Who has it better? The single person or the married one?
About ten years ago, when I was still single, I had a memorable conversation with my older sister who was married and had two kids. As we spoke, there was evident longing within us both to have the life of the other. She expressed envy of my college education and the fact that I was currently living overseas and “having adventures.” According to her, I could go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I, on the other hand, expressed a longing to have people to come home to—people I wouldn’t have to say good-bye to.
In the midst of this discussion, I realized something. Both of us viewed the other as having the ideal life. Neither of us viewed our own life as being all that special.
Years later, I am on the other side of that dialogue. I find it easy, sometimes, to look at the freedom of single people and wish for a return to that life, just for a day. At the same time, I have younger sisters who are single and occasionally struggle with their non-coupled state. And I’m reminded that there is beauty and hardship in all walks of life.
The Beauty of Being Single
I didn’t date until I was 27 and didn’t get married until I was 28. Fun note: I married the first and only guy I ever dated. I have now been married for 7 years, which means that for the majority of my adult life (from the age of 18), I was single. Throughout my years of solo living, I experienced some beautiful aspects of this state.
It is incredibly flexible. While it isn’t true that you can simply do whatever, whenever (after all, you still have work, finances, and other responsibilities to think about), it is true that deciding how you will orient your life with the resources you have available is a much less complicated process. Even if you have a roommate or two, you are ultimately the only one you need to check in with and base the bulk of your decisions on. When I was single, I could make spur of the moment plans to hang out with friends or embark upon various adventures.
It affords you great ministry opportunities outside the home. As a single woman, I was heavily involved with a youth group. Since there was nobody waiting for me at home, I had time to invest many of my non-working hours in those students.
It offers more alone time with God. My quiet times were great, my relationship with God was intimate. My mornings were about me and Him, with no possibility of interruption.
It teaches you to depend on God for your safety and well-being. Since there isn’t a physical someone there to look out for you, your dependence on God skyrockets. I learned to trust God for my own safety and was able to walk through my days knowing He was there for me at all times. I often received comments about how brave I was to travel overseas by myself, and looking back, I can understand where those thoughts came from. But at the time, it wasn’t a question of bravery, and I wasn’t by myself. I was walking with my unseen Guide and Protector, so why would I be afraid?
Being single isn’t easy. It isn’t easy to carry the full burden of your life on your own shoulders. It isn’t fun to know that you are solely responsible for every facet of your existence. Moving is an especially heart-wrenching process because there is nobody you can take with you. Forming a community is absolutely vital and not always an immediate or easy process. There are days of loneliness and sadness. It isn’t a carefree life. And yet, it is a good and beautiful life.
The Beauty of Being Married
In many ways, I’m still a newbie when it comes to marriage. As I mentioned earlier, I have only been married for about seven years. In that short time, I’ve learned some things and seen some of the beauties of this life as well.
It provides you with a crash course in communication. I never realized how passive and understated I was in my communication until I married a man who was very forthright. Half the time, he didn’t understand what I was trying to say, and I misinterpreted his directness. In the years since we’ve been married, I’ve learned how to express exactly what I mean, and he’s learned to qualify his statements as being opinions and suggestions.
It gives you a partner in planning and making decisions. You are no longer responsible for planning life on your own. Instead, you now have another person providing insight, checks, balances, and perspective on your collective existence. Factors you may miss are more likely to be caught and brought to attention by the other person.
It offers you a consistent ministry at home while simultaneously giving you the chance to be ministered to. Anytime there is another person, there is opportunity for ministry. Getting married changes the center of your ministry from being outside the home to being within it—caring for your spouse as your spouse cares for you. Early in our marriage, I would come home after a long day of teaching and make dinner. After dinner, John would give me a foot message. I never got foot messages when I was single!
It enables you to get better acquainted with another aspect of God’s character. Men and women were created with different aspects of God’s character. While women were given the live-giving and nurturing part, men were given the natural desire to serve and protect. In addition, each individual has elements of godliness they understand and exemplify. When we come together, we are better able to see and understand the fullness of who God is.
It gives you cushion and protection. There is now another person looking out for you. While your dependence on God doesn’t change, He is now able to provide His protection through your spouse.
Marriage isn’t easy. It isn’t easy to go from thinking solely about your own interests to taking the well-being of another person into constant consideration. It’s hard to remember to check-in with someone else before making decisions that affect you both. Learning to revamp the only way you know how to communicate in order to become a more effective communicator is difficult and frustrating at times. Being married isn’t easy. And yet, it’s worth it. It may not be neat and tidy, but it is beautiful.
After the conversation with my older sister, I wrote a short piece titled, “I’m so Jealous!” Though I now read through this piece and cringe slightly at the quality of my early writing, there is one paragraph at the bottom I really like and feel holds true today.
“So, maybe there’s no such thing as a perfect life, though sometimes it feels as though the perfect life is just beyond reach. Maybe the beauty and perfection of life comes from seeing and acknowledging the bitter sweetness of each unique life God gives to each individual. Maybe it takes looking at our life through someone else’s eyes to see the sweetness of the life God has given us. What if we looked at our life through His eyes? What if we saw the bitterness as simply another ingredient essential to the creating of an overall life better than we could ever imagine? What if we thanked Him both for the gift of bitterness, and the gift of sweetness – trusting Him to bring them together in such a way as would generate the perfect, distinctive blend for our life.“
What if we were to look at ourselves through someone else’s eyes? What if we learned to see and appreciate the beauty of where God has placed us and those we know? What if we learned to say, “Yes, you have a challenging and beautiful life, and so do I.”
Next Week: The Beauty of Parenting
Join me: what do you like about being single or married? What lessons have you learned from your state in life? Let me know in the comments below.
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And that concludes this posting. May you all have a good, God-filled week!
*The picture at the top was drawn by Chelsea Litfin using ink and watercolor on paper. You can see more of her work at commontreasures.wordpress.com