It had been one of the roughest days of her life. October had come up so quickly and, before she knew it, Homecoming Week was in full swing. Heather loved all of the themed dress days (today had been Western day) and the spirit competitions, but every year her enthusiasm was coupled with an underlying dread about the Homecoming Dance that wrapped-up the week’s festivities.
She was a senior and for three years she had longingly waited for someone to ask her to the dance. Every year, on Wednesday of Homecoming Week (the last day to buy tickets for the Saturday dance) she fought through the day feeling sick to her stomach, realizing that her hopes were truly in vain. Each year had gotten progressively worse, but today felt like someone had punched her in the stomach. As the day ended, she realized that she would complete her high school career saying that she had never had a date to a dance.
So today, as she walked home from school, feeling the weight of her backpack on her shoulders and the lonely chill of the October wind blow through her bones, she cried. She cried because not one single guy in her entire school wanted to go out with her. She cried because, out of all of the hundreds of guys she bumped into throughout her day, not one of them thought she was pretty enough to have on his arm. She cried because not one of them thought she was worth spending just four hours with on one Saturday night of the whole school year. She felt ugly, alone, and worthless.
Have you ever felt like Heather? My guess is that at any point in your life you have felt anywhere from one to all of these emotions. The journey through adolescence is about finding out who you are as an individual. Where do you fit in at school, with your family, with your friends? These questions of identity are often answered by who you date or who thinks you’re worth spending time with. I would say that for most young people, the biggest issues in their lives have to do with relationships.
With all of these questions comes the issue of singleness. What is the Christian response to singleness? In this article, I will attempt to respond to this question.
What do we know?
First, we must identify what the world tells us about singleness.
The media: Commercials tell us that we will have complete happiness if we find an attractive person to share their product with. Let’s look at a couple of examples. If we chew Dentyne Ice, not only will we find true love with the shirt-less sweaty man sitting on our windowsill, but we will also get that cool icy feel of being in love when our lips lock around our chewing gum. If we heat Uncle Ben’s Instant Rice in our microwave (with a savvy young man joining us for dinner), we will find romance and passion in a red, candlelit room as we mutually satisfy our appetites. Television shows also broadcast this same message. The goal is to be in a relationship. Have you ever noticed that every nearly every Series ends with a wedding? In the same way, movies tell us that all is complete when the couple gets through their wedding day and rides off into the sunset. From there on out, life is utter bliss and neither the bride nor the groom will feel lonely ever again.
Our family: Doesn’t it seem like the only question at every family gathering is, “So, are you dating anybody?” This seems to especially come from the more “senior” members of the group (i.e. grandmas and great-aunts). The question is posed as if the only thing in your life worthy of interest is your most recent date/relationship.
Our peers: When I look at high school relationships, I am always astounded by how much of a status symbol it is. Joey on the football team dates Ashley the cheerleader to show his boys that he can win himself a “Babe” by his svelte looks and his charming smile. Ashley, though not too impressed with Joey, dates him because then Mark, the quarterback will notice her and ask her to the prom. Sound familiar? I’m not saying that every high school relationship plays out like this little drama but, often times, high school relationships are not pursued solely because two people enjoy each other’s company.
What is inside of us?
Another question to address is, what is it inside of us that drives us to want a relationship? I know that the world tells me I am supposed to want a relationship, but when I ignore their coaxing, why do I still feel lonely? Let’s take a look at how we were created.
In Genesis, we are told that God created the earth and everything in it, the vegetation, the creatures of the sea, the beasts of the land, but God made man in His own image. We were created for communion with Him. Before the Fall, God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden. When sin entered man, a great ravine divided us, the unholy, from God, the holy one. In His holiness, He cannot be with us.
We were created to be in communion with Him and, separation from Him creates a void in our hearts. Many people try to fill this void with worldly things: money, jobs, material possessions, addictions and, often times, relationships. I would say that out of all of these choices, relationships are the most fulfilling because they most closely mimic the original. Relationships involve mind and body and they are the most intimate form of communion two people can experience. They are not, however, the original.
What does God say?
Do you remember the game that babies play where they have to find the right shaped hole to put the piece through to get it into the tub? The star must go through the star hole, the cube must go through the square hole, etc. I think this game is often like what we try to do with relationships. Earthly relationships are the sphere and God is the octagon. Kids often mistake the octagon hole for the sphere hole because they look so similar, but after numerous tries and mounting frustration, they realize it doesn’t work.
In the same way, because some of the products of a relationship resemble the fulfillment we find in God, people often mistake them for true happiness. In the end, however, after numerous tries and tear-filled nights, they realize that it just doesn’t work. Their relationship just doesn’t make them happy.
So how do I fill the emptiness?
The truth is that nothing will make us truly happy unless it is the real deal; a relationship with our Creator. The question has nothing to do with whether or not you can get a date to the next dance and everything to do with who you are in relationship to your Creator.
In Psalm 139:13-16 we are reminded that God wove us together in our mother’s womb. David goes on to say that “My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.”
In I Peter 1:21-24 we are reminded that Christ, being fully human, committed no sin and, as our God, died on a cross and bore the sins of the world. Though we were lost in our sin and separated from Him, He thought us lovely and worthwhile enough to come and die for us so that we could be with Him.
That, right there is the only octagon that will fill our void. His loving act of sacrifice is what truly answers the questions that Heather, and so many of us, grapple with: Am I lovely? Am I worth being with? Am I worth loving?
The God of the universe loves you just the way you are. He loves you weight, your height, your skin, your teeth. He finds you astoundingly attractive and desires all of the time you will give Him. So, what is the Christian’s response to singleness? A contentment that comes from a relationship with the God of the Universe who loves every piece of who you are.
If you are a single person today, I challenge you to find joy in the fact that your Creator wants to be your date for the rest of your life. While relationships here on earth can be exciting and give the feeling of worth among your peers, the only thing that will truly satisfy your lonely heart, is relationship with the One who has loved you since He knit you together in your mother’s womb. So whether you are recently single or looking for your first date, know that no boyfriend or girlfriend can give you what God promises those who earnestly seek Him and come to know Him.