I am finally at an age where most of my friends are wed. The shift came a year or two ago, when I realized that in a group of ten friends from church, I might be the only person unmarried. Now that I am in a job where most of my colleagues are married, it is even more clear that my minority position is most likely permanent.
|My most recently-married friends. I wrote about their wedding here.|
You might think that it has become more difficult to remain content as a single woman among so many married peers, but that hasn't been my experience. As an only child (in a world of siblings), an introvert (in a world of extroverts), and a general nonconformist, I've never really minded being the odd one out. Even more importantly, my married friends are all admirable, adorable, amazing people, and they use their marriages to bless everyone around them, including me. Consequently, the grace I am celebrating today includes all my married friends.
Here are some of the wonderful things they do....
1. They provide resources I don't have.
One of the most frightening things about being single (or, let's be honest: being an adult) is facing difficulties without help. Investigating creepy sounds from downstairs. Dealing with the steam pouring from the engine. Packing for a job interview when I am too sick to sit up. Married couples, simply by being two instead of one, often have twice as many practical resources to share. For example, my friend and neighbor Stephanie would send her husband (and also my friend) Jon to walk through my apartment for me when I was worried about mysterious sounds. This may seem like a little thing, but it had the power to make the world seem far less frightening.
|Some of my favorite married people. Jenn was with us but didn't make it into the picture. (Picture stolen from Stephanie Harris Trevor's Facebook page.|
2. They keep me from idealizing marriage.
My mother often says, "Being single is hard. Being married is hard. They're just hard in different ways." My temperament is more optimistic than my mother's, but I am thankful that my married friends do not hide the fact that marriage--like every good labor--has its difficult days. Recognizing that husbands and wives must practice patience, silence, humility, and submission in ways I can hardly fathom keeps me from pitying the burden of my own state.
3. They keep me from denigrating singleness.
I have heard some single people complain about their married friends nagging them to date, or no longer hanging out with them. Thankfully, my married friends do none of those things. In fact, some of the greatest affirmation I have had as a single woman have come from married men and women. They remind me that my state frees me to travel, study, explore, and serve in ways they cannot. I have often roused myself from discontent by saying, "If Julianna thinks my life is beautiful and full, who am I to scorn my own riches?"
4. They have children.
Children only became interesting to me as my own friends began to bear and adopt them. As a child and teen, I was never particularly interested in younger children. For the last ten years or so, however, children have become marvelous to me. The fact that we can bring new people into the world still strikes me as a deep mystery, and I am thankful to witness this mystery in the lives of my friends. As I near thirty and begin to wonder if I will ever have children of my own, I am thankful for friends who allow me to love their children as a kind of unofficial aunt. I am thankful for little boys for whom I can make castles, little girls who want to play with the little cats I knit, and whole crops of babies to outfit in sweaters.
5. They provide a safe place for mixed-gender friendships.
If I were to name my closest, share-my-deepest-secrets-wth sorts of friends, the list would be pretty equally divided between men and women. However, maintaining friendships between men and women is much more difficult at 28 than it was at 12, or even than it was at 20. While observers are likely to assume romantic interest in any male-female friendships, those assumptions are much more dangerous than they once were. If someone thought Mark and I were flirting in college, I could simply laugh it off. However, now that Mark is married, I am much more sensitive to how our friendship could look to outsiders. I would hesitate to spend large amounts of time with Mark alone -- not because I don't trust him, or myself--but because it might mislead others. Happily, Mark's wife, Moriah, has become a dear friend in her own right, and their marriage has allowed to me to stay friends with Mark by becoming friends with them both. As I have discussed elsewhere, I'm not very interested in women-only-events, and I would mourn the loss of my close male friends.
6. They bring me into families.
Whatever virtues a single life might have (and there are many), it can too easily lack any sense of belonging. Eating alone is nothing like being a part of a family, but then again, exchanging tepid courtesies and fleeting handshakes on Sunday morning isn't much better (in fact, I consider it far worse than honest solitude). However, over the years my married friends have been tenacious and creative in their willingness to invite me into their lives. They have used Skype, meals, guest rooms and houses to make a place for me. They didn't make me demand or beg entry; they invited and celebrated my coming. These were not casual arrangements, not acts of pity, but decisions made from love. In these actions, my friends showed that they were committed to me--not in the same way they were committed to one another, but with bonds of Christian love that are real and lasting.
|With Grant and Jenn at my graduation. May 2012|
I've not done my friends justice with this post, but then gratitude, not justice, was my aim. We all need to people in different stages and seasons of life to temper and challenge us. If I ever do marry, these friends will be my mentors and guides. Until then, or if I never marry, they will remain friends who baffle, humble, and delight me with their oh-so-different, oh-so-common lives.
If you are single, what do your married friends do that make you grateful? If you are married, how are you grateful for your single friends?