I’d like to honor the single Christian woman who is working late tonight instead of being taken out to dinner. (But, please keep reading even if that’s not you. If you’ve ever been disappointed with God, I hope this encourages you, too.)
The longing for family
A 38-year-old, single Christian friend of mine told me recently that she got a promotion. The only problem, she said, is that she’d rather be a stay-at-home mom, “packing school lunches.”
This isn’t someone who’s simply dreaming about the greener grass on the other side of the hill. This is a gal who has sought to steward her talents for God’s glory. She earned a graduate degree and is in a job leveraging her strengths and bringing about great flourishing around her—both in and outside of work.
But the natural longing for family of many Christian women like my friend is real—it’s God-given. This is why stewarding your vocation as a single Christian woman can be confusing. As you apply yourself and advance in your career, it can feel like you’re getting further away from marriage and family. I’ve heard women say:
I’m afraid that if I pursue my work with vigor that it will signal to God that I’m less interested in marriage and family;
I’m afraid that my Ph.D. scares men away.
As someone who was in this demographic for many years, I wanted to share a few thoughts about what I have learned along the way.
1. Choose to be fully alive.
Christian singles, and others who similarly wait on God’s timing for something, have a choice to make. We can either keep our hearts alive to the Lord, or turn away from him and kill our desire.
It’s comforting that scripture recognizes the often-hard reality of life this side of heaven—that there is longing and disappointment:
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life (Prov. 13:12).
What do women long for? While women do value significance and meaning in their work, they also long for intimacy in relationship.
Seeking intimacy with the Lord has sustained me in the “now, but not yet” aspect of life and God’s kingdom. The Bible instructs us to be honest and pour out our hearts to the Lord (Ps. 62:8). This way, we keep our heart alive and its longings close to the surface, though painful. As we open our hearts to God and his will, he can pour out his love and give us both a vision and a desire for what he is calling us to do today.
An additional benefit of choosing to be fully alive is that it has a ripple effect on our relationships, family, and even our work.
2. Be fully female.
God has made us uniquely male and female, in his image (Genesis 1:27). The fact that he has you in the office and not at home nurturing children right now is not a mistake. Not only are you designed with specific talents unique to you, your perspective as a woman adds richness to a work product that otherwise might only have a male perspective.
While women have different strengths, being fully feminine may mean letting an empathetic, nurturing side show through as you interact with colleagues and add your input to projects.
God has also designed many women, like him, to be strong protectors of the weak and vulnerable. Author Carolyn Custis James writes that the Hebrew word for “helper” (ezer), used to describe women in Genesis 2:18, can be defined as “strong helper,” even like a warrior. Without the work of women, our society would be a much different place.
3. Know God.
When years pass and longings go unfulfilled, some single women begin to lose enthusiasm about growing their skills on the job and lose faith in God’s loving character.
In Jesus’ Parable of the Talents, we learn how important it is to put our faith in who God really is. Many people learn from this parable we are to invest and grow our talents for God, not “bury” them. This is true. But few understand how it also teaches that trusting in the true character of God compels us to serve him well. The servant who buried his talent said,
”Master,’ he said, “I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground” (Matt. 25:24-25).
The wicked servant buried his talent because he didn’t trust in the character of God. If we serve a God of love, who gave his one and only son on our behalf, can’t we trust him with our hearts and our vocation?
4. Know Your Purpose.
When we have a transcendent, God-given purpose, everything looks different. I’ve seen single Christian women go from tears and slumping in their chairs to sitting up straight with hope in their eyes when they are reminded of their identity in Christ and their purpose. Each one of us, no matter our marital status, plays an active role through our work in God’s master plan of restoration through Jesus Christ.
This is where churches can do better in coming alongside single women, not just to comfort and encourage them as they live a single life, but to challenge them in their calling.
The topic of Christian singleness and vocation, like life’s most pressing and difficult questions, deserves a rich theology. Whether we’re packing lunches or sitting at an office computer, we owe it to ourselves to wrestle with the Lord and dig into scripture to reflect deeply and soundly about our vocations.