Why being single is the most selfish time of your life
As close friends of mine can attest, I’m a big advocate for people committing to a solid time of being single if they can. No, not so they are “single to mingle” or free to hook up and date, but so they are free from the expectations of society and friendship groups to pair up with someone when perhaps they aren’t ready to.
It all started when I felt the call to serve on Youth Mission Team Australia, which promotes a missionary lifestyle for its volunteers that requires a commitment to being single for the year (for both functional and vision related reasons). I was not single at the time, but this call to YMT gave me the courage I needed to leave a relationship I was in which was not bringing me fullness of life. That was twelve months before I served on the YMT, and then once I finished my year on team I had the distinct sense that I was to commit again to a year of being single. That one extra year happily turned into two. So all up I was fortunate enough to have four short years where I was committed to being single, and I don’t regret those years at all. I learnt so much about myself in that time, so calling those years selfish may not be the right phrase. Perhaps a “Soul-Full” or “Soul-Focused” time may be a better summation of that season.
Before I dive in and tell you a bit about what I learnt though, I just want to clarify a point. I have many friends who have beautifully commited their life to another through marriage at young ages, and I would never say that they did the wrong thing. Ever. In fact I admire these couples so much and know that it is no one's job to judge when someone else is ready for a relationship - and to be honest, what I have found is that if we all waited until we were perfect to start dating, well, no one would be married! Our whole lives are to be spent learning how to be selfless and soulfocused, and these young couples do a brilliant job of taking on that challenge. So, before anyone gets offended, just know that the lessons contained in this post are not specific to the single vocation and can and should be learnt in every walk of life! Gulp. Here goes:
- Being single is not a disease.
At university it was “so, seeing anybody lately?” In church circles it was “who are you going to marry?”, among family members it was “even your younger cousins are dating – you’re not going to be a nun are you?!”. It seemed in every facet of society, or at least the society I hung out with, being single was seen as something that happened to you if no one came along, or if you were going to enter a convent. The cool thing I found about choosing to be single was precisely that- I had a choice. I wasn’t sitting idle on the sidelines or watching the world go by like some kind of wallflower. I was deliberately choosing to set myself aside of the cute couples of the world. With that came a sense of empowerment, and now that my time of being single is over, that knowledge brings freedom to me as I discern marriage because I’m not scared of being single.
- Being single helps you work out your calling.
Vocation, calling, mission, life purpose. Call it what you want, I found that those four years of deliberate singleness helped me work out what I wanted to do with my life. The fact that I had no boyfriend or husband or kids to consider in my finances and time meant that I could go on mission trips galore. I also had a job that required me to travel a lot to be MC at conferences, speak at events, run retreats and train youth workers in their skills so I was never at home for more than three weeks at a time for about two years straight. Living that kind of lifestyle would have been a big ask for any significant other to bear with, but more than that, in the midst of being able to travel and minister like that I learnt so much about myself and what sets me on fire: I love talking about Jesus. And it was these years of being single where I learned how I could best make a gift of myself to the world- communicating Jesus and His crazy love. Furthermore, I was able to really discern my vocation in a very objective way (as in, the Church’s definition of vocation- lay single, consecrated Sister or Nun, or wife and mother- but that’s probably a post for another day!).
- My life is awesome.
Following on from the above point is this next lesson: that my life is actually awesome. Not the shallow kind of awesome that makes me want to humble brag on instagram with #blessed – we’re all guilty of that one, hey. But the kind of awesome that describes a certainty that life will never be dull. Let me explain further: At the end of the four years of this single season I had a realisation that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I never got married. I was very much comfortable with the idea that I didn’t need anything in my life other than my faith. And God had very much proved to me that He would provide awesome adventures for as long as I wanted them. Furthermore, I didn’t necessarily need people, or perhaps more specifically, I didn’t need one person to fulfil me. All I truly needed and longed for and was desperate for was my relationship with God, which is paramount to all my other relationships, and yet gives them all a deeper meaning. This conviction is still with me today, and I thank God everyday for the freedom I have in knowing that I don’t actually need to get married or date or court or whatever you want to call it. I would be choosing to do so out of a place of freedom and contentment, because God first and foremost fulfils.