the single sessions

An Interview with Joy Beth Smith

jb3

Hey, Lindsey here. One of the things I wanted to do after writing and reading all the comments on Church & The Single Girl, Part 1 and Part 2 was tell stories. Tell stories of other single people who are in the trenches of life, trying to discern their next steps, and embrace their singleness with the potential opportunity and loss it brings. Joy Beth Smith is hopefully the first of many “single sessions.” She is the assistant editor for Today’s Christian Woman. After graduating with her an MA in English Literature from Liberty University, Joy Beth moved to Nashville where she quickly discovered that teaching middle school was an acquired taste. Now she spends her days writing, editing, and managing TCW’s social media. Joy Beth has an ever-growing passion for seeing how the gospel engages with culture, gender, and sexuality. When she’s not thinking about super important things, she escapes into young adult novels, boxing classes, and Pinterest. 

Name: Joy Beth Smith
Hometown: Wheaton, IL
Age: 27
Relationship Status: Super Single
Profession: Assistant Editor

LN: What do feel like God is calling you to in this season? 

JBS: Is it strange to say that I feel called to be a mom, despite the fact that marriage hasn’t come to fruition? I always felt like I was supposed to be a wife and a mother, and those things just haven’t happened. But more and more in the past year I’ve been burdened for older kids in foster care. It feels crazy to say, but I know that the Lord is prompting my heart in this direction. The idea of doing this alone is terrifying, but God is good, and he’ll provide. In an ideal world, I’d be married, and both my husband and I would grow excited at the thought of beginning this process, but this isn’t an ideal world. It’s a broken one, and there are broken people who the Lord is calling me to love, and I will not let my singleness limit my service here.

I also feel called to write about singleness, to talk about how hard it is, to dispel the myth that to struggle with singleness is to be desperate for a husband. After talking to many women and working through the pains of singleness myself, I can say without a doubt that what I’m grappling with in my singleness is so much more than wanting someone to watch Netflix with on a Friday night. Singleness has snuck in and become part of my identity, and I want to talk about how that affects me. I want to cultivate open communication around self-image, sexuality, and satisfaction—noting that none of those things is compromised, oppressed, or reduced in singleness. In general, I just want to be faithful to where God is leading me and what he’s laying on my heart.

LN: What are some things (experiences, relationships, pursuits, etc.) in your life that singleness has made possible? 

JBS: Travel is definitely at the top of this list. Because I can give my undivided attention to things, I can train for climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, which I’ll be doing with a non-profit group (One Million Thumbprints) in March as we take a trip to the Congo and Tanzania to advocate for women who’ve experienced sexual violence. I’ve been able to travel to India and spend almost three weeks working in rural villages helping present the gospel. I’ve been able to travel all over the great United States visiting married friends who’ve started families and single friends who’ve started over in a new city.

I also have been able to fully invest in my relationship with my friends and specifically my roommates. I think living with others keeps me sane (and humble)—it allows you to live in community with people, to download your day with someone who cares about the ins-and-outs of your job, to allow (and forgive) a few crumbs on the counter or an empty toilet paper roll. My roommates, all 27 of them, have always been the greatest source of teaching and friendship in my life, and I’m so, so thankful that God has allowed me to build strong relationships this way.

And, you know, I do what I want. I can spend my money how I’d like. I can spend my Saturday morning how I’d like. I can watch whatever movie I’d like. I can treat myself to that new leather purse I’ve been lusting after. There’s something liberating (and slightly exhausting) about being the sole decision maker in your life.

LN: What are some of the challenges of being single? 

JBS: Phew. Man. Singleness is a status that could potentially change at any given moment, and I think this throws a wrench in all my plans and dreams. When I think up my five-year plan, it’s just kind of hazy. Every item is couched in this “…if I don’t get married” sentiment—because marriage changes things. I don’t want to build a life that doesn’t allow for marriage, but I don’t want to build a life around the hope of a marriage that may or may not come. It’s a difficult place to be, waiting and hoping for something to change but knowing that you can’t bank on that.

I sometimes feel like I don’t know how to be a woman. My friend Jenean said this and I totally agree: I don’t really understand what womanhood—especially biblical womanhood—looks like apart from marriage and motherhood. It’s sort of what I was groomed for, what I always assumed would naturally happen. But it hasn’t. And now I’m struggling to understand what defines me as a woman if it’s not the role of wife and mother.

I also think the hardest part is just sitting in that place of wanting. I want to be married, but I don’t feel like I can say that out loud or I’ll be labeled as desperate. But I do—I want to be married. And sometimes it’s hard to see why God, who created the institution of marriage and meant it as a parallel between Jesus and his Bride, would keep such a good thing from someone who ardently desires it. My belief in His sovereignty keeps me grounded, and at times that’s comfort enough, but other days I allow myself to cry in my car and just want. Want for the family I can cart around in a minivan and want for a husband I can share my life with and serve, want for the future I always imagined I’d have.

LN: What has been your experience of singleness in the Church? 

JBS: I never felt the effects of being single in the church until after I graduated from college. Until that point, my roommates and I would pile into the same car, go to the same church, serve in the same ministries, and there was never a sense of feeling unwanted or out of place. However, after I moved to a new city and was forced to try out churches on my own, I quickly realized exactly how isolating the task is.

It’s hard to get up and drive to church by yourself, sit through a service by yourself, and then drive home by yourself. I know that this time can be sprinkled with conversations and awkward handshakes, but it doesn’t feel like I’m making any real progress in building relationships with those around me. At best, I feel like I’m sitting at a table where people have hurriedly made room for me at the end and pulled up one of those metal folding chairs. At worst I feel kind of like a splinter in a finger—a little unwelcome and only noticed when I cause irritation or trouble.

My church doesn’t even offer a small group I can attend—all the evening groups are meant for married couples or parents. So this past fall I tried to start one of my own. With very little support from the church and even less support from the four other single individual in my age-range, the group quickly fizzled out.

As a whole, I feel like the church doesn’t really know what to do with singles. All of the events seem to be focused on the nuclear family unit (“Daddies, daughters, and donuts”/ “Family Picnic” / “Trunk or Treat for You and Your Kids”), and I have yet to attend a church that specifically, intentionally catered to the interests and needs of singles. As a result, statistically many single people are actually leaving the church. While singles are a growing number in society, with the average marrying age now in the late twenties, we’re a shrinking population within the walls of the church. As our culture continues to shift towards later marriages and higher divorce rates, singles need special consideration. And singles need the church, desperately, because we need community and a place to come for confession and growth and acceptance. But instead I’m finding community in my roommates and coworkers and gleaning little from my body of believers, and this feels like a grave loss. It’s hard for the Body to function as she should if we’re continuing to tell the right hand that she should act like the left—I want to be treasured and valued for who I am, even for my singleness.

LN: How can your friends and/or your church do a better job of loving you in the season you are in? 

JBS: I think that we need make a space for women, especially single women, to talk about hard things. We can’t be scared of talking about our sexuality apart from physical intimacy. The discussion of sexuality for women in the church seems to begin and end with modesty. I’ve been in that place, so intimidated by the idea of actually being made as a sexual creature, that “abstinence” slipped easily into “avoidance,” and I was left with nothing but questions I couldn’t voice. The church can be spearheading this discussion, contributing greatly to the dialogue that’s already going on in mainstream culture.

I would love to feel support from people other than my single girlfriends. I think one of my greatest fears is doing something scary, like foster care, and when I need help, no one will be there. I feel like couples may have more support here—more people willing to step in and lend a hand. But it terrifies me to try to do anything more than what I know I’m capable of because I’m not sure there’s a safety net to catch me if I fall.

And I’d like to change the way we’re talking about singleness. I often hear it referred to as a training ground for marriage, a time where the Lord may be holding a husband so that he can first work out a spiritual deficit of some kind in your life. Both of these things lack any firm biblical backing, and they’re hurtful to hear. Instead, I’d love to be encouraged in this season because singleness is significant, and the time spent in this season should not be undermined by believing that we’re only meant for preparing for the next.

What are some things that stood out to you about Joy and her thoughts on life and singleness? 

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Lindsey has a sincere love for her precious dogs Molly and Maisy, a good red wine and the Delta Sky Club. She spends her days (and some nights) laboring to end childhood hunger at Feed the Children and to gather, equip and unleash women at IF:Gathering.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • “I don’t want to build a life that doesn’t allow for marriage, but I don’t want to build a life around the hope of a marriage that may or may not come.” THIS.

    So much of what you said here sounds like what I was saying at 27 – and now 6 years later it’s easier in many ways to live into my singleness. That pull between living an abundant life without closing out the possibility of a different one is still there – but, I don’t know, it’s easier.

    Also on the “foster older kids” path – career took an interesting turn that isn’t allowing that right now but will be beginning training to be a CASA advocate soon!

    Enjoyed reading this and cheering along!

    • lindseyrnobles

      I agree. But I also wonder sometimes if my life looks like I’ve given up on the idea of marriage.

      • Amy

        Totally get that. I sometimes feel like just because I can be happy and content and single that I might be putting off the vibe that I’m totally fine with the idea of not getting married…and I am…but I’m not. 😀 Just wonder if men might be intimidated a little by this sometimes.

        • I think a big part of the social/cultural problem is this idea that women can only be happy as “single and independent” or “married with a family” – and that happiness in one means you could never like another life. It’s so strange that people think a happy single woman might not want something different too.

          as far as men being intimidated -I try to maintain the perspective that if a man is intimidated by my ability to live life, we’re not going to work anyway. No loss!

  • Jessica Webber

    Thanks for highlighting single ladies. Love reading about them, the great things they are doing and echoing Amen to many of their comments!

    • lindseyrnobles

      I know. Hoping it reshapes some views of what singleness is and is not today.

  • Andrea B.

    I’m just giddy about this new series Lindsey! Joy Beth, thank you for being honest and putting into words the experience I’ve had a hard time expressing. I love the thoughts on Biblical womanhood and what that looks like apart from being a wife and mom. I always feel like I’m not something I should be, but want to be! For example, there is a weekly Mom’s Group at my church that most of my friends attend. I’m not a mom, but I long for the support, encouragement, and Biblical teaching they receive each week. And why is it that when single women get together for support (it’s rare, but I’ve heard that it exists in some churches and have experienced it from time to time) we’re seen as needy and whiney?

    I think overall, I’m just thankful that I am not alone in this weird place and that’s it’s ok to talk about the weirdness. It’s not ideal, but we all want to honor the Lord in this singleness…however long it lasts.

  • I could echo so much of this! The answers to the last question makes me want to yell, “PREACH.” The last few years I’ve thought a ton about the role of community for singles and what a good safety net looks like or what the situations are where I feel like I’d benefit from having one. So often situations emerge and you figure out on the fly who your people are but I’d love for it to be a more intentional, concrete thing. I read Wes Hill’s Spiritual Friendship a few weeks ago and while it’s written from the lens of a celibate gay man, it has such a wide application for all of us when it comes to friendship and community. I love that he’s exploring intentional community by living with a married couple. I wonder what that could look like on a wider scale, whether it’s singles and singles or singles and marrieds.

    One last thing: my hometown is Wheaton, too, Joy Beth. I bet we have lots of people in common! Thanks for sharing with us.

    • lindseyrnobles

      That sounds like a really interesting book!

    • What a neat book– I added it to my wishlist! And if you’re from Wheaton, I’m sure you know exactly the kind of… tendencies the Wheaton bubble may unintentionally promote. But I am thankful for some churches in the area that are taking huge strides towards intentional ministry to singles.

      Thanks for the support! Here’s to hoping the Wheaton bubble helps our paths intersect soon!

  • Hannah N.

    “I don’t really understand what womanhood—especially biblical womanhood—looks like apart from marriage and motherhood. It’s sort of what I was groomed for, what I always assumed would
    naturally happen. But it hasn’t. And now I’m struggling to understand what defines me as a woman if it’s not the role of wife and mother.”

    This, yes. And this makes me so sad, because it’s also something I experienced growing up, though my reaction was the opposite. I absolutely could not imagine myself in that “wife and mother role” as it was presented at church and so I just believed that romantic love was going to be off-limits to me and I was going to have to find some other way in the world. Well, fast-forward, I did get married and become a mom, but I still struggle every day to undo the damage caused by those roles as they were portrayed and the harmful messages that were embedded in them. The notion that the personhood of women is wrapped up in wifing and mothering is just so limiting and hurtful!

    • Karen

      I agree with you wholeheartedly! I think the church in general is failing to figure out what biblical womanhood actually is, and it is damaging to singles, wives, and mothers alike! I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to get married at all, and now I am with three young children, and yet I can’t help but feel that I am “more” than this, and I believe that I am. I believe biblical womanhood has nothing to do with our marital or parental status. Just look at the variety of women who followed Jesus and even remained at the foot of the cross when all his male disciples fled and denied him. I don’t know the answer to these identity questions, other than that they are all probably found in Jesus (a single man). If Jesus himself wouldn’t fit into any of your church’s small groups, you’ve definitely got a problem on your hands!!

      • lindseyrnobles

        I know. I also think biblical manhood needs redefining while we are at it.

    • lindseyrnobles

      Really interesting perspective!

  • Kristen K.

    Thanks so much for these interviews, Lindsey!

    I had a similar experience with small groups. There weren’t any groups that welcomed single people, so about 10 years ago (when I was 25), a friend and I started one for people in their 20s. Fast forward several years, and that group, which had changed quite a bit over the years, decided to focus primarily on marriage and parenting. That left a handful of us out, but we continued to meet for Bible study. We’ve grown into a close-knit group of women, single and married, who represent a number of different churches in our community. Even if I do get married, I don’t know that I’d ever want to be a part of a group that isn’t at least open to single people.

    • lindseyrnobles

      I had dinner with a single friend last night and kind of wanted to beat up her small group for their lack of care of her. We all need to do better at loving each other — even when its inconvenient.

      • Jenni Trietsch

        I recently left my small group of families with young-elementary aged kids because I felt very intensely that they didn’t have the same love and care for me that I did for them. It never occurred to them to help me out in the same way they instinctively cared for each other. When I began to dread gathering with them, I knew it was time to move on.

  • Kristin S

    Oh, Joy, yes! “At best, I feel like I’m sitting at a table where people have hurriedly made room for me at the end and pulled up one of those metal folding chairs. At worst I feel kind of like a splinter in a finger—a little unwelcome and only noticed when I cause irritation or trouble.” I’ve been there. I am there.
    I also share your thoughts on wanting to be a mother. I’ve worked with a Christian non-profit for 21 years. I have really no desire to “move up” in leadership. I just want to do my job and do it well. BUT what I really want to be is a mother. I’m 44 years old (4 days shy of 45)! I still have that longing that won’t go away no matter how many years I beg the Lord. The ache is there. In that I like your thoughts on the Biblical Manhood/Womanhood discussion. It always comes back to wife/mother. I don’t know what to do with that. I desire that. The Lord hasn’t granted that so what now? I want to live my life to the fullest where I am but the church is a hard place to do it. How crazy is that last sentence? For the last year I’ve been in a “single women” class at my church. I rolled my eyes going the first Sunday but I went. It’s a group of women, none like me except none are married. All are either divorced (I have plenty of divorced friends who love Jesus but this group is different) or never wanting to ever be a wife. I don’t even fit in a “single women” class!
    I’m rambling. It’s a weird place to be and one I never thought I’d be. My peers are sending their kids to college. I long to be in their place.

  • Ashley

    My heart, when reading this, is about to explode. I am seriously agreeing with everything you are saying and can relate probably more than I thought I would. I loved loved loved what Joy said about being single at church and what the church can do about it, what other people can do. I hate the feeling of needing to meet every new guy who walks in the church doors- some people actually introduce them directly. And sometimes I just want to shout out “I am fine!!” Great post!!

  • Jenni Trietsch

    So, so many of the comments here are exactly what swirled around in my heart and head as I read Joy Beth’s post…..I just turned 40, still deeply desiring marriage and children, feeling like the square peg at my church and looking for my people. I explored the single foster parent avenue as well, but for a variety of reasons I wasn’t hearing God say yes. Floundering a bit these days wondering what talents I need to be using for the kingdom….

  • Danaerose

    I can identify with so much of this. I love that this conversation is happening in so many circles. Annie Downs spoke a little to this in a recent Q podcast, and I so appreciated her bringing up the point about the church needing to cease the commentary and underlying impression that single people are in a “waiting season”. I find that approaching my community with grace and love and humble expression of my full and alive life goes so much further to communicate the opposite – that I’m in a LIVING season (not a waiting season!) – than being bitter and offended and leaving the church. Having the grace to understand that the church is just operating the same way it has for many years is necessary to offer grace for those who are actively trying to change the perception. Thank you for sharing this, Lindsey and Joy, and for both of your transparent expressions of your journeys!

    • Ooh! I’ll have to look up that Q podcast! I love Annie Downs, so I’m sure whatever she said was brilliant. And also, YES to a season of living and not waiting. If only we could all revert back to being content with a good carpe diem and be done with it 🙂

  • Melanie

    Thank you so much Lindsey and Joy Beth for having this conversation! It is so meaningful and I am so glad to see it happening! I identified when Joy Beth wrote about making future plans, “I don’t want to build a life that doesn’t allow for marriage, but I don’t want to build a life around the hope of a marriage that may or may not come. It’s a difficult place to be, waiting and hoping for something to change but knowing that you can’t bank on that.”
    So true! I am figuring out how to trust God in this life full of uncertainties and questions and wanting to know why. I am learning that our God doesn’t usually provide clear and certain answers, but He does say He is with us. He is with us, and that is good. I am so grateful to have single friends to have these conversations with, but still figuring out how to have these conversations with married friends, especially married friends who were not single for a significant period of time and married at a young age. I too, would like to see how we talk about being single change. So often we see singleness as preparation for marriage and I am learning it is so much more than that.

    • I’ve found that talking about my singleness is actually most difficult with my friends who married young and never spent a chunk of time as a single, especially after college. It seems like whatever concerns, fears, or insecurities I express, they can only relate it back to a similar problem they had in high school or in their early college years, and singleness is so different in your late twenties/early thirties, and those years are even different from your forties and fifties. It’s difficult to know how to even build a relationship over such differences.

    • Jenny King

      That’s what resonated with me as well. People who were only single at age 22 or 23 don’t realize what it’s like to be single in their 30s. Also, that weird in-between of not waiting for a husband to live your life but being aware that marriage would greatly change your life and plans (especially as she referred to the example of foster care, etc.)

  • Kristi Howell

    This is SO GOOD. Wanting is not bitterness or desperation, it is natural, and we need to make sure that THAT is the language that we use with singleness. The wanting is natural, and just because we want to be married does not mean we are sitting at home crying ourselves to sleep every night! Lindsey, thank you for this!

  • Erin Diericx

    PEACH! After Easter service, I was a bit lost during coffee hour. No one said anything to me. None of my group was there. Such an odd feeling.

    • Ugh, this is the worst. Whenever I visited a church and they had a time of handshaking before offertory, I would always, always fake a sneezing attack and sneak out. It’s strange to have something so unifying in common and yet not be able to make conversation over coffee (or in my case, even just a chorus of a song)

  • Maria León

    Very grateful for each of you being obedient and creating a space for healthy dialogue about this, thank you!! This year I (begrudgingly) moved to a new city in Texas to start graduate school not knowing a soul and have found church(es) the most challenging place to go alone. There was a church that I really liked and finally worked up the courage to ask about small groups but was told I could not join because there were already too many people.. it sucked. I am only 23 and have received more support from people not in the church to pursue what God has called me to instead of pining for a relationship. I’ve become so thankful for these types of communities because I don’t feel as crazy or alone. It sounds like Joy Beth was reading my journal from the last few months talking about her experience of being single in the church and wanting to be a foster mom. I have always dreamed of eventually being a foster mom regardless of if I get married but have grown increasingly aware that may be harder to do away from my family.

    There is a couple that I have recently gotten to know and I am so grateful for because they do not make a big deal about me being single or them being married. We are more than our relationship statuses when we hang out. And it’s a good time. They invite me over, save a seat for me at church, and do not have to sit next to each other at every meal. Whenever I tell my friend “thank you,” and she always says “I live with him- I’ll talk to him later!”

    I’m excited to continue hearing from incredible, wise women! Thanks for this, Lindsey!

  • Kelli Hofstra

    Thank you for sharing, there is so much I can relate to. Glad that this conversation of singleness is becoming more and more common and hopefully more people outside of the single status will be apart of this conversation. Having moved across country into a church where many people have transplanted too, I have seen the truth of this “I feel like couples may have more support here—more people willing to step in and lend a hand.” Not just for you in terms of considering fostering but couples are more comfortable inviting other couples over and into their lives. Something about not having a 4th person to occupy the other gender or it being an odd number of people stops people from extending a helping hand to singles or even just taking time to get to know us as person. It doesn’t define who I am, it just happens to be the lifestage I am in, and I agree should not be seen as a holding time while I prepare for what’s next, what if that “next” never comes? Then this time has been wasted. As much as I never thought I’d still be single at 32, I am glad that being in ministry allows me the opportunity to always ask how we are doing things in the church may exclude or include the singles.

  • Heather

    I’ve not ever read something and felt so much like it describes me. I am a single woman who holds a position in the church and the focus is solely how I come under authority, not ever how I come under the covering of my pastor or male leaders. Without a husband or a godly father, I’m sort of {and I know unintentionally} criminalized. Like I’m doing something wrong because no one is ‘responsible’ for me. I can’t make other Godly men rise up. I deeply desire to foster and have for many years but I share the same fear, that there will be no community because I ‘chose’ to do it without a husband or worse that I had to because no one wanted to marry me so it’s the only moral way I can have kids. Someone actually said that to me as I was sharing the desire God has put in my heart and if I’m being honest I feel branded by those words. I wonder if that person has ever had to choose against compromise? I wonder what 5 more years of Godly standard and the sacrifices that often brings would have done for their perspective. It seems backwards. God valued singleness, He trusted women in the Bible with the most important points of the gospel – that he would be born and that He had risen, He values caring for orphans. But I agree, it is the only place I do not feel empowered as a woman to live out my gifting’s, the only place I am not taken seriously. I seek to love the church because Christ loves the church. I’m grateful to serve and pray for the ladies, leaders, and men God has trusted me with in my sphere of influence there. I cry freedom for all of us. Thank you for following Him with such courage and honesty.

  • Melanie Campbell

    I really enjoyed this! (and I sort of know Joy Beth by way of knowing some of her friends/former roommates…but feel creepy for admitting that) 😉 Anyway – I will say that this makes me SO thankful for my church here in Louisville. We are small and have a lot of families, but we also have a good group of singles and we are always included in things. Being part of such a small church (around 45 members), we really are able to live life together and spend a lot of time together serving and in each others homes. This has given me a family that I really needed and provided an outlet for me to discuss some of the difficult things that singles are normally not allowed to bring up without being pitied (loneliness, sexuality, etc). I think finding a church where you aren’t necessarily catered to as a single woman, but included into the very fabric of the church family just b/c you are a fellow believer is so important, especially for single women. I’ve also considered fostering as a single woman, and I know that I would have many people there to help me through things – mom’s to offer advice or babysit when I need it (as I do for them so often), people to help out when things around the house need to be done, families who will have us in their homes where the child(red) will see good male role models who will treat them with love and kindness. I know this type of situation is rare, and I praise the Lord that I’ve found it. My hope is that other single ladies will find this kind of home within the local church as well. 🙂

  • Bethany Gates

    Thank you for your honesty. I agree with so much of what you said. I differ in this: “I want to cultivate open communication around self-image, sexuality, and satisfaction—noting that none of those things is compromised, oppressed, or reduced in singleness.” I definitely know that my satisfaction and sexuality are reduced in singleness. I am not okay being single. I feel stifled in my heart’s desires and calling. I am successful in my career, traveling the world, enjoying my independence, very blessed with my current lifestyle – but these things are really second to my desire for marriage and family. I am living with holes and my present prayer is to live gracefully with holes. We all have holes at different times, and some are bigger and more devastating than others. Being single is a constant aching hole and I am finding that the only way to live with this hole is being in God’s Presence with it- crying, grieving, praying, just sitting with God in the loneliness and longing. I am earnestly trying to not run away or numb myself from the pain- I am a master at avoidance and distraction. My prayer is that I sense God’s purposes for me as a single woman with a heart to be a wife and mother. Is contentment possible? I feel like I am living in a dialectic: choosing to live abundantly, serve, and give myself to this broken world whilst still longing to have a family of my own. It is painful. Perhaps God is calling me to re-imagine my idea of motherhood and womanhood. I don’t know- but I do sense He is with me in this. Thank you again, just wanted to share my experience.

  • LauraBeth Carlson

    Tears stream down my face as I read this and through every new line just nodded my head with more tears of “Yes, this is me!”
    I am 30 and have served in the church my entire life and more so at this time feel like the church expects me to do more in serving because “you’re single, you have all the time in the world” however I feel completely devalued because no one is concerned with whether or not I am being taken care of and have all my needs met.
    Thank you for this. Thank you for giving singleness a voice and adding value to this corner of our life.

    • Tricia

      Laura,

      Yes! When you’re single (or even married w/o kids, such as me) you have to create more of boundaries for your time. On a side note, I can never determine whether people are REALly thinking I should do more, or that’s a mere projection on my part. Either way though — same antidote needed — Boundaries.

      Here’s one of my church observations: I’ve noticed that once you simply put it *out there* that you’re busy, have a demanding job, not that available, etc., people actually just accept it. Pretty much, no questions asked.

      For example, there was a lady at my last church, and everyone was like, [head shaking, eyes widening] “Oh, that Shelly. She’s got such a demanding job…. So smart. She’s probably working,” if she wasn’t at any function (it was a small church where you notice things like who’s there and who isn’t).

      And how is it that everyone assumes this? Her husband frequently says so (serious eyes with head shaking, while saying how much her work expects of her and how smart she is).

      So I started employing this as well. Even though I always felt like I shouldn’t be that busy. (I’ve got a blasted guilt-prone streak in me that says if there’s a need, certainly I can do something to meet it). After all, it’s just my husband and me, no kids.

      Never mind that we’re both introverts and are easily exhausted being around people. Never mind that I own my own business. Never mind that we’ve both got some health issues that require extra time.

      Thus, when there was a call for volunteers that wasn’t my calling, I learned to just sit there and tell myself “You’re busy” and let myself feel it. And feel comfortable in my face and body, not jumping to meet the need at hand.

      And to my pleasant surprise? People just accepted it.

      Tricia Andor selfdevlab.com

  • LW

    I’m so happy to see conversations like this happening! And excited to see what will come as a result of these discussions! I said “YES!” so many times reading this!

  • Laurie Graham

    I am so thankful to have read this perspective. As a single-again mother/empty nester in her 40s, I have lead a growing lifegroup in my home filled with primarily late 20-something single women for over a year. I love them. In our church plant of 18 months we want to create a culture that loves and supports and respects singles. Can you please give me some wording and direction on how your ideal group would function? (I noted with interest your comment that someone who was married young, even though single now, should not try to identify with a woman still single in her 20s and 30s, for example. Point taken. :)) So what IS encouraging to hear at this point in your life from someone older who loves you (aside from the obvious encouragement and validation)? Just listening and staying firmly in the present day? When someone expresses her desire for marriage, I usually say I will pray with her about it. What do you appreciate being said to you at that moment? What do you want to be asked? Is the social community of the group almost more important than the content being discussed?
    I would also appreciate your commenting more about how to discuss sexuality in this context. Thank you so much!

  • Tricia

    I stand with you, Joy and Lindsey.

    Joy, you said: “There’s something liberating (and slightly exhausting) about being the sole decision maker in your life.”

    I was single till I was 38. Never thought that would be the case. Guys crushed on me. I had boyfriends. Being “sought after” was key part of my identity (not to mention one of my favorite methods for warding off the vulnerability that came from being single when I didn’t want to be. That’s another story though.)

    Anyway, it just didn’t happen for me till 38.

    I found decisions on my own to be mostly unnerving. Oh, how I wish they’d — even sometimes — been liberating! I’d have settled even for exhausting. But I was more riddled with hesitancy and insecurity without someone to “check in” with. Someone who could give more structure to practical decisions like how long to go home for Christmas. Or someone to believe in me on a less practical thing like how to follow my calling.

    Thanks Lindsey for interviewing on singleness, and Joy, for being interviewed.

    It’s such a relevant topic, and you both bring it to the foreground so well!

    Thank you!

    Tricia Andor, selfdevlab.com

  • Jennifer Carruthers

    Your blog is a breath of fresh air. It’s good to feel normal. To know that I am not the only one who feels this way. I identify very much with what Joy has written. I have always done what I have felt the Lord is asking me to do. My number one goal has always been to be obedient to God and His leading. I struggle with the desire that I feel He has given me for a spouse and family and yet He has not given. And as the years go on, the realization that I will not have babies becomes more and more real.

    I feel invisible at church. Easily forgotten. I struggle to get there every week. Making excuses why I can’t go or bargaining to skip a week. But like you all, I love the Lord and I love His church. Maybe that’s why it’s so painful.

  • Daniel B.

    I kept hoping a man would come in here and post, express that men have these feelings too. I’m now 33 and instead of others praying I find a wife I wish they would pray I follow Christ. Instead of asking me about my dating life I wish they would invite me to their house for dinner or a game night. I moved out of state for work 2.5 years ago, found a good church, but the only friend I made got married and I barely see him. I am in a mens group, a great group, but when I told them I halted dating a few months back I dont think they understood how hard it was for me to do (and how hard it was to ask others out in person and do online dating as well for the two years before I stopped). Perhaps I hid it from them though, wasnt as open as I wanted to be. They have wife’s and children and two sides to their family. I life a life alone. My family is across the country. I work two jobs to pay down my student debt. Sometimes I skip church because I cant stand sitting in that pew alone and yet I cant stand the thought of asking other if I can sit with them because I dont want to sit by myself alone anymore, not just in the pew but in life; yet I have to face the reality at this point I am likely to be single for the rest of my life. I have better odds of finding someone if I was widowed or divorced than single. I have been facing this reality a lot this year. God is calling me back from this past years darkness and grief (of the life with a wife and children I most likely will never have at this point). My bitterness towards God is ceasing, I’m trying to learn to love him, to take care of myself, not to find a spouse but to serve Christ, to learn what it is like to love others and not expect or get anything in return, to love them as Christ loved and loves me. To begin redefining my life not as a single man seeking to be more godly to get a wife but seeking to be more holy because despite myself God has and will love me and others need to know his love, his truth, more than I need a wife, a spouse, or to be a father. I am getting their, one step at a time. The road is tough, letting go… but I think its the only way I’ll survive and heal.

    My blog:
    http://daniel-single-me.blogspot.com/

  • Pingback: the single sessions | Lindsey Nobles()

  • William Larson

    (Am I the only man to have stumbled on to this site? Well, whatever.) The question–“the” question–is, “What is our/your view of the Bible?” My own view is that the Bible is God’s love letter to humankind. For me, at least, this is confirmed in what I consider to be the single most important passage in the Bible, that being the statement that, when Jesus died on the cross, the curtain of the Temple was torn in two. That curtain separated the Holy of Holies, where God dwelt, from the rest of the “unclean” world. Thanks to Jesus’ death on the cross, God is now “out in the world”–i.e., it’s all holy now. There is no longer any separation between God and the world. Jesus has made it, and us, all holy. This is my perhaps-roundabout way of saying that each person is now holy, in whatever state he or she may be. Thus, nothing better, or worse, about being single, or married. So the church needs to “get its act together” and live out this truth of the Gospel. That’s that for the church. For those feeling “on the outside looking in”, my experience says to be careful about self-pity. I like to say, “I am never a victim; I am always a volunteer.” Pity, of any kind, is a killer. Must distinguish between pity and grace.