“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”Genesis 2:24-25
As I sat in a meeting room with 10 married male pastors whom I respect and trust, I posed the question: “If marriage is one of the ways God created us to experience the type of intimacy described in these verses, can I, as a single 31 year-old woman, experience that right now?”
This question came from a place of longing and desire in my soul. A place of wrestling and questioning. A place, often, of shame. Being a single woman in the local church, and one of a handful of single women on a church staff, can often lead to loneliness, doubt, and temptation.
But singleness can also lead to fullness. In it, I can experience the glorious family of God. In it, I can be vulnerable and feel no shame. In it, I can be fully seen, fully known, and fully loved.
The True Bridegroom
Ephesians 5:31-32 tells us: “‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church.”
These verses remind us that Jesus is the Bridegroom. And we, his Church, are the Bride. He is the One who left his Father to become one flesh with us. Just as I have watched so many brides and grooms leave their families, make vows to one another, and seal those vows with rings, our God left his Father in Heaven, made vows to us through his Word, and sealed his vows with a different type of ring, uniting himself to us through the Holy Spirit.
It is only through the person, work, and power of Jesus that I can experience the fullness of life I long for, even in the midst of loneliness. When I recognize Jesus as the true Bridegroom, I can experience intimacy in the way for which I was created. I can experience freedom in relationships with other members of the family of God. And I can lead teenagers to experience that love and freedom as well.
Youth pastor, no matter what your relationship status is on earth, you have a heavenly Bridegroom who sees you, knows you, and loves you so much that he chose to die for you to make you his Bride forever. He chose to give you his Holy Spirit as a sign that you are united with him, now and forever. The same is true for your students.
This means that even for those of us who are single, Jesus fully sees, knows, and loves us because we are one flesh with him. We can be with him as we are, whether we’re feeling beautiful, broken, angry, sad, or joyful. We don’t have to hide from him in shame. We get to experience his searching us, knowing and perceiving our thoughts from afar, as it says in Psalm 139. We get to experience his loving us in intimate, specific and detailed ways.
Seen, Known, and Loved
Recently, I was looking up at the stars on a basketball court at 8p.m. on a chilly Wednesday night. The atmosphere made me nostalgic for the Indiana nights of my childhood. Then, the song “Constellations” by Ellie Holcolmb came to my mind. I first heard this song in a season of suffering for my family, and it has been a reminder to me of God’s faithfulness and sovereignty. I felt intimately seen in this moment. My true Bridegroom knew that I was feeling ugly and broken and in need of a friend. I remembered that he knows me, sees me, and loves me. This is true for the single person, the married person, and for the teenagers we love and serve.
This truth can be easy to read, but hard to live. Yet I invite you today to live as if this is true. I invite you to live your life, whatever your lot in this moment, in the intimate love of a Savior who died to become one flesh with you.
To the Single Youth Minister:
I invite you to let yourself experience whatever you are feeling about your singleness right now. Share with the Holy Spirit and allow him to share back with you. Share with other single people and with married people. Both have unique perspectives and experiences that the Holy Spirit will use to encourage you. As you allow yourself to be honest with God, with yourself, and with others, you will experience more of the richness of the Bridegroom’s love for you.
To the Married Youth Minister:
I invite you to open your family to those outside of your home. Share your own experiences of loneliness with others. Share with single people, in particular, the ways in which your spouse does not ultimately fulfill you. We need to hear that you still have a need for the Bridegroom, just like we do. As you open your homes to the single people in your life, don’t tidy the house or make a special meal. Instead, invite us over to clean and make dinner alongside you. This gives everyone involved a wider glimpse of the glorious family of God.
To the Single Teenager:
I invite you to notice. Notice the image of God in the people around you. Notice how God is working in the lives of the people older than you, both single and married. As you notice, ask questions! Be curious with people about how they are experiencing God in their current season of life. As you begin to enter into dating and pursuing romantic relationships, I invite you to trust that being single, dating, or married does not define or fulfill you. Being united with Jesus is your ultimate identity, and the way you experience every season of life will flow out of that identity. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you remember this.
Let this poem, Absolutely Clear, be true for you today. We all need the Bridegroom. May we learn this truth alongside each other as Jesus meets us in whatever season we are walking through.
“Don’t surrender your loneliness
Let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you
As few human
Or even divine ingredients can.
Something missing in my heart tonight
Has made my eyes so soft,
My need of God
Clear.”Absolutely Clear by Sham al-Din Hafiz
Are you a youth minister looking for encouragement that is grounded in the gospel? Consider joining us at our 2023 Rooted Conference in Nashville, TN.