SINGLE LIFE AIN’T ALL FUN AND GAMES
We sat across the table to eat and chat. We hadn’t met together in a few months. My wife and his talked about designing their homes, what’s new with the kids, and several other topics that interested them. He and I talked about the kids, our respective churches, what we’re reading, and home repair projects. We enjoy fellowshipping with these friends. There’s very few simple pleasures like meeting friends for good eats and conversation. I agree with Tolkien, “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
For onlookers, the four of us sitting at the table might have looked like haggard travelers. You might have seen dark rings under some eyes, slouched posture, and weary countenances. You see being married and having kids is exhausting. I rarely finish a week where I don’t feel spent.
I’ve heard several married folk say something like, “Oh I wish I could be single again, so I could do whatever I want.” Or “Enjoy being single while you have no responsibility.” Or “Wish I could watch football all day.” Married men often idealize being single. Single people work, feel spent, and have responsibilities. I remember being single and there were many difficult times. It wasn’t all fun and games.
MARRIAGE DOESN’T SOLVE ALL OUR PROBLEMS
On the other hand, a few months back I met for lunch with a friend who is single. We talked about work and his latest outdoor adventure. We also talked about our activity within the church. I encouraged him to use his gifting to serve the church and not just consume. He encouraged me to not be discouraged with my current busy season of life, but keep pursuing the good of the Church with my gifting. It was a great time of fellowship. He looked weary and rugged. This guy puts serious time into work and serves the Church and finds time to beat the wooded trails.
He didn’t say it, but I’ve heard from several singles, “I wish I was married. Life wouldn’t be so complicated.” Or from a guy I used to disciple, “Once I get married I feel like sexual temptation won’t be such a problem” (married men no laughing). Once or twice I’ve heard, “Once I’m married and have kids, I’ll start spending time with kids and not be so selfish with my time” (in the context of serving the church’s children). We’ve idealized marriage in some ways. Married people have complicated lives. We struggle with sexual sin. Marriage is arduous work.
DON’T FEED THE SEASON ENVY
It’s so easy in one season of life to idealize another season or the season you wish you were in. The point is that both seasons—singleness and marriage—provide unique opportunities and challenges. One shouldn’t be envied over the other. In some ways, the church may be at fault for this season envy. We often haven’t provided robust answers to the questions singles have. Married couples haven’t been transparent with our struggles. We also have not provided rich community where singles and married folk can gather together, fellowship, serve each other, and disciple each other.
And in some ways, our discipleship has been pointed at the head, filling up our brains with biblical knowledge, but we haven’t aimed our discipleship at the heart of either group. We haven’t taught singles that sexual sin is only defeated by understanding our identity in Christ and by loving him more than temporary fulfillment. For married couples, we’ve failed to understand exactly what the marriage covenant is. We’ve created marriage consumers instead of disciple-multipliers of gospel culture in our homes. A re-orientation of our discipleship would shift our focus from season envy to the person and work of Jesus Christ and the seat of our affections—our hearts.
Married men aren’t envying single friends because their life is so much better or so much easier—but because we’re not satisfied with Jesus. Single men aren’t envying their married friends because marriage makes life easy—but because we’re not satisfied with Jesus. If you feed season envy, you will carry that season envy into your next season of life regardless if it’s marriage or singleness.
Jesus is better than marriage and singleness. We must understand that, and not just intellectually, but with our hearts. When that season of loneliness arrives in singleness or in marriage, we don’t throw our hopes on another person. We are grounded in the goodness and love of the Father for us. We are free to pray and lament, yet firmly hold onto the covenant promises of God.
Assistant Editor, Manual
Mathew is the author of A Household Gospel: Fulfilling the Great Commission in Our Homes and contributor in Make, Mature, Multiply (GCD Books). He’s the Managing Editor at Gospel-Centered Discipleship. He’s married to LeAnn and they have three daughters. They enjoy traveling, relaxing at the beach, and wandering in the woods. Mathew regularly blogs at Grace for Sinners and contributes to a number of other publications. The Sims are members at Downtown Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC.
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