Imagine for a moment what an amusing experience it is to listen to the biological clock getting louder as you wonder why all those years of obedience just aren't working. And then there's the equally fun experience of watching the rest of the world go out and be sexually active and end up with the marriage and children that you, the obedient person, still don't have.
Perhaps if we were more focused on God's grace to begin with, instead of falling into a pattern of works-based thinking, envy wouldn't be such a problem. That is, we wouldn't be dealing with this fallacious notion of "Why isn't God giving me what I deserve? I did what he told me to do!"
If too many single Christians are compromising their principles and falling into sexual disobedience—and the evidence shows that this is the case—perhaps it's because so many of us were taught a lie in the first place. It was taught to us with the very best of intentions, and with the highest hopes for us … but it was a lie all the same.
What we—both teens and single adults—need from the church is better theology, a healthy dose of realism, and a little more understanding of where we are in our lives. When you're a chaste single adult, the teachings about how you're a princess and God will bring you a knight (or, alternately, that you're a knight who has to go win yourself a princess) start fading away just as you reach the age where the mainstream culture starts to regard you as a freak.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin wasn't just a movie title, it was a punch line. When that's what we're hearing from the culture about ourselves, we need the church to support us, to remind us that we're valuable to God and to the community, and that if our "knight" or "princess" hasn't shown up, we still have the chance of a good life. That obedience isn't a formula to get us what we want, but a way of living that we follow because God loves us and we love him.
The recently deceased John Stott practiced celibacy all his life. C. S. Lewis was celibate for most of his. Was it a fate worse than death? These men didn't seem to think so. Both of them lived good lives, rich in relationships, in God's service. And as Stott advised his fellow singles, "Pray daily that God will guide you to your life partner or show you if he wants you to remain single. … If God calls you to singleness, don't fight it. Remember the key text: 'Each person has his or her own gift of God's grace' (1 Cor. 7:7)." Words like these, in all their biblical and practical wisdom, offer a great place to start pursuing a workable theology of singleness.
Sometimes obedience doesn't get us what we imagined. But then, "princess theology" notwithstanding, God didn't say that it would. Our hope and consolation are—they have to be—that he is worth it. No other hope or consolation will do.
Gina Dalfonzo is editor of BreakPoint.org and Dickensblog. Her first book, 'Bring Her Down': How the American Media Tried to Destroy Sarah Palin is available on Amazon.
Copyright © 2011 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Previous articles on sexuality & gender include:
Q & A: Bristol Palin on Abstinence after Levi | The daughter of the former governor of Alaska on sexuality, body image, and her "come to Jesus" moment. (July 13, 2011)
Sex Economics 101 | Mark Regnerus, the early-marriage sociologist, shares his latest research on young adults' sexual attitudes and behavior. (February 18, 2011)
How to Teach Sex | Seven realities that Christians in every congregation need to know. (February 9, 2011)
Dalfonzo's Her.meneutics contributions have included: "Guarding Your Marriage without Dissing Women," "Bill Maher Slurs Sarah Palin, NOW Responds," "The Social Network's Women Problem," "Facebook Envy on Valentine's Day," "What Are Wedding Vows For, Anyway?" "Why Sex Ruins TV Romances," and "Don't Think Pink."