by Dani Treweek
I suspect that no little girl dreams of growing up to become an expert on singleness . . . but here I am, on track to earning a doctorate degree in it! My last four years, spent writing a PhD on a theology of singleness for the contemporary church, have been “interesting” to say the least. There’ve been laughs, including a Facebook competition for the best (i.e. most terrible) combination of cover image and title for a Christian book on the topic. There’ve been tears, as I’ve listened to unmarried Christians share their disappointments, their anxieties, their sense of isolation. There’s been frustration, including that one time I literally threw a book across the room. (I know. But at least it wasn’t borrowed from the library). But there have also been some surprises, including the fact, given I’m writing about singleness, I’ve spent far more time thinking about marriage than I had ever anticipated.
And that is why I recently found myself reading another Christian article that focused on the joys of marriage. In it, one contributor described her time away visiting extended family as an opportunity for profound reflection on just how much she valued and missed her own home. She explained that, having finally returned from her trip, she looked at her husband and told him, “You are my home”.
As a single woman, I admit that my own personal response to reading that comment was mixed. I found myself alternating between sadness, acceptance, frustration, resignation and probably a range of other emotions I wasn’t self-aware enough to identify in the moment. However, I suspect my ambiguous reaction wasn’t all that unusual.
You see, the concept of home can be a difficult and even conflicting one for the single Christian. For us, home can be a real thing, but also not much more than an amorphous concept. It can be a place of authentic contentment and refuge, but also the location of heartbreaking loneliness and sorrow. It can be the context in which we excitedly explore our own sense of self-formation, but also a reminder that we are largely undertaking this task solo. It can be a place of enormous relational hospitality, but also a potential prison of isolation. It can be a place that allows us to establish our own material sufficiency, or just a constant reminder that nobody has ever thought to gift us with a Kitchen-Aid.
It can also be a symbol of our unique position to embrace flexibility and change, or a reminder that we are forever struggling to establish some roots. It can mean we aren’t constrained to a massive financial commitment for the rest of our lives, or it can be a persistent reminder that living on a single income often means the insecurity of living in a home that belongs to someone else. And it can be all these things in the one and very same moment.
But here is the thing. The fact that “home” is so often the location of such inner turmoil for single Christians can actually be a great blessing. In fact, in it is precisely one sense in which we unmarried Christians are called to faithfully exhort, encourage and even (lovingly) rebuke our married brothers and sisters in Christ.
The fact that we single Christians have such a difficult relationship with the notion of “home” ought to urge all of us to remember that we don’t believe that any building of walls and a roof is our real home; that we don’t look upon any earthly city as the place that we truly call home; that we don’t find ourselves genuinely at home in any person, other than Jesus Christ.
Revelation 21:1-3 addresses this:
‘Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’
Married sisters in Christ, never married sisters in Christ, divorced sisters in Christ, widowed sisters in Christ, we, together with our brothers, have a single true home. That home is in heaven. It is the eternal home in which God will dwell among us. It is the home whose doors have been flung open by Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. It is the home whose threshold we will cross as the resurrected new people we are in him. It is the eternal home which we as a family—a church family, the bride of Christ—already call our own because of God’s indwelling Spirit.
Yes, the concept of “home” can be a difficult one for those of us who are single. But sisters, let’s embrace our ambiguous relationship with this notion of our earthly home because it reminds us that this earth is not actually our home. Let’s ask God to take and use what can often be a painful longing for “home” so that he might wonderfully teach us all that our true home is not found in a husband, but in the husband—in our Lord, Saviour and Bridegroom, Jesus.
Dani Treweek is an Anglican minister, PhD researcher, 2019 Senior Research Fellow at Anglican Deaconess Ministries and chair of the Single Minded Conference Ministry (www.singlemindedconference.com). When she’s not doing any (or all!) of these things you’ll find her watching Survivor, listening to Les Miserables or revelling in being an aunt to Matthew, Benjamin (who is already safe at home with Jesus) and the niece she can’t wait to meet in March 2020.