My wife and I were married almost five years ago, and we dated for about three years before that, so I haven’t been well and truly “unattached” for about eight years. I can vividly recall what it felt like, though: the constant wondering if I would ever get married, the visions of question marks above various girls’ heads, the bumbling (and sometimes embarrassing, for both me and them) attempts at romance with some of them. Being a young single Christian carries with it all sorts of expectations and feelings of inadequacy. It’s not so much that people ask you why you’re “still” single (although some tactless people do); they don’t have to. All you have to do is look around you at the various friends who are pairing off to get a feeling that something is wrong with you.
Eventually I decided that I couldn’t live my life based on the possibility that I might get married. I couldn’t make decisions based on the possibility of meeting someone, and I couldn’t make plans based on the assumption that I would be married. Ever. I would do what I felt called to do as a single person, and let the relational chips fall where they may. This wasn’t a one-time decision; it was a struggle. But it was the only way to escape the anxiety of being single.
I haven’t read any books for Christian singles since those days, but even then I wasn’t impressed with the genre. The most popular Christian singleness book when I was in college was I Kissed Dating Goodbye, which I never got around to reading (though my girlfriend at the time did. Seriously). Since “singleness” as we know it in our culture wasn’t really a phenomenon in biblical times, the Bible doesn’t have much to say on the topic. So, fairly or unfairly, I usually look down on Christian singleness books as containing one person’s (sometimes good, sometimes bad) advice covered with a thin veneer of Bible verses that may or may not be taken out of context.
I read my first Christian singleness book in years recently: Wendy Widder’s Living Whole without a Better Half: Biblical Truth for the Single Life. Even though it doesn’t necessarily speak to where I am in life anymore, I do care about single people I know, and single people in the church in general, and Wendy and I work together. I know she has graduate degrees in Bible, theology, and ancient languages, so I knew at least when she quoted the Bible it wasn’t going to be out of context. I also respect her as a person, and this is a subject that is close to her heart, so I wanted to see what she had to say.
As expected, she does indeed quote the Bible in context. In fact, the entire book is organized around a Bible passage. The structure of the book comes from Hebrews 11–12. She depicts life as a race, focusing on Hebrews 12:1 (“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses . . .”) and devoting chapters to various Old Testament luminaries mentioned in chapter 11: Abraham, Noah, Moses, Jacob, Joseph, and others. In each chapter, she shows how the qualities displayed by these heroes of the faith can help single people today run their own race. In the chapter on Moses, for example, she looks at how he dealt with loneliness and rejection during his years in the Midian wilderness. Weaving in stories from her own life, she suggests ways in which the traits developed by these biblical characters can be developed in people who are single today. This is not so they can find a mate; God hasn’t promised that to any of us. Rather, it is so that they can develop into the people God made them to be, whether they are single or married.
I would recommend this book to any Christians who are single and want a solidly biblical take on how to be a single Christian. I would also recommend it to any married Christians with single friends, and even anyone who wants guidance and encouragement as they “run the race set before them.”