How is singleness viewed within our society? To many it is an obvious failure – not being able to attract a man or woman! An age dominated by a couple mentality is a place where singles don’t fit in. How do you handle singles at meals or weddings? At such occasions some are prone to stare and sympathise, marvelling at their stoical capacity to enjoy themselves despite their difficulty. Relationships are so important that any will do – whether good or bad!
The reality is that our society is dominated by singleness at one level or another. The early years of life are usually lived as single people. Some are either forced to live alone or choose to live alone as a first option throughout their lives. We know that marriage is not always successful and a significant proportion end in separation or divorce – more single people, often with children that need care and so for various reasons some choose not to look for another partner. As we travel this life many of us will lose our partners and be forced to live alone. Are all these people to be thought of as misfits in a couples society; as partial failures doomed to live life at a lower level than those who are married? Statistics reinforce this picture for us. The 2002 census in the Republic show that 53% of all Maynooth residents are single while 42% are married. 9% of the residents in the Dublin county borough are separated people and 11% of the entire population is over 65 years old. Most of us will have to live for a significant period as single whether we choose to or not.
It is hard to be alone because it often brings with it a deep loneliness but this is not only a potential for singles – it is often more true for married people. Loneliness is an internal matter and a part of the human existence- it’s cause being traced back to the separation between God caused by rebellion to his rule. If that is the cause then we see that it is the solution as well. People who are out of joint with God will always have to live life from their own resources, whereas the person who knows Christ in a life transforming way is able to draw on supernatural resources that help them live each day as they go along. I think of a woman who divorced an abusive man and had to bring up her children alone. It was very difficult and filled with trial and stress but she speaks of knowing a power from God beyond herself that really helps in times of need.
We all need relationship, but primarily we need to know the sweetness and fulfilment of a real and living connection with God that frees us up to live complete lives whatever our relationship state is! If we are complete in Christ then our completeness will not depend on other people. We cannot live on our own – no one is meant to live as a hermit –we are social creatures and we need one another to complement ourselves and to help us to grow as people. The young person needs the wisdom of those who are older. The single mother needs the advice of other fathers as she rears her children. Men need the emotional support of women and women of men in contexts that are safe and secure. Children need to have father figures in their lives. We all need each other to find greater enjoyment and to help us fill up the blanks of our own experience.
This is seen in how the church should work. The church is not a building but people and the language of the Bible shows the way the church should work! The church is composed of individuals who function as a unit. Listen to these words ”In Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” God’s understanding of the church is a place where we act in unity and have a right to each others gifts and abilities. We can make up what we lack in our own lives by being able to draw on the resources of others. Listen to this part dealing with the same topic. “There should be no division in the body, but its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part rejoices, every part rejoices with it.”
This is how it should work –equal concern for all, a unity in suffering and rejoicing –a wonderful togetherness where all, especially those who feel on the fringes of society or have greater needs should feel accepted and helped. That is God’s model of living.
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Newry Baptist Church
31-33 Lower Catherine Street