Searching for Hope in the Great Divide

My church just finished a series of messages focused on marriage. I did not attend.

Throughout my decades of work in churches, I have heard multiple sermons about marriage. Tips for how to love your spouse. Using the five love languages. Submission, submission, submission.

Gag!

While there was a time in my life when those sermons were a bit helpful, for the last twenty years I’ve wondered about the great divide.

You know, that nice little label that many of us don’t fit anymore: Mommy, Daddy and 2.5 kids. 

Where are the messages that focus on the beauty and strength of being single? Are we still so enamored with the idea that to be a true believer, we have to find that perfect mate, set up house in the right neighborhood and raise our kids to do the same?

Churches often satisfy the inclusion of singles by setting up a Singles Group. In my experience, said group often becomes a place to search for that perfect mate — the one who already goes to church so s/he must be safe.

I can line up hundreds of women who found out that principle does not work.

So who are the people who might appreciate a sermon about the significance of being single?

  • Those who never married yet continue to attend church and volunteer weekly. One of the ladies in my Bible class fits this category. She helps on the communion team, preps the elements we take together once/month. She is also a praying woman who stays updated with the needs of people and reports answers to prayer. I respect her and appreciate her service.
  • The widows and widowers. These are the folks who once fit the nice little label. Now they are alone and searching for how to find their significance. They still have multiple gifts to be used. Many of them continue to serve in the background, but a sermon series affirming their contributions might bring them hope.
  • Single moms are the group that most keenly feel rejection. In fact, 67% of single moms leave the church and never return. They no longer fit anywhere, and they are overwhelmed with the responsibilities of raising kids alone. Sunday becomes the loneliest day of the week.

In all the years I have been associated with churches, only once did I hear a sermon about the value of being single. It was presented by a woman minister, a single woman, who underscored the work singles did in her church and community.

I sent her a thank you card.

We have no record of the dating life of Jesus. In spite of the plotline of The Da Vinci Code, we assume he stayed single so that he could focus on his goal of winning for us salvation. What would he think about the emphasis on marriage at the exclusion of singles?

The Apostle Paul encouraged the Corinthians to consider singleness as a positive. “God gives some the gift of a husband or wife, and others he gives the gift of being able to stay happily unmarried. So I say to those who aren’t married, better to stay unmarried if you can, just as I am” (1 Corinthians 7:7-8 TLB).

Has anybody out there ever heard a sermon preached on this passage? Or is Paul considered an aberration because he stayed single to complete his mission?

Perhaps my ramblings in this post are because 2020 did an isolation number on me. To my surprise, I missed church. I was so glad when we opened again.

Then, just as I was feeling like part of the “family,” here came the sermon series on marriage. So I drove to Target and tried to comfort myself with something frivolous I did not need.

You know: chocolate, another tank top, the newest flavor of Ben & Jerry’s, another journal, gluten free blueberry muffins, more chocolate.

I guess some of us singles need to know if the institution of the church is ever going to get a clue about what being single means.

About how we know specifically that our Husband and Maker (Isaiah 54:4-5) totally accepts us even if the rest of his kids don’t.

About how we find our fulfillment focused on loving God and loving others, not seeking a mate.

About how we search for hope each day and find it in the solitude of being alone.

About how we love the church but can’t stand how it treats us.

Maybe the search for hope finds it own fulfillment within the search itself. Trusting that God appreciates us even if our ring finger is bare.

Believing that in our singleness — even without the affirmation of the church — we know we are loved.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Pastor Tanner is single and dealing with a tragedy in his church. He takes a sabbatical to straighten out his head and finds hope in his heart. The Year of my Redemption.

8 thoughts on “Searching for Hope in the Great Divide

  1. Rebecca,

    Great blog.

    I’ve always wondered how a person could do a whole sermon series about marriage when the Bible says so little about it. After all, Jesus wasn’t married, and Paul was openly against it.

    Jim Mathis Mathis.Photography 11035 W 96th Pl Overland Park, KS 66214

    913-269-6709

    I have a few of my favorite photographs for sale in various sizes, media, and on specialty items at JimMathisPhoto.com

    ________________________________

  2. My goodness. I am sorry you have found church so despicable lately. I took a different tack on the reason for the sermon series. The Covid panic was detrimental to many marriages. So if it helps some with their marriages, I say praise God.
    I had many single friends at a previous church. Friends with and without children. We always made a point of including them in our gatherings and often had them over for dinner.
    Still, I appreciate your call to include them more. Maybe some churches will be inspired to do so when they read your blog post.
    Regarding Paul’s advice in I Cor. 7, yes, I actually have heard a sermon on that passage. It was very interesting. It led to a long talk with one of my single friends afterwards. So, yes, it should be preached about.

  3. I wouldn’t call it despicable, b/c I appreciate the people who attend and those in leadership. I just happen to think we need moderation and balance. So glad you have connected with single friends and used your gift of hospitality. Thanks so much for the comment.

  4. This is similar to the Mothers Day and Fathers Day pain for the barren, infertile and those whose children have died. Yes we all have different life journeys that need to be nurtured. Thank you for sharing your heart.

  5. After the sermon last Sunday I stood at my post at the prayer banner. An elderly man approached with his daughter. He’d lost his wife of 54 years three weeks previously. After we prayed together and cried together he asked for and got a hug. I’m glad I was there. I knew his pain and was able to love him in Jesus.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s