Fine China is for Single Women
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.
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”
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?”
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.
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
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
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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