I recently reviewed a wonderful article, “A liberation theology for single people,” by Christena Cleveland. It was refreshing to read such an encouraging blog by a single pastor and professor and I thought it was worth sharing some of my thoughts.
Christena started by sharing a story of a distraught student whose worst nightmare was being “29 and alone.” I had to laugh at this story, given that 29 is not that old and considering that most of the unchurched world gets married well beyond this age. I think the fear of growing beyond one’s mid-20s and still being single might be specific to the church population.
I was intrigued by the description of being alone as a nightmare. It’s tough to imagine the state of aloneness being up there with Frankenstein, spiders or being chased in a dream, or indeed any other nightmarish content of your own imagining.
However, each to their own. It would not be the first time I have heard people describe loneliness with a dread bordering on horror. We need to understand our emotions behind this if we are to discover why the state of being alone is so terrifying to us.
It is also interesting to note how some believe that marriage will change their loneliness. Marriage is often broadly seen as a panacea for our problems. We are told that marriage will fix issues of finance, social status, self-esteem and the meaning of life. (Anything that magical is in danger of becoming an idol.) But I wonder if married people continue to struggle with the fear of being alone.
Christena makes a lovely point in her article about becoming comfortable in her own skin. This is a part of personal growth rarely discussed, even in Christian circles. Perhaps we Christians are the most uncomfortable with ourselves, ever holding an acute awareness of our sinful state. However, being comfortable in our own skin is, I think, more about accepting God’s grace for us than accepting who we are.
We could be at risk of believing that marriage will help us become more comfortable in our own skins. For some, it might. For others, however, it provides yet another means for masking uncomfortability. Marriage is not designed to be a cure-all for self-esteem.
There is much wisdom required in the decision to marry. Rushing into marriage, getting married for the wrong reasons, failing to consider the long-term implications of marriage – all can lead to ruin.
Christena leads nicely to the conclusion that the Bible upholds the love of Christ as being the star and the goal of our lives. It is Christ’s love – not marital love – that transforms the deepest part of us, meeting our greatest needs and changing the essence of our humanity.
Marriage is not the hero of the story. We like to elevate those with the status of “married”, but such elevation is a social construct imposed on us, not a spiritual value. In the Bible, the hero is Christ and His sacrifice. In this we are equal: we area all invited into union with the hero, Jesus Christ.
Christena points out that God is neither married nor single, but relational. This is our role model: not that we pursue singleness or marriage, but that we pursue Godly relationships with one another. God’s family is our opportunity to build such relationships; within this community, we can find ways to glorify God through loving one another.
May our love for Christ be ever first in our hearts, displacing any and all other idols. May our union with our relational God help us to grow in real relationship with one another.
For Christena’s full article, click here.