If your childhood was similar to mine, you remember a song that used to be sung on playgrounds and with other children. It went something like this:
Michael and Natalie sitting in a tree,
First comes love, then comes marriage,
Then comes baby in the baby carriage.
For many of us, this might have been the first time we heard an explanation of relational progression: love > marriage > baby. It’s a little vague and incomplete, but it seemed simple enough.
Then we grow up.
And because we live in a fallen world, we realize love > marriage > baby is not the progression in everybody’s life.
Sometimes it’s baby first. Or sometimes it’s love, and then there’s a baby, and then we’re not too sure how much we can trust each other so maybe we’ll get married or maybe we won’t. From what I see on TV and online, it almost seems like there’s a competition to see who can have the most creative, out-of-alignment relationships.
But there is a God-ordained way of progressing in our relationships. It has more parts than just love, marriage and baby, and it results not in confused, failed relationships but in successful, productive ones made of two healthy individuals — people who have a relationship with God and are trying to help each other do His will.
It might take a while to understand this process because of all the other approaches culture gives us. But the Bible says God can renew our minds and transform us (Romans 12:2), and we can trust Him to do that in this area as well.
At the same time, when God said of Adam in Genesis 2:18 (NIV), “It is not good for the man to be alone,” He didn’t mean it’s not good to be single.
True, as humans, we need to be involved in healthy relationships. In particular, nearly all of us crave to be intimate with someone else.
But sex is not the only kind of intimacy, and marriage is not the only valuable season in our lifetime of relationships. The season of singleness is necessary — I’d dare say a priority — to anyone who wants to reach her relationship goals. Think about it: Being single was Adam’s first relationship status.
If you’re single, there’s a good chance many people and messages have made you feel like you aren’t enough without a significant other. The pressure to find a mate can sometimes seem intense and unyielding, leaving us reeling.
All of that can make you start to feel like somehow, in your single state, you are less than. Being single can start to feel shameful. Your life seems incomplete or even like a failure.
Worse, this kind of thinking can cloud our judgment until we find ourselves rushing into relationships that don’t suit us, settling on someone — anyone — just to satisfy others, calm our fears or address our libidos. But these types of hasty decisions have serious consequences. Our high divorce rate might have less to do with bad marriages and more to do with bad singleness.
Let me encourage you: Singleness may be the most important part of the relationship process. It’s not a curse. It’s an opportunity! It’s the best chance ever to work on being uniquely you — original and distinct. A good period of singleness means learning to be a whole, unique self. God wants us to enjoy each season of life in which we can become whole and complete in Him on our own, apart from a spouse or partner.
Every part of this process is good. Every part is appropriate. “For everything there is a season” (Ecclesiastes 3:1a). So, hear me now: Whatever relational season you’re in, don’t just be in it. Embrace it.
Embrace the season you’re in, thank God for it, and make the most of it.
Remember, God wants us to have healthy, rewarding relationships. Relationships that offer the opportunity to grow and serve and make a difference in the world.
And ultimately, if my relationship with God is number one, I know He’ll take me from wherever I am to where I need to go next.
Lord, I pray that my friendships, conversations and relational choices would bring honor to You. Help me embrace the relationship season I am in and live out the truth that You want me to enjoy each season of life — but more importantly, that You desire for me to be holy. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.