(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.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    16 replies to "Single Compensation"

    • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by TylerFlipboard, John Calvin Hall. John Calvin Hall said: Single Compensation: (by Lisa Robinson) In my attempts to completely ignore Valentine’s Day, the last thing I in… http://bit.ly/e4Fozk […]

    • Walter

      Didn’t Paul claim that it was better for Christians to remain unmarried, as he was?

    • Ed Kratz

      Walter, so does that negate what he wrote in Ephesians 5? Does that mean that although we were designed for this type of human relationship, that marriage is an inconvenient consolation prize? I would suggest you consider Paul’s statement in context of what he is addressing in 1 Corinthians 7. Specifically, the verse you mention (vs 7)-each man has his own gift from God. Consider how he opens up his argument in vv 1-2. Because of affections that men and women have towards another, it is good to marry. Why? Because it is endemic in our nature to have affection towards one another.

      Some do have the gift of restraint and are better off not being married. Many do not. Paul is not saying that being single is better. The distraction that Paul explains in 1 Cor does not mean that marriage is the fallback position but that when you are married you will have to care for the needs of your spouse, while maintaining devotion to the Lord. The two are not opposed to one another.

    • Walter

      My view is that Ephesians is pseudo-pauline. The reason, in my opinion, why Paul was seemingly against marriage in his genuine letters is because he felt the eschaton was imminent; no time to waste with earthly desires. The later author of Ephesians was dealing the reality of a delayed parousia.

    • Sallie Wilson

      ” the very thorn of the absence is the one whereby we learn the sufficiency of grace.” So true.Whatever our thorn, sickness, fear, loneliness, desire to be in a relationship, all our thorns give us the opportunity to learn the sufficiency of grace. However if we deny the pain, the need, how can we discover and experience this grace? God understands my need I don’t have to pretend to myself or Him my natural , created desires aren’t real. When they come I talk with Him about it, He cares.

    • LadyElaine80

      I think the real problem is that there is a lack of authentic, straightforward communication. Let’s be honest. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get married. There’s nothing wrong with being single, in and of itself. Let’s get real here: The issue is not that the desire is wrong: it’s how we order that desire in our priorities and how it’s handled that causes problems. In the history of Protestant Christianity, our problem is that marriage and singleness have been addressed in extremes. One should know in experience in Christian community that by affirming marriage, you are not denigrating singleness to a second class status. One should also know and experience in Christian community that by giving singles the same level of respect and benefits of community, they are in no way taking or denigrating marriage. Marriage and singleness have their blessings and challenges, but that’s just life, period.

    • Lucian

      Like Job, we have to accept whatever comes our way. Like Abraham, we have to be ready to sacrifice anything for God.

    • Gary Simmons

      Lisa, do you know of a good source to go to for explaining that 1 Cor 7 does not mean that being single is better? Or, would you care to elaborate?

    • Ed Kratz

      Gary, I would think that the Genesis account, which Jesus reiterates in Matthew 19 and Paul’s description of marriage in Ephesians 5 are enough to indicate that marriage is not the lesser option. I just looked up Fee’s commentary and Dr. Tom Constables note here, and they pretty much say the same thing I said in my earlier comment. Just because Paul states that he wishes all men should be as him, he recognizes that all (probably most) cannot. That doesn’t make singleness better nor does it make marriage better, but each should go as he is inclined. What I fear we do in the Church is tell people without the inclination to remain single, that they should remain single OR push marriage onto those that are better off being single. And that’s what I’m getting at, if there is a desire to marry, it is probably a good indication that one should be because of how we were designed.

    • Ed Kratz
    • faithLOVE

      Awesome post! Check out a great Christian app on youtube…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0SXfjr2gtQ

    • Phil

      @Gary Simmons (and others)…. Can we PLEASE quit referring to 1 Cor 7 and singleness without acknowledging that Paul made it clear that his letter/writing to them extolled singleness “because of the present crisis” (v.26) Singleness — actually bareness on the OT — is not a Biblicaly preferable condition and does not reflect or promote the creation mandate. As for 1 Cor 7:1 (“it is not good for a man to touch a woman”) Paul was NOT writing that as his teaching, but rather responding to that phrase which was used by ascetic gnostics to teach that physical desires and pleasure were inherently evil, unspiritual, and unfitting for a Christian and that celibacy was preferable. This is why Paul, in 1 Cor. 7 busts that gnostic lie by extolling the sexual duty in marriage, and addresses whose who would divorce to avoid sex or continued marriage to an unbeliever. The only way in which Paul acknowledges singleness as preferable in their case was “because of this present crisis”.

    • Gary Simmons

      Good stuff, Lisa. Thanks for the link.

      I’m a fan of your blogging.

    • Ed Kratz

      Thanks Gary. I appreciate that

    • Greg

      Thank you, Lisa. Having recently had a relationship end, I know the absence of which you write.

    • J Scott

      I know for me I more often than not dread valentines day as a single however I do try to refocus my energies on providing something for my near teen daughter.

      The reason I dread it is that it is much harder to ignore my singleness and sense of something missing with all the advertising etc. Its kind of like the issue of eating alone…. lonely sometimes but easier at home alone than being seated in a nice restaurant alone. Steve Martin had an awesomely absurd scene in his movie The Lonely Guy where he does just that. The Matride’ seems quite dismayed and confused that one would come to a restaurant alone then quickly and abruptly sends the wait staff to clear the second place setting before ushering him to his table. The matride’ seems even more uncomfortable by far than Steve Martins character. Then just as Steve Martin takes his first step toward the table he is being led to a bright spot light hits him (and only him) following him all the way to his solitary table whilst the restaurant falls into a dead silence save for the ringing of a dropped eating utensil or two. Of course all eyes are on Steve every step of the way until he is seated.

      In reality few if anyone in a restaurant cares or even notices me eating alone but there are times I feel just as if all the above were happening to me. Valentines day increases the likely hood of falling into that “feeling left out mode”. Even when I was engaged and married my wife was not sentimental and never once gave me a valentines card or anniversary card but that is a whole other topic related to her Borderline Personality Disorder and some unrecognized co-dependency problems on my part.

      Now I know I am complete in and only by Christ and that a healthy relationship or marriage is not two halves making a whole but rather two whole people becoming as one without losing their individual wholeness in Christ.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.