Disposable Single Men

In a recent post on singleness, the comments revealed some heated frustration with single men by some single women. The perception was that the men control the outcome, and single women were at their mercy in terms of dating and marriage. I won’t over analyze that discussion again except to say that we can’t generalize single men like that any more than we can single women. There are a WIDE variety of goals and values among Christian single men as there are among Christian single women. For a moment, I’d like to give a totally different perspective – one from an unemployed Christian single man who longs for marriage yet has been unable to secure either a wife or a job to support a family. His perspective may be informative for those of us who only see the issue of singleness in the church from our own experiential perspective.

Disposable–designed for or capable of being thrown away after being used or used up (a disposable cup); free for use; available (Every disposable vehicle was sent). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved July 06, 2011, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/disposable

The salient idea I’m considering as I just entered month 22 of job hunting and have failed to land any work is the idea that the unmarried man is disposable, not just in this culture but in any culture.  I think it is with this idea my fellow unmarried peers in their later 30s or early 40s are contending in different ways.  We find different ways of facing this reality. Many of the guys whose lives I’ve observed are unusually bitter about being single and feeling like losers because of it.  The temptation for some is to externalize their sense of failure and transform it into wrath and enmity toward marriage as a concept.  In this corner is the declaration that marriage is an abomination reflecting an outdated morality and moralism that should not require any sanction from church or state… 

Others externalize their sense of failure not by way of impugning the very concept of marriage but by impugning the opposite sex.  I’ve seen this happen with a few guys who have decided the problem is that women are shallow.  These guys are usually unable to admit that the shallowness of women in assessing them is less acceptable than their own decision that this or that woman does not pass muster with them.  The trouble with men and women who would merely impugn the other gender is that this seems to reveal two things.  The first thing it reveals is a sweeping double standard with respect to gender.  The second thing it often reveals is a reluctance to consider one’s own shortcomings or, less pleasant still, a reluctance to admit that nobody’s sins account for one’s single condition.  It can be easier to assume that one must be a loser than that one isn’t a loser but just isn’t married anyway. A few guys seem more comfortable lamenting that women are shallow or that they are unappreciated than to confront their own coveting, envy, malice, or other problematic spiritual fruits.

Externalizing failure for marriage is perhaps the easiest thing for neo-Reformed to do. This is something both sexes find easy to do.  “Where are the men?”  “Why don’t the men grow up?” That’s easier than conceding that at different times and different places men are not financially situated to marry. …

[Most government assistance and worker retraining programs are aimed to help FAMILIES withstand economic hardship. This has left my friend in a hard situation.]

I don’t know a whole lot of guys who internalize failure but that’s definitely where I have landed.  … Rather than choose to see these things as special rights and privileges afforded to married people by the government, I see them as doing what the welfare net is supposed to do, make it easier for families to withstand economic hardship.  … But it is still disappointing that attempting to get more education to transition into some other professional field is not possible.  I picked up a specialized set of skills nobody needs and the feeling of being superfluous just within the job market is weighty enough, never mind the prospect that because I’m also not married that I am, at another level, even more disposable in society. …I remember a fellow resenting that he was told that because he was unmarried he had more time to serve in ministry, which was basically a guilt trip to tell him he needed to keep serving in a ministry team because he was single and had no excuse for scaling back activity.  Exhaustion and mistakenly over-committing are both valid reasons.

 But then there’s Isaiah 56:3-8, which talks about those foreigners and eunuchs who considered themselves cut off from having any part in God’s people.  They couldn’t inherit land that was already allotted and the eunuchs could not even participate in crucial parts of Temple worship due to physical deformity or mutilation.  In a cultural setting in which no wife and no children meant a person was a nobody who had no legacy, God speaks to eunuchs as those who through faith in God and obedience to Him receive a legacy better than sons and daughters and an everlasting name.

I appreciated hearing his perspective on this and hope that it will provoke thought on what we expect of single men in the church and how we treat those that don’t meet our expectations. It’s not just single women! But also, as we face the ugly realities of the loss, let us marvel at the proclamation God makes in Isaiah 56 over the single guy incapable of marriage or children. It is truly profound and changes everything!

Isaiah 56
3 Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely separate me from his people”;
and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.”
4For thus says the LORD:”To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant,
5 I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.

8 Responses to Disposable Single Men

  1. Kath July 7, 2011 at 12:37 pm #

    I really appreciated the chance to hear this perspective. These are helpful thoughts/insights. Thanks

  2. Amber July 7, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    Thanks for posting. My husband went through a period of 3 years of unemployment and can certainly relate to the feeling of being dispensable. So often in a person's hardest times we tend, like Job's friends, to scapegoat it on sin in their lives (“you're not married because you're a loser” or “you can't get a job because you're just not trying hard enough.”). A good reminder to have a gracious attitude!

  3. citygirl11513 July 8, 2011 at 2:18 am #

    This is a great perspective. Thank you for sharing! I am going to recopy this (with a link to your blog) on my facebook. People need to understand the perspectives of singles better-male and female.

  4. Anonymous July 13, 2011 at 5:15 pm #

    I pray we can see one another through eyes of love… accept one another, pray for and extend help to one another… As a single woman, if I met a single man, living for the Lord, and making every effort to serve God and work in whatever way God has called him to… I would be happy to marry him and together we would serve God and as partners we would build a life together… we need to lay down unrealistic expectations and cultural demands and just love one another and allow the Lord to tie us together for His sake, to serve Him and help one another live the lives He created us to live… being single and older makes us all feel disposable, of little worth and value in the eyes of the church and one another… let's let God match us up and learn to love and serve one another as we love and serve Him…

  5. Anonymous July 13, 2011 at 5:23 pm #

    I think the difference here between single men and women is that men are created to get a lot of their sense of purpose from their job… if they are single and work/ministry is going well for them, they may feel purposeful and like they are living the life they are meant to live… women get a lot of their sense of purpose from their relationships (marriage/children)… they can have a good job/ministry but may not feel purposeful and like they are living the life they are meant to live unless they have a marriage and children… we get our sense of fulfilling our created purpose, our calling in these different ways… so a man without a job is like a woman without a marriage…. lost, missing some deep part of their identity, unable to fulfill the purpose they were created for…

  6. Anonymous July 13, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

    Anon at 10:23: I wholeheartedly disagree with your argument. I'm an unemployed woman with a very narrow skill set, and I feel purposeless without my job. Marriage and children don't bother me as much — it's not like I'm marriage material or I can have children anyway. But the fact that I have God-given skills and traits, and the economy doesn't quite demand them (or when it does, it's for someone less qualified than I am) is very disheartening.

  7. Annabell August 30, 2011 at 4:14 pm #

    Last two Anonymous posts: I think it is good to remember that God created men and woman both for work and relationships. We find pleasure in these things but neither group will ever find true identity or purpose in either. Our identity can only be in Christ…these other things become idols when they are there to fill us. I am a married woman. I have a career that I am very happy with but I am very sick and God has humbled me as I cannot fill myself through either of these roles right now. My husband often reminds me that these are blessings from God that help me feel his love but when I demand those over God they loose their intended purpose.

  8. Jennifer Swift December 22, 2011 at 6:24 am #

    I agree with the last comment. People have different perspective in life. And as a Christian too, I believe that we are created both equally by our Creator. alt com