Christine received this outstanding, insightful question on her blog. She and Mike are fielding questions about their first month of marriage (can you believe it’s nearly been that long!?):
Just wondering… but as another self-described “independent woman,” I find myself wanting to know which parts of the engaged/married experience (so far) have been the most trying for a woman who had been used to making her own decisions in every area without having to submit to another human being in each of them. I think it will be very difficult for me to adjust to that, given that I’ve been living on my own since 1999. Have you experienced frustration or fear or similar feelings along the way? Has it been harder or easier than you expected to live in Biblical “coupledom”? Or is it, frankly, too soon to tell?
Hey, Anon. As a single gal myself, I’ve been hashing out this issue in my own life for quite some time. The Lord has brought about two major changes in the last year: my living situation, and my job situation, both of which have helped me address the complex tangle of how to practice being a godly woman while being single. The situations don’t really matter except as they revealed sin in my own heart, so don’t read this as though I’m telling you to move and get a new job!
About 9 or 10 months ago, my community group leader’s extremely wise wife advised me to start looking for a situation where I wasn’t living on my own. She asked me to consider it not just as a way to assuage my loneliness, but also as a way to learn to live in community with other believers — as I will someday do with my husband! I had become ingrown and selfish. I resisted strongly at first — I loved my little apartment, having privacy at the end of the day, being able to decide when and if I wanted to see my friends. Mostly I loved having something that was mine! But my friend encouraged me to pray about it, and almost as soon as I started praying, the Lord changed my heart and provided me with a place to live. I moved in January into a beautiful old house in a quiet neighborhood with two lovely Christian girls.
During this same time, the Lord in his grace started revealing the sin in my heart regarding dissatisfaction with my singleness. I struggled with (and lost against, more often than not) bitterness and resentment toward my Creator for putting me in such a horrible situation — pretty good attitude, right? Two of my good friends reminded me that discontentment is not a function of our circumstances, but of our satisfaction in Christ. The Lord was giving me an opportunity to deal with my sin of discontentment (which is really just a euphemism for distrust) now, while my life is simple and independent. Otherwise, my sisters reminded me, I was going to end up likely married and still struggling with bitterness — just with a different set of circumstances!
This Spring, while I was unemployed and fast running out of money, I started coming in to volunteer at the church, answering phones and making copies, just a few hours a week at first, but quickly building up to nearly full-time. It was an agonizing time. I was frantic about my finances, and pretty resentful of the pastors, who I (wrongly) felt were taking advantage of me. I knew they were probably going to hire someone to do the job, and I was almost certain it wouldn’t be me. I had a terrible attitude toward my pastors and took many opportunities to roll my eyes and sigh heavily when they would give me yet another task. I began looking for other jobs, and even had a very promising interview, but the Lord seemed to be closing door after door. Finally, at my most frantic, in the midst of my distrust of the Lord’s good purposes, our counseling pastor called me into his office and offered me the job. I cried, and laughed, and cried some more, and was deeply convicted. I had failed to trust the Lord and he still provided for me. It was truly the Lord’s kindness that led me to repentance!
Since that time, the Lord has been taking me to the woodshed — lovingly applying discipline in lots of circumstances with my housemates and my job. I’m learning a lot of lessons about what it means to be faithful in this time of singleness.
I’m starting to “get” the fact that being single doesn’t mean I’m a junior-varsity Christian. My marital status doesn’t determine my eligibility for ministry or service, my contribution to the body of Christ, my maturity in the faith (or my personal maturity), my sanctification, or anything else. Marriage isn’t a higher calling than singleness (although let’s not get into that whole “called to be single” shenanigans right now). I don’t think anyone would say, “Y’know, if only Paul had been married, then he really could have dug into some deep theology in Romans. He would have been way more qualified to preach to people if he’d just had a wife!”
I have a precious opportunity to learn how to rely on and submit to Christ now, while I am still single, when I can recognize my need in a more acute way, rather than trying to learn that lesson once married, when I will doubtless be tempted to substitute a relationship with my husband for my utter dependence on my Savior.
I am learning what it means to wait on the Lord and lay all my hopes and desires before him, trusting that he will lead me in the best path, for his own glory.
I have time to serve and love my community, especially those who are in a season of stress and busyness, like new moms or ladies with several small children.
I am discovering the joy of community and the delight of having close friendships with older, wiser women who will correct and rebuke me in love. Submitting to their correction deepens my trust in the Lord’s desire for my sanctification!
I am really beginning to understand that God’s purpose for my life is that I become like Christ, who perfectly submitted to the Father in all things, not that I get married or have children — those things might be a part of God making me like his Son, but those things, no matter how good they are, are not the ultimate goal. Christlikeness is.
I can practice submitting to my leaders as the Lord has commanded — not just because it’s good practice for marriage, but because it’s obedient to God. This has been a tough practical step for me as an opinionated woman. Sometimes this bunch of men make decisions I think are insane, but I must respect and submit to their authority! Hebrews 13:17 even says I must obey them! It’s an intelligent, deliberate obedience, but my desires, will, and choices go to support those men in my church who teach God’s word.
Wow. That turned out to be a long, long discussion. But I hope my journey can help you see how many opportunities we single ladies have to learn how to be godly women. Christian singleness and Christian marriage have something in common — they’re all about the Gospel. The Gospel motivates and enables our obedience to God, our submission to earthly leaders, and (Lord willing) our submission to our husbands!