“How To Do Singleness Well.” “Ten Reasons Why Singleness Isn’t the End of the World.” “Singles Who Aren’t Second-Class Citizens In The Bible.”
It seems like I’ve read a thousand blog posts on singleness recently, and while I’ve enjoyed a lot of them, it seems like they entirely deal with ways of convincing singles that singleness isn’t the worst thing ever. As if The Norm is hating to be single, feeling second-class, longing to change your state, feeling incomplete or unfulfilled by not being married. Maybe that is the norm. Maybe a lot of people need some encouragement in a difficult situation.
But I’ve read so many of these sorts of posts that I can actually start to think, Is there something wrong with me that I don’t hate being single? I would like to read a blog post from the point of view of someone who loves being single. So I figured perhaps I’d better write one.
This is not a blog post to convince you that you ought to love being single if you’re single and you hate it. This is a blog post talking about how being a single itinerating missionary works for me and what I’m really enjoying about it. (And the few things that are difficult.)
I should start out with the disclaimer that I don’t dislike marriage. I have wanted to be married my whole life, and I am indeed looking forward to a potential future marriage. Intellectual and emotional (and physical) intimacy appeals to me. So no sour grapes here.
The difference is, I’m really enjoying my present. I’ve discovered contentment in my current state. It’s really nice.
Being single and living alone has introduced me to independence. I grew up in a house of five children, three of whom were girls. The first time I ever had my own room was when I was a Junior in college, and the first time I ever truly lived by myself was when I was about 30. Until that point, I really enjoyed living with the people I’ve lived with, the interesting conversations with roommates, cooking together with my sister when we lived together, and so forth. But in living by myself in my own place, I’ve discovered the pleasures of living alone.
I love it that I have my own room (no snoring!) and my own kitchen, in short, that my house is mine. Everything is where I put it—which is not to say that it’s perfectly tidy by any means, just that the only messiness I have to deal with is my own. I can cook what I want when I want and still have it there in the refrigerator the next day (unless I ate it). My getting up, going to bed, eating, showering, and all that are not dictated by anybody else’s schedule, and I can hang my towel where I want and keep my window wide open in winter if I want. There are no debates about the temperature of the house or car (unless my sister comes over, at which point it’s an amusing novelty). I get to decide the most logical place to put the silverware and the olive oil and the bamboo steamer. I can play music all day long and not bother anyone (at least the neighbors haven’t complained…). I can stay up late reading without the light bothering anyone, and I can eat amazingly healthy oatmeal (with figs and flax and coconut milk and nutmeg and maple syrup…nomz) or chocolate cake (it’s been known to happen) for breakfast at 1pm without deranging anyone else’s nutrition.
My schedule is my own. When I’m at home, I can choose to leave my house at any hour of the day or night without answering to anyone or answering questions or having to take anyone with me. My decisions about where I’m going and what I’m doing are completely independent. When I’m traveling, I can pack up and leave in an hour, and I am sure many a parent would envy me my ease of departure. I can decide at the last minute that I’m driving to church instead of biking and sleep in an extra fifteen minutes. I can suddenly decide to bike downtown for the art festival at 35° F without having to organize an entire entourage.
I can come home from an exhausting spate of traveling and speaking and have delicious, blessed silence and solitude in my house for hours (or days) on end. I can invite someone over on the spur of the moment (it’s been known to happen) and not have to consult with anyone else about whether it’s alright.
I can sob deliciously about something God is teaching me and not have to answer concerned questions about whether I’m having a nervous breakdown. I don’t have to wait on anybody else’s college loans before applying for missions. I don’t have to worry about my calling fitting together with my husband’s or about whether moving to Europe will adversely affect my children. When I go to speak at a church, I’m not the missionary’s wife: I’m the missionary. I don’t have to try to balance adequate care of children with adequate attention to ministry. My life is exponentially simpler and more flexible because I am single.
You know, I’m beginning to feel sorry for all those poor married people out there who don’t get all these advantages. [Tongue only slightly in cheek.] Actually I’m not even entirely joking. I have come to love the flexibility of singleness so much that I’m beginning to be afraid I won’t ever want to change it.
All this has come as something of a surprise to me, simply because of how much I have always wanted to be married. I’m rather blessed with a few advantages that make singleness so fun: I love being alone and rarely get lonely, and I’m not very emotional or emotionally dependent upon other people.
Lest I make the wrong impression, let me say that I love community. I am so glad I am going to Europe, where the AG missions community is rich and close. But I like my own little hobbit-hole within a community, with elbow room and independence and flexibility. That’s got to be an advantage to the community as well, the flexibility of a single without family responsibilities.
But as promised, I have discovered a few distinct disadvantages of being single. Do you know how hard it is to change a light bulb when you’re short? Or zip up the back of a dress by yourself? Have you ever tried to lift a fairly heavy bicycle into the back of a car by yourself? Forget about trying to put it on top of the car.
Those are hardly serious. I could hire a butler to do them. But there have been occasions recently in which I have, for the first time, been seriously jealous of married people, and that is in facing the struggle of itineration by myself. Mostly I like itinerating alone. I love traveling by myself and staying alone in a hotel room and quietly driving and thinking my thoughts.
But I am doing all the hard work alone. I am the secretary and the scheduler and the telemarketer (missions edition) and the salesman and the business manager and the accountant and the grantwriter and the tax preparer and the car mechanic (well, I did put in a headlight by myself…) and the emergency response person and the receiver of all the No’s and the person who decides where to go next and then person who has to have all the ideas and the person who sets up and the person who tears down and the navigator and driver and oil checker and windshield washer and the person who calls to confirm only to find I’ve been forgotten about and the thank-you letter writer and the person who has to be able to give a speech to 7-year olds and 16-year olds and 85-year olds and to cowboys and bankers and single mothers and the sole public face of the ministry I am going to be doing, the chatter and small-talker and listener and answerer of impossible questions, the emailer and Facebooker and blogger and newsletter writer and printer and addresser and stuffer, and I’m the person upon whom it all depends without a shoulder to cry on when I get overwhelmed and discouraged.
People encourage me, certainly, but it’s not the same as going through it together with someone, sharing the work, sharing the stress, supporting each other. (I don’t even want to think about how hard single parents have it, just in general.)
Well, God reminded me recently that I’m not actually doing this alone. Durr. He understands my weaknesses, and He’s not just the God who’s all-wise and makes perfect plans from afar: He’s the God who’s intimately with me, feeling how I feel, sympathizing with my weaknesses, going along with me while I’m calling and traveling and replacing headlights.
Even with all that…goodness, I love being single. And I love being a first-time itinerating missionary. I still would not want to be doing anything else. Any other job, any other state of being—it just wouldn’t be right. I am where I’m meant to be, and by George I like it.