Letter from the Editor: Solo but Not Alone
From the beginning, God meant for us to be defined by our relationships. Of utmost importance is how we are related to Him. He is our Creator, Provider, Sustainer, and more, and He demonstrated His desire to be in relationship with His creatures by how He related to the first humans, Adam and Eve. We presume that He met with them in the Garden (based on Genesis 3:8); I’m guessing they discussed more than just theology, agronomy, and animal husbandry. Whatever the conversation, they knew each other by being together, and Adam and Eve knew their place in the world based on their connections to each other, God, and the other creatures. The singles I know often feel like half-citizens on this side of Heaven.
Likewise, the relationships we share with our fellow image bearers today is also significant. Together, we reflect God’s glory in infinite and unique ways. We experience connection and community that–at its best—mirrors what is found among the Trinity. Apostle Paul tells us that marriage is the ultimate mystery that reflects the bond between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:31–33), which may be why finding your Adam or your Eve is a driving force for most singles. Perhaps we are hardwired to seek a spouse.
Living as a single in this day has its own set of challenges and difficulties, many of which stem from this desire to be chosen as another’s Adam or Eve, to settle down, to get established, to have a family.
And for the Christian, living single has added trouble. Should you date? Should you kiss dating goodbye? Should you use online dating? Should you remarry if your first marriage crumbles? Should you become a parent if becoming someone’s spouse doesn’t work out?
Questions like these haunt the singles I know, making them feel like half-citizens on this side of Heaven. And so we must work through these challenges together, as one Body. This issue of Christ and Pop Culture Magazine is an attempt to contribute to that conversation.
In the feature, “Flesh Separated, Heart Restored: Finding Healing After Marriage Ends,” Zachary Holbrook walks us through the pain of being unexpectedly single again after his wife left him. Holbrook raises tender questions:
“But if one’s spouse is gone, if that one flesh is broken, what then? My identity was fully transformed by my separation. Who was I now?
“To escape from separateness would mean making my broken self whole; just as Tillich’s concept of sin is holistic, flowing downward from our broken relationship to God, so too a holistic solution is needed.”
The holistic solution we need is one that transcends our relational struggles. We need something greater to look to for hope. But the greater thing isn’t easy to pin down. Which may be why so many singles look to unrealistic romance stories instead. Joy Beth Smith points to the ongoing fascination with the “reality” TV show The Bachelor in her feature, “Tolkien Would Have Appreciated ‘The Bachelor’ . . . Probably.” But she finds unexpected value in this fairy tale for the singles who are looking for hope:
“This process of allowing, or rather forcing, readers and viewers alike to view a product as a depiction of reality without it actually being reality is what Tolkien terms Secondary Belief, and it’s a cornerstone of what constitutes art: “Art is the human process that produces by the way (it is not its only or ultimate object) Secondary Belief.”
“Where is this Secondary Belief more evident than in The Bachelor? Though bitter exposés and dramatized retellings like Lifetime’s UnReal attempt to shatter the illusion of reality, week to week the series is able to retain the ruse, using it, exploiting it, and ultimately spinning it into the successful franchise we know today.”
Our need for hope in attaining a spouse explains why we turn to fairy tales. And maybe Smith is right: That’s not all bad. It signals the truth, that things are not all as they should be. We are not yet home.
Singles struggle uniquely in their desire for paradise, but the desire is not unique to singles. We all feel the rudeness of the Fall, no matter our relational status or age, which is exactly what Sharon Virkler explores in her feature, “Not That Different: Two Generations and the Single Life”:
“The challenges of living the single life while longing for a different one are very real. But the rewards of waiting on God for His best are very real as well.”
“I’m not here on this earth to get married. I’ll still pray for that, and I’ll still ask others to pray for that, because it’s the desire of my heart. Until God tells me otherwise, I’ll keep praying.”
Virkler’s perspective is valuable for singles and marrieds alike—who among us hasn’t wanted our earthly experience to contain something more? Holding out hope for the seemingly impossible by placing our hopes in God alone is solid counsel that everyone needs to hear.
The desire for connectedness and intimacy is common to us all, married or single. The married among us can attest to the searing pain of loneliness in marriage. But the singles among us can attest to the searing pain of loneliness in living solo, and it is not to be downplayed by those of us on this side of a wedding. Our common ache for dashed dreams can draw us together in common lament, that things are not what they should be. And there, on that common ground, we can help each other make it to the day when faith will become sight and all our aches will fade and hope is realized.
Illustration courtesy of Seth T. Hahne. Check out Seth’s graphic novel and comic review site, Good Ok Bad.