For some reason, I grew up assuming I’d be married shortly after I turned 20. I’m not entirely sure why I first started thinking this, but the reality was I didn’t get married until I turned 25. That’s not that much of a difference; many others experience a longer gap between expectation and reality. Living in that gap can be difficult, especially in a church culture that prioritizes marriage and family, often with a subtext that people who are single need to get with the program.[B]eing single is not a second rate path in the kingdom of God.
In 7 Myths about Singleness, Sam Allberry guides readers into the truth about not being married. He writes because “[m]ost of what we think we know is actually untrue.” He explains that “the point of this book is that the goodness of singleness is something the whole church needs to know.” To highlight this goodness, he’ll need to dispel 7 myths:
- Singleness is too hard,
- Singleness requires a special calling,
- Singleness means no intimacy,
- Singleness means no family,
- Singleness hinders ministry,
- Singleness wastes your sexuality, and
- Singleness is easy
It is perhaps significant that these myths are book-ended in such a way that makes clear singleness is hard. This is true in our culture at least, but perhaps in every culture where the norm has been for people to couple up and have kids. I include the latter because there could be a sequel to this book called 7 Myths about Childlessness. Any time life goes off script can be difficult, but that is why we press into our church communities.
For Allberry’s part, he does an excellent job of giving readers an inside look at a single life. In his experience, being single has provided for intimate friendships, opportunities for ministry, and family thickened by the water of baptism rather than the blood of genetic relations. It is hard, but it is rewarding. He writes in an honest fashion that doesn’t whitewash the struggles, but also doesn’t present them devoid of hope.
Reading this book will provide encouragement to those of us who are single. It casts a vision for how being single is not a second rate path in the kingdom of God. Rather, singleness can provide opportunities for deeper ministry and intimacy with others that may not be harder to find in the context of a marriage. At the same time, it provides perspective for those of us who are married, and may have been since our early 20s. People who are single into their late 20s, 30s, or even 40s are not broken and in need of married people to fix them up. It may be the path God has for them, or may be the season they are in for the moment. But in the context of Christian community, single and married brothers and sisters can mutually enrich each other and together make up the body of Christ.
One day, all of us who are married will be single again. This can be an important reminder that being fully human doesn’t require being married. Marriage is a good thing, but it is not an ultimate thing, and often in our culture it can become an idol. Perhaps this is one reason why Jesus, the greatest human who ever lived, also never married. In doing so, he didn’t demonstrate that being single was easy (marriage isn’t either, by the way), but that it is a fruitful way to live. He found fulfillment in close intimate friendships and the most significant public ministry in history. Allberry’s book points us to this reality and encourages and challenges us to reconsider how we think of singleness.
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