People are always saying things like ‘Life’s too short’. For me, however, after committing to singleness at the ripe old age of 21, life began to feel pretty long.
Perhaps it’s because the typical milestones of a ‘short’ life – marriage, kids, grandkids – were wiped out. I might still get a house and a nice retirement like other people, but on my more melodramatic days it can feel like the next big milestone is my funeral.
Life stretches out before me with no obvious landmarks ahead, and no prospect of livening things up by meeting someone and starting a family. I’ve found myself privately planning a huge 30th birthday bash because I don’t get a wedding, and surely by 30 I’ll be able to afford it?
Something about spending my twenties planning a replacement-for-a-wedding pity party doesn’t quite scream ‘fully satisfied Christian’, though.
There are practical changes we need to make as churches and as individuals to get away from this ‘life’s so long’ mentality, but how can we challenge ourselves when we’re thinking this? Here are three questions you could ask:
1. What do I know?
It sounds obvious, but who’s to say this life really will be long? Who am I to assume that I have another sixty years?
James helpfully humbles us by reminding us our lives are fleeting:
‘Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.’ James 4:14
One reason for this is Jesus could return at any time. Instead of pitying myself and my lack of milestones, I should be preparing for the most significant event imaginable (more on that later).
2. Who am I living for?
Jesus came so that we might have life to the full (John 10:10). That doesn’t mean life to the full if you’re married, or life to the full if you have kids and grandkids. That means whatever our situation, we can enjoy life to the full – through Jesus.
Thinking life is long not only devalues the gift of singleness, it also exposes how I think the full and joyful life Jesus offers isn’t enough.
And life isn’t all about milestones and opportunities to celebrate ourselves; it’s much better spent praising and celebrating God. We might try and plan our lives around those milestones or wish that we could have them. But we’re not in control of the narrative – God is, and he has much bigger and better plans for us.
This should be the focus of our church life too. Of course, many people will get married and have kids, and that’s a beautiful blessing to our church families. But the single people in the congregation are equally a blessing. For us, as singles, it can be alienating when a church’s culture seems to revolve around pairing off young singles and holding up marriage as the goal of Christian life.
That’s why it’s so important that we see our lives in the context of God’s narrative, with all of God’s people ultimately heading for eternity with him. Our identity is not in being either married or single, so as church families we should be helping each other to keep that in perspective.
3. What am I waiting for?
On the days when it feels like we’re still not exactly living life to the full (pyjamas, snacks, crying at rom-coms), we can take heart in knowing there’s something much better coming. And guess what it is? A wedding!
‘Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready … Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ Revelation 19:7-9
All the drunken, awkward weddings padded out with distant relatives and endless discos, all the beautiful weddings that made you long for that one special day, all the weddings and replacement parties you’ve planned in your head – they’ve all been pointing to and building up to the ultimate wedding.
Whether we’re hit by a car tomorrow or have to endure this oh-so-terrible life of singleness, if we’re trusting in Jesus then we have the certain hope of joining him in heaven for eternity. What could be better than that?
If you know someone who’s single, why not remind them of that? Instead of asking when they’re getting married or whether they wish they could, why not remind them of the true satisfaction Jesus offers and their invitation to the greatest wedding of all? It might just make their life seem a little less long.