healthy relationship with staff and graduate families in the UESI. They accept single lady staff as they are and treat them with dignity and respect.
Women like Mary Slessor, Amy Carmichael and Mother Teresa without losing in anyway their femininity, have been greatly used of God in varied ministries. Therefore, whether one gets married or remains single, it should be in obedience to God’s will.
There is no virtue in remaining single. Nor is a single person superior to a married person. It is a special vocation. The Scripture says singleness is a gift from God (Mt. 19.11,12). Yes, it is a gift of God, a beautiful calling, if one is able to receive, accept and enjoy it by God’s grace.
One needs to pray and find out at a certain stage in life what God’s will is for one’s life – whether to marry or not. Every relationship or friendship needs to be weighed and placed before God. One cannot choose to remain single because, “what is available is not desirable and what is desirable is not available”.
When compared to single persons in the Western countries, it is easier for women to remain single in the Indian context, where we have a support system from family, fellowships and church.
As one accepts that God has called her to remain single, God gives certain indications to encourage her in her decision.
- Accepting God’s love and plan for her.
- Not getting frustrated or disappointed because she is not married
- Rejoicing when younger persons get married at home or among friends and colleagues.
- Having cordial relationship with sisters-in-law.
- Finding a real joy and fulfilment in what she does.
Single women face several challenges though they may have a support group which will accept and encourage them. They need to learn to handle singleness with God’s enabling.
- Accepting singleness with joy with no regrets. This comes gradually through growing trust in God. This can provide a powerful witness and examples to other singles.
- Not thinking that one has passed the stage of being attracted to men. Men at times may try to take advantage of single ladies. One needs to be careful enough and seek God’s discernment in relating to men, in ministry as well as in other fields.
- Recognising and accepting the normal sexual drives which are normal. Instead of suppressing them, one needs to sublimate them. Physical exercises, if possible keeping an open home – giving oneself selflessly to others like students in building them up, playing with children, trying new recipes, gardening and writing, involving in some creative work, involving with our own family members, and others, will help one overcome sexual drives and loneliness in a healthy way. If single women learn to handle this realistic problem by God’s grace and rugged discipline it will affect other areas of personality in beautiful ways.
- Handling an array of questions from some insensitive and even from well meaning friends – “why are you not married yet?” Did you love someone and did it not materialise? etc. People attribute some reasons to singleness – physical or mental problems, failure in love or being physically unattractive. Very few will affirm that it is God’s definite call. Instead of getting hurt and giving an answer dodging their questions when we smile at them or laugh at their questions they will be disarmed. Developing a sense of redemptive humour is not making light of something serious. Humour is one of God’s gift to us in this grim world. Without humour we become unbalanced.
Having a supportive family or a circle of understanding friends or colleagues is a great help in coping with singleness.
Jesus was authentically human. His humanity would have been incomplete if He had not known the pull of physical desires. When we read He was in every respect tempted as we are, yet without sin, and is able to help those who are tempted, we realise that He knows and understands our fears and problems. His companionship and victory are available to those who come to Him.
Let us be encouraged by the truth that God alone can fulfil the deepest need of every man or woman, whether married or single.
Celebration of women also includes celebration of the joys and challenges of single women and their varied roles in building the Kingdom of God.
The author is a Field Partner & Former UESI staffworker.