I look at those numbers and think: Odds are not in my favor. But then I remember God literally made Adam a spouse when he didn’t have one. So….there’s that.
Problem #2 for Those Christian and Single: The Cringe-Worthy Advice We’re Offered
Added to the bleak numbers, there are the well-intentioned yet potentially harmful effects of older, married Christians offering advice. People like Francis Chan, who are hoping to give some sort of an explanation but are completely out of touch with the struggle of the single church-goer. Sometimes we get the “have you tried a dating app?” To which we reply, Yes. Of course. It was demoralizing. Other times we get “Well….you are praying, right?” Yes. That was step one. That is also the repeated thing we do day after day after year after year. But this is by far the worst thing you can say: “Oh your generation. You’re just so picky.” Oh boy. You obviously don’t know me very well. I’ve tried to make a lot of things work. Also, didn’t you teach my generation to be picky?
If I could speak frankly, without the fear of offending truly well-intentioned older, married Christians, I would say this: I so appreciate your concern for my situation. Honestly, knowing that someone is praying for me about this is comforting. But until you’ve been single into your 30s or 40s (or older), there’s not a lot of practical advice you can offer me. You just don’t understand the plight unless you’ve experienced it. I’m not saying I don’t want your advice or insight. I’m just saying when you offer it, please don’t assume the situation now is the same as it was when you were dating. Or that there are easy answers.
I think of my parents, from whom I regularly seek advice in this area. I explain a problem or a concern I have, and they listen quietly, think for a few minutes, then my father usually says something along the lines of, “Honey, I’m sorry. I don’t know what to tell you. We got married young.” For some reason, this comment is helpful. I don’t expect them to have a solution for me. But the fact that they understand how different my situation is from theirs helps. (By the way: This isn’t the end of the conversation, but it usually starts there.)
Problem #3 for Those Christian and Single: Few Examples. Little Platform.
Truthfully, when I think about myself and my single friends—some of us in ministry, some of us pursuing careers or leadership opportunities, some of us fostering kids and volunteering at church—I think these are the people the church should be asking to teach about self-control and fulfillment in Christ. Nothing teaches you self-control like going to bed alone for years on end. And nothing teaches you fulfillment like confiding in Christ like you would to a spouse at the end of the day. Yet we don’t often hear from people like us in a church setting.
I’m not trying to toot the single horn here, but honesty I feel there’s a lot the church can learn from those of us singles who have remained committed to the cause of Christ and also living in community with other believers. I wish, instead of offering advice to Caitlin, John Piper had given the floor over to a single person in his or her 30s or 40s to answer the question. No offense to Piper. Really, I don’t mean to put him or his intentions down. Or Francis Chan. But really, it’s hard to take advice from someone in this area who got married young and in a different day and time.
We singles need a platform in our local churches, too. For the equipping of the saints! For the sake of relevancy!
Finally, if I could speak to those well-intentioned married Christians again: The next time you check in with your single friend, don’t offer any advice. Tell him or her you are praying. You care. You’re there.
Your presence and concern are enough. And for many of us, they are the reason we come to church.