(by Lisa Robinson)
In my attempts to completely ignore Valentine’s Day, the last thing I intended to do or thought I’d be doing is writing a post about singleness and V-Day. Well, it’s not really about the day but more about singleness, that was prompted by something I heard on a Christian radio station this morning from a single mom regarding Valentine’s Day. The mom started a tradition with her sons when they were young whereby the sons would go out on a date with mom. She would even slip them money under the table so they could play the role of paying. I gathered from the boys ages (now 18 and 20) and the length of time that she had been a single mom, that she started this ‘tradition’ fairly early.
Now, I did not get enough information to assess what exactly the motivation was for setting these ‘date nights’. So I can’t make judgments on whether the mom was looking for her boys to meet an emotional need that was missing from the absence of a significant other, whether she was trying to instruct her boys in the art of dating or whether she just thought it would be a cool thing to do. While I can maybe see some positive motivation, overall this did not sit right with me and I realized it is indicative of a much deeper issue in the Church – how we handle singleness.
Unless you are truly content with your single status, for must of us, including myself, there is a sense that something is missing. It doesn’t matter, how content you are with yourself, how devoted you are to the Lord or the work of ministry, how social you are, how busy you are, to varying degrees there is something inside of us that wants a mutual, loving relationship with another person.
I am going to suggest, the reason we feel that loss is because we were designed to be in communion with the opposite sex in ways designed by God. When God said it is not good that man should be alone, he created male and female with the intent of the highest form of an intimate relationship through oneness by the marital union. (Genesis 1:27; 2:18-25). It is a reflection of the love Christ has for His church (Ephesians 5:25-27). The desire to love and be loved, is endemic to our humanity. Is it any wonder why those cited in Romans 1 who have rejected the revelation of God, end up with inordinate affections towards one another (Romans 1:24-27)?
In a fallen world, this ideal scenario will be ravaged by many factors, mainly generated from our own sinfulness. The damage that results from broken relationships, abuse or loss directly opposes the very thing we were designed for. This is why there can even be loss experienced in disharmonious marital relationships, that may even feel worse than if there was no relationship. When that happens, it does leave a hole that can motivate actions to mitigate the loss. The Church is certainly not exempt.
What I have observed across the evangelical landscape and through my own experiences, is that we compensate for this absence in a variety of ways – some good but mainly not so good. We compensate by assigning the desire as idolatrous or unspiritual or a lack of devotion to the Lord. We compensate through a variety of singles activities or single parent clustering. We compensate by implanting surrogate spousal relationships, such as I have written in God as My Husband? post. We compensate by making our children fill roles they were not designed to fill. We compensate through subtle belittling or even rejection of the marriage institution, which does suggest an infiltration of a worldly philosophy. We compensate through an elevated love of self. We compensate by rejecting our need of others. We compensate to ignore the very thing that taps on our heart telling us that something is missing.
I would suggest, the honest and even healthy thing to do is to recognize the absence for what it is. It doesn’t mean a lack of devotion (although it could), it doesn’t mean you are unspiritual and it doesn’t mean you have an idolatrous view of relationships. It means you are experiencing the absence of something that should be there. God can and does work through the absence to turn the attention towards Him but that does not negate the reality of the absence. The very thorn of that absence is the one whereby we learn the sufficiency of grace (2 Corinthians 12:7-8) and learn to trust in the finish work of the cross even greater, prompting an even greater love for the Lord. The absence can provoke Christian maturity in ways that only God can design.
I don’t know for what reason this lady wanted to have ‘dates’ with her son, but rest assured that won’t be me. My son is my son and should never fill the role of a spouse. Lord willing, there is a spot reserved for that godly mate that would occupy that absence. But in the meantime, I will trust that God is working out His purposes through it for His glory and my growth.