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Purchase Fine China is for Single Women Too
 
SINGLES

Fine China is for Single Women Too

Lydia Brownback

CBN.comDespite a substantial income and a strong domestic inclination, Carrie has lived in a sparsely furnished studio apartment for several years. She rarely entertains because there isn’t anywhere for guests to sit. There are two straight-backed chairs pushed up to a small round table in the living area. But her decor has nothing to do with minimalist taste. With plenty of money at hand, Carrie has set out several times to buy a sofa but she never commits to a purchase. Instead she laughs off the empty space. “I’d rather have nothing than risk buying something I won’t like once I get it in here,” she says. But I don’t think that is why Carrie doesn’t buy furniture. Carrie is desperate to get married. I believe she is afraid to make her apartment into a home because it will solidify her solitary existence. As long as she makes no investment in her home, she feels more poised to exit her current life and begin a married one.

A lot of women live that way, although subconsciously. Even when doing so would be a wise step, financially speaking, many single women will not purchase a home lest eligible men view them as too independent. Also in their thinking is the fear that after committing to such a major purchase, they might meet a man and thus be saddled with a cumbersome financial responsibility. So they wait and wait and wait, shelling out a good bit of income on rent.

Single women put a lot of things on hold because they are afraid that investing in or committing to or being associated with them might keep them locked in the single life. After attending five bridal showers over the course of a year, a single friend of mine had begun to envy the beautiful place settings, the Waterford goblets, and the flatware. She finally realized, “Who says marriage and good dishes must go together?” My friend entertains frequently and loves to cook. So she went shopping and selected a china pattern that she admired. She began collecting one plate at a time. Her family also enjoyed adding to her collection at Christmas and on her birthday. She now has place settings for eight, and the exercise of hospitality is much easier.

When the obstacle isn’t financial, why don’t more domestically minded single women do the same thing? It is because they are waiting for the bridal shower. Somehow they imagine that venturing forth solo into domesticity as maneuvering into sacred marital territory, a mindset that leaves them feeling left out of the good life. These women also hold back for fear that venturing out will more firmly entrench them in singleness.

Life Is Not a Spectator Sport

But the truth is that we will begin to embrace life fully only when we realize that life doesn’t begin when we meet our man—this is our life! It is passing by. Since God has ordained marriage as the normal course of life, the larger percentage of us will be married at some point in our lives, but what if you and I are among the smaller number who will not? Are we going to let the good life pass us by? Do we want to look back ten, twenty, or thirty years from now and realize that we have failed to serve God and have accomplished few of our goals, or worse yet, never set any goals because our only one was meeting the right man? I’ve known a few women like that, and they are bitter. They refused to see and lay hold of the happiness God was holding out in his design for them because they were set on only one way to happiness.

Jesus spoke a parable about frittering our lives away, wasting the precious gift of his earthly plans for us because we do not thankfully trust in his goodness. In this parable, found in Matthew 25:14–30, a man distributed his goods among his servants before traveling to a far country. He divided his wealth, called talents, in different ways. To one servant he gave five talents, to another he gave two, and to a third servant, the man gave just one. He gave to each according to the particular servant’s unique abilities. Then the man left on his journey, leaving each servant to prosper that with which he’d been entrusted. Upon returning, the man called his servants to him to see what each had done with his talent or talents. Two of the servants had doubled what they had been given, and to each one the man said, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matt. 25:21, 23).

But the servant who had been entrusted with only one talent, and by implication should have had an easier time investing it, did not receive words of praise from his master. This servant said, “ ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’

“But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.’

“For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away” (Matt. 25:24–29).

In the same way we have been entrusted with talents, and we have a responsibility to possess them and make something beautiful from them. We need to view our singleness as one of the talents God has given us. We can invest it by maximizing the advantages to be found in it, or, like the unprofitable servant, we can bury it in the ground because we are afraid and because we believe God to be a “hard man” for giving us “only” singleness.

I referred earlier to the dividing of the Promised Land in the Book of Joshua. During this difficult process, at one point the commander Joshua found it necessary to admonish those Israelites who were afraid of embracing what God had apportioned to them. Joshua said, “How long will you neglect to go and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers has given you?” (Josh. 18:3).

The choice is yours. And if you decide to start living fully as a single woman, not only will you find a life of contentment and joy, but you will also be honoring God. When we live fully within the boundary lines God has drawn today, we are exhibiting trust in his ability to know what’s best for us. Additionally, others will see our joy and know that it is not because circumstances have worked out as we wanted. We will be able to point back to God and say that he is our joy and our strength.

So start living! “Don’t do something about your singleness; do something with it.” Are you domestically inclined? If so, make provision to exercise those inclinations now. Set a goal to outfit your kitchen, your dining room. Take a cooking class. Throw a dinner party, or have one or two friends over for a meal on a regular basis. If finances are prohibitive, there are many creative ways to do these things on a low budget.

Do you believe your gifts and talents could be put to better use with additional education? Then go back to school. Find a way to support yourself in the process and enter into a program of study. Some years ago I overheard a single young woman expressing to an elder in her church that she desired to pursue a doctoral degree. I was astonished at his reply. He said, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you. If you want to get married some day, you are hurting your chances. No man wants a wife with that much education.” This is precisely the thinking among some people, outside of and within the evangelical community, that can lead a woman to fear treading any path of prudent independence. But since God has allowed our culture to be shaped as it is today, it is an acknowledgment of his sovereign authority over the way things are to live to the fullest within its structure. The way God has structured our society includes many later in-life marriages, smaller families, and more women of necessarily independent means. You can honor him accordingly by being your best, pursuing your opportunities, and being fruitful in the culture in which he has placed you. The elder who criticized the woman for her pursuit was seeing through the lens of a past era a time when God’s structuring of society dictated a different lifestyle for women. He thus discouraged her from reaching toward the outermost borders God has drawn around her life. In today’s culture, women’s boundary lines are wider in many ways than in times past.

More important, however, than our personal pursuits is our service for God among his people. Ask God to show you how he wants to use you in his service in a way that would not be possible if you were married. Keep in mind that the particular areas of service he wants to show you are among the reasons why he has called you to be single! Do you have a heart for missions? If so, pray about what God might want to do through you to reach the lost. Don’t reject opportunities to serve that appear to take you away from opportunities for marriage. Remember, God is in control of your marital status, so you have no need to manipulate your life to be in the right place at the right time. Make use of your unique gifts and talents where they best fit within the body of believers in which God has placed you, even if it appears that doing so will limit your options to meet a man. God will show you just how powerful he is as you live in faith in his sovereignty and goodness.

God’s Way to the Good Life

In my early thirties I was part of a large group of single Christians. We spent all of our free time together, participating in church activities and enjoying weekend recreation. Yet, one by one, my closest friends within that group paired off and got married. Those of us who were left continued to do the things the larger group had always done, yet it became rote, a mere going through the motions. What was the purpose of it all, I wondered. What were we accomplishing? It seemed as if we were merely filling up the empty places in our lives as best we could. We all thought that if we followed our friends into marriage, our lives would take on purpose once again. It was at that point that I hit rock-bottom discontent with my single status, because I mistakenly thought that marriage would restore meaning to my life. After all, so many of my friends were advancing into this next phase of life and were occupied with home buying and having children. Their path seemed the natural course of life. I thought that somehow I’d fallen off the track.

It was at that point, weary with the weekend sameness, that I prayed in earnest about what God might want to do with my life and my time. “Lord,” I prayed, “if not marriage right now, then what?” God had allowed me to sink to a point where I was open to his way, and it was during the next week that the inclination to write about God and his Word took hold. I stopped the social routine and began writing. Over the next two years, God opened doors through my writing; then suddenly one day I realized that my former sense of futility was gone. I was completely fulfilled; God had cultivated in me a tremendous sense of purpose. I no longer see marriage as the only road to the good life. I am completely fulfilled by all God has given me, and I see that his will is good, acceptable, and perfect in ways that I wasn’t open to seeing before.

I think that, as women, we often mistakenly equate marriage with purpose and usefulness. However when we discover and live out the plans God has for us, that link comes into correct focus. All that it takes is a willingness to live our lives God’s way. When you reach that point, you too will find that nothing is missing. So if you find yourself questioning your purpose, if day-to-day life seems futile, take your questions to God.

Ask God to provide his remedy for you. He will bring people into your life who are also in need of companionship. Usually the best means of overcoming loneliness is to get out and meet someone else’s need. There are lonely people everywhere! It could be that you are in a position to provide a home for someone, even on a temporary basis.

Are you longing for children? Then get involved in children’s ministry activities or offer to baby-sit for your pastors’ children. A single woman I know took that a step further by deciding to investigate foster parenting. She has completed the necessary training and is now in a position to provide a loving, if temporary, home to a needy, neglected child.

Far from keeping marriage out of reach, such actions could be the vehicle God uses to widen your boundary lines, even into marriage. We only need to remember that if he wants us to be married, it will happen. If marriage is not what he has for you, that is because he has something better suited for you. Whatever that may entail is not a second-best plan; God knows it will make you happier than marriage would. We need not fear that tying ourselves down in acts of service—loving others and providing for their needs—will necessarily take us off the marriage market. On the contrary, when we are living life to the fullest, using all God has given us today, that is often when God opens other doors as well.

Review
1. How can embracing our singleness bring glory to God, generally and specifically?
2. What can hinder us from experiencing the joys of a single life?
3. How can serving God to the fullest result in blessing for ourselves and others?

Questions for Personal Reflection and Group Discussion
1. Do you refrain from particular activities, purchases, or pursuits because you are afraid that going ahead with them will entrench you in a life of singleness? Do you view certain pursuits as valid only in the realm of sacred marital territory? What concrete steps can you take in your life to break out of this mindset?

2. How are you presently using your gifts and talents to serve God and the people he has placed in your life? How have you decided where and how to apply yourself? How much has prayerful consideration and wise counsel contributed to your decisions? What other considerations influence your use of your talents?


Excerpted from Fine China is for Single Women Too by Lydia Brownback, © 2003 P&R Publishing. Used by permission.

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