I have to be honest; I cringe a little every time I hear those who are without a romantic counterpart referred to as “A Single.” Talk about putting a label on someone. I don’t want to be referred to as “A Married,” so I can imagine the desire not to be pigeon holed goes both ways. I’m more than just “A Married;” I’m a whole person made as an individual by the Creator of the universe. I am married, that is a fact, but it doesn’t define who I am.
When Amanda wrote the last piece about singleness I really thought she had already posted something along those lines, but we've just had that conversation so many times I have it memorized. And I couldn’t agree with her more: Our highest calling as women has everything to do with loving the Lord with all our hearts, souls and minds (Mt 22:37; Mk 12:30: Deut 6:5). The key is that it is going to look different depending on the roles God has placed us in. I will argue though the results will not be all that different: Christlikeness.
However, I can’t help but acknowledge the change marriage and kids have brought upon my heart and life. While marriage has opened my eyes, having children has opened my heart . . . and cut off my legs. Figuratively speaking, of course. In fact, a dear friend years ago told me I needed to go home and have a baby and I’d be “a better counselor for it.” While it’s incredibly inappropriate to say that to someone 99.9% of the time and certainly not necessary to be a competent counselor, she was absolutely right . . . in my case.
Then I look at my dear friends who are not married or do not have children. They encourage me. They love me well. They seek guidance and speak truth. They serve others and set an example for me to follow. They struggle with issues that are different than mine and I am often astonished by God’s grace through change in their hearts.
I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit that sometimes it’s hard for me to understand life differences. I know what marriage and being a parent has done for my sanctification because I have experienced it to my core. I know what it looks like to fight for purity, strength, grace, mercy and change in a hard marriage. I know what it feels like to struggle, ask forgiveness, be prideful and angry as a failing parent. All of these experiences have changed me to look just a tiny bit more like Christ and it is hard to imagine that same change being possible by any other means.
Why is that?
Because this is what God in his sovereignty has determined for me. This is how he has chosen for me to be broken, rebuilt and glorified for his sake. This is the path he has given me and ordained for me to walk. To think of it looking or feeling different than having my husband and children on this road with me is foreign. So, of course, it is hard to see and understand how God could possible move the same mountains (because there is no sin uncommon to man, 1 Cor 10:13) in someone else’s life without a spouse and children.
However, when I fall into the lie that I have more depth or knowledge because of my marital or parenting status (or any other role/characteristic for that matter), I am making God a fool. By telling women, either overtly or not, that to understand sacrifice and grace one must be married with children or must have a job or must be artistic or must endure the same things as me, I am telling them that God doesn’t know better and that He doesn’t love his children. I am saying that He is not creative or beautiful enough to sanctify his children in different ways and by different means. In fact, I am saying I know more.
When pastors or blogs or people in the church tell Christians, whether overtly or inadvertently, that being married and having children is the most important thing they will ever do, they are making God small and calling him a liar. What scares me the most is that this is often an inner dialogue in my own heart. It’s my private thoughts that tend to go there more than anything else. It’s not that I am consciously portraying God incorrectly to others necessarily (which is horrifying enough), but what is scarier is that more often than not its an unconscious, default way of thinking inside myself! However, I certainly would never look at my friends who don't have kids and tell them they don't understand what it's like to be tired or sit with them as they mourn over loss but belittle it. But even in light of these examples, I may still be tempted to think their sanctification is less because they are not married when the truth is, it's just different. Meanwhile, I recently had a friend (who is not married or have children) be under such hard circumstances in her life that she was loosing her hair. Can you imagine me telling her she doesn't know hardship?
So, as I sit here trying to type completely still and without noise as to not wake the newborn who seems to not sleep anywhere except-for-on-top-of-me for the three weeks she has been out of the womb, let me just confess that I need to stop selling God short. Yes, with different experiences comes wisdom and knowledge, but it is blatant sin to think He may not be sanctifying others in the way I deem necessary. This doesn’t just include those who are not married or those who don’t have children. These plights are long, hard roads. Not being able to bear children, enduring death, encountering real tragedies, being a single parent, living in loneliness . . . these are hardships that break people down and create space for a loving God to be Comforter, Healer and Redeemer.
Do you think a role God has given you makes you holier than others?
Do you take God's sovereignty and hang it over others as if they're missing out and by doing so demeaning God's character?
Do you worship your status more than you worship the Creator?
Do you value your God-given responsibilities more than God himself?
Let’s join together and repent of our arrogance. Let’s take heed towards the wisdom that God is giving each Christian as we all struggle on different, God-given paths for the same results: Christlikeness and eternity.
Rebekah Hannah is a biblical counselor at The Grace Center for Biblical Counseling in Jacksonville, Florida. She is married to Andrew and has three daughters.
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