Singleness: Burden and Gift
Join us today as we talk about singleness as well as what it means to be single and life in the church join us in having the conversations that shape us greetings tobin. Welcome to another conversation. Come listeners this amount of baptist. Podcast how you doing tobin. I'm doing good. How are you doing doing all right. It's been a tough week for for us. Say you recently lost a loved one in your family anthem. I'm mourning the loss of a friend. So you know different times during cova de wouldn't you say oh for sure. It's definitely a tough time to lose somebody during covid because you don't exactly get to see them funeral plans start looking different and there's a whole bunch of other different support. Networks are starting to look differently than they did before hand right. I was even thinking we talked about death last week. And then it kind of hits you personally so it's very interesting right. It's it's just part of our lives and when we don't think about it don't deal with it sometimes for caught unawares but yeah it's good to have to have that background and even as we are recording this we are almost at where death also plays a central role in the story and to defeat of death. Of course as well so yeah. It's very interesting. Yeah very much so. We had one of our recommendations to talk about singleness this week from a listener. Yeah it's quite the switch from death and there's quite a few ways we can take this conversation right so we'll kind of see how it unfolds. We'll see how the cookie crumbles but we could talk about singleness as an experience of individuals within the western culture right. We're probably talk about in our second half singleness as it relates to biblical values and and and culture and what the bible says there right and then we can also talk about a little bit in the beginning now about how singleness in psychology relate to one another. Yeah that's a good idea. Why don't you start us off with that Even as you're talking about it's interesting to even think about what is singleness right because singleness can be so many different things depending on how you define singleness and not being singled. So what do you think right. So single head is if we were to come up with something like a working definition here i would say. Single single hood is defined by not being in relation with another person. And i think the traditional idea of cygnus is in a romantic setting okay and you had some statistics on singleness in canada. As well which. I found fascinating i did and when i read these statistics. They're not exactly using the same definition. I am right and from what i understand. These are talking about single households so in canada. there there was an article in twenty nine thousand nine that wrote that compared to nineteen eighty six in two thousand sixteen. We had approximately double the amount of people who lived alone and so that means that we have about four million canadians across canada. Who who are single. Who who live alone and now with someone who provides that romantic so seventy percent of the four million have previously been in a relationship which would include widowed divorced or separated by any other means twenty percent of this four million are currently in a relationship with somebody but they just don't live in the same household right and then fifty percent of these individuals also have a child. Roughly speaking two million canadians live in a single parent or guardian household and are pulling triple or quadruple duty in order to support and care for the children or the dependence and simply don't have the same resources that we do with having an extra person there right fascinating. So when i asked you about the definition singleness you talked about not being in a meaningful relationship or romantic attachment to someone but then as you're giving us each statistics you already seeing a little bit of a clash with how you defined versus how perhaps canada or society defines it right because society defines this as just romantic attachment. I was just thinking about singleness before we even we even talk today and How we just assumed that you have to be part of a meaningful. You have to report a meaningful romantic relationship or attachment in order to not be single whether that's married or living with somebody or at least being boyfriend girlfriend whatever we wanna do whatever we want to call it but the experience of singleness goes beyond just that right. I mean The i was reading some articles about this author deborah hirsch. She's a christian author. She's a little bit out there because she talks about sexuality but she talks about homosexuality is not just a sexual expression within a sexual relationships ship between two bodies but that sexuality transcends also into every relationship we have because we we can't just separate parts of our being. We can't just say this part of me sexual in this. Part of me is relational. And this part of me is spiritual we are one hole and so it transcends. I heard a talk by her. And so she talked about what that means for single people and and celebrate people people who choose to be celebrate in that setting. And that doesn't mean that these people don't need community or meaningful relationships of attachment even if they're not romantic attachments over shirt and i like that idea of the embodied whole as you can't we can't segment like like you said sexual the the spiritual whatever that it all comes together as one person right that being said there are individuals out there who would find they can be in a non sexual relationship. That'd be classically to find a single but aren't troubled by that Right so you're looking at the asexual community where relationships with out that sexual component still fulfilling and meaningful right right and the flip side to that is you have people who have this meaningful community. Who who have lots of deep meaningful attachments to other people but are longing for would consider themselves being single and lonely and longing for a deeper expression for deeper romantic and sexual attachment to someone exactly while there are some that. Do not need that romantic or other person attachment to the same level. There's other people that crave and need it and desire so talk to me a little bit about what that means in terms of how how you live life and how you engage life as a single person. Well okay so growing up in canada as this as a single person who is wanting a relationship and can't find it what is what is that. Psychologically like and i would i have. I think i have a few friends who would fit this category and i just from conversations with them it's not a enjoyable experience Even in my own past bake as someone who from eighteen onwards wanted to have like girlfriends and wanted to be in those in in in relationships with other beings who felt that long. I've had a taste of how powerful that loneliness and that drive four relationship can be right and then there's a certain amount of feeling of rejection and isolation loneliness from not having that being fulfilled so as you're talking my question comes up. What's the. I am trying to word this but where maybe i'm using the wrong words but where does longing turned into obsession or or need so so what i mean by that is can you have that long. Can you desire something and still be content. With present circumstances. I mean that comes down to how you define contentment I would say that if contentment means you're all right with the circumstance. Then no because you still desire that relationship okay We talked quite a number of episodes back about the dark night of the soul right about longing for something how You desire of reality of presence to be with in in my circumstance was to be with god and how reality circumvents that there then becomes a conflict between what is felt. And what is known. That being said you've already touched on this with the obsession component right but then there is also that danger of it becoming an obsession of turning that pain right into something negative such as is found in some communities such as the involuntary salvator the in self community online right and then what you find in those communities is that a lot of this pain and turmoil gets turned outwards against other communities where they start blaming other people and other things for their own loneliness and rejection and in doing so their reactions become a negative coping mechanism an unhealthy behavior to try and alleviate the discomfort or rationalize it so then that goes back to my original question so because because my worry is that that we're kind of setting up a binary in the sense that i want to be in a more committed relationship of one sort or another. Let's call it romantic for for better for lack of a better word. So i want to be under romantic relationship. I'm either in the stage of wanting that and the more i wanted to do the closer i get to it being an obsession in my life or i get it and then i'm fine but there is no room to to to live a. Is there no room then to live a life. That says hey i would really desire this but i will also be content. Happy with where i am right now and and live into that to the fullest. And that's that's tricky because we don't have a lot of social narratives that kind of give us that framework to experience singleness in a healthy way. So if i were to break that down a little bit when we watch movies in rome these romantic movies and stuff. It gives us a lot of even you even say it's either healthier unhealthy. That's not me to judge right now but it still gives you those narratives to kind of go and say oh. This is what it's like to be in relationship. This is how i can experience relationship and and dating and being with another person. We don't have movies about what it's like to be alone at least not popularly right right or if they are they're fairly depressing right. There fairly depressing. It's all about not being in that relationship and own. Maybe i'll get into that relationship. There's the whole trope in the late. Two thousands of the manic pixie dream girl where it's all about these writers hollywood writers that use women and relationships to give men character growth in arcs in the movie right so it's all about being relationship pure like it's not about the expression of singleness as healthy in itself. It's about relationship as fixing your problems so that not then create problematic relationships as well. In the sense that i'm finding all my fulfillment than in that relationship once. I do find a relationship where i where i haven't grown as a person or don't have enough emotional intelligence to be content with the person that i am because the person that i was always looking for someone else to to complete me exactly. It creates problems both in relationships expectations for relationships and for people who also want to enter relationships. Right and even individually it creates a learning process or provides an opportunity for a healthy learning environment. Where you start to empathize with your partner where you can put yourself. In their shoes and learn that your flaws also have to be negotiated with their flaws and that there's a balancing act and interpersonal dynamics. Come in and i mean that turns even so now. We're talking about dating but that that that's the same thing with with friendships as well right. If you're i can see a scenario. I've seen lots of scenarios where where you're not content. You're not necessarily content with who you are and so you're you're expecting a lot of out of that friendship relationship for your happiness for your contentment even for your self esteem for the way you Assess your own value that kind of stuff And that can even come out in familiar. Familial relationships as well right where you depend. It's about on another to define who you are and to give you that esteem right and so i mean maybe we're getting off track but that's kind of what singleness conversations are in the sense. Is that the healthiest relationships in our lives are are where we have Some sort of independence isn't it. Yeah yeah independence crates freedom. Authenticity for who you are. In relation to the overall relationship that being said we also live in a society that needs us to be in relationship so to further expand on this point there is there has been studies. I was just scrolling passively I love read it i. I'm on it all day while just pathway scrolling on read it and they were talking about how people live longer when they're in hell in healthy relationships. Oh interesting and lots of articles in the medical community about how people who come in with their partners rent have better treatment results and partly to have somebody to talk to and somebody else to gather information. Yeah whatever the reason is another person there right even just as a tax bonus is is beneficial. So we have. We live in a society that set up for couples and yet the dangerous. become too codependent. And while there's this whole codependence piece talked about but then how as a single person do you live right right so if your approach this as as a single person you see the i live in a society that needs couples that needs you know somebody to stay home and clean the house or look after the kids while somebody else needs to go work. How do i be both people. Yeah or even attach detaches. I think in our society we attach maturity to to relationships as well right so a part of adulting is to be in a meaningful relationship. I always found that whole areas adulting if being an adult but somehow of verb but anyways You know like you are considered writes so you are considered to be a more mature adults in comparison to other people your age if you're in a meaningful relationship and on top of that if you do certain things if you have a certain job if you have a house and if you have kids right over sure i even feel that in school like what. I'm twenty five now. But because i'm married all of a sudden that puts me in a whole nother brand right of society all of a sudden i'm more mature i'm responsible and i'm sure if i had kids out even put me in another bracket above 'cause now i'm looking after little right little little children but as as we're talking i'm just wondering if we wouldn't have a healthier society if we we would learn what it looks like to live healthily in singleness for a time of our lives even just a how we talk about singleness it would be helpful for the individuals who are signal Because we are seeing a rise in people who live alone or who aren't conventionally married or unconventionally being with somebody else and just to harry healthier narratives for them to us and to understand themselves and even understand ourselves with. Kate will greatly benefit us as a community as a as a broad social community as christians and canadian. A do well. Let's transition a bit into the bible here. where So where have if. I'm a single person. And i wanted and i'm and i'm just lonely as all can be. Have you found that. Most people find their strength. I think were most people go in terms of the bible. At least we can talk about how we talk about church. How about single isn't church. And how we treat single people insertion. That's a separate thing from how the bible talks about singleness. I mean jewish culture. Very much thought that you had be married that that's just you know that that's the purpose of your life is to be married if you're mad at your purposes to have a have a wife so that your wife can have children and and your family line keeps going and if you if you were a woman you know your goal was that for your family to find to find the man or family who would take you i mean as a patriarchal society is but there is no. I don't know if there's a real allowance The only time there is conversation is about widows right and how you treat widows and so in that sense. The old testament is much more progressive than the surrounding cultures of its time and makes allowance for widows and treats them well and in that sense even relationships are still political. Yeah in that. It's not about so much being with somebody else. As it is a way to further your lineage as a way to get some gain right and not saying that there isn't a component. Alright love between why. Perhaps there is some counter cultural stories even embedded within the old testament to see the story of of ruth and her mother-in-law. Ruth naomi. i mean ruth's story restoring does end in marriage but it's very much naomi who makes it happen and they owe me you know. She kind of becomes a mother kind of surrogate mother to son that ruth bears. I mean that's how the story ends in the bible. Were supposed to see that image. Even though she's not married so it's a fairly counter cultural story there is rahab the prostitute who becomes part of israel. There's the story of tamar who forces kind of what we would call a constitutional crisis. It's not a constitutional crisis but it's a crisis of the law for for for one for for one of the for one of the men that was supposed to marry her. Her father in law's supposed to marry her according to the law because her husband has passed away but he refuses and so eventually she she forces her way into this. There's the story of astor who who kind of becomes part of this abusive kings. Well she's the she becomes the queen to disabuse of king and rescue the people of israel. I think all of those are somewhat counter cultural in the sense that that they're describing to us non normative relationships within that paradigm but also some of these women become not all of them that i mentioned but some of them are part of the story of jesus right so matthew mentions for women in the genealogy of jesus and even though clearly there had to be men for those four women to have borne children has not the men that are identified. It's the women that are identified. And so it already kind of focuses more on the person under relationship that that they were in jesus himself never married according to the gospels. All of a sudden you have these single people doing things right. i mean we. We don't we don't know of mary. Martha lazarus or married. We never find out. They are just people right. The assumption probably is that they would be. But but even when lazarus dies. we don't hear about his wife morning right. We we hear about his sisters. Mary magdalene she married. We don't know right. I mean you go down the list of all these characters and somehow we don't often find out about their familial relationships and isn't there a passage in there somewhere about how it it in summary. It's like get married if you want to. But you know your your relationship with the lord is i and you gotta serve that primary. I corinthians that where it is. I post writing. Yeah i mean. Paul paul is also single. There's a hint there. in first. Corinthians read the passage wrongly sometimes. But there's a hint there. In first corinthians step maybe at one point paul was married and he considers himself a widower. I've never heard preached in church but there is a hint there because he's talking to the widows and widowers and he's co counseling them to stay single and he says be as i am so he identifies himself with them. He doesn't leader. He talks to to what he calls the virgins which would be the single people who are potentially also engaged to be married which is different than the widows widowers and so there he doesn't say as i am because he's not. He doesn't see himself like that. He sees himself like a widower. So but in that passage. Basically what paul is saying. Yeah Marriage is a good thing and if you want to be married be married and if you don't wanna be married you have a gift to bring to the conversation as well and the way the we paul seasons in that conversation is gift that single people bring is is an attachment to church and into the work of god. I mean this comes out of paul of paul paul's idea anyways is that jesus coming back soon. You know. And so he saying why. Why waste your time getting married. We have so much stuff to do. Let's go get working and proclaiming. Jesus christ but that's the gift that single people that that's the gift that he sees himself bringing to the church as well right. I'm single so i can go and serve god and i can go and proclaim and so So he very much kind of trying to tell people. Stay in whatever situation you are. Don't get divorced if you're married. Stay married and have sex. He literally. I mean literally what he says. Don't don't all of a sudden now because you think that you're that you're christian. Stop having sex. If you're in a marriage you know. There's no you're not holier if you're in a celebrate marriage with somebody then if you're in a sexual relationship with somebody and so That's kind of his frame of mind right and so what. I take that passage. Don't i think what we should take a passage is that there's legitimate calling and gift to singleness within our congregations and we haven't really acknowledged that ever or very rarely and as as you're talking here. This is reminding me of a story that. I read quite quite a quite a few years ago when i was taking a family and marriage class. I believe that was the course. I was in for this. Where was talking about An evangelical preacher who was off doing missionary work off off in the boonies somewhere and then his daughter right was or his family was having trouble and distress and their daughter. I think even commit suicide over his lack of involvement. Yeah this is a story that i read in a book called sweet surrender by dennis hiebert and the question raised is what becomes more important family or missionary work right well. My critique on this was that he shouldn't this this preacher guys should not have even gotten married in the first place if he couldn't have committed to the relationship as a whole right right. And you know. I i mean before we talk. Today i went and reread some of this stuff. And i corinthians seven and you you can go and read yourself there paul saying that. If you're married you are committing to that relationship and you need to give it a significant amount of energy. That is your calling by god within marriage so you you know the the the calling that god puts on you cannot supersede that calling that god has put on you for that marriage. Because you're asked to be in this relationship of mutual self giving love so you have to kind of buy into that but if you don't need to be in a relationship like that then you can give some of that energy to the work at hand or two one way to one way to to translate it. There has to present necessities. Paul says And so that's that's how paul would put would address it. I don't think paul would understand. I don't think. Paul understand our fascination with saying hey To be to be a good human. I need to be part of a relationship. I need to be in a marriage any to have kids. And then i'm going to dedicate all my energy to my work or to my church. You know for pastors or or to this and ev- this relationship that i've committed to is going to take second place to another relationship i've inserted into it and then using jesus own words to kind of To support that is weird. I don't think paul would ever do that exactly. And i think we put this pressure on missionary work that It becomes the one and only calling for a christian to be part of god's works in the world. Yeah and what. Paul is trying to say i think is hey. If you're single now you can do mission or missionary work. You're not attached to the work of your marriage covenant relationship so why not not stay the way you are. He's trying to tell these people in corinthians why not stay the way you are and do missions work. If that's what you feel like god is calling you to see in our mind. We have turned completely around. We often how we are. We have such distrust of single people especially single men that we say. Hey no-no before you can do ministry worker before you can do missionary work and this is very much agenda conversation because it's not the other way around. We don't distress single women we asked him. and then. So that's an noticing this even as we speak right here. I've been hesitant to talk about this call. That paul has and says. Hey you're single and you can work for the church because to me. It sounds abusive. Make single women do often. We send them out to be missionaries. We asked him to serve. You don't have children. you can do this right. We don't do the same thing for single men or very scared of single men and if want men to do any kind of ministry. We want men to be married and have children because that safety as so. That's that's even the gender dwayne which we approach singleness right. And i think you're in a very unique position at thirty to even speak about that because of your work now with Generation rising coming up and with your older work at in out of town or you did that sort of abroad. Work right where you've seen students and individuals who either as a couple or who are dating or who are single going off and doing this work in in in africa or or wherever you sent them thinking of even thinking about who hires churches in terms of pastors right. It's okay for youth pastor. It's okay for a youth pastor to be single sometimes right because they're young Oftentimes if men right they're young. That's alright we prefer a single woman or a married woman to our children's ministry because they're just more approachable to children. Once you're past you get into a more. An associate pastor position or a lead pastor position. We really want that pastor to be married whether they're a woman or a man we really would like them to be in a committed relationship because that to us is the highest ideal. The highest value within the congregation. Right i mean. I don't think i've been to a church where we've had a single lead pastor. I have. I have not attended a church like that anyways. No i'm trying to think. I don't think i've ever had lead pastor as a single person. i've had associate pastors. Who were then in a divorce relationship or in a separate relationship right and that could be a whole nother podcasts. But yeah yeah. And i can't speak to their experiences. No no but within at least within the evangelical world that i've grown up in yet it's marriage seems to be this high ideal and so any time we talk about singleness and we talk about singleness even as a calling or as an opportunity We tend to think in our minds we tend to think about singleness calling opportunity for women not so much for men and we also tend to not put enough support around single people So we're tend to not give them the same community and while we say. Hey we value your singleness and if that's what god calls you to. Do we want to embrace that and you you can. You have something to give to us. We still want to celebrate mother's day and church and get frustrated when we celebrate we. Don't we still want to celebrate. Father stay in church and get frustrated when we don't and I can just. I mean i make a point of saying something to that effect every mothers and fathers day and i can just hear the roles you know i know the is aren't actually rolling but i can just hear that there's that pressure on you with the congress within the congregations like there there goes rafael again. Trying to be all politically correct not politically correct. It's an acknowledgment that our humanity is not just defined by our roles as fathers and mothers in within that attached relationship And committed relationship of of of marriage. I mean are not the only vision for for humanity not even in the bible. You know i mean. Let's talk about men. That aren't that that we wouldn't consider being fully men. I mean there's daniel and his three friends there most likely unix. Because that's what would happen in the bible. Once they were once they were taken as prisoners in palace. We have a whole book stories that we love to tell our kids about daniel right and we talk about the end times. We love to go to daniel and talk about you know that kind of stuff. There's there's a whole church in ethiopia that today still claims and traces their lineage. Back to a conversation with an ethiopian eunuch on-road from jerusalem Who's who has converted and baptized than an the ep ethiopian. Church still says. That's where we come from because he goes back right but somehow we've said that the highest ideal value is marriage is is being committed marriage with two children and suburban suburban right. Right right. I mean even within our culture. We do not have father's day and mother's day and a far saying on mother's day or a single people's they right we just don't either and so i would say for maybe the if we were to sum everything up that there's a really deep call. Or there's a really deep spirituality to being single and that there is special and it's needed and it's not any worse of a calling that being said we also need to adjust start cultural narratives and what we say in how we talk. And how he fee with people that needs to shift so that they can also feel that calling especially this has been another episode of the modern anna baptist. Please join the conversation by emailing us. At conversations that shape us gmail.com or joining us on twitter at modern anna baptist. Either way we'd love to hear from you and grow with you and continue to have fantastic conversations.