Owlish Contemplations · Whispers of Faith

How to Be Single – Hollywood’s Playbook or God’s Playbook?

There’s a movie coming out in February called “How to Be Single” (conveniently right before Valentine’s Day). How do I know this? Because the Internet knows all about me (including my relationship status) and popped that little trailer into my Facebook newsfeed, thinking I would be all into it.

I will admit, the first time I saw the title I thought – “Hey! That movie is for me!” And then I watched the trailer. And my heart was – saddened? Sickened a little? Greatly disturbed? All of the above … as I realized this was a movie about how to be single according to Hollywood’s playbook. And it angers me that this kind of message is being pushed on a generation who will end up thinking that’s the only way to do it.

It’s actually not the only way to do it. In fact, I truly believe that if you follow Hollywood’s playbook on how to be single instead of God’s, you will end up – not with the “fun” they promise, but with regret, emptiness, and a string of bad memories.

God hasn’t kept me single for the past 10 years without teaching me a few things along the way about “how” to do it. And while I certainly haven’t mastered the art of being single, I hope and pray that every day I’m single I will honor Him more with my life.

So in humbleness and grace … a few things I’ve learned about how to be single according to God’s playbook:

1. Use Your Freedom Wisely
Hollywood says, “Look at you! You’re single – that means you’re free to have sex with as many different people as you want!” No commitment, no strings, no regrets – right?? Well – wrong. Yes, no commitment to all the different guys you pick up in bars and wake up to the next morning, quite possibly not remembering how you got there. But no regrets? That’s not the way the heart or the soul works.

Hollywood is amazingly good at this lie – this lie of portraying happy people on the screen who can sleep together and then move on with their lives as though nothing happened except some “good times.” But the truth is that God created the union of flesh to be intertwined with the union of souls – and even if you are able to get up and walk out of someone’s house and leave them behind, you’ve permanently left a part of your heart with them.

It cheapens the gift and deadens the soul when you enter into the sacredness of God’s plan of sex within marriage lightly, casually, and superficially.

Certainly this was not the purpose God had in mind when he gave single people so much freedom with their time. 1 Corinthians 7:34 confirms this – “An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world – how she can please her husband.”

If God has given us a stage of singleness in our lives, it’s so that we can be devoted to Him in both body and spirit. He knows the temptations that will come for our bodies to be united to another’s body. He knows the temptations that will come for our spirit to be attached to and loved by another’s spirit. But He desires that we run to Him in our temptations instead of temporary fixes. He desires that we learn the devotion that can only come without the distractions of marriage and children. Will we ignore this beautiful opportunity in our haste to have our longings satiated by physical pleasures?

2. Fill Your Time with Meaningful, Purposeful Activities
Along those lines, we have to think of how best to use this season in our lives. The old adage that says, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop” is not false. If you are sitting around idle and lonely, it will be all too easy to turn to Hollywood’s way of fixing it – bar-hopping, flirtatious encounters, one cheap dating relationship after another.

Instead, we have to think of what we can be involved in that will honor God. My dad, single until he was 33, always tells me that the best antidote to feeling sorry for himself was being involved in ministry.

Pour your life out into other people’s lives and you will feel fulfillment you didn’t know was possible before.

If you purposefully plan for how to invest in others, serving them, and making a difference in their lives – you will have far less time to sit around feeling lonely and pitying yourself.

There will always be seasons and nights of loneliness. That is inevitable. But they will be fewer and farther between if you live your life purposefully serving God in practical ways.

The quote from St. Augustine does not say, “We are restless until we find our rest in another person.” It says, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.”

Turn your restlessness forcefully over to God and ask Him how you can meaningfully serve Him in this time that He’s called you to be single.

3. Learn the Art of Being Unselfish
Hollywood’s playbook says that singleness is all about me. How can I make myself happy? How can I selfishly rack up as many good times for myself as I can? But then again, most of the world’s philosophy is looking out for number 1 – selfishness is wrapped up in all their outlooks.

God is all about breaking our selfishness – teaching us that this life is not really all about ourselves. And we have such a great opportunity to learn that in a season of singleness. Three specific ways that He has been teaching me to relinquish selfishness are in my prayer life, my hospitality, and my finances.

Certainly those who are married can cultivate unselfishness in these areas as well, but it can sometimes be more difficult when there two adults to think about instead of just one – and more so when you add children to the mix. God has different lessons to teach those who are married, and I can’t speak to those lessons since I am not married.

But I do know that – being single – God has been calling me to sacrifice more of my time in prayer to learn the beauty of delving into time in His presence. And those quiet, uninterrupted mornings are the perfect time to do that.

He’s been calling me to open my home up to others – allowing college students, friends, and family members to enter my space and serving them with food, quality time, conversations, and laughter – instead of just keeping it all to myself.

He’s been calling me to save more money so that – in this time of supporting only one person – I can give more of it to His ministry and His people.

These are all things that I could certainly be selfish about (and I am more frequently than I like to admit!) – but He’s teaching me the beauty of giving – of being the gift to others who need it more than I do.

4. Have Fun
The quote that the movie trailer said right up front was, “If you’re not having fun being single, you’re doing it wrong.”

I do agree with that – but I think our definitions of “fun” are vastly different. Coy flirtations, having so many drinks that you lose all inhibitions, hopping from one guy to the next, wild romps in bed – that’s what Hollywood says is “fun.”

Thank you, but I disagree. I think that’s a raucous façade for an emptiness that can’t be filled. And it makes me truly sad. The laughter will fade, the other people will go home, and you’ll be left alone in your apartment, weeping for what’s out of your grasp – true and long-lasting joy.

True and long-lasting joy can only be found in Christ – He designed it that way. And when we are most satisfied in Him, He brings us joy that allows us to have true “fun.”

The fun of delighting in His gifts, however big or small. The fun of making others smile and laugh. The fun of celebrating others’ lives. The fun of game nights with family or walks through silently drifting snow or being mesmerized by a sunset or contemplating a story told artfully through book, movie, and stage. The delight of being grateful just to be alive and to have a hope to live for – namely the hope of our salvation through Christ alone. The world’s cheap pleasures are no comparison to the deep and riveting pleasures found in our Heavenly Father – what He made us for and what we will continually feel empty without.

5. Find Your Comfort in the Words of Scripture
Sometimes sappy, romantic indulgences are okay – the chick flick, the romantic story, the favorite love song, the lamentable talk with the best friend about where have all the good guys gone.

But ultimately those shouldn’t be our comfort – our grasp for a love that’s not ours. It can be easy to spiral into despair when we keep telling ourselves, “I don’t have someone to love me like that, and I never will.”

Instead, Christ gently calls us back to the love story that is already ours to claim – told through the pages of Scripture. He desires to have us meet Him there – where words of truth drown out the world’s lies, where a hero’s triumph is woven into every page, where loneliness meets its truest comfort, where hope never fades.

It never fails me. The longer I feel discouraged, the longer I’ve stayed away from Scripture. As soon as I open its pages and remind myself of God’s truth, fresh water is poured over my thirsty soul. The pain doesn’t always go away, but I am reminded of my truer purpose – I wasn’t created for the sole reason of getting married. Maybe that will happen to me someday, but that’s not relevant to my true purpose for being alive.

My true purpose for being alive is to glorify God with my life and make Him known with all I do. I can do that being single or being married, and I pray that that’s what my life looks like no matter what season I’m in.

The movie would look at my life and say, “You’re doing this singleness thing all wrong.” I would look at them and gently laugh and shake my head. “I’m afraid you’ve got it backwards,” I would tell them.

Because the key to singleness is not filling your life with one sex-and-alcohol-soaked episode after another.

The key to singleness is filling your life with the saturation of God’s love, God’s work, and God’s purpose.

This is the only thing that will bring contentment and long-lasting joy. God hasn’t failed me yet.

And I can’t wait to see what He’s going to do with my life next.

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