The Right Questions
by Camerin Courtney
We all know the wrong questions to ask singles, mostly because we've had to attempt to answer them about a gazillion times.
The other day, I spoke to a coworker of mine who was frustrated about a recent get-together with some old college friends, who almost immediately asked him, "So, how's your love life?" After answering "Um, nonexistent," I could almost hear the awkward pause that surely followed. Been there, stammered through that conversation.
When I was doing a radio interview recently in relation to my new singles book, the show's host actually asked me on live radio, "So, why aren't you married yet?" Like there's an easy answer to that! As if I'm supposed to say, "Well, John, because my expectations are just too lofty for any mere mortal man to reach."
There are other wrong questions for singles: When are you going to settle down? What's a nice girl/guy like you doing still single? Isn't your biological clock getting pretty loud by now? Ugh.
I can't tell you how many times at family functions, gatherings of old friends, and church events I've wished someone would instead ask me about my job, hobbies, travels, or volunteer work. These kinds of questions about the things that are in our life, as opposed to the spouse who happens not to be right now have always seemed to me to be the right and best questions to ask singles. But this past Sunday, I realized that I, too, was wrong.
At church this past weekend, my Sunday school class took a good look at 1 Corinthians 7, one of those passages in which the Apostle Paul, the biblical poster child for the single life, waxes eloquent about the blessings of doing life alone.
The discussion that followed in this class of marrieds and singles of all ages was encouraging and enlightening. We talked about how the church views singles (as people who need to hurry up and get married) and the way it should view singles (as people just as valued and loved by God as anyone else), about Paul's view of singleness (as praise-worthy) and our modern-day society's view of singleness (as pathetic).
Our teacher spoke to the fact that the church has responded to the skyrocketing divorce rates by hailing marriage and family as good things, by investing, teaching, and preaching on how to have a healthy husband/wife relationship. This is all wonderful, unless you're single and wonder where you fit in in our family-oriented communities of faith.
When we broke up into small groups, we looked closer at a few key verses in this chapter. The one that caught my attention was verse 34: "An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world how she can please her husband." (There are almost identical things said about men in verses 32 and 33.) The thought struck me, Is this biblical ideal how I view the prime objective of my singleness to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit? I realized this is an important question for singles a right question, you might say. Fumbling for an answer, I felt humbled and challenged.
When we gathered back into our group discussion, a woman across the room spoke up, saying that we shouldn't treat singles as second-class citizens. "Instead of looking at a man and saying, 'Here's a great guy, why isn't he married?' we should be saying, 'Here's a great guy, what's he doing for God?'" In fact, our teacher added, that's a question we should ask all people, both single and married. Ah, another right question. We looked at verse 35, which says, "I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord."
Those final five words undivided devotion to the Lord sounded an awful lot like a life mission statement for all of us, the point of our existence, God's ultimate will for our life. And yes, we singles, have less distractions from this goal a point I know I take for granted far too often.
Our teacher posed one more question, "Suppose you have a friend who's engaged to be married and reads these verses about singles being freer to serve God and wonders if marrying really is the right choice in God's eyes. How would you counsel this friend?" A few of us singles exchanged glances and chuckled a bit, knowing what we'd be tempted to say: "Get hitched! Now!" But someone made the point about couples having unique ministry opportunities as well. We all agreed that it's wise for couples to consider whether marrying will help or hinder their ability to serve God.
In a moment of cynicism, I thought, Great, one more stipulation for a potential mate! But surely it was God who changed my thinking and helped me see this as a wonderfully helpful indicator of whether or not any future beaus are the man for me. Make that another right question: Will being with this person be a boost or barrier to my service to God?
In the end I realized the most life-altering question for us singles won't necessarily be "Will you marry me?" The most life-altering question just may be, "Am I using my life, in whatever stage I'm at, to serve God?" At times it may be just as difficult and potentially painful to answer as "So, why aren't you married yet?" But if we allow it to, if we answer this question about the devotion of our heart truthfully, if we follow through on creating an increasingly better answer as we change and grow throughout life, we may just find the kind of abundant, joyful life that's truly the desire of our heart.