My daughter vomited on the way to school yesterday morning. This, of course, is the sort of thing that makes any parent’s heart go pitter-patter, thump-thump, yes, one of the golden moments of any dad’s day.
In our family, on what is a rather onerous school-run every weekday morning, vomiting, in fact, is sort of shared experience.
“Bag,” I said, to Jon and Hannah. They were sitting in the back, behind Liz and myself. “Get Liz a plastic bag.”
The plastic bag – thankfully we had one – was brought forward just in time for the contents of Liz’s stomach to be emptied into it while I continued to drive.
Jon, I should note, is the Vomit King in our family. He just needs to roll his window down.
You may recall he did this one fine morning while I looked into the rear-view mirror and watched his putrid liquid fly behind as our vehicle sped down the highway.
So yes, this is all meant to attract you, Dear Reader, to the joys of parenthood. Especially you, Dear Single Reader.
My own story is that I did and didn’t envision me as a Daily Dad. When I was as young as three or four, I apparently said I wanted to be two things when I grew up: a farmer and a father. This, according to my own father.
But I was a ripe 35 years before even meeting the babe that would become My Babe. And, quite honestly, I did and didn’t really think about kids after we married.
Of course, once they did come along, after some adjusting – you need to keep plastic bags in the car – kids do enrich one’s life in unique ways.
But today’s conclusion is something else. It’s about singleness, that is the joy of singleness. Yes, if you sit at your breakfast table alone, there’s no reason to think your life is any less green than on the married since of the fence.
This is especially true in for those of you in faith communities, where there is often extra pressure on young people to marry and often for all the wrong reasons.
So I recently wrote this column, here (or below) for The Standard, the university paper I helped found here at Uganda Christian University. UCU is a growing school with over 10,000 students. Plenty, just like singles in any other part of the world, need to be reminded about this.
You’re single? Don’t worry. Be happy.
(The UCU Standard – February 27 – March 16, 2014)
MUKONO, UGANDA ✦ Last time in this space we were talking about marriage, how good things come to those who wait, and about falling in love with our Creator, really, the One who knows us better than we know ourselves.
I shared that I was 35 before I met my wife and how there was something to this, something mysterious and with joy, the sort that you can’t contrive because it comes from a deeper place inside but also somehow outside of you too.
Even so, some days I wonder what in the world life would be like if I was single again, not because I don’t love and enjoy my wife and children – I do very much – but simply because any of us have an imagination and I suppose mine is as good as any.
This is when I chafe and bristle, because the hard truth is that to live as a single in a religious community is not easy. In fact, it can be a harrowing experience, especially for older singles, people often misunderstood or tolerated at best, pitied or even despised at worst.
Yes, as a long-time single you might get sideway glances. You must be a saint, so holy as to walk in mid-air. Or no, you must be the opposite, a sinner so carnal that you must secretly jump bed-to-bed.
Or maybe you’re more a personal project that needs help. “Just wait a bit longer,” you’ll be told by well-meaning Christian friends. “God is still preparing you for that special someone.” Of course, I heard this myself, and, in more thoughtless moments, have probably said it to others.
Thoughtless because the patronizing and hurtful, if not subtle, message is that singleness is a condition to be solved. You’re a second-class believer, still maturing, still being prepared for God’s ultimate plan, which must be, of course, marriage.
But these days, worldwide, there are more singles, and singles-again, than ever. And what if singleness, that is the joy of singleness, is meant for you? Jesus, after all, elevated singleness to a perfectly respectable way to journey through your days.
In various ways, Jesus made this point, that while we’re made for beautiful things like sex and family and all the giving and receiving family can entail, we can also have our deeper needs met – sex notwithstanding – through non-marital relationships that can be just as beautiful and worthwhile.
Which is another way of saying that if you want to marry just for the sex, or if you think the grass is always greener on the married side of the fence, you’ll be disappointed. Marriage entails much more.
In fact, looking at the rate of broken marriages – which is the same within the church as outside – you can make the case that singles stand a better chance of developing nurturing and lasting relationships than plenty of married people.
It’s true. Family can be our greatest joy or our greatest pain.
“Who is my mother and my brothers and my sisters?” Jesus asked the crowds one day when his own family showed up to rope him in. Matthew shares the story. Jesus’ family believed that he was that unstable and deluded and hopelessly embarrassing, so it wanted to get him home for everyone’s good.
Instead, Jesus set them straight by pointing out that one’s real family, blood or not, are those people who care enough to know us, who don’t try to put us into their little boxes of preconceived notions, boxes which Jesus, we see, loved to burst out of.
He said, at its best, this is what the Church is: our surrogate family. Not a building or institution or creation of any heavy yokes, but a body of relationships, of spiritual blood and connective tissue, one that gives support and joy.
If your experience is anything like mine, you’ll find enough of both out there. And you’ll want to leave one for the other.