And we’re back with another installment of “the single sessions.” I loved loved LOVED reading all of your comments on Joy’s post — her words and feelings sure resonated with a lot of you.
Now for Evan’s introduction. I have never met Evan — the two of us have just exchanged a few emails — he reached out after my post “Church and the Single Girl” and told me that he was 22, working in ministry, and felt called to singleness. His perspective is interesting — and important.
I am a single minister, which is hard to come by in my circle of networks, except for the occasional priest subjected to a life of abstinence. I have grown up in the South, specifically Nashville, my entire life, and I have been surrounded by the means and pressures of marriage since birth. I’m sure you can relate to what I’m saying.
So without further adieu, meet Evan Richardson.
Name: Evan Richardson
City, St: Nashville, TN
Relationship Status: Single
Profession: Part-time Youth Minister; Full-time Graduate Student
LN: What has been your experience of singleness in the Church?
ER: I actually have no other experience with the Church but singleness. Although I felt I heard the call to singleness in the summer of 2010, between my Junior and Senior years of high school, prior to that time I never had an official dating relationship, never kissed, nor had much of an intimate connection with any women.
I have been a teenager, college student, and young adult in the church all while being single. I have also been a youth ministry intern at two different congregations, an interim youth minister, and today a part-time youth minister all while living through this call to singleness.
LN: What are some of the challenges of being single?
ER: I can’t say that I have had always positive experiences with singleness. Although we experience from God, we more often than not experience a loss to self rather than an expected gain in the pleasure of being called. Singleness is no different, from my perspective.
Many have told me I am not “cut out” for ministry, because I have no desire to be married, which they choose to view as immature. I have been told that I would never get a job, unless I got married, because that was the only way I could be qualified for a life of ministering to Christians. I, too, have felt the “burn” of the church for which I have so much devotion and love for, but nonetheless I am faithful because my God is faithful to me.
I have grown up in the “buckle” of the “Bible Belt” all of my life. I have had many questions about my relationship status and even propositions for marriage. Whether it be the time my grandmother gave me and my brother engagement rings for our future spouses at age 7, or the friends who have wanted to make marriage pacts if we weren’t in relationships by 35, the women of the congregation telling me about their beautiful granddaughter who would be “just perfect” for me, or the youth group moms who have said, “You know it won’t be wrong to date my daughter once you don’t work here anymore…” I have felt the pressure of marriage. Just because there is a calling towards one direction, that doesn’t mean that our earthly desires don’t guide us in the opposite path.
LN: What are some things (experiences, relationships, pursuits, etc.) in your life that singleness has made possible?
ER: I don’t think I have taken full advantage of God’s gift of singleness to me like I should, but I know He has blessed me with some amazing opportunities that I would otherwise not have if I were in a committed relationship.
When graduating college, I had so many decisions to make, so many opportunities to choose from. I thought that it would be the perfect time to move far away because I had no committed romantic relationship like many of my friends, but God had a different plan. He reminded me that adventure is not bound to travel. Exploring with the Spirit can happen wherever I plant roots to show more of His glory to His creation.
I have the blessing of being able to say I am single, and show the joy I have in the Lord with no pressure to be finding a potential spouse. Because of this, my ministry to students has been such a great experience. I have the opportunity to be an example of another way we experience God’s love other than through marriage. I have amazing friendships with both guys and girls because I am not someone pressuring anyone to find a future spouse or to be my future spouse. (Or at least I hope that’s how it’s perceived…)
LN: What do feel like God is calling you to in this season?
ER: I hear God calling me to a revitalized joy. My Junior year of high school, in the midst of some extreme medical attacks on some of the closest members of my family, the Spirit introduced to me Philippians 4:4 which says, “Rejoice in the Lord always! Again, I will say: Rejoice!”
The first time I read those words, I felt the Spirit well up inside of me to burst through to show others what the Joy of the Lord truly was.
I am a bit of a “control freak,” but God has been working in and through me to understand that control is not how I will receive joy. We cannot find joy in another person, because all people will trip and have to get back up. Our God never fails, never stumbles, and never stops helping us back up. Joy does not come in perfection. Joy does not come in success. Joy does not come in a best friend or the perfect spouse. True joy only comes from the Lord!
I’m not saying that God cannot show us glimpses of joy through His love by relationships with one another, because I will tell you that I would be the first to affirm such community. What I am saying is that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who came to give life to the fullest. When we allow any achievement, job, dream, or even group of people to guide us above God, we will fall into a pit. But, the Good Shepherd only guides us into life.
LN: How can your friends and/or your church do a better job of loving you in the season you are in?
ER: Singleness doesn’t define me. It is not my identity, belonging, nor autonomy. I do not find my self-worth in being single. I only find my weakness made strength in the Spirit of power, love, and self-discipline within me. Thank you to all of my friends, family members, past employers, fellow believers, and strangers who have loved me despite you understanding my calling to singleness!
I don’t fully understand God’s work through this calling, so how do I expect anyone else to understand the great mystery of the Spirit’s work in my life or anyone else’s. I understand that I could be viewed as young, naive, innocent, ignorant, etc. because I have not experienced as much life as other singles, but I have experienced all 22 years of my life as single, and I plan to spend all of my earthly days that way, until the Spirit counsels me in a new direction. I choose not to be bitter to the church even when it doesn’t understand my calling, but instead choose to find service opportunities for those families who otherwise many singles as a nuisance. I choose not to harbor ill-will to those who said I was not ready for ministry because of my marital status, because I know that neither their words, nor singleness defines me. I am a child of the living God, just as any married person is, and I must show all the selfless act of love that Christ gave me everyday, just as I will for any other person that enters into my life.
As we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. As we drive ourselves far away from God, He will still draw near to us. Find joy in the Lord, and He will place desires for His Kingdom in your heart. He will remove desires of ill-will towards a brother or sister, bitterness towards a church family, heartache towards a lost friend or significant other. In His time, He will provide His joy, we need only to delight in Him!
Does Evan’s experience resonate with you?