When I was single, I attended a small community church and they welcomed me as one of their own. It felt like I had been part of the family for years, maybe even decades. They were like a spiritual family to me.
So readily did they embrace me that one particular family included me in their family gatherings. They invited me to their Father’s Day celebrations. They included me in visits to their coastal holiday house. They would give me money for petrol, just so I could drive to their place for lunch.
I was a frustrated single at the time, yearning to be married. But this wonderful mob took me in and truly loved me as part of their family. They were brothers and sisters in Christ, sharing in my joys and heartaches, supporting me with love and money and even shopping when I was sick.
They took me in and loved me as part of their family.
I remember one time they picked me up from hospital. My biological family lived too far away, and I needed a lift home as I could not drive myself. This church family leapt at the chance to take care of me, and they picked me up without hesitation.
When I think of spiritual family, I think of them.
This kind of family is countercultural. Our society deems romantic relationships to be the most important, the most sought-after, the most prized of all relationship types. Marriage is seen as the ultimate marker of success and approval, as well as an entry ticket into adulthood.
Marriage is seen as the ultimate marker of success and approval.
But for those who never marry, or who do marry but return to singledom (for many reasons), they do not experience this romantic type of connection. Society deems singles as doomed to perpetual misery. Or society swings the other way, worshipping at the shrine of Westernised independence.
It is the ‘I am married to me’ philosophy.
I believe in the value of intimate relationships and marriage. What I do not believe in is the idolisation of the romantic relationship and the belief it is superior to all others. It is lovely to be loved. But it is not necessary to find love in marriage alone.
Human beings need connection. I am convinced of that. I am also convinced there is value in human connection beyond romance. Friendships, relatives and spiritual families can give us a sense of connectedness and belonging beyond what even marriage can offer.
There is value in human connection beyond romance.
Even though I am now married, I still need close friendships. I need connections with colleagues. I need my spiritual family. I need a thriving relationship with God. Contrary to popular belief, marriage does not meet all of my social and relational needs. Nor should it.
Marriage was never meant to be a substitute for those other relationships. So let’s reclaim the value of good connections. Whether it be friends, workmates, spiritual brothers and sisters or God himself, let’s pursue those meaningful and worthwhile relationships.
Without imposing romantic expectations on anyone.
How do you meet your social and relational needs? How can you help other singles reclaim the value of true friendship? Do you have a spiritual family – or welcome other singles into your family? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation.