Oh Happy Day
October 2, 2002
"Are the Barringers here in this service?" the pastor at my parents' church asked this past Sunday. I was home visiting my family for my mom's birthday, and we were now at the part of their church service I've grown to appreciate more and more over the years.
A middle-aged couple stood, holding hands and smiling sheepishly. "Thirty-three years!" the pastor exclaimed, and the congregation applauded this rare specimen. "The Barringers celebrated their thirty-third wedding anniversary this past Thursday. Congratulations Sue and Jonathan!" When the applause died down, we prayed for them as well as the three other couples who'd recently celebrated wedding anniversaries the pastor had acknowledged right before them.
You might think I, a singles columnist and author, am going to complain about this marriage-focused practice. If so, you're wrong. I think it's altogether fitting and wonderful to acknowledge the feat of staying together in a society that practically expects you to get married and divorced a couple times before finding the real love of your life and that offers few role models for sticking it out through the "for worse" part of married life. Staying hitched for 33 years is applause-worthy indeed.
What did cross my singles-saturated mind is curiosity about how to acknowledge similar milestones on this side of the altar. I pictured a sheepishly smiling man or woman standing up in my parents' large congregation and the pastor announcing 15 years of successful singleness, followed by applause and prayers for the strength and wisdom for this individual to continue honoring God with a single life well lived. Oh for the day when churches will acknowledge and appreciate singles at this level!
My easily distracted mind circled back to this idea throughout the morning and as we drove home and prepared lunch afterward. I wasn't so much musing on what this would look like on a church level, but on an individual level. It struck me that, like married folk, it might benefit us singles to have a day set aside once a year to celebrate what's great about this life stage, to reflect on how we've lived as a single in the past year, and to plan for ways to make our single journey even richer, healthier, and happier in the year to come.
What would a Singleness Anniversary look like? Patterning it after a wedding anniversary, I picture a great meal — perhaps take-out for one — or some other preferred Me Night activity. Or we could select an agreed upon Singleness Day with some of our closest single friends when we all get together to toast the strength to do life alone, to brave insensitive comments without slugging anyone, and to celebrate having the remote, bathroom, and ice cream all to ourselves. Perhaps we could make a list of all we love about this life stage, either alone or with other celebratory singles. Of course there would be cards and perhaps even gifts (why not?!) from close single friends and family members congratulating us on surviving and thriving another year on our own.
Most important would be time set aside to see if we're indeed living a single life worth celebrating, and to check if we have an open enough mind to recognize what's great about this life stage, even if we don't necessarily want to be here another year (or even another day!). Time alone with God and a journal could give us time to reflect on the high and low points on our single journey from the previous year, as well as much-needed time to dream of what we'd like the next year to look like if we indeed end up spending it solo.
The practice of dreaming — of new ministries we'd like to join or launch, home improvements we'd like to tackle or learn to master, hobbies we'd like to take up, advanced degrees we'd like to pursue, countries we'd like to explore, book clubs we'd like to join or start — is something we often neglect as singles. It's difficult to dream big within the context of a life stage we never signed up for. But when we fail to dream, make plans, or take ownership of this season, we get lulled into half living and boredom. Nothing like the abundant life God desires us to have (John 10:10).
Just as married couples need to nurture their relationship with each other to keep a strong, stand-the-test-of-time marriage, I think we singles also need to be intentional in order to experience the benefits of healthy, happy singlehood. And that's why I think an annual day to dream and take delight in today, wherever we may find ourselves and however far from our plans for our life that may be, is a great idea.
So, how about it? Care to join me in a new, self-proclaimed holiday? More importantly, do you want to join God in celebrating and dreaming up a single life that blesses you — and others? You may not get applauded by an entire congregation, but I'll bet all of heaven will cheer you on. And one day, you'll have the inexplicable joy of hearing your Creator and Savior proclaim, "Well done, good and faithful servant."