In a few days we will be releasing a new video training series featuring Darrow Miller called The Grand Design: Rediscovering Male and Female as Imago Dei.
This video series focuses on rediscovering what it means to be human, male and female made in the image of God, and to help us recapture a vision of what God has imagined for the human family, a beautiful standard to be aimed for.
One of the questions this type of series raises is Where does the single person fit in God’s plan for marriage and family formation?
This question is worthy of a careful response.
The circumstance of singleness
Many people find themselves single because both modern and postmodern culture focus on independence – especially for the male; the single, unfettered male is the ideal. Modern culture also puts great value on making money, having material things, and living a fluid lifestyle unencumbered by relationships (read children). These priorities too often lead to choices and circumstances that leave people single. Many women would love to get married, but few men seem ready to make a lifetime commitment to marriage and family.
People have different responses to singleness. Some see singleness as God’s call and remain content in that state. Others have chosen singleness and are happy, others are not. Many are single by circumstances beyond their control and want to marry. Some are sad or angry, sometimes angry with God.
You may be somewhere on that spectrum. If so, it is important to recognize a reality more fundamental than marriage status: you are made in the image of God. This is our most basic identity as humans. It preempts our sex, race, ethnic group, gifts, skills, affiliations, religious background, education, job, or marital status. Your basic identity is who you are and whose you are.
What is your station?
We’ve lost a word which, if reclaimed, would enhance our understanding of human life: “station.” Webster’s 1828 defines station, “The spot or place where one stands, particularly where a person habitually stands, or is appointed to remain for a time; Situation; position.”
Our station helps define who we are at a particular moment of life. Your station may be the result of someone’s choice—your own or your parents—or of circumstances. If you are caring for an elderly parent, that’s part of your station. You may be married with young children, another reality that helps define your station. Living on a farm is a different station than living in an urban apartment. Often we are able to change our station, sometimes we are not. You may be able to move easily from the farm to an urban apartment. But if you are a mother with young children, that marks a station that will not change for many years.
Made for relationship
Because God is community, He has made us for relationships. Our primary relationship is with Him, but three other relationships are important: those with other human beings, with the rest of the created order, and with ourselves. As humans we can reflect on our own existence. These relationships form a rich tapestry for our lives.
You may not be married. but you are not alone. You have many people—parents and siblings, cousins and friends, coworkers and community members—who need you in their lives.
Employing a woman’s nature to leading
Whether single or married, women are uniquely gifted and needed as leaders in various arenas. They must be free to lead as women, not pressured to lead as men. Generally, women think more intuitively than men, are more skilled at integration, and possess a more nurturing spirit. As we have written elsewhere, leadership is defined in the context of servanthood. For a community, organization or nation to flourish, both women and men must have a seat at the table with their distinctive leadership styles.
The two commissions
Two reference points give our lives meaning, whether we are single or married.
The Cultural Commission of Genesis 1:26-28 is normative for all human beings; we are here for a purpose – to rule and reign over creation.
Followers of Jesus Christ are given a second commission: to disciple nations (Matt 28:18-20). All this plays out in the backdrop of Christ’s life, death and glorious resurrection. and the certainty of the coming kingdom of God.
Every woman a nurturer
Whether single or married, women have another reference point: by design and nature, you are a nurturer.
A woman can do most things a man can do. A man can do many things a woman can do. But one thing a woman is especially designed to do well is nurture. Woman, in the very fiber of her being, was made to nurture.
The world has enough men to do male things. Some women are better weightlifters and kickboxers than some men, but we have enough testosterone in the world. You have nothing to prove in competing with men. As a woman, you are already equal to men in that you are imago Dei, made in God’s image.
Today a woman is free to do whatever she aspires to: start her own business, be the CEO of an international corporation, pilot a commercial airliner, captain a navy ship, become president or prime minister of a nation. Especially in Western countries, women are free to pursue their dreams.
Yet, as an unknown author has reflected, “Our generation is becoming so busy trying to prove that women can do what men can do that women are losing their uniqueness. Women weren’t created to do everything a man can do. Women were created to do everything a man can’t do.”
The world needs what a woman is hard wired to do: intuit and nurture. The nurturing professions provide incredible opportunities for women to make an important contribution to the community. Teaching, nursing, counseling, speech and physical therapy, nutrition, social services … these are necessities in any community, and they build on a woman’s natural strengths.
Expanding your tent for the next generation
Isaiah 54:1-2 speaks comfort to the woman unable to have children.
“Sing, O barren one, who did not bear;
break forth into singing and cry aloud,
you who have not been in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord.
“Enlarge the place of your tent,
and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out;
do not hold back; lengthen your cords
and strengthen your stakes.”
“You’ll need a big tent,” God says to the woman without children. “You’ll need lots of room for the children you will nurture.”
My single sister, many young people need your nurture, that uniquely female gift of the maternal heart. Be there for children in general, for the abandoned and orphaned in particular. My dear friend Debbie is an example: an unmarried woman who adopted six children needing a home and a loving mom. May her tribe increase!
You may embrace motherless street kids, or children of prisoners. You may tutor children, or volunteer to work with children in VBS, summer camp, or Sunday School programs. Many needs and opportunities await you.
Caring for and protecting those in need
In Romans 16:1-2, the Apostle Paul commends to the church, “Phoebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea … for she hath been a succorer of many, and of myself also” (KJV).
Here is another word that has lost its use and meaning in today’s world. The King James uses succorer to translate the Greek prostatis: “a woman set over others: a female guardian, protectoress, patroness, caring for the affairs of others and aiding them with her resources.”
Phoebe had a unique ability and succoring authority to nurture and care for others. Women are needed to lead and succor in many settings.
Singleness may be a calling, or a circumstance you did not seek. Either way, singleness can be a blessing to others and to yourself. If you are single, may God give you the wisdom and grace to live and serve abundantly in that present station.