The path of singleness is one strewn with misconceptions and blessings in equal measure, but ultimately it is also about making one’s life count for God. CHORUS speaks to three singles in COR.
by Andrea Soh
Ask Shirley Sim what singleness means to her, and she will tell you that being single is not a good or bad state in itself: “It’s just another state that is okay in the sight of the Lord.” Singleness, she says, was something that she had slipped into naturally, after a relationship in university failed. After that, work commitments took up a lot of the IT manager’s time, and while there were people she went out with, nothing unfolded. “Those not of the faith, I will never consider. And those in the faith, somehow there was nothing,” says the 41-year-old. “It wasn’t like I got anxious or anything. At some point you are just at peace.”
Instead, she felt that God was honing her in a different manner: to step up to lead the music ministry in the Youth Service and then the Saturday Praise Service after a previous leader left.
Similarly, for Katherine Lim, being single was something that was “just kind of set into motion”. “There’s a point in time when I looked at it and accepted that perhaps singleness is more for me rather than getting married,” says the 55-year-old project manager.
Still, at times when it troubled her, she brought it before God. On one such occasion, she heard Him say: “What is it to you if I choose you to be such?” That, she says, settled a lot of questions for her in terms of relationships, and whether to get married or not.
Richard Lim, a parish worker with COR, observes that while his marital status has never been much of an issue for him or his parents, friends and relatives have expressed concern about his singleness from time to time. “Some think my singleness stems from my selfishness,” he says. Others, concerned that he is incomplete in life because he is single, have been suggesting potential partners even up to today. “On the whole, few seem to see my singleness as a blessing from God.” Richard sees it otherwise. “I think the words of the psalmist, ‘The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; Indeed I have a beautiful inheritance’ (Psalm 16:6), can be aptly applied to how I approach my singleness today. God has been teaching me through His Word and by His Spirit to learn to be contented in all circumstances. What is truly important is godliness.’
Indeed, there are many advantages that come with singleness. Being free to use one’s time freely is one such blessing, especially when friends are in need, says Katherine.
For Shirley, another blessing comes in the form of the freedom and ability to bless others financially, and to respond to calls like those for mission trips. And being a night owl, she is glad she isn’t married or have kids. “I don’t think I have the makings of a parent – I cannot wake up early. Then my kids will always be late for school you know!” She quips.
It’s not to say that the single life is a bed of roses. Many commonly believe that singles have a lot of free time, but fail to see that they, too, have their own commitments.
Julia Li (not her real name) recounts one occasion when she had to tell her brothers that they should shoulder their fair share of responsibility in taking care of their elderly mother who falls ill from time to time. “Just because I’m single, it doesn’t mean you have to push all the responsibility to me,” she recalls telling them.
The other challenge singles face is the lack of emotional support, especially when it comes time for big life decisions. Still, many have found support in friends, both in church and outside.
For Shirley, being the only single in her cell group did not make her feel marginalised. “It really depends on how much you allow yourself to be part of the community,” she says. For example, some parents in her cell have told her that she has a part to play in correcting their children when they misbehave too. “There is that friendship and trust that my cell people have of me.”
Asked for pointers that they might want to share on singleness with younger ones, Julia, who is in her 50s, says the last thing young singles should do is to question what is wrong with themselves, especially when they get anxious about waiting.
“Once we start to do that we’re focusing on ourselves. Take away that, and ask God what He wants of you in this season of life,” she advises. “And when God comes you don’t have a wasted life.”
She adds other practical tips: Maintain your relationships with people. Get your finances in order. Build up your assets, and buy insurance. “So whether you will stay single or you will get married, you have something in the bank,” she says.
But Katherine also cautions singles not to depend too much on their work to give them financial security and meet their needs — a lesson that God had taught her this year in leaving her job. “Sometimes we tend to forget that God meets our needs and put that behind us,” she says.
Indeed, Richard says God has told him that he should look neither to the church nor to people, but only to Him, for fulfillment. “So I can say singleness is one of many good things the good Lord has bestowed upon me up to now. Yet singleness does not define me; the Lord does and He is my great reward.”
For Shirley, a book titled “They Were Single Too” played a big role in influencing her views on singleness. In examining the lives of eight individuals — Paul, Anna, Martha, Jeremiah, Ruth, Joseph, Nehemiah, and John the Baptist — the book showed her that singles can lead very fulfilling lives and also be used by God in different ways.
Ultimately this present age is only a blip compared to eternity, she notes. She adds: “Importantly, while I’m here, how do I make that count for Christ?”
Andrea worships at SWS and enjoys travelling — both physically and through books.
This article first appeared in Issue 17, November 2017 CHORUS Magazine.