I was reading the absolutely beautiful book I Kissed Dating Goodbye
by Joshua Harris this Shabbat. Joshua is a sincere Christian and his words are really beautiful. I was very touched by his book. It occurred to me that I wish he was the author of books for the Jewish world rather than the Gila Manolson type. His book addresses the topics of yichud, tznius
and shomer negiah
in a really loving, relatable way. He comes across as your companion, in the same situations that you are in, rather than an authority figure.
The part that I found most touching was his description of singlehood within Christianity. I think Orthodox Judaism is missing a conception of singlehood. Currently, most women are under the impression their job is to go to college, graduate and then get married. We lack a sense of purpose in our singlehood. Our focus is on dating, shidduchim and our future family. I think that focus, while good, is sometimes misdirected. Here are Joshua's words to shed light on a conception of singlehood we would do well to emulate within our community.
~1. THE RIGHT THING AT THE WRONG TIME IS THE WRONG THING
In today's world we don't readily accept the concept of delayed gratification. Our culture teaches us that if something is good, we should seek to enjoy it immediately. So we microwave our food, e-mail our letters, and express mail our packages. We do our best to escape the confines of time by accelerating our schedules, speeding up our pace, and doing whatever it takes to beat the clock. You probably know exactly what I mean. How did you respond the last time you had to wait in line for something? Did you patiently wait your turn, or did you tap your toe and try to rush the experience?
Our "do it all now" mentality has tremendously affected the timing of today's dating relationships. We see this in headlines about kids having sex at an increasingly young age. As young people rush prematurely into these activities that God has reserved for marriage, most of their elders do little to correct them. After all, what can adults say when they live by the same attitude?
Why do we insist on living this way? In my opinion, part of the reason we've adopted the immediate gratificatiion mentality is because we've lost sight of the biblical principle of seasons (see Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). Just as spring's role is different from that of fall, so each of the seasons of our lives has a different emphasis, focus, and beauty. One is not better than another; each season yields its own unique treasures. We cannot skip ahead to experience the riches of another life season any more than a farmer can rush the spring. Each season builds on the one before it.
God has many wonderful experiences He wants to give to us, but He also assigns these experiences to particular seasons of our lives. We often make the mistake, however, of taking a good thing out of its appropriate season to enjoy it when we
want it. Premarital sex is a prime example of this. sex in itself is a wonderful experience (from what my married friends tell me), but if we indulge in it outside of God's plan, we sin (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). Like a fruit picked green or a flower picked before it blossoms, our attempts to rush God's timing can spoil the beauty of His plan for our lives.
Just because something is good doesn't mean we should pursue it right now. We have to remember that the right thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing.3. ANY SEASON OF SINGLENESS IS A GIFT FROM GOD
Most of us won't remain single for our entire lives, and I think that we should view our singleness as a special season of our lives, a gift from God. God gives an outline for the proper attitude towards singleness in 1 Corinthians 7:32. The Message
I want you to live as free of complications as possible. When you're unmarried, you're free to concentrate on simply pleasing the Master. Marriage involves you in all the nuts and bolts of domestic life and in wanting to please your spouse, leading to so many more demands on your attention. The time and energy that married people spend on caring for and nurturing each other, the unmarried can spend on becoming...holy instruments of God.
Paul doesn't say this to put marriage down. He says it to encourage us to view singleness as a gift. God doesn't use our singleness to punish us. He has created this season as an unparalleled opportunity for undistracted devotion to God. And as a time for growth and service that we shouldn't take for granted or allow to slip by.
One person rightly stated, "Don't do something about your singlehood- do something with
it!" Stop for just a minute and evaluate whether you're using God's gift of singleness as He desires. Ask yourself these questions:
- Am I concentrating on "simply pleasing the Master?"
- Am I using this season of my life to become a "holy" instrument for God?
- Or am I scrambling to find a romantic relationship with someone by dating?
- Am I failing to believe that God is sovereign over this part of my life and can provide for me?
- Could I possibly be throwing away the gift of singleness?
- Am I cluttering my life with needless complications and worries of dating?
While we're single, dating not only keeps us from preparing for marriage, but can also quite possibly rob us of the gift of singleness. Dating can tie us down in a series of pseudo relationships, but God wants us to maximize our freedom and flexibility to serve Him. Any season of singleness, whether you're sixteen or fifty-six, is a gift. You just might do God a disservice by wasting its potential on a lifestyle of short-term dating.
I wish I would have read Joshua's words before I met Heshy. I think my approach to my gift of singlehood would have been entirely different. If I had stopped to consider my single status as a gift from God that would enable me to work on myself, my responsibilities and minister in a way that I would not be able to do once married, I would have been much more fulfilled and happy. Instead, I wasted a lot of time pining and being sad and worried that no one would ever marry me.
Let's create an ethic of seeing singlehood as a gift from God, with every stage of life, including marriage, occurring in its proper season. A time for all things, as King Solomon says, including a time to be single.