I recently discovered that people still go on dates? Which got me thinking… Where he at, though? From the moment I stepped foot on this campus, I’ve spent so much time being hyper-aware of the hookup culture that exists so rampantly on college hill that I’ve failed to realize dating is still a thing. People get dressed up, go out together for a few pleasant hours, and call it a night – all while keeping their clothes on. There are people out there who are still covering the checks on date night for a shared meal without expecting reimbursement through Venmo! Pardon me if I’m sounding a little too shocked right now, but I’m just saying, I’m not a picky person – so where’s bae?!
The following words are for all of you who are discouraged by your singleness and equally for all of you who couldn’t care less about it: singleness is not a waiting room. We live in a society that places such a bright spotlight on romantic relationships that it, more often than not, fails to acknowledge the value that exists in the absence of one. But your time alone – your season of solitude – serves a definite purpose. It gives you time to cultivate your character. Forgive me for sounding a bit cliché, but singleness allows you the time and space to look into yourself, to discover not only who you are, but also to see more clearly your intentions, goals, and aspirations as an individual.
Let’s look to the creation story in Genesis for a brief moment here. After the light, the waters, the plants, and the animals, God went on to create a man, namely Adam, from the dust of the earth and the breath of His spirit (Genesis 2:7). Adam is alone for some time, walking and talking alongside God in the garden before God sends Eve his way – but he is not left alone to live aimlessly. In the same verse where we see God placing Adam in the garden, we find Him putting Adam to work:
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
(Gen 2:15, NIV)
At first glance, it would be easy to look past this verse, assuming it to be trivial and empty as a transition into the next part of the story. But when I delve deeper into the context of this passage, I see substance and relevance. Adam is given time to spend alone with God and to spend carrying out His work. The time that Adam spends being productive as a single man is the same time he spends in God’s presence. Adam’s singleness isn’t exactly singular because he isn’t alone. So, could the manner in which Adam spends his time as a single man parallel with how we should be spending our time alone?
In the seventh chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul (another single man who you can read all about in Acts 9) speaks extensively about relationships, time, and the purpose of remaining single. Plainly spoken, Paul views romantic relationships as outright distractions. For this reason, he encourages us to consider the value of singleness, so that our primary focus and attention can be directed toward carrying out God’s work:
“I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs – how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world – how he can please his wife – and his interests are divided.”
(1 Cor 7:32-34, NIV)
Paul is right. God created us in His image to exist in His presence and to expedite His will. We were created with a purpose, we all have jobs (which brings me great joy to hear as a student soon entering the real world): as products of God’s hands, we are employed and commissioned to carry out the Gospel to all nations with the authority that we have been granted through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection (Matt 28:18-20). So I think what Paul is saying here is that time is of the essence. We are only given so much time on this earth, so our best use of it would be to live in undivided devotion to God. But even Paul understands that to many, singleness in itself can be a distraction. He sincerely wishes that were not the case, but if it is, he urges us to go for it, forming Christ-centered relationships and working together to carry out God’s will (1 Cor 7:7,36).
To any believers reading this, we need to remember to use our time alone as a time of service to God, granting him our undivided attention. To those who do not identify as Christians, I say the same: all of our time belongs to God. Of course, it’s not easy to spend every waking moment questioning whether or not each and every one of our actions are in line with His will for our lives, but that’s beside the point. Like Adam in the garden, we are created to be in God’s presence. Throughout the Bible, we see that we messed up, creating all sorts of barriers between God and us. But ultimately, when Jesus died on that cross as a perfect sacrifice and the temple’s veil was immediately torn in two, God reestablished that intimate connection, allowing His plan for us to reside in His presence to prevail. We belong to God, and He to us. In our singleness (and in our relationships no less), I believe we are called to serve Him.
Know that the point of this piece is not to detract from the value that lies in relationships. For many of us, our lives are designed to accommodate relationships. Whatever stage you are in in your life is immensely valuable and it is necessary to treat it as such. While singleness holds immeasurable value, even God acknowledges our need and/or desire for a suitable partner not long after He instructs Adam to get to work (Gen 2:18). But remember that even in a relationship, your intention with your partner should be to glorify God.
To all my single ladies, gents, and everyone in between: it’s time to stop sitting around in wait. Our time alone is too precious and I am confident that God did not intend for us to view our solitude as a purposeless period of transition from one point in our lives to another. Singleness – whether you identify as “perpetually single” or whether you’ve been single for no more than a few days – is truly sacred, and both Genesis and 1 Corinthians give me reason to believe that God left Adam alone for some time in means of adequately illustrating the vitality of using that time to produce fruit (literally, in Adam’s case). So, no more talk about waiting for “the one”, because that time will come when it comes. But in the meantime, reinvent your period of solitude. Acknowledge the value it holds, and treat it as the gem that it is. Because only a period of solitude allows a caterpillar to grow its wings.
Gloria Essien is a junior concentrating in contemplative studies