I once saw a commercial where a boy was standing alone in the middle of a room. Suddenly, someone approached the young man with a new shirt and put it over the boy’s clothes. Someone else came and put a jacket on over the coat. Another person came and placed a hat on his head. Before long dozens of people were placing clothes on and taking clothes off the boy. When he had had enough, he took off all the clothes except his own, and the people slowly faded away. This illustration suggested the question, How can one truly be authentic when so many people around us are trying to define us according to how they want us to be? In other words, how can one truly be an authentic and whole self within all these expectations?
When it comes to singleness, I have similar sentiments. I truly believe singleness is adorned by one’s pursuit of individuality, authenticity. and wholeness. However, when the systems around us place expectations that distract from that quest, how can any of us expect to fully live out our singleness with any real intention? How do we live out our singleness and individuality within cultural systems (Christian and otherwise) that burden that very singleness with the task of finding a mate? Singleness in many cultural circles is defined by the pursuit of that union instead of focusing on the wholeness God intends to yield in the single individual. When I hear people preach the message that, when it comes to marriage, two halves cannot equal a whole, I wonder then why singleness messages seem to focus on how to wait for one’s spouse as opposed to shaping and encouraging wholeness.
In his book Families at the Crossroads, Rodney Clapp says:
We need to reexamine the reasons for seeing singleness as good so that in a confused and searching postmodern world, we can react the goodness of singleness for the right reasons. Only so, as we shall see, can we reassert the goodness of family, and the goodness of freedom, for the right reasons.
For starters, we have to begin to re-envision singleness as a purposeful journey toward wholeness. The definitions for the word whole are as follows: (1) comprising the full quantity, amount, extent, number, etc., without diminution or exception; entire, full, or total (2) containing all the elements properly belonging; complete (3) undivided; in one piece (4) Mathematics. integral, or not fractional (5) not broken, damaged, or impaired; intact (6) uninjured or unharmed; sound (7) pertaining to all aspects of human nature, especially one’s physical, intellectual, and spiritual development.
To me, that is the foundation of the goodness of singleness. The goodness of individual freedom to live and evolve. Self-discovery, identity, and authenticity should be at the top of everyone’s personal priority lists. It is only when we embrace discovering these things that we are capable of fulfilling our calls in this world. In the book The Gift of Being Yourself, David Benner takes this concept further saying, “There is no deep knowing of God without a deep knowing of self, and no deep knowing of self without a deep knowing of God.” In Psalm 139, David says,
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.” (vv.1–6)
This passage suggests that such knowledge of all I am and all I can become in him is too wonderful and so beyond me that I cannot attain it. Yet I sure can try.
Living out singleness is also a commitment. It’s a commitment to honor and value the person God invested love in—you, and me. How beautiful would it be to come into such a place of wholeness where I could search and know myself the way the creator of the universe does? Only then can my true purpose as an individual be applied to this broken world. Only then can I be the best person for others whether communally or within the context of intimate relationship. Singleness is not a call to waiting or loneliness, but rather a call to wholeness of self, and we have a responsibility to do nothing more than become who we are.