I think that there’s value in practical tips once in awhile. These are as practical as they come. Most of these don’t just apply to single people, but may have a special place or application for single people, so I’m listing them here. If you’re wondering how to relate to the single friends in your life, this is a good starting place.
I write this knowing that some people would interpret this as a woe-is-me or selfishness. That is not my heart. Rather, it’s just filled with things that I don’t think that I would know had I not been single for the last ten years (and really almost my entire life). It’s filled with ways to love others better in their own trenches. And it would behoove us singles to learn how to love our married friends and parenting friends better, too.
10) “Your life matters to me. You make my life better. I am so blessed to have you as a friend.”
I don’t know about you, but the sweetest moments in my life are when I feel like my life matters. I think we all like to feel known and appreciated, whether we’re married or single. For someone who’s single, she may feel like her life matters less, because she doesn’t matter “most” to someone. Words of affirmation are very few and far between. No one depending on you can feel like not mattering. But knowing that we matter (and how we matter) is important.
9) “Do you want to come over for tea/coffee/cookies?”
It doesn’t have to be fancy. It’s almost better that it’s not. An invitation to just stop by for an hour for something that costs nothing (we’ll bring tea!) makes us feel a part of just-normal-nothing-fancy life.
8) “What gifts are you stepping into right now? How can I help you pursue your gifts?”
Sometimes I think a buzzer goes off in the mind of people when they find out that you’re single that says “Jackpot! Schedule her.” I’ve been burned hardcore by the single-so-serve mentality. It left me spent without much joy, because I was serving in every area (work, academia, church, volunteer organizations) and indiscriminately.
I know that I have a gift with children, but I also believe that I’m being obedient to God by not serving in Kids Church right now. I don’t believe that’s the gift that he’s calling me to throw myself into right now. I believe that day will come. Having friends to voice my dreams and gifts with has been such a gift that I’ve gained this year. As singles, we don’t always have that space to voice and go deep. As marrieds, you might not have the time or ear either, so why don’t we all just be the gift to each other? And if you do have that in marriage, why not share that?
Also, it takes me literally 5 hours some nights to write a couple of pages in a story or literally 3 lines in a spoken word. It’s exhausting, but I believe in the stories that God is giving me to tell as a catalyst to serve others (trust me. it’s NOT how I would spend my time if I didn’t feel it was an act of obedience).
7) “What has God taught you through your experience with being single [or married, or infertile or any other challenge]?”
I fully acknowledge God’s wisdom in giving me a prolonged period of singleness. I truly believe it has been a hard but good blessing. God teaches some women how to surrender and find their voice and His presence through marriage. I don’t think I could have learned that as well in marriage as in singleness. It would be nice to share and find the similarities in our stories. I might understand what you’re going through less than someone else, but that doesn’t mean I can’t pray you through it. *Note: This is only for good friends or friends who you’ve talked about other spiritual issues with. It should never, ever be one of the first questions out of your mouth to a new person.
6) “If you get sick and need something, I hope you know that you can call me.”
This weighs on the mind of your single friends when they’re sick. My mom broke her arm and can’t drive. My dad was away. I have been wretching-hit-by-a-truck sick twice in the past two months. There was no husband to go get Gatorade on the third day of vomiting. It was such a blessing to have a (married) friend that I felt that I wouldn’t greatly inconvenience because we both serve each other. And when you’re sick…we’ll gladly watch the kids.
5) I’ll have to figure it out, but I’ll be there
Marriage is a ministry. It is your first priority. It should be. I recognize that and I recognize that 90% of the time, I’m going to be the flexible one fitting into your schedule. I appreciate the time, and will happily do that. The problem becomes when there is no “10% of the time”…where, because your husband is home Monday through Saturday, you are only available from 6:31-6:48am on Sunday when he’s at the gym. If a friend truly is still your “best friend”, please find a way to leave your husband at home and go out to celebrate that new degree or attend that once-a-year party. I promise he won’t die without your presence for a few hours. And your spending time with us when it might not be convenient confers value on our life that most people don’t confer on it.
4) Congratulations on _______________
We celebrate so many relationship-centered accomplishments as women in culture. I do believe marriage and babies are big milestones, and worthy of every bit of attention. I’d like to see a shift in us celebrating other accomplishments, too. Call that friend who just defended her PhD dissertation. Send flowers to the friend who graduated with her MFA in writing or passed the Bar. Write a note to the friend who is going to rock at her new job. Leave dessert at the house of the friend who has cared for her ill relative for so long saying you’ve noticed and her example is a ministry. It can feel lonely to not have a built-in person to feel comfortable calling to share joy with. At times, that has been the saddest.
*You get bonus points if you’ve observed your friend well enough to know and celebrate in her love language.
3) I want you to know that you’re invited. It may be all couples, but we’d love for you to join if you want to
Please don’t assume that we’ll not want to come just because it’s all couples or families. In fact, more often than not, we’d love to. We appreciate the heads-up though.
2) How can I pray for you?
One of the greatest graces in my life is having gained so many friends this year that do this. Prior to that, I had no one I went to for prayer. But y’all, I can call Grace when I don’t even know how to pray, and she stands in the gap. And I’ve stood in the gap for her, too. It’s a regular thing. It’s one of God’s greatest gifts. Just this weekend, we both received a word through each others’ prayers. Praying out loud with a friend is powerful. And it’s a gift to feel covering. Again, it is something that a Christian single woman may experience less than a woman in a Christian marriage.
1) How is [that thing you’re doing] going?
It’s a holy service to carry and encourage each other in our stories. Maybe for you, that’s baby vomit, developmental milestones, staying at home, marriage, a volunteer position, schooling the kids, ministry, family vacation. They may not be my top interests, but encouraging you and knowing you is, so I listen. Ours may be work (which is so under-addressed in women’s devotionals). Planning that trip abroad. Volunteering. Ministry team. Again, may not be your favorite topics, but helping us feel known and understood and supported is such a blessing.
And for those in the church
-Please know that for some of us (especially true of me before I totally surrendered), Sunday can be the most painful day of the week
-Please know that we are “not stuck in some extended adolescence.” I am not 19. I am not 20. I am not 21. I am 28…an age when many of my friends are married with children. Society calls them women. When I worship, I don’t feel like a child. I don’t feel like a young adult. I feel like a woman and a daughter of God. As Ann Voskamp wrote, “Real womanhood isn’t a function of being a great mother, but of being loved by a great father.” Just exchange “great mother” for “wife”
-As my 29-year-old bestie wrote, “Please don’t tell me that when I’m ready or reach the right place in my walk with the Lord THE MAN will come. That alone can make a girl feel inferior, unworthy, or that the man is some prize to be had when she reaches a certain spiritual level. Single ladies; a man is not a prize, He will be an added blessing to what you already have with Jesus.”
-Please know that it is hard to meet people in the church. Parents often have the opportunity to bond with other women through the parents of other kids. Couples gravitate towards other couples. Singles feel invisible. We don’t have anyone to talk to in the lobby. With no one to talk to, we slip in and slip out. It literally took me five months to meet another person at my church as small groups weren’t in session and it’s quite large.
-It would be nice if church leadership intentionally sought out the voices of mature single men and women. This isn’t so much an issue at the church I currently attend, but I have attended churches before that were family-friendly and not at all single-friendly. Single voices would have some wise words that could speak to half of the population.
-Please know that we are tempted in this area of our lives. We are tempted to settle for that kind, non-Christian man at work who is trying to win us over daily. We are tempted by words and lies of the enemy about us. We are tempted to compromise sexually by men and by our own desires. This is an area that the devil can easily inflict damage. I have seen him do it to many friends. I have battled the desire to settle for someone that’s not God’s best for me myself. I know the right answers, but living them can still be a struggle. If I ever am older and in a situation of mentoring a single woman, that’s something I’d want to normalize and bring up.
And anything that Lindsey Nobles writes http://www.lindseynobles.com/2015/11/church-and-the-single-girl/
Another great perspective that someone shared with me recently http://www.rymonline.org/resources/posts/singled-out-for-good-1