As we exit the Christmas season of parties and family gatherings and enter the Valentine’s Day season of love and romance, many of us have wondered where we fit in. Some of us feel an emptiness, a chasm in our hearts that we believe should be filled by a spouse. While some love the freedom of being single, others feel lonely and even angry at God that he has left them alone. Others, search the Bible for solace in Paul’s point that it is better to be single than married (1 Corinthians 7: 8-9). Like most Americans, single or married, we are looking for love.
Whether you enjoy the single life or want to run from it, you are not alone. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are approximately 105 million Americans who are not currently married – that’s about 44 percent of Americans 18 and older. About 17 percent of these singles are 65 and over. Over half of single Americans are women and 62 percent have never said, “I do.” An increasing number of single Americans – about 34 million – are living alone, which is 27 percent of the U.S. population. This number has risen from 17 percent in 1970.
Singles even have their own week. “Unmarried and Single Americans Week” is celebrated annually during the third full week of September. It was originally started by the Buckeye Singles Council in Ohio in the 1980s as National Singles Week and has been expanded to acknowledge that not all those who are not married identify as “single.” Many are parents who have partners or are widowed and prefer the term unmarried.
Looking for Love
In 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau found that there were 393 dating service establishments raking in 928 million in revenue annually. Many singles are looking to fill the God position with someone to love them, someone who cherishes them, someone who will have their back in good times and bad. We believe we will find joy and peace in relationship…and we are right. The only catch is we may be looking for love in all the wrong places. God says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). He offers us the good life. Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). We are reminded that we have all we need: joy, peace and love (Galatians 5:2-25), counsel (John 14:26), romance (Song of Solomon 2:16), and support (Isaiah 40:31). We have a God-shaped hole in our hearts. Thankfully, the Bible tells us that as we draw near to Christ, he draws near to us. (James 4:8)
Adventures in Singlehood
The single life is an adventure filled with opportunities to grow, serve and experience the abundant life God has for each of us. Consider the areas in which God may be inviting you to grow. Might this chapter of your life be about strengthening your spirit for the exciting journey that lies ahead? Romans 5:3-5 says, “… but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Endurance, character and hope may be three of the most important tools for this human life. You may wonder, What about love? It’s almost Valentine’s Day. Didn’t God say that, of the qualities of the spiritual life, the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13)?
To have true love, lasting and soul-sustaining love, we must know how to love. We must be love. Over the last year, has your capacity to love grown or stagnated? Has your heart expanded or hardened? The best way to have love is to allow God’s love to flow through you and out to the heart of someone around you. Consider the statistics I shared earlier. Of those many fellow singles (elderly, single mothers/fathers, widowed, divorced, still waiting) living alone, would any of them benefit from a batch of cookies, a fresh coat of paint on their fence, an afternoon of babysitting or an invitation to coffee? In your day-to-day endeavors this month, can you step out of yourself and be kind to someone that is unkind to you, show grace when you are hurt, seek to give instead of take? This is the love Christ shows to us. In this season, how can you BE love in each moment of your day? If anyone has ever read a “choose your own adventure” book, you know the excitement that arises at each opportunity to make a choice and see what will unfold as you step forward into the next chapter of the story. In 2015, this Valentine’s Day, an opportunity lies before you. Choose your own Love Adventure. What will your story be?
Terry Morrow, Ph.D. is the president of Morrow and Associates Partnership for Leadership and Transformation. She is an assistant dean and assistant professor at Nova Southeastern University. She can be reached at [email protected].