The whole family is gathered together. Twinkling lights reflect in children’s eyes as they gather around and Grandpa reads the Christmas story. There is hot apple cider to sip and fresh cookies to munch. Then the fun begins – it’s gift time! The gifts are distributed, and soon it is your turn. You open a soft, lumpy package from your Great Aunt Martha. It’s a… sweater! Yes, a sweater in a color that you despise, in that odd 90’s style that is definitely not modern, but not yet vintage, and hence, a style you would not be caught dead in. Worst of all, there are rabbits embroidered around the bottom edge. Too kitschy, too outdated, too childish, too UGLY. Now what happens?
Have you ever received a gift that you didn’t want? In that moment, there is an odd panic of wanting to properly convey your thanks to that person without hurting their feelings or raising their expectations that you will adore their gift for the rest of your life. After all, Great Aunt Martha isn’t going to be around forever, and even if she has odd taste, she does love you dearly and she has good intentions. Thanking someone for a gift you didn’t want is a fine balance of tact in describing the gift, sincere gratefulness for the person and the fact they gave you a gift, and hope that she will reveal where she got such an item so you can exchange it.
Did you know that God calls singleness a gift? Yet, I fear that it is a gift that most people don’t even want! That day has probably already come where you read the verses telling you this time of singleness is a gift, and you found yourself in panic mode – trying to properly thank God for giving you this gift while figuring out how you can trade it in for another model.
1 Corinthians 7 contrasts how it is better for some people not to marry at all if they can serve God better in that way. Paul himself was not a married man, and evidently felt that too many people were rushing into marriage too quickly. He wanted to present another option to them. There are pros and cons on both sides of marriage. There are certain temptations and pitfalls for the single, and there are certain temptations and pitfalls for the married. There are certain blessings for the single, and certain blessings for the married. Verse 7 tells us, “But every man hath his proper gift of God.” Your current marital status today is a gift from God. It may not be a gift you will keep your entire life, but you first have to acknowledge that it is a gift and it is the one He has given you for today.
Verse 40 says, “But she (the unmarried woman) is happier if she so abide.” Interestingly, the word ‘happier’ here is the same Greek word that is used in the Beatitudes when talking about those who are ‘blessed.’ So like it or not, being single, whether that is for five years or fifty years, is a special blessing and gift from God. It is not less important than marriage, it is not a punishment, but it is a special gift from God just for you.
Great Aunt Martha looks at you through half-squinted eyes. “What do you think, dear? I’d love to see you try it on!” Quick, what do you do next? Well, I think in Aunt Martha’s case, it wouldn’t hurt you to humor her, try on the sweater, thank her so much for thinking of you and loving you by giving it to you, then quietly putting it in a bottom drawer when you get home.
You’ve read the verses; you’ve seen that your singleness is a gift. What do you do next?
1. Be Honest
God is not like your Great Aunt Martha. I gave the illustration between the two because that is often how people treat their gift of singleness, like it is just an ugly sweater from an old aunt. The truth is that there are many great differences between them.
–God knows everything. God not only knows everything about you right now, He knows what your future will be. He knows everything you are thinking and feeling. He knows everything you need and want and how to tell the difference between the two.
–God has your best interest in mind. Since God knows more about you than you even know about yourself, He knows exactly what kind of person you should marry and exactly when the right time is for that. He knows the end goal, and He knows all the steps to get you from here to there. The gift He has given you today is perfectly fit for you.
–God does not play mind games. God is not trying to trick you. He is not trying to punish you. He is not trying to get you to do just the right thing so you can get married.
With these truths in mind, you can see that you should just be honest with God. Notice I did not say that you should have a cry-fest with your best girl friends. Notice I did not say that you should walk around frowning and moping, just waiting for someone to ask you what is wrong. Notice I did not say that you should just act like nothing is wrong. Sit down and have a heart-to-heart with God. Tell Him what you are feeling – He already knows! Be honest with God that you are having a hard time accepting and appreciating this gift He has given you.
Unlike an ugly sweater from your aunt, the gift of singleness is a usable gift with an eternal purpose. God didn’t just pick it out from a sale pile at the department store and say, “It will be good enough.” No, God has hand-crafted you a special purpose just for today, and that purpose can only be fulfilled with your singleness. (And might I add, it will be the same once you are married. These principles apply to the other side as well.)
2. Be Thankful
Did you know that being thankful has more to do with being grateful to the person who gave the gift than being grateful for the gift itself? Of course you did. That’s why it is proper etiquette to write thank-you notes for the gifts you receive. It’s not so much about the gift itself, as about your relationship with that person.
There are some gifts that we would not necessarily cherish, but because of their sentimental value, we will hold on to those things for a long time. Recently, my grandmother gave me a ring that my father had given her when he was in his teens. It’s a small opal set in gold, and honestly, not one that I would ever pick out for myself. However, the fact that my grandmother wanted me to have it, the fact that my dad picked it out for her all those years ago, the fact that it was so special to two people I love – this means I will cherish that ring for the rest of my life, and hopefully one day pass it on to someone else in a future generation. Again, it’s not the gift itself that is so special, but because of its importance to those who gave it to me.
Even if you can’t say that you are grateful for being single, you should be grateful to God that He wants to work in your life. When you are truly grateful to the gift-giver for their love and sacrifice for you, a funny thing happens. You soon find yourself cherishing the gifts that they give you.
Spend some time with God today. Be honest with Him about what you are thinking and feeling – remember He already knows, so there is no point in trying to hide it! Then spend some time telling Him how grateful you are for His love, for the way He works in your life, for the fact that He has your best interest at heart. You just might be surprised at your heart change.
You may be able to pull a fast one on Great Aunt Martha and switch that sweater for something else. Chances are she won’t remember tomorrow what she gave you anyway! But receiving a gift from God is far different than unwrapping something from under the Christmas tree. Each gift from God is specially designed for you, direct from your loving Heavenly Father.