It was my first real relationship. After it became clear that we weren’t compatible, I decided to end it. The only problem was I had never been in a serious relationship before, and the thought of breaking up with someone terrified me. So I did what any immature and scared guy would do—I broke up with her on the phone. I know; not cool. But don’t worry, it gets worse.
With the guilt of hurting her weighing on my heart like a ton of bricks, I felt as though I had to do something to show her how much it was tearing me up inside. So about halfway through the conversation I did something I am still ashamed to admit . . . I fake cried. Yes, I was an adult (supposedly), and I fake cried while breaking up with someone. At that moment, I realized I was pretty much the picture of pathetic. I also realized relationships aren’t easy. (Note: we’ve long since made amends and I have never again fake cried).
The anguish of hurting someone I cared about and the shame of my own actions in dealing with it, made me swear off any semblance of a potentially romantic relationship for a number of years after that. I decided I would much rather not deal with the potential risks than have to go through something like a breakup again. I realized relationships take work—a lot of work. And there is always risk involved; risk of hurting someone and risk of being hurt. Sometimes it’s not even about the risk or the work, it’s simply about lifestyle. Simply put, being single is often much less complicated.
But even if we decide that relationships are worth the work and sacrifice . . . for Christians, there’s another important consideration. In 1 Corinthians 7:7, Paul said concerning his singleness, “Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that”. In the same chapter, Paul talks about how singleness frees people to only be concerned with the Lord’s affairs (1 Corinthians 7:32-34). That can leave Christian singles wondering, “Am I more useful to God if I stay single?” After all, wouldn’t that mean we’d have more time for Kingdom work?
Our answer to the question of whether or not we should stay single depends on us, and more importantly, on our relationship with the One who created us. One of the greatest aspects of the gospel we often forget is its personal nature. God has an original and unique purpose for each of us. This truth has transformed my way of looking at marriage and relationships.
I know of a single, accomplished, young woman who left a well-paying nursing position in a beach-side community to move to Uganda in order to adopt an orphaned boy. She had visited him on previous short-term mission teams, but over the course of time, felt the Lord burden her to return in order to adopt him. Her relationship status didn’t affect her obedience to the Lord. In this instance, being single made her decision much less complicated—she just obeyed the Lord’s direction.
In looking at what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:7, it is important to note that he references his own singleness as a gift that was given to him, and concludes that we have all been given gifts individually. His specific gift of singleness isn’t given to everyone.
So the question we, as Christian singles, need to answer isn’t, “Am I more useful to God if I stay single?” But rather, “What is God’s purpose for my life?” I can assure you that staying single won’t make you more useful to God if that is not His purpose for your life. In fact, I would argue that you would be hindering Him.
Growing up, our home was often visited by a missionary couple my parents knew. They were photojournalists who traveled extensively to tell the stories of other missionaries and the work their organization was doing abroad. The husband was a photographer and the wife was a writer. They have crafted beautiful stories in words and photos of the gospel at work around the world. Separately, they only formed half the puzzle, but together, their skills complemented each other perfectly. It was obvious the Lord had brought them together.
The personal nature of the gospel and God’s unique plans for each individual life make it impossible to have a universal answer to the question of whether or not it is better to marry or stay single. The only way to answer this question is the same way Peter figured out that catching fish was not his life’s purpose—by getting closer to Jesus.
For me, it is no longer about whether one option is better than the other, but rather, whether I am where God wants me. I no longer fear relationships, or the inherent risk of them. And I’m not sure if I will get married or not. Regardless, I’ll do my best to be faithful in whatever season I’m in.
Right now, that means taking advantage of the opportunity to serve God as a single, to invest more time into friendships, and to seek His guidance in the purpose He has for my life. I’ve been able to volunteer more at church and also serve with a group that outreaches to my local surfing community. But more than anything, I want to spend the time singleness affords me, with Jesus—just the two of us.
And just to be clear, I have learned that His purpose for my life in this season or the next . . . certainly does not involve any more fake crying.