I have a scarlet letter

Sep 22, 2011Find joy today, Kingdom Uncaged

This post comes from Christy Bower after some interaction we had about singleness and the church.

I have a scarlet letter. It’s a giant “S” for single.
Oh, I don’t feel that way about it. And God certainly doesn’t feel that way about it. But the insensitive remarks I receive from women in the church make me feel that way. I know you mean well. And I love you. I really do. That’s why I want to show how your words might come across to the single people you know.
I’ve never been married, so I’ve lived alone for most of my adult life. One woman told me that I’m living in sin because God said “it is not good for man to be alone.” She said that I should live with my parents or other women. Seriously? I’m 42 years old. Gimme a break.
When women ask me if I’m dating anyone, and I tell them “no,” the next question is “Why not?” How do they expect me to respond to that anyway? “Because I’m ugly and have zero personality so guys are not interested in me.” Show a little compassion.
The message is clear: if I’m not trying to get married, I’m not fulfilling God’s purpose for my life. Just look at the Proverbs 31 woman, right? It’s a lot of pressure. I’ve only dated three men, which I view as a sign of self-discipline and high standards, but other women make me feel as if I’m not trying hard enough—as if singleness is my fault.
I refuse to get married for anything other than love. I refuse to “give in” just because I’m lonely or want to have sex. And if I confide to someone about the desire to have sex, she quotes 1 Corinthians 7:9: “it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” So, um, like I should go pick a guy off the street at random?
With more women in the church than men, some of us will get left out. But if I consider looking outside of the church, women lecture me on being “unequally yoked.” So which is better: to burn with passion or to be unequally yoked?
The correct answer is not the message we hear in the church. Both Jesus and Paul elevated singleness as a desirable status that few people have the discipline to maintain. Jesus said “Not everyone can accept this word [that it is better not to marry]” (Matthew 19: 11). Likewise, Paul told virgins “I think that it is good for you to remain as you are” because singles can be devoted to God, while married people focus on family (1 Corinthians 7:26, 34).
I would love to see the church embrace singles, treating them with respect rather than disdain. Singles need your support and encouragement, not your judgment. Please be compassionate so we don’t feel like we’re wearing a scarlet letter.