My singleness celebration
This August I will be having a ceremony to dedicate myself to a life of singleness. A ceremony like this is not a common thing. I’ve heard of one or two people who have done something similar, most notably Kate Wharton, who was on the leadership team of New Wine for some years.
But it’s certainly unconventional, so I’d like to talk about why I’m doing this, by telling you some of my story. What I am describing here is my personal sense of calling to lifelong singleness. Other single people will be called to singleness for a time, so I'm not advocating that every single person follows my example.
When I was growing up, I thought that I needed to be in a romantic relationship to be a complete person. I assumed that one day I would meet a girl who was “The One”, we would eventually get married and then all of my problems, insecurities and struggles would go away. My upbringing was Christian and I knew that God had a good plan for my life; I assumed He was fully on board with this idea. After all, marriage is a good, God-ordained thing, so surely, He would want me to have it, right?
The big plan
In my younger teens, I noticed that I was physically attracted to (very few) boys/men, but didn’t think much of it. When I was about 15, these feelings extended to romantic attraction as well. I didn’t feel any conflict with this and my relationship with God at any point though. I felt as close to God as ever, when I was figuring these feelings out, despite never hearing any teaching about same-sex relationships. I didn’t think same-sex attraction really affected the “grand plan” for my life. I just thought “The One” for me would be a man instead of a woman, but my future would be mapped out the same.
My desire to be in a romantic relationship became a bit of an obsession and I ended up developing a crush for one of my friends at school. At the age of 16-17, neither of us handled it particularly well. We fell out, but eventually made up, yet I still felt this massive emptiness inside. I thought that only a boyfriend could fill it and bring me happiness. The fact that I wasn’t in a relationship was really disappointing to me, together with the subsequent realisation that I was enslaved by this need. Interestingly, nobody explicitly told me “You are incomplete without a partner” or “If you are single, you are ‘less than’”, but those were the beliefs that I’d embraced over the years.
Happy ever after
Some of what I’m describing may be familiar to you; after all, most films and TV shows involve a romance for the main character (though this has started to improve in recent years), and almost all pop songs are about romance (or sex). I don’t think it is just the media, or even the secular world which promotes relationships. There is also an underlying belief in Christian circles that everybody is on a path that will one day lead to marriage and children. If you don’t fit into that ideal, then something has gone wrong. I personally desired the rosy picture of a perfect marriage that would mean a ‘happily ever after’ scenario (because that’s a completely realistic picture of what marriage is like!). Without that, it felt like I had all this love to give to someone, but nobody wanted it.
When I was 18, during the summer after leaving school/college, I was finding singleness really difficult. At a Christian festival, I called out to God, asking how much longer I could take living like this. Suddenly, God said that all this stuff I was worrying about didn’t really matter. I was so loved by Him, by my family and friends, and a complete person as I was. This love inside me could be directed towards others, and, most of all, towards the God who loves me more than I could ever comprehend.
That was a real turning point in my life. There was an amazing sense of freedom. I was no longer enslaved by this need to be in a romantic relationship. It was great to have experienced that before I went to university, because it meant I could be myself and make friends without feeling the need to scout out a future husband to try and fill a hole. Being single was the right and best thing for me and the way I could fulfil God’s ministry. How glorious!
I’ve been living with that revelation ever since. I admit it has been challenging and I have developed romantic feelings for someone over that time. Nevertheless, singleness is my calling.
So, why have a ceremony? There are three main reasons I want to do this.
The first is that although I’ve been living this way for a few years, I want to make a formal commitment before God to say this is the life that I’m going to lead for Him.
Secondly, I can have an opportunity to show my non-Christian friends what God has done for me. With some of my Christian friends and family who have had weddings, they’ve invited people who usually wouldn’t set foot inside a church. They came to church for a wedding and experienced love and welcome.
I’d be delighted to invite my friends to the church I’ve grown up in and pray that they will feel the Holy Spirit through the service.
The third reason I want a ceremony is to publicly show people that a single life is a valid option. Our culture tends to say (and has for many years) that having a single life is the worst possible thing, “dying alone” is something to be avoided at all costs, even if that means you have to “settle” and get married just for the sake of not staying single. And yet, for some people being single is the right and best thing for them as a lifelong calling. Remaining single does not mean being alone; I’ve been able to cultivate friendships, in a way I don’t think I would have done, if I weren’t single.
Am I too young to be making such a big decision? What if something changes down the line and I meet someone who is a “perfect match” for me? Isn’t this a really big sacrifice? Those are valid points - it will involve sacrifice and is not a decision I’ve taken lightly. I see this commitment as the equivalent one in marriage. If I met someone when I was 18, and we started a relationship, and now at the age of 26 I said I want to marry them, that would probably be considered quite normal. And yet marriage means putting another person first for the rest of your life, saying to that person “I won’t ask ‘what if someone better comes along’ - I choose you now and will continue to every day of my life”. But despite all the challenges of marriage, it is no doubt completely worth it - a beautiful sacrament blessed by God. In the same way, I’m choosing to live a life of commitment to Jesus, which will involve great sacrifice, but will also bring me untold riches and joy. God has taken me on a wonderful adventure so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else He has in store for me, as I enter the next chapter of my life.
This article was originally published in the Autumn 2023 edition of the TFT magazine, Ascend. Click the button below to download your copy.
Download the Autumn 2023 edition of Ascend