Monday, November 2, 2009

Singleness: A Hope Deferred

To all single women who seek to please God, even when living with a hope deferred: Carolyn McCulley has some words of wisdom for you.  You may have heard her recently as she was interviewed alongside Candice Watters (think Boundless) for Focus on the Family's 3-part series on singleness. 

Recently, I also had the opportunity to interview Carolyn on the subject of singleness.  Does contentment mean apathy?  How can single women still invest in the lives of children and families?  What about hospitality?  I think you'll be encouraged by what Carolyn has to share. 

Jenn Joshua:  I’ve read plenty of books geared towards single women, but the title of yours really jumped out at me.  How is your book different from other books written for single women today?  Do we really need another book on singleness?

Carolyn McCulley:  Do we really need another book on singleness? Well, as an author, I find great comfort in the promise in Ecclesiastes that of the making of books, there is no end (Ecc. 12:12). Job security! Seriously, because of the publishing industry’s short shelf life for keeping most books in print, there is always a need for new voices reflecting timeless truths.

As for how my book is different, I think most books are aimed at helping single women leave our state. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get married obviously, but that perspective only breeds discontent. What I wanted to do was address the good in being single—what in the world God could do in and through it—and also to challenge the conception that being single is less than fully feminine. So often in our culture we put the emphasis on an adjective—single women—rather that on the noun, woman, which is where I think the Bible puts its emphasis.

Jenn:  Does finding contentment in our singleness mean we’ve relinquished our dream of marriage?

  No, not at all. Finding contentment is a godly quality that we are called to cultivate throughout our lives as believers. The earlier you learn that quality of being a weaned soul before the Lord (Ps. 131), the more fruitful your life will be. To learn contentment now will serve a woman throughout her life, when certainly the issues of trusting God for her husband and children only increase the temptations for discontent and worry!

Jenn:  How is it possible to balance our trust in God with our desire to take responsibility in the area of our relationships?

There’s nothing passive about being a Christian, nor is there about biblical femininity. Trust is a proactive quality. It means you are working on your heart issues, your thought life, your innate selfishness. To overcome those things, you have to take action. Your responsibility as a godly woman is to encourage godliness in others, no matter what kind of relationship you have with them. So sow words of encouragement and faith in all your relationships and you will see a profound effect. Sow actions of service and loving charity in all your relationships and again, you will see a profound effect. And when the Lord brings your husband to you, you will be in the habit of proactively building up others and you will be an tremendous helpmate to him!

Jenn:  What are some practical ways for women to turn their single years into productive years?

  Look at what is required of a woman of noble character in Proverbs 31 and study the areas in which you lack. That’s the focus of my book. Learn to bless those in your private sphere (the home, essentially). Learn the skills necessary in running a home and caring for a family (they are myriad and complicated—it’s not just dusting and cooking—think insurance claims, medical care, mortgages, etc.).

Become financially savvy—how to save, invest, buy property, trade profitably. And be serious about investing your single years in the lives of others. You may long for a date yourself, but if you think long and hard about Satan’s assault on families today, you will realize that it is very important to do what you can to shore up the families in your local church. As families go, so goes the church. So volunteer to care for other people’s children so that these couples can have some time together to build their marriages. In doing so, you are being strategic about the spiritual battles that are taking place all around you. Your spiritual adversary wants to see marriages ruined, families broken, the church maligned, and people hurt. Do what you can to stand in the gap as a wise woman of God.

Jenn:  Being single yourself, have you ever found it difficult to practice hospitality?  How about childcare?  Are there any practical solutions?

  Yes, of course. There are always time and money constraints. But if you study the hospitality commands in Scripture, you’ll see that there is a missional focus to hospitality. We can be sidetracked by the HGTV/Martha Stewart marketing machine and forget that it’s not about us, our possessions, or our decorating style. It is about making someone else feel prized and cared for, whether you are having them over for coffee or a weeklong visit. The goal is to build them up for ministry purposes or to share the gospel. Fellowship is the motivating reason. And that includes how you approach childcare – it’s an investment in the next generation, not a chore.

As for practical tips, I think one useful idea is to trade off with someone else. I once had a housemate who was into hospitality. So we would be each other’s kitchen help for various events—or we’d throw parties together. I’ve also held joint dinner parties with other friends, where we shared the guest list and food duties. And don’t forget: being hospitable is a great way to “audition” for single men. HA HA HA! Okay, that’s a joke. But there’s still some truth in it!

Jenn:  If you could give single women just one word of advice, (okay, not literally!) what would that advice be?

One word: Pray. Seriously. I’ve seen the Lord move in many merciful ways as single women have prayed. I have been a part of several prayer groups where single women prayed that the single men in their churches would find wives (hopefully among the women already there!), that God would bring new single men to the church, and for God to bring their husbands. One time, I did a count and I would say that on average, about 70 percent of each group eventually ended up married. And that is women of all ages, sizes, and ethnic backgrounds! And for the rest of us who are still single, we have had a small part to play in seeing the Lord’s will unfold and that’s a joy, too!

Jenn:  Now for fun: if you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring four items with you, what items would they be?

Uh, oh. Now here comes the truth! I’d like to be all impressive and stuff, but to be honest, it would be: 1) my iPhone, loaded up with games, movies, and music; 2) 70 SPF sunscreen; 3) a great DSLR camera; and 4) the ESV Study Bible. I might trade one of those out for a water purification kit if I were sensible. Of course, my iPhone would be useless within 24 hours if there’s no connection and no electricity. But that goes to show you how much of an addict I am!

Carolyn McCulley is the author of two books,
Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World, and Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred. Carolyn is also a contributor to Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor, and to Focus on the Family's Boundless webzine. She is a frequent conference speaker for women's ministry events and also maintains a blog, Radical Womanhood.


Rick said...

Hey, this is good stuff! Thanks for the interview. I bought her book for my sister for Christmas last year.

Anonymous said...

"Favor is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who feareth the Lord she shall be praised!"

Katherine said...

Thanks, Carolyn, for your words of advice about hospitality. Much needed!

The said...

Jen and Carolyn: this was a blessing!

Rhea said...

Awesome!! I forwarded this so my singles group.

Randy said...

My wife Martha enjoyed this greatly as I printed it out and carried it to her at the hospital as she recovers from her appendectomy. She has felt a burden for the single young women as our daughter Kat is yet to be married. She plans to give Kat this link. God bless!

Alex Dwyer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kurt said...

Can I repost this on my Facebook?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, can we get permission to repost the link?

Sherri said...

Most of this is BS. You don't need a man to be successful in life; trust me. They're more trouble than they're worth.

Kami said...

Thanks for this post. The broadcast with Candice Watters was sooooo good too! Do you have any idea how much Caroline's book costs? (The one about kissing marriage goodbye?) I want to see if maybe my girl's study group could go through it next semester I've been looking for a new book to study. Thanks for any info!

Justin Scott said...

This is sound advice for a single fellow too. Thanks, Jenn. :)

Jenn Joshua said...

Hi Kami! Thanks for asking. Here is the link to Carolyn's book page: You'll find a review of "Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye?" as well as a review of her book, "Radical Womanhood".

As far as purchasing the book, Carolyn's site links to (ignore the out-of-stock warning - it's still for sale - both new and used - follow the direct links):


Jenn Joshua said...

To everyone else who asked about reposting this interview: that would be great! As long as you link back to this site, there shouldn't be a problem. Thanks for asking!

Chris said...

My wife, Joanna owns this book (from before she met me, lol). I know it helped her a lot; she's shared it with other young women from our church.

Anonymous said...

When do we get one for single guys? lol

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