Singleness - A positive view
Too often, being single is seen as something that needs to be changed, an experience to be endured or a problem to be solved, but Susan Ashman believes the single life brings its own rewards and opportunities.
There's nothing like having a cuppa and a chat with friends. Whether you are 17 or 71 years of age, a 'girlie' chat does us good.
It was during one of these chats that I recounted an outburst by a harassed young married mum that I had had that day. "It's alright for you. You don't know how lucky you are being single!"
I must admit, at the time, I was rather taken aback to discover that others viewed my single status with envy. Of course, the grass always has a knack of appearing greener when viewed from a distance. Nevertheless, my friend's reaction did set me thinking.
And now it's got my other friends thinking too.
Hilary, an unmarried woman in her sixties told me: "I have a full life and I enjoy being me. At present I am single and I want to live my single life to the full. I remember asking an Anglican nun, 'Do you mind being single?'
"'Single?' she replied. 'I'm not single! I am surrounded by people I love every day.' The nun loved her community, her sisters in Christ, and counted her life as full. I think the word 'single' implies you are on your own, and very few of us choose to be on our own for long periods of time.
"I love sailing and I often think of Ellen McArthur, who sailed around the world alone. Ellen was often distressed and anxious during her world solo trip. Her mental, emotional and physical health was dependent on regular contact with her home base. Their direction, guidance, weather reports and technical help literally kept her alive when the going was tough.
"Personally, I think the secret of a full single life is regular contact with our own home base - be that our Father, our relatives, our church or our friends. I don't love being single, but I'm happy that this is right for me at present and I intend to continue enjoying the opportunities that a single life brings."
Penny shared her thoughts on some of the positive aspects of being a divorced single mum.
"Thinking of more trivial things . . . I can go to bed when I like and be messy if I want to be. Of course, being a mum is a very responsible job and so I can't enjoy the freedom that single people without children can enjoy. However, there are compensations.
"During difficult times, when it would have been so easy to give up, my desire for my son's well-being has given me the purpose and determination to persevere. I am proud that my sacrifices and hard work enable my son to grow and achieve. I suppose too, that being mum and dad to my son has resulted in us having a much closer and fulfilling relationship.
"Our home has less conflict and this makes it a better place for Harry to grow up in. Forgive me for using modern jargon, but I consider my son as my significant other. He is someone I relate to on a daily basis. It is wonderful to love someone so deeply, and he brings so much energy and life in to our home. Being a single mum is no 'stroll in the park' but a rollercoaster ride that brings many challenges and thankfully many highs too."
I asked Sarah, a thirtysomething, who had recently come to marriage and motherhood, how she rated her years of singleness.
"Looking back, it's a great time to serve God. You're free of the many responsibilities that married couples with family have. God can direct your life in a unique way. It was also a special time to form lasting friendships. Almost all my current friends are those I made while I was single. I just don't seem to have that quality time to offer new friends anymore.
"I miss the freedom too. Freedom to organise my routines, plan my leisure time and explore new interests, new places and new people.
"I now realise my concern about whether I was going to meet someone and settle down prevented me seeing all the opportunities I had. I wish I had been more able to live in the 'now' instead of longing for a different future."
Now, you might still be wondering what prompted my married friend's original outburst. I suspect she had heard one tale too many of my holidays, parties, and weekends away with other single friends. My continuing freedom to enjoy many of the things she used to enjoy as an unmarried woman must have felt like salt in the wound for her that day.
Life has its challenges, and whether we are experiencing the joys and struggles of marriage . . . or singleness . . . we all have a responsibility to live our lives to the full.
Make the most of your unique opportunities:
- Invest in yourself. It's important that we take responsibility and care for our own physical, spiritual and emotional health.
- Take time out to draw nearer to God. Grow in an understanding of yourself and your faith. "In quietness and trust is your strength" Isaiah 30:15.
- Although you are single you don't have to be alone. We all need companionship, so go out of your way to nurture friendships that do you good.
- If your current lifestyle does not enable you to do this, it may be time to spread your wings and join an established Christian Singles social organisation.
- Use time creatively. Have fun and enjoy the opportunities and freedom God has given you.
- Develop your talents. Work with God. Let him help you to reach your potential.
- Find a healthy balance between serving others and caring for yourself. Avoid the temptation of becoming a workaholic or servaholic. This may involve you laying down some of your responsibilities to make time for yourself. Alternatively, your life may have become too self-centred and you may need to prayerfully look for opportunities to serve your community or church.
And remember, as a wise Christian theologian, Irenaeus, said: "The glory of God is a human being fully alive."