“Why are you single?”
I don’t know how often married people are asked why they are married, but I have a feeling it is less often than singles are asked the reasons behind their marital status.
It’s often followed up with “Are your standards too high? Have you been hurt? What vibes are you putting out?” Yes, to my face, out loud, these questions come. Sometimes condescendingly, other times in genuine wonder, trying to put together my awesomeness with my singleness.
My answer varies depending on my mood and depth of relationship. But in my rawest, most honest moments I say:
I am a Christian. I am a woman. I am a leader. Remove any one of those statements and I believe I would be married.
This is a loaded claim. I get it. And because we are walking into rather polarizing territory it often ends here.
Yes, I am a Christian, a woman, and a leader. But it didn’t happen in that order.
Born a girl, I bear God’s image in my body, my gene set, my very being. I entered the scene a first child, the first grandchild on both sides, and the first niece to my aunt. All children should know such anticipation, joy, and celebration at their mere being. Amy means beloved and I was. And I am.
I did not have words to express it as a child, but I knew I was a leader. There is a snapshot from those early days where I am dressed as Santa (if Santa wore a Gilligan’s Island hat and taped-on paper beard). My sisters are reindeer and kneel by my side, one on the right and the other on my left. We smile at the camera and I have a hand around their necks reaching under each chin, lifting their heads towards our mother. Santa, guiding her reindeer into the perfect pose.
I became a Christian early on, around age six. Even so, I had six years of being a girl and several years of leading in some form by that point.
It wasn’t until college – long after I had been leading in age appropriate ways for an emerging young woman – that I hit the Christian glass ceiling. It stung, surprised, confused, and at times angered me.
Nevertheless, I continued to grow as a female, as a leader, and as a Christian. Part of my journey involved getting an MA in Teaching English as a Second Language and moving to China to teach. I was 27, old enough to have a little life experience, but young enough not to be threatening.
At that time, there weren’t many people with MA’s in TESL so after two years I was asked to become the Curriculum Director for our organization. Part of my responsibility was to educate all new personnel on the basics of teaching in China. How to write a lesson plan, put together a semester long syllabus, handle discipline and be salt and light.
Here I will make two more loaded claims:
1. If you marry before 30 your skills seems less threatening to Christian men.
2. There is a difference between having leadership skills and an actual leadership position.
Like many choices life offers, I didn’t fully realize what I was saying yes to when I stepped into public leadership at age 29. I now know that I was most likely trading leadership for partnership and that, though still beloved by many, I became threatening to potential “pursuers” because of the heavy and mixed messages sent about gifting, submission, headship, and gender. As my leadership blossomed into spiritual realms I became even more like kryptonite to some (both men and women): scary and powerful. It’s also confusing because it’s clear I’m good at what I do and people are drawn to me.
So, returning to the question as to why I am single, there is no simple, easy answer; but I do believe that, in part, it is because I am a woman and a leader and didn’t marry before it became apparent that I was not a behind-the-scenes leader but an up-front, out-loud, follow-me one.
I am an aunt to four of the most amazing girls. I have to be careful here because I can turn into a blubbering idiot, I love them that fiercely (and no, it’s not because I’m single and they are “like my children,” they are not my children, they are my nieces. It’s because they are awesome. Period. Full stop.). As I watch them grow I see different aspects of leadership in them and potential paths they may take.
I pray that they will stay on the Christian path and that both men and women will be drawn to their giftings and power. And if they want to marry, at whatever age, they will find a man secure enough in who he is to love and celebrate who they are.
I embrace the reality of limits and understand that we all have limits placed on us (though I still buck at them and wish I could have it all). I am a Christian, I am a woman, I am a leader, I am single and I have such a rich life it’s hard to imagine any other!
This post originally appeared on Ed Cyzewski's blog, In a Mirror Dimly. Used with permission.
Amy Young has made her home in China for more than 15 years and has not let the distance impede her passion for the Denver Broncos or the Kansas Jayhawks. She’s a consultant, trainer and writer. She blogs regularly at messymiddle.com and tweets as @amyinbj.
Publication date: May 21, 2013