Dan Snyder, my good friend and co-worker at New Denver Church, wrote a blog post this week entitled “Singleness.” It was an excellent post. Honest, vulnerable, hopeful – just like Dan himself. Like Dan, one of the things I love about working at New Denver is that I have many opportunities to spend time with young adults. Unlike Dan, I am no longer a young adult myself. Having crossed the big 4-0 line into mid life, when it comes to young adults I am no longer “us”; I am “them.” So it was with some perspective and nostalgia that I read Dan’s post and thought back on the single season of my own life.
Like Dan and many of the young adults I see each week at New Denver, I came to the end of my 20’s as a single person and asked many of their same questions. I wrestled with strong desires for an intimate relationship – to fulfill the God-given desire inside me to know another person deeply and to be known. I struggled against meeting these healthy desires in unhealthy ways. I celebrated my 30th birthday walking the halls of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia alone and wondering what God had for my future and if it would ever include a wife and family.
Sixteen months later I was standing in a field outside Crested Butte, Colorado before God, my friends and family committing the rest of my life to my wife Kate. This August we’ll celebrate ten years of marriage, and God has blessed us with two beautiful boys. As I reflect on the last ten years and consider the way I thought about marriage when I was single, I have to admit there was so much I didn’t know. How could I? How can anyone? Like most things in life, you can’t be told. Some things have to be experienced to be understood.
But…if I could somehow send a message back to myself when I was single, there are things I would like to say. Things I wish I knew then. So for Dan and anyone else struggling with singleness, I thought I’d share them now. It may not help. You may not listen (I probably wouldn’t have). But here are some things I’ve learned in ten years of my own marriage and from watching others’ marriages – things I wish I’d known when I was single.
- Life never gets simpler; only more complex. Remember high school? Remember how hard it seemed – classes, sports, extracurricular activities, trying to fit in. Then you got to college and wondered what you did with all that time you had in high school. Then you finished college, got a job, and wondered how you never realized how much time you had in college. Single adult life is busy and complex. Marriage makes it even more complex. Your time is no longer your own. When you have kids it goes to a whole other level. One day you’ll be reminiscing on the “good old days” of singleness when you had so much time on your hands.
- Life changes faster than you can imagine. I was 30 and single, and I was married just over a year later. I have several friends who became widows or widowers in an instant. None of us really knows how long any season will last.
- You will probably never have more disposable time or money than you do as a single adult. Enjoy it.
- Some of the saddest, loneliest people I have known are married. Getting married is not a guarantee that you won’t be lonely. Even in the best marriages there are lonely times and places.
- Marriage reveals selfishness like nothing else in life. The best way to prepare – have a (non-boyfriend/girlfriend) roommate. Learning to live with a friend will help prepare you for sharing everyday life with another person.
- Do. not. compromise. A good marriage can make your life better in many ways; a bad marriage can make you worse than miserable.
- Live a great story. One day hopefully you will get married and have kids. What’s the story you want to tell your kids? How about this one..”Daddy, how did you and mommy get married?” “Well, we met in this bar. I was loaded, and she was looking really hot. I bought her a few drinks and we went home and hooked up. We started dating and then decided to live together for a couple years. Finally she wore me down and pressured me into buying her a ring. The end.” Not exactly Disney-esque, eh?
- The sexual temptations you face as a single person don’t go away when you get married. In many ways they even get worse. Marriage is not an all-you-want sexual buffet, and the temptations to fulfill healthy desires in unhealthy ways never really goes away.
- Marriage is not about meeting the right person. It is about becoming the right person. Good marriages aren’t made by fate bringing two star-crossed lovers together. Good marriages are made by people committing themselves to submit to God shaping and transforming them to be more like Christ. Marriage is a great tool for God to shape us, and it’s painful as hell at times.
- You’ll never be 100% sure about the person you decide to marry. Like most major decisions in life, it is about faith – being sure about what you hope for. At some point you can’t know any more and just have to decide. This applies to having kids too. No one is ever ready.
- There is no guarantee for a good marriage. Larry Crabb once said that you cannot have a goal for yourself that depends on someone else. You can do all the right things and your marriage can still go wrong.
- There’s no such thing as “marriage problems.” There are only single problems that people bring into a marriage and often compound upon one another.
- God is the only one who can truly meet our needs. This is easier when you’re single and you don’t have the temptation to look to another person to meet your physical, emotional and spiritual needs. When you’re married you’re always tempted to look to a person to meet needs that only God can meet. Eventually, people will always let you down.
Marriage is a good, good gift from God. It is a tool he uses to make us holy (not necessarily happy…at least not all the time). But singleness is also a gift. In Ecclesiastes Solomon claimed that there was a time and a season for everything. The worst thing we can do is to miss the good has for us in one season while looking forward (or backward) to another.