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Volume 14, Issue 1: Femina

Unmarried Daughters

Nancy Wilson

Years ago my husband and I were attending a church dinner where part of the program included asking all the "singles" in the church to stand. At that time there were only three, my oldest daughter and two young men. When my daughter's turn came to be introduced, my husband said, "She's not single. She's a daughter!"

Our individualistic culture wants to label the unmarried as singles, but in the covenant community of God, there are no singles. God calls us family, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, in Christ. We are each to be wonderfully connected to the other as part of a church community, where each person is needed, appreciated, and attached to others in her own family as well as to the broader church family.
In a healthy covenant community there will, of course, be many married couples with children of various ages; but there will also be widows, couples who do not have children, old people, college students, and unmarried men and women. This is as it should be. We are to minister to one another in various ways, and if we were all the same, life would be static, boring, and unproductive. Fruit is never uniform; it is scattered about, some branches more heavily laden than others. Fruit can be messy, but it is delightful. The church community is much the same. The unmarried woman is just as much a part of the covenant community as the mother with ten children. And she can be just as fruitful as the mother with the large family, even if her fruit doesn't look the same. In the providence of God, each of us has a unique place among the saints.
Still, even if we adopt a new terminology and do not call the unmarried woman a single, we have to stop treating her as a single. This requires wisdom for all the church, because the woman in this category has a difficult time today finding her place in the world as well as in the church community. She can feel a very real pressure and expectation to get married. Many of the saints make well-meaning, but thoughtless, comments that exert this sort of pressure. "Why isn't a pretty girl like you married?" Responding to such comments requires a gracious spirit and a liberal dose of good humor. And after years of such comments, a great deal of patience is necessary.
Another part of the difficulty is the emphasis in the church on family. This is as it should be, for God designed the family as one of His great blessings to us. However, so much of the church's good, biblical teaching revolves around being a godly wife and mother that the unmarried woman can wonder what she is supposed to be doing with her life. What is her role in the church? Does she have a purpose if she is unmarried? Is it just to look for a husband? Should she pursue a career? Unless the unmarried women are instructed carefully and encouraged regularly, they can fall prey to discontent, self-pity, or anxiety, and become unfruitful members of the church. Or they can fade into the woodwork, feeling a little useless.
To make the unmarried feel a part of the church, some churches start ministries to singles or have career groups that meet regularly for fellowship. Of course, this is not necessarily a bad thing itself, unless the group is devoted to silly skits and junior-high-level games. But even if it is a sound group, it can become unhealthy if the only regular contact the unmarried women have with the church family is in their own peer group of "singles." These women need to be integrated into the families within the church. We are designed to fellowship with all age groups, babies to grannies, and we should not become exclusively attached to our "group." A Christian culture integrates everyone, young and old, married and unmarried, into the life of the church.
God did not design His people to live as singles. We are to live as families even if we are not under the same roof. An unmarried woman is to have a high view of marriage, but she is also to have a high view of God's sovereignty in her own life. He directs our steps, He establishes our ways, and He certainly decrees when and if and to whom each woman is to be married. He does all things well. Whether a woman is called to singleness for a short time or for her whole life, she is called to be fruitful in God's kingdom. She is called to glorify and enjoy her God with her whole heart. She is called to grow in grace and faith and to be of great use to the kingdom of God. Marriage is a means, not an end. It is one of the means God uses to glorify His name among us, but it is not His only means.
All of Scripture is given to all of us. The passages in the Bible that speak to women, speak to married and unmarried alike, though points of application may differ. The unmarried woman is to rejoice in her calling before the Lord. She is to be virtuous. She must cultivate a biblical femininity, be modest and pure, and overcome the hindrances to fulfilling her ministry. She must love the sisters and view marriage as a good thing. And best of all, she is to walk before her Lord in humility and hope, growing in faith and love as a vital part of the covenant community.
Finally, if we are striving to be a covenantal community, we must all take pains to include the unmarried among us in our hospitality, our prayers, our family times of celebration, and not view them nor treat them as "singles."

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