"Called to Singleness": A Story in Five Parts
I’m 19 years old and I’m a freshman in college. I’ve never been on a date and I’ve never held hands with a guy. I believe I’m straight because I’ve avoided being friends with women for the most part and am still naïve enough about sex that I wouldn’t know what do to with a woman if that situation ever arose.
But I see my friends getting into relationships, and I’ve been told that the right man will come along and sweep me off my feet if I just put my focus on God. I am convinced that my desire to have a boyfriend is an idol that’s ironically preventing me from focusing on God so I can get a boyfriend. My journals take a dark turn, where I constantly battle with myself over my desire to feel loved “in that way” and my desire to follow God closely.
I use Paul’s verses about being called to singleness to assuage my loneliness, to redirect my despair at being single into study and worship of God’s Word.
I am 21 and I am sitting on the floor by my friend Brandt, whom everyone knows I have a crush on. I’m not very good at hiding it when I have a crush on a person at this age, and it’s harder when we live in the same house for our study abroad program. Brandt is quite possibly the smartest person I’ve ever met, and I’m not even sure if I “believe” in evolution – despite being in Oxford, studying philosophy.
I ask him leading questions about who he likes, and watch as he glances furtively at another girl in the group. I know then that I have little to no chance with him. I write him a letter at the end of the semester telling him I love him - something I've been embarrassed about ever since.
I become convinced that it is my boldness and my pursuit of men that is the problem, not the fact that I was acting in a creepy, awkward, off-putting way.
I’m 24, and I’m in Waco, TX, attending my roommate’s Nazarene church. Graduate school has turned out to be a challenge I’m more than capable of rising to, and I’m enjoying the academic environment and the genuine care with which my classmates approach their studies. I still want to date and I still want to be in a relationship, but at this point, I’m too boggled by the goal of completing my (first) Master’s degree to bother.
My roommate and I are basically the only single people in the church, so any singles ministry would be fairly ridiculous at this point. Every so often, I wonder about whether or not God has called me to be single, but I don’t give it a whole lot of thought anymore. My desire for romance, to understand just what the hell all that fuss is about, is surpassed by my desire to pursue true, social justice, and a greater and deeper understanding of God.
I take a job in Japan because I think that’s where God wants me. I’m wrong, and I lose all the family I’d built up for so many years thanks to distance and depression. I’m not even wondering if I’m called to be single anymore – I’m just wondering if I’m alive.
I’m 25 and it’s summer. I’m in downtown Sioux Falls, unemployed, and lost. I go out for a night with my guy friend, someone I’ve known for a decade and whom anyone can see would be a terrible match for me. But despite this, I’ve bounced back and forth between crushes on him and disappoint with him for the past five years. We end up talking about relationships, and he brings up the gift of being single and how overrated being in relationships really is.
I feel deeply ashamed, and deeply angry that this man is lecturing me about “giving up” on my desire to be in a relationship when I’ve never been in one. I get mad and tell him off in a long feelingsdump of an email that he never responds to.
A month later, I meet my first boyfriend and fall in love for the first time.
I’m 29. I’m sitting in a coffee shop, working like a mofo on book proposals, freelance writing assignments and preparation to move overseas for a second Master’s degree. I’ve come out as bisexual. I’ve been on my own for 99% of my adult life, and I’m finally okay with that. I’m confident; I’m my own woman. I’m happy with my career and I’m happy with what’s going on in my life. I’ve stopped wondering if I’m “called to singleness” or to marriage. I’ve stopped believing that God meddles so deeply in my affairs that They guide each and every daily decision.
For many, that makes me a heretic. For me, it means my anxiety about my life is lessened, and I’m no longer worried about making future plans based around whether or not a partner is there.
Maybe that is what it means to be “called to singleness.” I call it learning how to be happy for myself – and I had to walk away from the dichotomous callings and micromanaging images of God in order to get there.