MY name is Carol. My relationship status? Single, according to
Facebook. I've been single for most of my adult life, and that can
be hard for people to deal with.
A typical conversation with my Nan would go something along the
lines of this:
"Aren't you married yet?"
"You mean there's no nice young man that you can settle down
"Plenty, Nan, but . . ."
And then there would be a pause.
"You're not one of these lesbians, are you?"
"No, Nan, I'm not. I'm quite happy on my own at the moment."
I would like to set down some thoughts about being able to be
the person that God is calling you to be, fully alive, as someone
who is not "in a relationship".
Nine years ago, I moved to a city where I knew no one, and
started nursing training. It is a job in which you learn far more
about people than you ever dreamed possible. I have to have some
awkward conversations, and I need to be confident and outgoing in
how I relate to people - which is something I am not always good
When I was growing up, I would hide behind my friends and
family, hoping that they would do the talking and deal with tricky
situations for me. Being a single person has allowed me to find my
confidence in myself when I am in a public place playing a public
role. Being a single person has allowed me to deal with things for
myself, because I know that there is no "significant other" to
retreat behind when the going gets tough.
My faith has brought me out of that hiding-place. When I read
the Gospels, I see Jesus telling people to stop hiding. The lives
Jesus touched were of people who had retreated behind labels of
leprosy, blindness, poverty, tax-collecting, being mad, or being a
The Gospels say that it does not matter about the label you hide
behind. God is interested in you. He wants to see you grow and
thrive. So forget the nervousness, because there are many
relationships to share.
THERE are times when it is perfectly good and entirely useful to
enjoy a single life, despite whatever the Valentine-card card
industry, the wedding industry, the baby industry, your church,
your family, and others may tell you. Being single might be the
status that allows you to live a full life; releases you from a
painful relationship; allows you space to find out more about who
you are, how you react, and why you feel that way.
It is not a punishment for failing to ask someone out on a date;
nor for breaking up with someone when a relationship does not work.
Being single is not a sign of failure: you are not a loser, a
loner, or inadequate.
Being single is not a permanent thing. God might be asking you
to take a week, a month, perhaps a year or two to do something
completely different with your life; to try a new hobby, a new job,
to do some charity work, to meet new people, or to spend more time
with the people whom you know and love already. Being single is a
gift, because you have the freedom and independence to go
From that experience, God shows you something of who he has made
you to be, and something of the gifts buried within yourself to
take into any future relationship. It can be painful, especially
when you face loneliness after the love and security of a
relationship. But then a vocation to married life is not pink and
I BELIEVE that God has given me a very full life as a single
person. The relationships I have had as part of the Church, and in
my wider life as a nurse, bell-ringer, walker, and stagehand have
given me space to grow in confidence to tackle things on my
About five years ago, I took the plunge and went along to the
Transcendence community, all by myself. This is a sacramental Fresh
Expression, a mix of ancient and contemporary worship based in York
Minster. And, because I was on my own, it was easy to talk with
people, as I was not hiding in a group of friends. I found that I
could be myself in that space, and God touched my life in a way
that I could never have dreamed.
As I became more involved in the work of Transcendence, I have
found gifts in creative liturgy and pastoral support which that
community has helped to nurture, and which culminated in a vocation
to ordained ministry.
Adam was lonely on his own; so God created Eve to be his
companion to share the good times and the bad. You are not single.
None of us is. We journey with many different people on many
different roads. We all have a network of people with whom we have
relationships: our family, our friends, our colleagues, our
neighbours, the people we socialise with, Joe Bloggs in the
Yes, those relationships are very different from the sexual one
that I might enjoy when my handsome knight in shining armour rides
to my rescue. However much I feel a twinge of jealousy on seeing my
friends or members of my family walking up the aisle to commit
something of themselves to their soulmates, God's challenge to me
is not to be selfish in being single. I am called to keep on
sharing something of myself with others, so as to catch a glimpse
of God at work in all the relationships that I have; to offer
something supportive and meaningful within all my friendship and
My Nan's idea of the only way in which you can live a happy and
fulfilling life - that you must marry, get a mortgage, and have
babies - is only one way of living out God's purpose for each of
us. In a Bridget Jones moment, I would argue that Jesus has little
to say about marriage and baby-making, and much more to say about
walking alongside others and sharing friendship, fellowship, and
Whatever relationships I enjoy, I hope that I am now slightly
better equipped to share something of myself, something that God
has given me. Being single has given me the freedom to become fully
alive. As I have learnt to stop hiding, I have become more aware of
the work that God is asking me to do, in whatever relationships I