by Joelle Kabamba
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space.
I had just moved to Melbourne from Brisbane, Australia. Migrating from one city to another brings a convoluted set of questions, and as I lay on my bed, thinking about the new life I was starting, one question struck me hard: What if I never give birth?
It was the first time I had considered the possibility of childlessness. Fear gripped me. What if I never had a little precious mini-me to nurture, love and hold? Waves of sadness washed over me. I might never be called "maman". I had to accept that this could be a reality, but I didn’t want it to consume me. I talked to God about it. New emotions surfaced and even though I had fears, God’s sense of peace was significant. I found myself saying: ‘You hold my life, so whatever you have for me will be great!’
God showed himself to be true. During my 20’s and well into my 30’s I was comfortable being single: I prioritised serving the Lord in Youth Ministry. Meanwhile, my girlfriends seemed preoccupied with finding "Mr Right”. At times they were confused as to why I invested my time into the lives of troubled teenagers, rather than joining their quest to conquer singlehood.
I knew many Christian women who despised their singleness and felt incomplete, ostracised by their newly-married friend.. I realized we were stuck with a stale view of a woman's role, as if our sole purpose in life was to marry. As women, this focus on marital status has pulled us away from our true divine purpose and calling.
My purpose is to belong 100% to Jesus: that’s my calling, whether there’s a ring on my finger or not. No matter what others expect of me, I am called to advance courageously ahead as a single, Christian, female serving the Lord unashamedly and wholeheartedly. 1 Corinthians 7:7-8 showed me a fresh narrative for singleness, as it honours both marriage and singleness. Singleness is not for everyone, but there is a freedom in it, if I rest in the Lord. Paul did more than model contentment with singleness, he saw withholding the pursuit of marriage as something that could be good; a gift to be embraced and not abhorred.
We will all at some point in our lives experience being alone—note that I did not use the word lonely. Being single; that is being alone, is an inevitable human experience. When we look at it this way it can change our perspective: we all need to learn to make the most of our alone-time.
Singleness has become a cherished gift, allowing me to be more selective in the way I invest my time. I’ve been able to travel the back streets of Africa and Asia, imparting hope to those who felt forgotten and wounded. I learnt to look past their scars, noticing their resilience and courage, telling them they were ‘highly favoured by God’. I walked the corridors of hospitals filled with women and young girls torn from gang rape; the primary weapon of warfare in the DRC, my birth country. I’ve gifted camouflage bibles to minister the power and love of God to soldiers dying of AIDS. At youth conferences, I shared about the value of singleness and abstinence, and upholding dignity in our bodies; the very first time many had heard such a message.
As a single woman, I have been able to fulfill my calling in a way I could not have had I married.
And, it feels more important than ever to share this message with more and more of the church remaining unmarried. I need to hear—we, the church, need to hear— messages on how to thrive as single people in our community. Messages that affirm us, include us, and value our contribution to the Kingdom.
Two female bible characters have been my forever examples of how to live a full life even though they were on the ‘outside looking in’ of a culture where the women around them all were busy with the tasks of marriage and motherhood:
• Elizabeth lived decades without a child in a culture that looked down on barren women, yet she was relentless in her pursuit for God (Luke 1: 5-25).
• Anna, a widower who daily worshipped, awaiting the promise of the arrival of our Saviour (Luke 2:36-38).
They both have helped me celebrate the joys, challenges, and at times perplexity of journeying with Jesus as I become more accustomed to my own company. I have cultivated years of building a foundation in my relationship with God like these two biblical matriarchs and mentored by a mother who taught me to seek God in the early hours. These rooted my identity, self-image and desire for love in God and not social expectations and its labels.
Singleness truly can be an unexpected gift that offers us the grace to thrive. My prayer is that singles of every generation and walks of life will ready themselves to shift their narrative, and believe that their story is not finished or paused, but that God is ready right now to write a new chapter with each of us. He is not yet finished with us.
Joëlle Marie-André Kabamba is an author and Pastor, a passionate social justice advocate, humanitarian working within the Asylum Seeker space, and on staff at her local Church in Melbourne Australia. A deep desire to support singles birthed her latest book, The Unexpected Gift. Joëlle currently runs the Melbourne based ministry Thesp_cebtwn, for singles to engage and flourish. Connect on Instagram at @joelletheauthor.