A friend stopped me in the hall tonight with a question and I gave a short answer but told her I'd blog the long answer later. This won't be a creative post, but it will hopefully be educational at least and encouraging at most. My friend's question was along the lines of: how do you, as an unmarried person, reconcile this [tonight's sermon on covenantal relationships, specifically marriage] with your singleness?
My short answer:
While I am unmarried the Church is where I am united primarily as a giver and helper. Note that though I use the capital C Church there, it plays itself out in the context of my local church, which, by extension, is my home most locally.
A few years ago I decided that unless I were to craft for myself a creed of sorts during my single years, I would be in danger of letting these years pass me by in either purposeless and vain ways OR in begrudging and self-righteous ways. I know my nature well enough to know that I can't exist in nothingness very well—and judging from nearly every conversation with every single person I know, neither can most of humankind.
Here's my personal creed on how this unmarried person lives in covenant (and it will probably continue in context if I become a married person living in covenant):
My housemates are my primary covenant relationships
In this season of life the girls with whom I live are my first priorities when it comes to covenant. That does not mean they can call first dibs on me, my time, talents, etc. What it does mean, though, is that I will drop almost anything for them. In regard to my finances, time, talents, and wisdom—they are my primary partakers, they get my first-fruits. Because there are four of us, those things are divided, but overall, I seek to defer to them in all things for their good and my sanctification.
This might sound like I'm steam-rolled, but I think if you knew any of us you'd see that's not the case at our house. Everyone in our home has a voice and an opinion, and everyone in our home defers to the others 9.9 times out of ten. If that seems like a recipe for division, well, you're invited to come over anytime. Because...
My home is a place of peace
The first words people say when they see our home is, "So cool!" or "So homey!" or "Love this place!" The second thing people say is, "It's so peaceful here." And it's true, for the most part. We're not perfect people and so one of us feels underfoot sometimes or maybe unheard or overcrowded, but overall, our home is home of peace.
Peace is not just a pretty painting on the wall, though, hanging there passively waiting to be disrupted. No. Peace is an active agent. There is a world of difference between being a peacemaker and peacekeeper. In our home we are peacemakers. We are makers of peace. Peace with one another. Peace with situations. Peace with the onslaught of the world that assaults each of us throughout our day. My aim, at the end of the day, when I say, "Goodnight family, I love you," is to settle it before bed: you are loved, you are known, and in this home, behind these doors, there is no onslaught toward you. This is important because...
My home is my primary place of ministry
I work for a busy non-profit, I lead a homegroup, I write this blog and for many other publications, I have lived in five states and still have close friends to keep up with in all of them, I have a huge family all over the US who I see rarely, I go to a large church with many opportunities to serve,...the list goes on. Outside of my home there are opportunities to minister in a million places. But here's the problem with that, for me: if my home isn't in order, I'm not going to serve well outside of it.
Therefore, my home is my primary place of ministry. Whether that means I invite people into my home (ie. homegroup), or whether I give the best of my ministry (prayer, counsel, love, etc.) to my housemates, or whether home is simply the place where I sit deepest under the ministry of the Holy Spirit—whatever it is for that moment, home is where it's happening for me. If it's not in order here, it will not be in order when I leave & go do other ministry.
How it works for me
Whatever I choose to do gets filtered through those creeds and if I choose not to do something, it's probably related to one of them as well. I do not hold to these perfectly (ask my housemates), but they are ingrained in my spirit deeply enough that they are nearly second nature at this point.
I said this to my friend in the hallway tonight: I'm 31 years old and I have more than a decade of housemates behind me. I have messed up royally many, many, many times. Even with these housemates. In no way do I have the corner on Housemate of the Year Award.
These have tightened up over time and displayed themselves in a myriad of ways depending on the home in which I lived, the people with whom I lived, and the season of life in which we were, but they have generally been kept over the past six or seven years. I have lived with (at last count) 28 housemates in a decade; I have lived with crazy, kind, manipulative, wise, gentle, funny, and angry people, and I have been all of those things in return. No home is perfect and I'm not seeking perfection in my home.
If you're feeling like a bad housemate or an angry single person who feels like the best years of your life are being thwarted by having to live with roommates instead of the person-of-your-dreams, I'd encourage you to sit down and write out a creed for your life, your home, and your ministry. The enemy wants to steal, kill, and destroy, and he's going to start with the place you spend most of your life and the people with whom you spent it. Don't let him. Be proactive. Be on guard.
The pervasive presence of the gospel in your home is going to be your best weapon against the enemy. If you're feeding yourself a gospel of Cosmo or Sport Center or The Food Network or classic literature or social media, you're going to feel thwarted by the enemy. Preach the gospel to yourself, infuse it into your conversations with your housemates, speak it to whoever comes into your door. Be intentional.
Your lease isn't the only covenant you're living in right now. Don't let the opportunity for covenantal relationship pass you by.
This is a silhouette piece I did of the four of us for Christmas last year. Don't we look like a friendly sort?
To the Men To the Women A dual challenge to Singles Living Single: how to do single well Every Single Season