Is it Good to be Alone?
- Meg Gemelli Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2018 11 Jan
If you’d rather be struck with an unknown, airborne illness than attend a social event alone…
If you’re more prone to suffering through singles groups and awkward blind dates than disappointing the loved ones who set you up…
If you’ve been taught that there’s no holier state of being than within the institution of marriage…
You probably grew up in the church.
I sure did. My mom was heavily involved in kids’ ministry, which meant I was obligated blessed to serve at every opportunity. I lent my acting prowess to Sunday School skits and my musical talents to the Christmas production. Mary, did you know? I sure did, because I played her character through multiple stages of her marriage and motherhood. Sorry, Mary. I know my performances left much to be desired.
All joking aside, it was an awesome upbringing.
However, the world outside of faith doesn’t always understand the benefits of marriage. We’re sold self-sufficiency as the gold standard.
“Why commit and take a chance of the relationship not working out? Why choose monogamy when there’s 'evolved' sexual 'freedom' to spontaneously couple with anybody we like? Marriage ties people down and holds them back from experiencing all that life has for them. What if somebody better comes along?”
Have you heard any of these? Maybe you’ve believed some. They’re just a few of the reasons people decide to stay single. In the world, relationships are advertised as casual choices—good to be alone—or at least, uncommitted.
But from the beginning of mankind’s creation, God gave us one another. He said it wasn’t good for man to be alone, so what are we to believe?
Though coupledom was the original design, it wasn’t the final word. As it turns out, being alone CAN be a good thing. This is true even within the church—but for very different reasons. Here are a few of them:
1. Marriage is the hardest and messiest, but still wonderful, distraction.
When my friend, Stephanie, was twenty-three, she wanted nothing more than to become a missionary in Latin America. She’d been there a few times before, both visits for the purpose of building churches. She was fluent in the language and on-fire for the culture. She kept in touch with friends she’d met and I’m convinced she even dreamt in Spanish. When she heard that there was a potential job within the mission organization, she prayed fervently about it. Everyone thought she’d take it without a second thought.
But then, there was Dave.
Dave was a nice guy. He was kind and attended church with her. He always treated Stephanie respectfully and spoke highly of her to his friends. He was the type of believer who checked the “good Christian to-do” list whenever he made it to service or placed a donation in the offering plate.
But he didn’t share her passion for ministry. He came from a large family and wanted the same life for himself. Because she was “gaga” over him, she adopted his dream and committed to making it happen with him.
Maybe you’re thinking that Stephanie and Dave weren’t a great match, but that’s not the point.
The story isn’t a prompt, or meant to make us guess at what was best for them. It’s simply an illustration. Had Stephanie dedicated her life to being single at that crossroad, she wouldn’t have gone back and forth with her decision to follow God’s call. She was emotionally entangled.
Also, cultural standards are repeatedly reinforced throughout our lives. There’s a simple order to follow: Go to school, get a job, meet a guy, marry the girl, and have kids. The end.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with following that life plan, except for the fact that it’s not biblical as a one-dimensional command. Some of us are given the gift of singleness, and when we force a marriage, we walk outside of God’s will.
It can be great to “be alone,” especially when God has called us to ministry. Otherwise, too many demands compete with one another and we sacrifice obedience, for a potentially shortsighted desire. Take it from Paul, the writer of much of the New Testament:
“Sometimes I wish everyone were single like me—a simpler life in many ways! But celibacy is not for everyone any more than marriage is. God gives the gift of the single life to some, the gift of married life to others” (1 Corinthians 7:7).
2. “Settling” for the sake of coupledom is a painful mistake.
There’s an overwhelming fear of being alone for some men and women. Picture tragic bachelors eating TV dinners by the light of the football game. Women fashionably dressed and experimenting with make-up colors, but with no place to go. And cats. There are so many cats in these could-be scenarios.
We envision a lifetime of “alone” and cringe. Loneliness certainly can be a problem, but family, media, and pressure to couple by a certain age exacerbates the issue. Take into consideration the fact that around 90% of us will actually marry at some point in our lives.
Even so, wedded doesn’t automatically result in bliss.
There’s a myth that single people believe: All married or dating couples are content and loneliness isn’t a problem. Likewise, married folks assume that their single friends are emotionally destitute and constantly pining for love.
From my experience working with couples, I assure you that there’s rarely a lonelier state than being married to somebody you can’t relate to intimately.
There are a lot of reasons for the loss of connection: unequal yoking, varied dreams for the future, financial stress, arguments over raising children, difficulties with sex, and others.
To be sure, a person can be single without feeling lonely all the time. And he or she can marry and still feel alone in the world. It’s always better to choose the single life than to settle for less than God’s best.
3. Too much emphasis is put on romantic love anyway.
Just think, only one person, out of all the possible people in the world, will be somebody’s lover in marriage. One. All the rest of us are brothers and sisters. In fact, God’s kingdom is teaming with siblings. Do you ever wonder why God sent His son instead of a wife? It’s all in the family!
In heaven, all of us will become married and yet, none of us will be. Does that sound confusing? It’s not, when we take a look at Luke 20:34-38:
Jesus said, “Marriage is a major preoccupation here, but not there. Those who are included in the resurrection of the dead will no longer be concerned with marriage nor, of course, with death. They will have better things to think about, if you can believe it. All ecstasies and intimacies will then be with God…”
In heaven there won’t be marriage as we imagine it, but instead, the return and union of Jesus Christ to His church.
Singleness is a beautiful reflection of the familial, brother and sister relationships that tie us all together. Certainly it can be good to “be alone”—a gift and a vision of times to come.
Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/AntonioGuillem
Meg Gemelli is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a wife and mama to three crazy-brave guys, and an unfortunate disaster in the kitchen. Join conversations about faith, health, and family at www.TheGrittyPearl.com.