When I told someone that I was reading a book Singles at the Crossroads, he asked, ‘So are you at the crossroads?’ For a moment, I didn’t know what to answer but just blurted, ‘yes; aren’t we at the crossroads of decisions every day?’ But on deeper reflection, I suppose the answer is still ‘yes’, but the reasons are deeper. I’m turning 30 this year, haven’t been in a relationship and I don’t know whether I would get married. I would like to, but that’s material for another story altogether.
I picked up this book because of two reasons. One, it records an interview the author Albert Hsu had with eminent Christian leader and author John Stott, single by choice, for the sake of God’s service. (On a lighter note, when I told a sister-in-Christ that John Stott is single, she jumped at the prospect of marrying him. I had to remind her that Stott’s 90, I repeat, NINETY this year.) Also, Hsu promised to debunk the myth of gift of singleness (not sure if he really succeeded at that though). Nevertheless, it’s an informative and provoking read as Hsu delved into a brief history of singleness, dissected the myth of the gift of singleness and dwelled on singles’ struggle with the issue of God’s will regarding this matter. I’ve yet to come to the chapters on transforming loneliness to solitude, and from aloneness to community, but I hope that they contain the God-centred and people-centred exhortations on which I think the chapters are built.
Since the first thing that caught my eye was the interview with John Stott, I started with this text in the appendix. I like how Stott briefly expounded on Matthew 19:11-12 regarding marriage and divorce to explain three reasons for singleness:
Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For
(1) some are eunuchs because they were born that way (includes those with physical defects, homosexual orientation, and congenitally unlikely to marry);
(2) others were made that way by men (under compulsion of internal or external circumstance, e.g. under obligation to care for elderly parents); and
(3) others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven (voluntarily putting marriage aside, either temporarily or permanently, to undertake work for the kingdom which requires single-minded devotion).
The one who can accept this should accept it.”
Stott shared how he came to conclude that singleness was God’s calling to him even though he desired and anticipated that he would be married when he was a young man. And he was candid in talking about the struggle with loneliness and how relationships within the community and friendships helped him to cope, the liberties of singleness and the dangers such as sexual temptation and self-centeredness, and self-control in dealing with sexual temptation.
I’m not sure if Hsu made the matter more complicated or organised by categorising singles: vocational singles (e.g. catholic priests and nuns who took celibacy vows), professional singles (married to their job and no time to dating and marriage), ideological singles (for purpose of political statement or philosophy of belief), biological singles (for whatever reason, with no desire or capacity for heterosexual marriage), single-again singles, virtual singles (married but physically separated from partner), married singles (technically unmarried but in ‘domestic partnership’), and the most common transitional or temporary singles (never marry, fully expecting to marry someday). But seriously, do we really care about the ‘singular identity’ to which we belong? I thought it’s just volitional (I choose singleness) or non-volitional (I didn’t choose this). Unfortunately, no matter how strong the will is, providence has its own ways.