After nearly 15 years of life as a single Christian woman, I am pretty well acquainted with those ministries commonly referred to as "singles groups." My attitude toward many of these groups traditionally has not been very positive. That all changed when I attended my first meeting of Undivided, the singles ministry of Metro Life Church, where I am a currently a member.
My past experience demonstrated to me that church singles groups generally exist for the sole purpose of consoling poor singles who are grieving their singleness. I found, throughout the years, that these groups were largely fellowship-based, heavy on the social interaction, but light on devotions. Most singles, it seemed, were more interested in attending these functions for one reason and one reason alone: to find a spouse. Those who lamented the curse of their present marital status were often met by leadership with these words of comfort: "Look on the bright side! This is a time to focus on yourself!"
The first night I attended an Undivided meeting, I was met with a much different philosophy: "Tell me, when in the Christian life are we ever permitted to focus on the self?"
To say that I was impressed is an understatement. I sat forward in my chair, my curiosity growing as I had never heard anything like this before at any singles group I had attended throughout all my years as a Christian.
"Listen, if you want to get married someday, the time to practice biblical masculinity and biblical femininity is now. Marriage is a ministry to another person. You will be expected to serve that other person and put that other person first in all your decisions. You are in for a rude awakening if you think you are going to just miraculously be granted the gift of service on your wedding day. If you plan on being married someday, start serving others now."
This is what the Christian life is all about: dying to self. I thought that I was being very holy because unlike all the other singles, I was not remotely interested in getting married. I had mistakenly believed that I was more pious because I had no desire for another. I was completely content in God alone. But the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. The truth was, my joy was not in serving God. No, I remained single because I was completely content in serving MYSELF.
Since that time, some have said to me, "Jennifer, what's with all this submission stuff? You don't need to worry about that. You're not married." Well, I would dispute that for two reasons. The first reason is, if I'm not going to miraculously receive the gift of service on my wedding day, what makes me think I'm going to miraculously receive the gift of submission? I had better start practicing now if I want to be any good at it when that day comes. But the second reason goes much deeper than that.
Some have said the Bible claims women need only submit to their husbands, pastor, father, employer, and of course God. But they technically don't need to submit or display biblical womanhood to any men other than that. Perhaps that is true. But what is the benefit in that?
The Bible says, all things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being. (1 Corinthians 10:23-24).
Now I ask you, it may be lawful to submit to my husband and no other man, and that may be all God requires of me. But how is that edifying to other men around me? If I am gracious with my husband, but contentious with other men in my church, does that edify those men? What am I doing to their sense of masculinity by refusing to honor their leadership or rejecting their authority?
Should I wait to have children before I am a positive influence on a child? Or would it be edifying to the children around me to be a positive influence on them now? Do I want to confuse my youngest, most impressionable brothers in sisters in Christ because I technically don't have to model biblical femininity to someone else's children? What type of example am I setting for other little boys and girls when I disagree with a man in public, or insist on holding a position of leadership, or behave as though all that men and women stuff is just for married people? Won't I be making another parent's job more difficult, because I am not providing these children with consistency between what they are learning at home, at what they see acted out in the body of Christ?
And what of the lost? Should I also be a source of confusion for them as well? As I try to explain that Christ came to restore what was lost in the Garden of Eden, should I behave in a manner that continues to celebrate that which was lost, as though it had not been restored? Should I continue to promote attitudes about men and women that were only introduced into the world when the curse of sin entered?
I may be single now, and I may be married in the future, but I am now, have always been, and always will be a woman in this life. Being married or single does not alter that role. Submissiveness and silence and all the things that make me feminine are not dependent on my marital status any more than they are dependent on what church I attend, the ministries in which I serve, the friends I have, or where God has chosen for me to work. I am a woman, and there is no escaping that. Why would I only want to celebrate that when I'm married?
For the longest time, I misunderstood 1 Corinthians 7. I honestly thought Paul was saying it was better to be single because single people were holier. I am embarrassed over how misguided I was. Both callings to singleness and marriage require service to others, only the focus is different. It is a lot like being male or female. Neither is more precious to God, and one is not better than the other. The roles are just different.
In marriage, I will be serving my own spouse and my own children. But as a single, I am blessed in that I have the opportunity to widen that ministry. I am a helper to every man. I am a mother to every child. Not having my own husband or children gives me the freedom to give my time, money, talents, and heart to others. That's what Christianity is all about: giving your life away in mimicry of the One who gave the ultimate Life away.
I am so thankful to my God for His sovereign wisdom. In all His glory He saw fit to make me a woman, to place me in the lives of those who need a temporary helper or a mother where one may not be available. Focus on myself? Oh Lord may it never be! Dear Christ You gave Your life away, thus let it be with me.
I encourage you to watch this excellent sermon by John Piper: Single in Christ: A Name Better than Sons and Daughters.