Today is my birthday.
Happy Birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday dear… etc.
I’m 28 today, which feels quite old, although I’ve been thinking that I was already 28 for about four months already, so it’s probably not as much of a shock as it might have been.
I think that if you’d asked me when I was 18 to imagine my life in 10 years time, I’m not sure any of my predictions would match up with the reality. I don’t really know where I thought I’d be living, or what I thought I’d be doing. But, I do know that at 18 I would have assumed that 28 year old me would be married, and probably with a couple of kids too.
The weird thing about that though, is that I don’t actually mind. If you’d told 18 year old me, ‘you’ll be single when you’re 28’ she would have been devastated. But the reality is that I don’t really mind. I have occasions of thinking that being married would be nice – singleness can be a bit lonely, marriage seems like it would be fun, and I would quite like to have babies – but I also quite like being single. I like the fact that when I come home from a long day of people I can just shut myself in my room and be alone; I like the fact that I can make plans for dinner, or how I’ll spend the weekend, or how I’ll spend my holiday, or what I’ll do with my future, and I don’t need to negotiate or give in or compromise, or consult with anyone else.
But, sometimes, it is hard to be alone, and I think that hardness takes on a special difficulty when one thinks about the future. It’s fine to be single and in one’s late twenties; I think it might be a wee bit more of a strain in ten or twenty or thirty years time.
Singleness and the Christian life is tough too. It can feel like Christian-culture is designed around marriage and family, and if you don’t fit into that box then it’s hard to know where you fit at all.
My wondering is, is it harder for single Christian men or women? My hunch is that it’s harder on the girls, (though I imagine I’m probably being a little biased!) because there’s more of us so there feels as if there’s more of a sense that Christian men choose to be single (bachelor till the rapture stuff) whilst Christian girls are stuck with being single (left on the shelf stuff); and because it seems as if men can make a plan for life and career which will continue on, regardless of marital status, whereas many women have a tendency to have a life plan which is entirely reshaped by meeting a man. That all sounds horribly backwards and chauvinistic, and yet I think there’s some truth to it: if I ask my single male colleagues what their plan for life is, usually there will be one plan, which will remain intact whether they meet a wife or not, but for me there are essentially two plans – one if I stay single (which involves various different jobs and interests and far-flung exotic locations) and one if I get married (which involves staying at home and having babies). I’d be interested to know what others think about this: Single ladies, do you concur, or am I just weird? Single gentlemen, does this fit with your experience, or do you consider it harder to be a single man? Married people, do you have any opinions that you’d like to share?
But, all that being said. I am happy as a single lady, and these are things that have helped with that:
- A marvellous church family who don’t exalt marriage above singleness, and who don’t make single people feel like awkward spare parts.
- Wonderful married friends who have been kind in giving me honest pictures of marriage – showing me the good stuff, but also being very clear about the times when it’s hard work. Marriage isn’t always going to be ‘happily ever after’, and it’s helpful to see that.
- Jesus. Looking at Hosea over the last couple of months as I prepared my talk for our women’s conference was immensely joyful as I was reminded again that whether I do get married in this life, or whether I don’t, I’m looking forward to a real and perfect wedding. On that day we, the church, the perfect and pure Bride, will meet our perfect, wonderful Bridegroom and we will begin forever with Him. Being single for 28 or 38 or 98 years will be like the blink of an eye compared to an eternity with Christ. I can’t wait!
In summary: happier than I thought I’d be, but nowhere near as happy as I’m going to be.