Grilled burgers on toasted, fluffy buns were in our hands and fireworks flooded the sky the night that her words struck me. It was the Fourth of July, and a group of singles from our church were celebrating together at a potluck.
I was making small talk with a beautiful young woman. She was a thirty-something, gorgeous, fun, witty. The kind of woman that makes you wonder–since someone like her is single–is there actually hope left for you or any other woman on the planet?
Nevertheless, we were getting to know each other over our summery sundries. We were talking about our relationship statuses. How we’re concentrating on our careers, and how fun and important it is to be able to do things like fix flat tires and install light fixtures all on our own.
Then the conversation took a slight turn. Suddenly, it was how glad we were to be single. How happy we were not to be tied down by ropes—things like husbands and children. My new friend explained how her sister’s husband had recently left for a military deployment, and how she was having a difficult time raising children and making ends meet on her own.
“She actually asked me to help her with her kids, can you believe that?” she swept her long blonde hair across her shoulders. “And when I told her 'no,' she told me I didn’t know how hard it was to have kids.”
“Well,” I said, stopping mid-chew between bites of hamburger. “Do you?” I certainly didn’t. I have a hard time keeping plants in my house alive. Baby steps.
“Of course I do, that’s why I made the choice not to be married or have any kids right now,” she said. “That’s really not my job, so why should I have to help them?”
I laughed nervously and wiped a bit of excess ketchup from the corner of my mouth. On the outside, I was often just as pithy and sarcastic when it came to discussions about marriage and children. But at that moment, as my new friend spoke those words aloud, my thoughts were cresting like tidal waves.
Honestly, I had thought, spoken and (yes) even written similar words for years. I avoided babysitting at all costs. Once, I even left a church because its leadership team placed me on nursery duty more than it actually placed me in a pew.
But, I had never heard those particular words before: “why should I have to help them?” At least, not spoken out loud. And certainly not spoken by a fellow single lady.
That is the ugliest sentence I’ve ever come across.
The words were coated with thick layers of curt judgment. But, honestly, they were the layers I had been hiding under ever since I lost the “ring by the spring” engagement race in college.
It’s a sentence dripping with pride, evoking a sense of closed-fisted stubbornness.
Was this how we singles were being perceived in our families and in our churches? Unwilling to give aid to those in need? Feeling entitled to do nothing about a problem or struggle that didn’t apply directly to us?
Weren’t our brothers and sisters in the church counting on us? Isn’t it true that we’re called to love others as Christ loved us, no matter our relationship status, or the number of children we may or may not have?
I never thought being prideful in singleness was something I’d ever have to struggle with. I thought the season of feeling sorry for myself and longing for a husband and family would always haunt me with a twinge of insecurity.
But, I’m afraid the pendulum has swung the other way. It’s natural for me, in this season, to think I’ve chosen a more successful, affluent and less needy way of life.
I fear some of us (myself very much included) have grown so confident in our independence we’ve forgotten to love one another. We’ve missed the mark. We’ve grown too confident. Too happy. Too comfortable. Thinking that since we don’t have family responsibilities, we are somehow excused from following the Bible’s creed to love others.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure we all know plenty of single, selfless people who are doing incredible things for the Kingdom. They are free to pursue their calling. They are busy loving the people in their spheres.
Their calling is no better and no more effective than the calls of those who do have families. Who are in different seasons. Who perhaps could use a meal, a kind word. A babysitter. And dismissing them the way I was learning to was not Christlike at all.
It was quite the opposite, really.
Being single, in all of its independent glory, should look like a sisterhood. It should be a season of encouragement. A season of bold, powerful love, regardless of one’s romantic state.
As I watched the fireworks explode in the sky that night, above the glassy water, I decided: my singlehood would start looking more like what it should—a sisterhood. And it’s a calling I hope I can live up to.
What Not to Say to Singles
Embracing Christian Sisterhood
A Single's Survival Guide to the Holidays
Brett Wilson is a Christ-loving, single, curly-haired, left-handed coffee-addict. She is a public relations writer in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Brett lives with her best friend and a Boston Terrier named Regis. You can read more from Brett at her site, www.amanworthwritingfor.com, or on Twitter.