Alone Again, (Naturally)?
While we #GetReal about the struggles of the young in navigating Christian singleness, we acknowledge Christians at a senior stage of life also grapple with it for various reasons (circumstances, widowhood, etc.). Elder David Leong shares his honest testimony here about his own journey.
“To think that only yesterday, I was cheerful, bright and gay. Looking forward to who wouldn’t do. The role I was about to play…” I found myself chiming in with the lyrics of that old song, ‘Alone Again’ (Naturally) by Gilbert O’Sullivan.
Quite involuntarily, I have spent the last 12 years back as a single after living 20 years in marriage and a significant part of that in parenthood. Although our family had grappled with cancer for some years, the sudden turn for the worst in a week for my late wife was hard to bear those 12 years ago. You could say that it is with great reluctance I entered a second season of singleness. Both of us enjoyed time with one another and our daughters. In fact, we looked forward to growing old with one another.
The Struggles – The first couple of years of the second singleness was hard firstly because the loss of physical and emotional intimacy was palpable. It was hard when, from time to time I start looking at other families and realised how blessed it was to have a partner by my side.
My daughters were then still young. Without the help and support of grandparents, the full load of both fathering and mothering was upon me. Having to juggle bringing my younger daughter to school and going through her homework with her each day on top of working a full-time job was hard, not forgetting serving God.
I remembered the time when my younger daughter, Miranda had acute appendicitis and I had to rush her to A&E because it was ruptured. I camped over with her in the hospital for 4 days leaving my older daughter Melissa to manage on her own. You could say the desire then to be remarried was there although it may have been mixed with hopes to make life easier for myself!
The Gift – Singleness is often seen as a problem compared with marriage, especially when the latter is often deemed the ‘better’ option. This is not helpful. I am glad that God has constantly reminded me how I should be seeing the matter. Firstly, marriage was instituted by Him as a blessing in the context of our stewardship of creation (Gen. 1:27-28). Procreation therefore was only part of God’s bigger plan for the world and His people.
In His dialogue with the Sadducees on marriage in the resurrection (Luke 20:27-40), Jesus explained that in the resurrection age, temporal human marriage is no longer needed. In the new creation, intimacy and companionship will instead be fully restored to God’s original intention, i.e., Christ and the Church. Hence, marriage is no longer needed to model it.
Jesus Himself was single during His life on earth, and said that His “food” is to do the will of God (John 4:34). In other words, Jesus embodied the complete and true fulfilment one can find in single-mindedly living out God’s will. Elsewhere, He also affirmed the legitimacy of singleness that is devoted to Kingdom service, urging the one who can receive this way to receive it (Matt. 19:12).
Therefore, is singleness a curse? No. In fact, it indirectly highlights the sufficiency of Jesus for God’s blessings in the new covenant. Singleness reminds me that as God’s people, being spiritually reborn into God’s spiritual family is more important than an earthly, nuclear family for displaying God’s love, grace, and salvation to a broken world.
Exhortation – It is also important for us to affirm singleness as a calling and a gift for some. Ultimately, we should remember that there will be seasons in life where all of us will be single again. All of us come into this world single and all would inevitably end up single again when our spouses die.
To those married: Singles (especially those in our church family) need community so that they may continue to thrive and find companionship in their season of singleness. What helped me in my role as a single and a father in particular was being connected to an AG. I was blessed to be in one that has been inclusive and very supportive. Whenever we had social activities, my daughters were always invited.
Unlike the lyrics of the song which I mentioned in the beginning which concluded that God didn’t seem to care, He does. The church family is needed for us to be able to share a certain level of spiritual intimacy which can help point us towards the end goal of perfect relationship with Jesus. So, may we in word and deed learn to display God’s Kingdom tangibly by having singles as a regular and consistent part of our fellowship groups. This will do much more to help them grow and gain spiritual intimacy and companionship between the now and not yet.
To us singles: We have an important role in reminding married people in church that the Kingdom has already been inaugurated in Christ and awaits consummation at God’s appointed time! This will, by far, be a more beautiful and greater reality that stands beyond our current cultural preoccupations with marriage.
Brothers and sisters, God does not waste our lives. So, in our season of singleness may we serve God wholeheartedly rather than desperately wish we were married to someone. For me, I found in my season of singleness more time to focus on what God has called me to do. I have now transited out from the marketplace and new opportunities to serve God have given me options to re-engage for the Kingdom in the next phase of life. Brothers and sisters, the Body of Christ needs and benefits from having both singles and married people fully embody the Gospel. May we therefore catch and live out the right biblical vision of singleness and marriage.