If you’ve been in Christian dating circles or read any Christian dating advice at any point, you’ve probably heard someone talk about “the gift of singleness.” Now, growing up in church, I had NEVER heard of “the gift of singleness,” because it was just assumed that basically everyone would pair off eventually. Sure, there would always be a few spinsters or bachelors in the population, but no one ever talked about them like they had a special “gift.” It was just more or less understood that perpetually single people had some sort of nonsexuality about them, or maybe something traumatic had happened to them in the past that put them off dating and marriage.
But I guess now that there are so many never-married singles well into their 30s and 40s, we now have people with “the gift of singleness.” And while I don’t doubt that there are people specially “gifted” in this way, it’s been my observation that most people who experience prolonged singleness are not single because they want to be. What usually happens is that a guy or girl hits 30 (or 35, or whatever their “loser in love” threshold is), realizes they’ve been unattached for quite a while, and then they start hearing the “gift of singleness” talk and maybe start wondering if they in fact do have the gift themselves.
Basically, can you have the gift of singleness without knowing it? Is God not opening the door to marriage because He secretly wants you to embrace your singleness and give up the dream of marriage? Is the gift of singleness something you naturally just “have,” or is it sort of forced upon you whether you desire it or not?
The other thing is – Boundless types tend to define the gift of singleness as being able to live without sex and not become bitter about it. I see this as a bit of a cheat of an answer, though. Bitterness is a little extreme of a response. I know a lot of single women who aren’t having sex and aren’t dating/on a path to marriage, but still want both, but aren’t BITTER over it. (As far as I know, anyway.)
This definition ignores women’s generally more responsive sexuality. A lot of women are sexual and want sex, but when forced into a dating drought, they kind of go into “convent mode.” And most churches teach convent mode behavior to women when they keep telling women not to make marriage an idol, to find their true fulfillment in Jesus, to wait on the Lord, and to stop reading romance novels (sexless Christian romance novels are a thing, so it’s not just “Don’t read 50 Shades,” guys) or watching romantic movies or soap operas or whatever will exacerbate their “discontentment” with singleness. Often women in convent mode start spending more of their time with female friends, and this just reinforces the conventing because new guys aren’t entering their social spheres. So you end up with all these women who “want” marriage, but it’s just not happening, but until someone comes along for that, they need to guard their hearts and focus on the Lord and not make marriage or sex an idol. You can see how this is a self-perpetuating cycle.
To bring this back to “the gift of singleness,” if you’ve been in convent mode too long, you start to wonder if you have the gift of singleness. How do you differentiate? Can you be okay with never marrying? I know that this is a question that I have wrestled with. How about you?
P.S. If the comment thread devolves into another “women are entitled/don’t know anything/are mean to men/wahhhhh” pity party, I’m shutting down the thread.