Ever heard the name Pete Rose? He was a pro baseball player and manager from 1963 to 1989 and he should have made it into the Hall of Fame. He was a switch hitter, the all-time MLB leader in hits, games played, at-bats, singles, and outs. He also won several awards: Rookie of the Year Award, three World Series rings, three batting titles, one MVP, and two Golden Gloves. Oh yeah, and he made 17 All-Star appearances in five unequaled positions.
So why doesn’t his name appear in the Hall of Fame? Because he failed to protect himself against a common temptation in the leagues. In 1989, he was accused of (and much later admitted to) illegally gambling for and against the Reds, the team he was managing at the time. Rose was, therefore, deemed permanently ineligible to associate professionally with the MLB, which effectively barred him from joining the elite of baseball.
As singles, we have a holy opportunity to live honorably and courageously in a difficult season of life. Although many attempt to, few succeed in living gracefully because like Pete Rose, they fail to protect themselves against common pitfalls that accompany the single years. So, let’s explore three common attitudes that will make your singleness worse.
- Lower your standards for Mister/Miss Mystery. The longer your singleness lasts, the more tempting it is to wonder, “Am I not married yet because I’m being too picky?” For some people that may be the case, like a woman I spoke to once who said that she wouldn’t marry a man who couldn’t dance well. At the time—and since—I have hoped that she wouldn’t miss out because of an overwhelming desire for regular dates to the local dance studio.
So, how do you know whether or not you have poor standards for “the one”? Several years ago, I was challenged to write down everything I was looking for in a husband. Surprisingly, the exercise encompassed more than I ever thought it would. First, I wrote down traits as they came to mind, then reorganized the list according to importance, beginning with “godliness” and ending with “a good sense of humor.” The next step was probably the most eye-opening. I searched the Scriptures to find concrete attributes of each trait I (I started in Proverbs, then used a concordance for the rest). Here’s a sample:
- Knows what he believes and sticks to it—even when faced with temptation and persecution (Acts 5:29)
- Is a man of his word, even when it hurts him (Psalms 15:4)
- Can argue (and lose) gracefully (Proverbs 10:31, 14:3)
- Can admit his faults, weaknesses, and mistakes (2 Chronicles 7:14)
- Isn’t afraid to ask for help (Proverbs 11:27)
- Has a teachable spirit (Proverbs 2:1-5)
Lastly, I gave this list to a couple people I highly respect who had strong marriages and asked them to give me feedback. From that, I made revisions.
Not long after that, a coworker started acting strangely. He was always eager to talk with me and seemed to develop an interest in my hobbies. He genuinely complimented me and I caught him watching me more than once. Other coworkers started noticing, too. From the comments I heard in the break room, I knew it wouldn’t be long before he asked me out. I wasn’t exactly attracted, but I figured I could make an effort to meet him half-way. Who knew what could develop with time? Then I pulled out the list. He had a good, steady job; was hardworking, intelligent, and funny. But the more important attributes—like godliness, leadership, and humility—he had not. When he pulled me aside a couple weeks later, I had to decline. He was not the type of man I could pursue marriage with, so I could not in good conscience pursue a temporary relationship with him.
- Let the happiness of your married/dating friends lead to bitterness I like Facebook. However, there are times that I really wish I hadn’t checked my home page. One morning, the first post was one of my best friends gushing about her two-year-old and the baby moving in her womb. That was really cute and I responded with a thumbs-up, despite a slight twinge of jealousy. A few posts later, a friend announced that she was in a relationship. Good for her! But still… ouch. Scrolling down a bit, pictures of my cousin and his wife filled the screen. Their love is so obvious with all that kissing, hugging, and snuggling. By this point, my heart is twinging, but I’m not so upset that I can’t appreciate their happiness. I held down the like button until it gave me more options and clicked on the heart. A couple minute later, I saw a picture of a beautiful ring. One of my college roommates was engaged.
By this point, my heart was twinging and my gut was clenching. But, I deal with these kinds of reactions all the time. When I catch them early, they’re easy to conquer by just deciding it’s not going to affect me. My resolve lasted until I saw a picture of a gorgeous baby boy on his birth day. The twinging turned to throbbing. The clenching turned rock hard. Cynicism had wrapped its claws around me. I knew from experience that the longer I harbored it, the worse it would become. I got off my phone, praying, “Please, can it be my turn soon?” Reminding myself of God’s faithfulness and resolving to trust Him with the timing (for the second time in about five minutes), I walked away from my phone… only to witness my sister joyously greeting her boyfriend at the door. It wasn’t even 8:30 in the morning, and I had lost count of the number of times I had been slapped by my singleness.
We singles know. Aching loneliness is so common and the littlest things make it worse. So how do we combat bitterness? Well, first, we need to be completely surrendered to the Lord. Whatever He says in His Word and whatever He allows in His sovereignty should be met with the spirit of Mary: “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled” (and yes, it’s much easier said than done).
Here’s a more concrete way of treating it: think about what you do have instead of what you don’t. Think: “What joys, blessings, and pleasures has God given me?” Begin with the Biblical promises (like “I will never leave you nor forsake you”). Don’t stop until you’ve included the singleness perks, like being able to take the afternoon off to have some me-time (whether that’s being holed up in your room reading a book or going to the mall). Find ways to remind yourself of them frequently, especially when you’re feeling down. And of course, beg the Holy Spirit for peace. When peace and contentment are combined, they form a brilliant, strong wall that repels bitterness unlike any other weapon I’ve seen.
- Indulge in the emotional “Rapunzel Syndrome.” Did you know that Shrek was turned into a musical? Surprisingly, it was fairly good. But, entertainment reviews aside, Fiona (the heroine) has a solo that I think captures the idea of the “Rapunzel Syndrome” quite well. Check out the clip:
We all know girls like this. Girls who proverbially sit at their window singing Jesse McCartney and Taylor Swift, watching chick flicks, and wishing for her prince to come. Okay, we all act like those girls more or less. (Guys, just admit it. You do it too. You just use different methods to cope).
Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have these longings. On the contrary, God designed us to long for love and marriage. Jim Elliot said, “Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living.” When we let our longings turn into obsession, we go from natural and healthy to sin. Like everything, desires have to remain submitted to the lordship of Christ.
In Galatians, Paul admonishes, “Do not grow weary in doing good, for in due time you will receive a harvest if you do not give up.” Sage advice, even for the 21st century single adult. God calls us to “[fix] our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2, NASB), trusting that in God’s timing, we will receive all the blessings God has intended for us.