Last post I presented what I see as the problem with how many of us view singleness. For this post, I want to present what I think the vision and meaning of singleness is. It is a glorious state of being, full of meaning and purpose and beauty. Reflect with me on how singleness embodies a glorious cosmic reality.
While not discussed as explicitly in Scripture, it seems as if singleness has an incarnational element to it in the same way that marriage does. Marriage incarnates and embodies the spiritual reality of Christ’s marriage to His Bride, the Church. But this marriage has not happened yet. The Church is only Christ’s betrothed. The Church is still single. The Church is still waiting for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. The Bride has not yet made herself ready. So marriage is really an incarnation of an eschatological reality—something that has not yet happened. Marriage embodies the future state of the Church once Christ returns and the glorious union of Christ and His Church is consummated. Because of this, singleness has a place the table–it has the place at the table, because singleness embodies the present state of the Church. It bears the cosmic vision of a Bride who has not yet seen her Groom. It incarnates the spiritual condition of the Church, working and waiting in anticipation of something that has not yet happened.
Just as marriage doesn’t have true meaning or significance unless it’s viewed within the framework of Christianity and the redemptive story, so too, singleness only finds its true meaning and significance within the redemptive story. And it is a glorious thing, because it embodies in everyday life the spiritual reality of the “already/not yet” reality of Christ’s salvation of the world: we are still a single Church, but we are only not-yet married, and will one day find the “not yet” realized. But as the Church waits and longs for marriage, she is joyfully at work, embracing the glorious calling of this present reality, and showing the beauty of human striving in a world that cannot fulfill.
One of the hardest parts of being single is the longing for intimacy. There’s a keen desire to be known and to fully know someone. There’s a keen desire to be entirely comfortable in one’s skin in the safety of a covenant and a commitment, in the safety of a love that transcends conditions and obligations. Yet if you talk to married people, they, too, still feel this longing, and they, too, feel this loneliness. For without that perfect union with the Lord, even the strongest marriage cannot fulfill those deepest desires. And so single people and married alike are left longing for a better home and a better marriage. In a sense, we are all still single.
Because of this, singleness has a unique place that marriage does not, for the single life is the incarnation of the present condition of man longing for God. Yet the best single life embodies the ideal expression of this reality. Singleness is hard–full of self-denial, disappointment, and unfulfilled longings. But there is a beauty in this, because it is real and deep. It is like the best kind of story—the story of striving and overcoming and maintaining hope and purpose when things are not as they should be.
And we see that singleness is an honored condition, for it is the condition that Christ Himself chose to take. He lived His whole life as a single man, serving God with faithfulness, striving against the temptations and discouragements inherent within the single life because He had a hope of a greater marriage in the future. He lived the ideal single life, incarnating in His singleness the plight of mankind as a whole. And He remained faithful in His singleness because He was anticipating His marriage to His Bride. Even now Christ is not married yet, and so as singles live out their singleness well, they not only incarnate the life of Christ past, but also the life of Christ present. He is still waiting for His bride and anticipating the future union.
And so as we singles live out our singleness with honesty, integrity, striving, and hope in anticipation for a future union with an earthly spouse, we are embodying the Church’s striving, hope, and anticipation of the future union with our heavenly Groom. And we can rest and rejoice in the knowledge that our singleness matters, for it is the present state of Christ and of the Bride Christ has chosen.
Once we can embrace the glorious cosmic vision of singleness, then we’re free to make practical application for how this can be worked out in daily single life. Too many times we jump quickly to how to “do singleness well” without having an understanding of what singleness means. But once we grasp the fact that singleness means the present outworking of the spiritual state of the Church, then we can start to dive into the practical. I’d encourage you to do some thinking of how this vision for singleness can change the way you think singleness should be done (whether or not you’re single). Tune in next post for what I think are some practical applications of this vision for singleness.