I read a book in seminary called, Singles at the Crossroads by Albert Hsu. Finally a book that recognizes that churches are geared for families and leave out/don’t know what to do with the growing population of singles. It dispels myths about the gift of singleness, God’s will for singles, and fallacies of searching for “the right one.” It also deals with topics every single faces like loneliness, community, dating and sex.
One chapter that really got me thinking was about temptations that singles face. I thought it was going to be something about lust or settling for bad relationships, but instead it was about roadblocks to living a triumphant, content single life.
Hsu lists the temptations as:
1. Tempted to Put Life on Hold – How many singles do you know, perhaps even including yourself that think life begins at marriage and that singlehood is a stage to be passed through as quickly as possible? Tell-tale characteristics of this attitude are the lack of investment in anything long-term, living like they’re still in college and also referring to what they’ll do in the future with their spouse.
“Marriage is not the starting point for real life, salvation in Christ is.” (Hsu, 162)
Ooh see how we are already starting with God substitutes? Christ came so that we could live an abundant life regardless of our marital state. I’ll never forget when I decided to get a big girl bed. Until I was 25 I slept in a twin. I jokingly told my friends that I would not get a queen-sized bed until I had a man to put in it. I thought I was being funny but somewhere for me that was true. Now I am proud of my big girl bed and 600 thread count sheets, finishing grad school and the ability to go into a restaurant and eat by myself. I’m making lists of things I want to experience and do now. What do I dream of? God and I have stuff to do.
2. Tempted to be Overcommitted – People automatically think that singles have a ton of free time, I mean we’re not caring for a family so what do we do with all day? Remember in While you Were Sleeping, poor Lucy had to work every holiday so married people could be at home. Hsu points out that singles are often busier than marrieds because we have take care of our own cars, homes, errands, etc. Then when it comes to saying no we can’t use our kids or quality time at home to get out of anything. I tell my brother he had kids just to be able to leave boring parties early. We don’t have a noble excuse. Hsu says that single more quickly fall into workaholism, stress and burnout, because no one is telling us to come home earlier. See married people your spouse is helping you live longer.
“To counteract being overly busy, we must build margin into our schedules.” (Hsu, 164)
Hsu says the key to this is to say no whether we have an excuse or not. We don’t have to lie, which is tempting. I have a single friend that makes appointments on her day timer with herself that she does not break. She takes time to go to an exercise class, get a massage or something else that she loves to do. This is her time for herself. Another advantage of being single we probably have the discretionary income to do these luxuries. 🙂
3. Tempted to be Unaccountable – One of the disadvantages of living in an increasingly isolated and segmented society is that we are anonymous. We can hide. We can live secret lives. It is easier to wear a mask. To counteract this we need people in our lives that we can be authentic with. We need someone to share our lives with, that can know us and call us out on our crap. Small groups, mentorships and/or accountability groups are essential. This will also help us develop the tools necessary to have healthy relationships in general. Finding the right group or person to join us on this journey can be trying, but don’t give up. It isn’t just about keeping us away from what is bad but also to encourage us to dream, set goals and grow. This is part of the abundant life and it requires vulnerability. Yikes! Scary!
4. Tempted to have lousy holidays – I don’t think there is anything worse than spending the holidays alone, oh wait, yes I do. I hate going to other people’s house for the holidays. I don’t like to feel like I’m intruding on their family time. They may not see it that way, but I do. Hsu recognizes that this invitation can feel like pity and make the single feel more out of place than just being alone. One single in the book suggested volunteering during the holidays and to focus on others. Another option is to spend the holidays with other singles if you can’t go home. The bottom line seems to be this, “No one is responsible for my loneliness but me. Loneliness is a choice, not a necessity.” (Hsu, 170)
5. Tempted to live a life of regret – We’ve all done things we’re not proud of. We’ve made mistakes, some bigger than others. But we can’t live looking backwards. Who and what are we living for? I also think our weaknesses and errors are what connect us to others when we can be vulnerable enough in safe community to show who we really are. You never know when you’re just one step ahead of someone else, and they need the hope you have that they will make it.
“The challenge for all of us is to live the life we’ve been given, without fear and regret … since God will make all things new and provide us with eternal regards greater than anything we know.” – (Hsu, 171)
6. Tempted to be self-centered – When we are single do we become spoiled children and think the world revolves around ourselves? We control our lives completely, no one to answer to and no one to worry about, generally. We are independent, hear us roar. There is a fine line separating it from self-indulgence.
The antidote for living in selfish ways is to become intentional about how we manage our resources, whether time, money or relationships. We must ask ourselves, what am I doing to love my neighbor? What can I do to focus less on myself and more on others?”
The key is balance, for some it’s always about others. We don’t have the accountability (#3) or a family force this issue for us. We need to deliberate about our generosity in giving of what we have.
These temptations aren’t rocket science, but it is intentionality. We need to be aware of the decision we are making consciously or subconsciously. How are we developing our character? What kind of people do we want to be?
I want to live the life God has given me well.