By: Shane James O’Neill
If you’re single right now then you have the gift of singleness. Most of the time we think of ‘the gift of singleness’ as we would ‘the gift of marriage’. The thinking goes like: Marriage is for life so if we embrace singleness then that must be for life, as well. That doesn’t seem like a good option so we wait for marriage. Yet, what we’re actually doing is neglecting the gifts that singleness has to offer in order to wait for gifts we haven’t been promised.
I grew up thinking that the gift of singleness was actually a curse. After all, what could be a gift about not having sex your entire life, you know? That 1 Corinthians passage by Paul on the beauty of singleness was completely lost on me. Maybe sure, if you don’t have a sex drive, and you don’t struggle with loneliness, and you don’t want kids, yeah singleness could be a gift then. But growing up, that didn’t seem to describe anyone I knew. And it certainly didn’t describe me.
This was reinforced by the constant teaching that marriage reflects the gospel. As a kid (and many times, still) I only heard, ‘Marriage reflects the gospel so if you want to reflect the gospel, then get married.’
I’m 27 now with several relational failures in my wake. And I’m finally able to start asking Jesus, from a place of sincerity, what Paul meant.
I’ve never ever heard a teaching on singleness. No one has ever walked me through my singleness, no one has put it forward as a viable lifestyle, no one has ever presented it as Paul does — the better option between marriage and being single. So over the last while, I’ve been asking myself, what can I do right now while I’m single, that married people can’t do?
Are there gifts in singleness?
Benefits of Being Single
I began making a list:
- I can travel whenever I want to
- I have more flexibility with my money
- I can save more money
- I can give more money away
- I can invest in relationships in ways my married peers aren’t able to
- I can care for women without any ulterior motives
- I can give myself to school and study in ways my married peers can’t
- My time is my own, so I can be more present with people in front of me
- I can watch kids while my married friends go on a much-needed date
The list goes on. Honestly, I was (and still am) surprised! No one has ever had me engage this kind of discipline. My imagination and priorities have been tuned toward a future relationship. Having kids and sex were assumed pieces in any developmental story that I heard.
But what if I had trusted God with my future and capitalized on the abilities of singleness? What if I’d taken Jesus’ singleness more seriously? Maybe I would have moved slower. Maybe I would have been more content. Really, only God knows. But at least I would have been aware there was a different narrative — one that had me knowing I was in a good place, instead of assuming I was cursed until I got to say ‘I do’.
I wonder if that’s what happens when we misapply gifts, they become curses.
Questions to Sit With
I’d like for you to have what I haven’t had, awareness. So, let me leave you with the questions and thoughts all of this compels me to ask myself:
Perhaps you aren’t the person you want to be because you’ve been living the wrong story. Maybe you’ve claimed an identity that isn’t yours. What if you’re loving people half as well as you could be? Maybe you’ve been using your dissatisfaction as an excuse to be wasteful and discontent. Perhaps there are gifts right now that God is trying to give you that you’ve never reached out to receive. Why do you think marriage will make your problems go away? Have you ever asked your married friends how they would redo their single lives knowing what they do now?
I see so many of my friends convinced they can only serve God once they get married. I hate watching that, especially inside myself. I see too many boys who don’t know how to love their wives because they never loved themselves in singleness. That sucks, too.
If you’re single right now, then right now you have the gift of singleness. It doesn’t mean you’ll be single forever but it does mean you’ll need to stop making idols of relationships, watching porn in preparation for sex, making excuses for not loving yourself and others, and taking gifts that don’t belong to you.
A big reason you aren’t the person you want to be is because you’re living out a story that doesn’t belong to you. There’s a better story and Jesus can teach you how to live it.
Focus on your relationship with God — Join a ProvenMen group near you.
Shane James O’Neill is the Editorial Director for ProvenMen Ministries. He is currently working on a graduate degree in apologetics at Liberty University’s Rawling School of Divinity.