I’ve been that friend… “Hey, I know a guy…” or “God will bring your husband when the time is right…” I’ve said all of the things I wish I could stuff back in and exchange with wiser, more considerate truth.

The 90’s purity movement did its best to equip and encourage young people (especially females) toward abstinence. But instead of helping us fairy-tale dreamers understand sexuality as a whole and grasp what God really desired in true purity, it created a false understanding leading to a false promise: {Purity = simply not having sex before marriage} and {Not having sex before marriage = Happily every after} and, a subtle nudge that we all would and should be married by college graduation.

In these terms, I won. I followed the formula. I played my cards right and got what I believed God promised me. I met my nice husband at a nice little Christian college (every parent’s dream.) And felt entitled to my marriage—like I had earned it.

And with it came a deep sympathy for those who hadn’t found what I had. I desired marriage for everyone around me and tried to “fix” the singles who were obviously missing out. All the while putting myself in a distinct category: “married woman.” This determined my friends and social circles and to be honest, I felt a smidge superior to women who didn’t have a marriage to mirror their faults.

Can I just stop and say I’m sorry. I’m sorry to being so wrong about something so deep and sensitive. I’m sorry my pride got in the way of seeing God’s truth.

Over the past year God has peeled away some prideful layers of entitlement (we got a lot more to go, people, but one thing at a time!), one of them being viewing my marital status as less of an earned trophy and more of a gift. Sure, I’ll be the first to tell you marriage can be extraordinary. I married a man that loves me more than I will ever understand or deserve, and God is using our marriage to transform me into His likeness, but that doesn’t make me more. It doesn’t make me wiser and calmer and godlier and more well-rounded than my single friends. Marriage isn’t the only way to experience transformation and a deeply spiritual life. If it were, then Jesus and Paul and many to come after them must have got it all wrong.

And in this learning process God has put some pretty incredible single women and men in my life to help me understand this profound truth. The things I have learned from those in different places of life… it’s amazing. And through it all, the theme of community and togetherness hums its beautiful melody in my ever-changing life.

We all need each other. We all grow from walking and learning and being challenged side by side. Not in a group of only married people or only moms, but together in our differences.

This past Sunday, our pastor, Josh Miller, shared a message that was focused on how Singles and Married people are Better Together. And how “Both marriage and singleness are gifts from God, each with their own unique set of advantages and challenges.” I couldn’t take notes fast enough. He put words to things God had been stirring in my heart and made sense of the things that were still blurry.

Here is a link to the message if you want to hear the whole thing. I HIGHLY recommend it!

He shared scripture on both singleness and marriage and how each is and can be a gift. One of the biggest takeaways for me was how we can move forward in unity together. Here are some of my notes…

(Just an interesting fact… in the 1950’s 22% of people were single and in 2014 51% were.)

How can we move forward in unity as singles and marrieds?

  • Pray for one another.

  • Affirm and CELEBRATE each other.

    This point was huge for me as Miller asked married people (especially women) how many parties they have had for themselves…showers, wedding, baby showers, birthday parties, etc… I’ve had my fair share. “Who buys the single person the Kitchen Aid mixer?” he asked. Crickets. Now that’s something to think about…

  • Be real about challenges and brokenness of your life stage.

    Married people- stop acting like marriage is easy-peasy and creating a false hope for those who desire marriage. Is it great? It sure can be. Is it hard. Yes. Can it be awful? For some. It’s not roses and romantic dates and endless sex. Marriage is so much more. Let’s start getting real about this. Spouses don’t save us. Jesus does. 

  • Be faithful in whatever situation you are in.

    If you are single, be faithful in what God has given you. If you are married, honor your marriage and be faithful in it.

  • Help each other find true identity in Christ—not in marital status or life stage.

The 90’s purity movement had great intentions, but it left a lot of us lost when it came to God’s true design for sexuality and humanity. At least for me, it left me believing everyone should marry, and purity was only a message for singles to be abstinent. My ideas of these things have changed so dramatically as I understand the necessity of purity at ALL stages of life (more on this another day) and see marriage as less of an earned, step-up in life and more of a gift, right alongside its sister gift, singleness.

My desire is that Alive in Grace will start to tackle some of these issues and conversations from people in a variety of life stages. Over the next few months we will have guest posts from some pretty fantastic writers (married and single) who are going to share about their experience, and help provide further understanding of their challenges and also ways to encourage and grow together across life stages. I hope we will open our hearts and minds to learn from those who may be different or in a different life stage, and that we can grow in unity in the Kingdom.