Singleness recut

Continuing to be the poster-child for singles in Mennonite churches, I was invited to share my testimony at a local congregation as the pastor preached through 1 Corinthians 7. Below is my script, mainly recut from earlier versions.

British author Rudyard Kipling tells a story about how several of the wild animals become tame. The dog and the horse are lured out of their wild-ness by promises of food and companionship but the cat stays aloof, declaring, “I am the cat that walks by herself and all places are alike to me.”

I’ve always identified with that cat. I’m independent – I can recaulk my bathtub by myself, navigate a strange city alone, and make my own schedule. I’m single – I’m don’t have a husband or boyfriend or children to come with me or ask me to go there. “I am the cat that walks by herself and all places are alike to me.”

As the demographic of single adults becomes an increasing part of Canadian population, I suspect there are many others who feel the same.

The line is ironic, however. First the dog, then the horse, then the cow approach the man and the woman, receiving acceptance and care, and finding a way to share their gifts for the benefit of the household. Despite the cat’s claims of independence, she keeps going back to where the others are. She doesn’t want to be left out, so she schemes to secure a place for herself by the fire. Whether she’s willing to admit it, she needs these friends.

As a single person, I need community.

I believe God had given each of us a purpose and place to accomplish it – and people to live it out with. Whether we are married or single, we need the church to model what holiness looks like, and to remind us of what our true calling and identity really is.

The commission Jesus gave to his followers before he left earth was not to settle into families in safe neighbourhoods, but to make disciples (Matthew 28:19). The apostle Paul tells his readers that we are co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:15), and co-workers for God (Ephesians 2:10). In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul’s commentary on marriage and singleness culminates with the instruction for each person to “lead the life the Lord has assigned” – regardless of marital status.

And so I read that the gospel has no special provisions for married people; we’re all grafted through salvation, adopted precious children of the Father, and we’re all called to participate in that family.

And that family of the church is called to be different. The stories we consume through television and movies are preoccupied with finding “the one” true love, and achieving personal happiness.

But holy living that follows Jesus looks different. Whether we’re married or single, followers of Christ make their lives about more than themselves. By teaching us to respect ourselves and others as beloved of God with a purpose to fulfill, the church can equip its people to withstand the temptations to take without giving, exert power instead of grace, and put our desires above God’s calling.

We conform to Jesus’ different pattern by shifting the focus off ourselves and what we want, and onto God and his purposes.

In Romans, right after Paul instructs his readers in holiness, he gives a picture of the church – the body of Christ. This picture is of an interdependent aggregation of parts. As members of one body, we have different gifts; married or single, none are complete on our own, yet it is the body, not a partner, that makes a whole.

As Paul points out, a single life may offer more opportunities to minister: my time isn’t constrained by a husband’s meetings nor a busy schedule of children’s extracurricular activities; I can pour myself into many activities, and make sudden decisions. But who will be my discerning community as I make those decisions? Who’s around to provide a listening ear at the end of the day? Who will remind me to consider needs beyond my own and be part of family lives – both modelling and learning about what it looks like to follow Jesus?

As a single adult, I need the church to be the covenant community promised in the MB Confession of Faith: “[members who] love, care, and pray for each other, share each others’ joys and burdens, admonish and correct each other.”

Will you remind the cats in your community that we don’t walk alone, and encourage us to come in by the fire, to help purr the baby to sleep, to catch the mice, to be part of the family – to follow Jesus together?


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