My memories of singleness are potent, but few. I was engaged at age twenty and married before I finished college. Still, I remember singleness. And I remember the thrill and horror of dating.
Singleness is more common, accepted, and in vogue today than it has ever been in American culture. I, for one, feel like cheering when I see single women who aren’t pining away, waiting for their life to begin with the entrance of a mythical man who will fulfill all their deepest longings. There is a man able to fulfill all our longings, but he isn’t mythical — and he arrived more than two thousand years ago.
But still many women find themselves single not by choice or calling. And regardless of whether you love your singleness or not, none of us was made to live alone. In the garden, God remedied the problem of aloneness by creating Eve for Adam. But if a man and woman complete each other, then who completes the single person?
Our instinct from Sunday school might arm us to immediately say, “Jesus!” But is that right? Is Jesus just the missing puzzle piece to an otherwise whole person? I don’t think so. Jesus doesn’t merely complete the incomplete; he utterly overcomes and swallows us up in himself — in his death and resurrection. We are made new and whole in Christ, not merely completed by him. So who does complete the single person?
As a married woman, I may seem like an unlikely candidate to answer, but I have one perspective to offer. I have had the humbling privilege of being loved, taught, discipled, and mothered by single women. I want to tell the stories. What I often hear regarding married people and single people is that families should make singles part of their lives — fold them in. I agree! But I also want to encourage families and couples to come under the mentorship and wisdom of singles. Don’t think that in order for them to be qualified as counselors and mentors, the single person has to have experienced the same things we have. Married people can invite godly singles to speak into their lives on any subject, even on marriage and parenting.
Joyce, Emily, and Julie
Not long after my husband and I started having children, Joyce invited me and a number of other young moms into her home. As I entered, I noticed how lovely and orderly everything was, how wonderfully the food smelled, how the table was set. As Joyce introduced herself and everyone settled in to a little chatter, my first impression was that this was clearly a woman I could learn from. She was kind, warm, and comfortable with people.
Later in our visit, I found myself telling Joyce about a challenge I was facing in parenting. She responded by saying, “I’ve never had children, so I don’t know if this will be helpful, but here’s what I’ve observed with my nieces and nephews.” This surprised me — even more surprising, that she had never been married. I hadn’t considered the possibility that the woman eager to take some green moms under her wing would be single. I am thankful she did.
Emily is ten years younger than I am. I first got to know her when I started cold-calling families from our church directory desperate to find babysitters for the mass of children in our small group. She was in high school at the time, and she, along with her younger sisters, agreed to help. They faithfully served our small group for the next six years.
After Emily started college, I was in over my head with children, schooling, and everyday life. I asked her if she’d be interested in coming weekly to help me out. She agreed, and her commitment to the job was refreshingly reliable. She showed up and worked hard. She shared the knowledge, tips, and habits she’d learned from her mom — made all the more poignant when her mom passed away from cancer during her freshman year at college.
I learned a lot from Emily, including a better way to match socks. And that organizing can be simple. But most importantly, I learned about faithfulness — faithfulness to your commitments and faithfulness to God in the darkest of times.
My Aunt Julie has always been an integral part of my life. Her lifelong singleness has been a gift to us. I don’t say that to minimize the difficulty of it. Her singleness, coupled with her willingness to love us, warts and all, and take us under her wing, has been a type of auntly mothering that is as precious as it is unique.
When I watch my two-year-old son’s face light up at the sight of her, or see the older kids sprint to invade the privacy of her room, I’m thankful.
Holy (Single) Women Who Hope in God
And time would fail me to tell of Char, whose devotion to God and his people and the unreached around the world was a force that could topple kings and nations.
Or Great Aunt Ola, who at one hundred years old still would pray before a meal in Swedish, and never met a child who didn’t qualify as one of her “peanuts.”
Or Sue, a single mom who taught me how to pray and love others when I was a pesky teenager.
Or Lindsey, who loves our youngest son with special needs enough to expect more of him than I know to, and who uses her skills as a physical therapist to do good for others.
The faithful witness and example of these single women is beautiful. I have a lot to learn from sisters like these.
Who Will Complete You?
Single women are equipped to mother in practical real-life training ways and in spiritual discipling ways. The line between the two is not sharp. As a matter of fact, there is no line between the two — they spill over and envelope one another.
So, when a single woman asks, “Who completes me?” I hope you don’t find it a sad consolation when the rest of the body of Christ replies, “I do.” And you complete us, too. The married cannot say to the single, “I have no need of you.” Nor the single to the married (1 Corinthians 12:21).
The people in your town — members of your church — who are in Christ, are in him with you. And they need all that you are and have to offer, more than you may realize, for we are all members of one another (Romans 12:5) — married or unmarried, made new and whole by Jesus.