Singleness sanctifies

[My first session at the Desiring God Conference was  with a woman whose been pretty encouraging in my own life: Carolyn McCulley.  Below you’ll find my summary and processing on her thoughts.]

Singleness sanctifies.  I’ve heard a couple of people say that marriage is sanctifying.  And by ‘a couple of people’ I mean every single married person I’ve ever met.  I believe them.  I have seen friends discover new levels of selfishness through marriage.  I’ve watched them uncover sin in their heart in the first month of marriage that they never saw in their singleness.

Marriage sanctifies.  For sure.  We just have to make sure we remember that marriage is not the only path to sanctification.  The path to sanctification is a different road for each and every one of us.

The lie you can start to hear and believe is that marriage is the ‘most’ sanctifying process: ‘you’ll never realize how selfish you are until you’re married!’  ‘Wait till you’re married, then you’ll know how sinful you are!’

Whatever is right in front of you today is the most sanctifying thing you could encounter.  God doesn’t withhold sanctification from single folks.  He gives us exactly what we need to continue to reflect His infinite value and worth to the world.

Singleness sanctifies for a season.  Singleness is temporary.  But make no mistake, singleness is not some place you hang out until you’re ready for the main event of marriage.  Both singleness and marriage are both ‘seasons’.  All of life is temporary.  This life will come to an end and we will find it was all just a season, just a breath in the face of eternity.

Both singleness and marriage must be exploited for the glory of God because there is coming a day when they will both melt in the light of the glory of the grace of the face of Christ.

Singleness sanctifies you for GOD.   Marriage is not a reward for the sanctified. We don’t work on our sin or work out our discontentment so that we can earn the reward of marriage, we do it because we want more God and we want to honor Him with our lives.

Singleness sanctifies through specific sin struggles. Two specific struggles that resonated with me that Carolyn mentioned were shame and selfishness.   (By no means are these struggles unique to singleness, but I definitely related to them as Carolyn was unpacking them.)

(1) The struggle of shame.  Singleness often feels humiliating.  I’m at a conference right now with some couple friends and I’ve had a twinge in moments that I should be embarrassed: embarrassed to go alone to the single session while they go learn about marriage, as if I’m missing out, as if I’m less.

Singleness feels embarrassing because deep down I’m desperately insecure.  No one around me thinks I’m less.  My married friends aren’t looking at me as if I have one arm.  I’m the problem.  I’m the one who is terrified deep down that I’m single because there’s something wrong with me.

I’m the one who is finding my identity in my own life and resume instead of in Christ.   And that happens because I’m obsessed with myself. (Cue the second struggle)

(2)  the struggle of selfishness. If I could look someplace other than self, I would never be ashamed of singleness.  If I would lift my head and fix my eyes on Jesus I would find the truth.  I would find myself gazing upon a single man who proves to me unequivocally that singleness is not a punishment for sin; it is not an indicator of deficiency.

If we could find our identities in the only eternal calling on our lives as children of God, our selfishness would dissolve.

Instead of feeling hurt or offended when someone makes a comment about single folks, we would smile knowing that we have nothing to prove: we are in good company in our singleness.

Instead of dating with a consumer-obsessed eye – constantly searching for a person who is attractive or smart enough to prove to the world that we have value, we would be freed up to see everyone as a glorious image bearer of God, purchased by the blood of Jesus and made at the hands of our Creator with care and perfection.

Singleness is working something out in me.  Sometimes I can feel it happening like the refiners fire, and sometimes it happens while I’m looking the other way, like a stone, being worn down by the water.

7 thoughts on “Singleness sanctifies

  1. Thank you so much for this. I often get tired of women who in one breath, make marriage sound like the best gift ever, but in the next breath, talk about how its so hard and is being used to sanctify and chip away at their sins. I always feel like they want me to envy them and pity them at the same time. And I want to scream that my life isn’t one giant episode of “friends” or “sex and the city” – but has some challenging moments as well: loneliness, jealousy, anger, addressing selfishness and idols, etc.

    I think by recognizing that singlness is a time of sanctification, we give some validity to the struggles of singleness (yes there are hard sanctifying times) and at the same time, give some responsibility to it (I can’t waste this time not growing and being sanctified).

    Sanctification will be challenging at any stage of life. I am not married, but am currently dating someone and have been for awhile. I find that the downside of sanctification while in a relationship is that sometimes this sanctification comes because we have hurt and sinned against eachother. The upside is that sometimes this sanctification comes (or is atleast received) in a more gentle, less lonely way. There is some comfort in knowing another person is eager to see how God is changing your sinfulness and will love you during sanctification.

    Not to say sanctification during singleness is harder, but it certainly isn’t any easier 🙂

    Thanks for your encouraging words today Fabs.

  2. This is so great! “Both singleness and marriage are both ‘seasons’. All of life is temporary.” We really have such little control over what our seasons are or what they look like.

  3. Yo girl. I love this post! I’m always a little jealous of the heaping helping of sanctification my married friends have. That’s a funny reason to be jealous but, I guess it is what it is. The truth is – God loves me more than I could ever love me and cares more about my sanctification than I could ever dream. What a great reminder that God doesn’t short us on sanctification and we’re not missing out – good or bad – as single ladies. Our Father gives good gifts. wise words my friend.

    Oh, the other thing I meant to mention – aside from being jealous of all the sanctification my married friends get, there’s a dark part of my heart that thinks maybe I don’t need sanctification as much as they do, I’m better than them! that’s why I’m not married, I’m better! but that’s not true! The sanctification I have is the sanctification I need because I’m broken and busted just like everyone else.

  4. I love your refreshing honesty and your spiritual wisdom.

    You have insight beyond your years, but you present with humility and dependency on the Lord.

    I loved your quote “Marriage is not a reward for the sactified.”

    I’m so thankful for your voice.

  5. Oh Fabs… *sigh* Your posts reveal such painful truths…but stir up hopefulness in my heart all the same. Thank you, dear sis.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *