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A blog dedicated to the Source of everything good.

Monday, July 03, 2006

thoughts on Christian singleness

(subtitle: Christian singles and fantasy*)

There have been several articles of late addressing singleness and the Christian; apparently there is a greater percentage of Christians who are single now than ever before. Some have even gone so far as to say that God does not intend for anyone to be single. I don’t think a biblical case can be made for that, however. At the same time, it’s probably true that relatively few are “called” to singleness and celibacy, and in general it cannot be used as an excuse to avoid marital commitment. Especially since people don’t seem to care to wait for marriage to indulge in certain marital-type activities. But marriage is of course much more than domestic companionship and sex.

Marriage, in a nutshell, is about mutual purpose, and usually children, and intimate support and care of another person (of the opposite sex) for the long haul. It is about a meshing of lives in a way that demands loving accommodation, adjustment, sacrifice, and compromise; it is two becoming one in all the wonderfully mysterious and difficult ways that is manifest.

In some instances it may be good that a person remain single for an extended period of time; it may mean that he/she is unwilling to marry for the wrong reasons. In other instances it may mean that a person is uncertain or fearful, or has personal problems that must be overcome. These are things that can be dealt with in prayer and with the help of family and friends.

In other instances, though, a person may be single for idolatrous or lustful reasons. I have seen evidence that some single Christians are looking for certain fleshly characteristics in a spouse, not so much in place of godly character but in addition to it, which seems like wanting to have their cake and eat it too, or rather, searching down two different paths at the same time.

(Of course, a person may also be single for more than one of the above-listed reasons.)

Many singles, including myself way back when, are looking for someone to fulfil them emotionally rather than someone who will actually be a good spouse. This emotional desire often involves sexual fantasy. People look for the Harlequin-romance or Playboy-type lover, or barring that, look to outer beauty as if it represents inner beauty. Some admit this and proudly defend it, others don’t want to admit it. But it must be reckoned with. Not that outer beauty or even personality characteristics are of no account, but they don’t make a person you can live with ‘til death do you part. Neither do they automatically make a good lover.

When people find this out, they may think that they merely chose the wrong wonderful person, or they "outgrew" one another or something similar. But the entire basis for judging such a thing is pleasure, or "dream" fulfillment. The pleasure of marriage, however, is of an entirely different sort, though it may very well (and usually does) involve the enjoyable kind as well.

People who persist in singleness for reasons of avoiding “settling down” or committing to a marriage rather than to a career or a lifestyle involving certain types of freedom also invariably deny fulfilment found in life with a spouse, and not just sexual either. In such a situation, and even in one in which a person doesn’t wish to be single, it is very hard to avoid developing a fantasy life. This fantasy life may actually attempt to substitute for marriage in terms of wish fulfillment, not to mention indulgence in various types of inappropriate substitutionary gratification. That’s the easy road. The road less traveled involves living a life of purity in thought and in deed. Relating to others in an upright way actually makes it easier to recognize a good marriage candidate when the signs appear.

fantasy, n.
1. Imagination or fancy; especially, wild, visionary fantasy
2. An unreal mental image; illusion; phantasm
3. A whim; queer notion; caprice
4. In psychology, a mental image, as in a daydream, usually pleasant and
with some vague continuity.

In developing fantasies, or trying to fulfil oneself through them, a person failes to deal with reality and also sets him/herself up for an unrealistic view of marriage. Fantasy-based conceptualization is then brought into a marriage. This necessitates a huge adjustment in approach in order to honor the actual marriage. Adjustment to marriage can be challenging enough without bringing in further complications. Then there's the fact that fantasy may involve activity that, were it to be indulged, would be inappropriate. Even in cases in which a person hasn’t or would never commit said activity there is no excuse; the sin has already occurred in the heart and mind. Provocation is no excuse either.

Not that a person can’t have hopes, dreams, wishes, and other thoughts toward marriage (including the sexual), which can be had with purity and uprightness of thought. But these general imaginings are to be distinguished from specific and explicit fantasy of the covetous or exploitative type.

I must add that susceptibility to fantasy-driven living isn’t limited to the single person; it can be found in married persons as well. The same cautions about pursuing fantasy as opposed to a pure and trustworthy approach to reality apply to the married as well as the single.

To cap off this discussion, I offer a prayer for all of us, single and married, that our lives might find their sustenance first and foremost in God the Father through Christ Jesus. May we serve Him and one another rather than ourselves and so fulfil our purpose in Him, whether in singleness or marriage.

*or fantasizing. The trouble is, some types of fantasy and fantasizing are healthy, and some are sinful. The trick is being able to recognize and acknowledge the difference.


  • This is a good job. I'm saving it.

    I would add to the first sentence in the second paragraph that marriage is also about a lifetime commitment, regardless of what's coming.

    By Blogger Martin LaBar, at 5:57 AM  

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