Has anyone else noticed that Valentine’s Day has become the adult version of prom? Whether or not you had a date for the night was a touchy subject with social significance back then, and apparently not much has changed in adulthood. I suggest, however, that we singles skip the full-out pity-parties and chocolate binges this year. Why not, while our dating and married friends are otherwise occupied, mark the day with a healthier kind of introspection? Here are four questions worth asking about our state of singleness. (Alright, go ahead and bring the chocolate along.)
#1: Are we thrill seeking, or character building?
No matter how much we might rail against our single status at times, we’ve got to admit, it has some pretty amazing perks. With more financial freedom and spur-of-the-moment availability than our coupled friends, the world is our oyster. When else in life could you knock off the top five items on your bucket list at the drop of a hat? This is the unique blessing and curse of being single—our life is placed in our hands with precious few restraints. We are free to make what we will of it.
So what are we doing with that freedom? Sure, this is the perfect season to reach out for fun adventures, but it’s worth asking what we’re seeking through them. A temporary high and a good Instagram shot? Without an intention to mature, the freedom of singleness can often become an excuse for prolonged adolescence. We owe ourselves more than that. Are we capitalizing on our experiences as opportunities for personal growth? Insights about who we’ve been, who we are, and who God made us to be become deeply ingrained when we walk alone. In fact, the chance to develop a strong sense of self is one of the unexpected blessings of being single. If we pay attention, our experiences can reveal our strengths and weaknesses, giving us valuable insights as we seek to form the best version of ourselves.
#2: Do we really know what we’re waiting for?
Yes, single life has it’s perks, but it can also be terribly difficult. The loneliness is real. The burden of shouldering life’s trials alone is real. In the face of this, it’s tempting to idealize the consolations and comforts of married life. While it’s true that the blessings of marriage are meant to be just that, ask any married person and they’ll tell you— loneliness and trials still exist on the other side of “I do.” Keeping this reality in mind can do wonders for grounding our desire for marriage on those lonely days. But it’s possible to acknowledge the whole picture of married life and still set our sights on it for the wrong reasons. So let’s be straight about something that you’re never going to hear from a Hollywood chick-flick: Christian marriage isn’t about companionship or having our needs met. It’s a path toward holiness. A sacramental marriage is about blazing a trail toward heaven with your spouse. In marriage the spouses take on the responsibility of helping each other get to heaven. So my dear single friends, let’s be clear about what we’re pining for this Valentines Day! Are we trying to understand God’s purpose for marriage? Are we seeking someone with a similar intention? How we preparing ourselves for the challenge of married life?
#3: How well do we wait?
There’s a lot to be said for the proactive side of seeking a spouse and preparing for marriage, but when it comes down to it we’re really waiting on God. Yes, it’s our job to knock on doors, but it’s His job to open the best one for us—at the best time for us (and our spouse). This can mean a lot of waiting, and in a world where instant gratification is king nothing could feel harder. But the thrill and agony of waiting is nothing new to the Judeo-Christian experience. Through the Old Testament prophets God drew the Jews into a mysterious season of waiting for the “fullness of time” when the Savior would come, and today Christ’s church eagerly awaits His second coming. In a sense, those of us who are single but feel drawn to marriage are called to share that same spirituality of hopeful expectation.
So how well are we waiting? Resentfully or faithfully? It can be tempting to feel bitter when God seems to be withholding a good thing for unknown reasons. As the Jews learned, however, trusting in God’s providence is ultimately wiser than grasping for control ourselves. Besides, nothing could be more off-putting to a potential spouse than a spirit of resentment or bitterness toward our single years. Trusting in God’s plan enough to wait graciously, however, is remarkably attractive. It’s a win-win! So trust Him—even when He seems to be opening fewer doors than He closes.
#4: How firm is our foundation?
For Catholics, preoccupation with the question of whether we’re called to the priesthood, consecrated life, or marriage (and if marriage, then to whom?) often makes us forget that these vocations are just different paths to following Christ. Discipleship is always the point. The most important question we should ask ourselves, then, is this: Are we committed to being a disciple of Christ, with or without a spouse? For single people, it’s shocking how easily our discipleship can revolve around (even become contingent on) Jesus fulfilling our desires for marriage. Throughout the gospels we hear about people who stopped following Christ when He didn’t give them what they wanted. If for whatever reason the spouse of our dreams never materialized would we still remain faithful to Him?
Want a good litmus test? Next time the going gets rough check whether you complain or lament to God about your singleness. According to Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts, complaint is a “bitter howl of unbelief in any benevolent God in this moment, a distrust in the love-beat of the Father’s heart.” Lament, on the other hand, is a “cry of belief in a good God…the bold faith that trusts Perfect Love enough to feel and cry authentic.” Do we trust the goodness of Christ’s plan for us enough endure the loneliness and heartache of singleness with faith? Do we love Him enough for His own sake to commit to following Him whatever comes?
At times, single life can feel as tedious and pointless as watching for a seed to sprout. Yet, if we believe that God is calling us to marriage we can’t be afraid to trust Him with the desires He’s planted in us. In the mean time, we can commit to living the days given to us intentionally as possible. Who knows? In the end we might just find that the seasons of singleness that felt so useless were some of the most impactful on our journey toward heaven.