For every good movie made, there ends up being a lot of footage that is shot but never used. It falls to the cutting room floor. And sometimes, what gets dropped is an actor’s entire role. Johnny Depp was supposed to be in the movie Platoon, but director Oliver Stone felt that Depp’s role distracted from the storyline; so Depp’s appearance — all of it — fell to the cutting room floor.
The idea of the cutting room floor brings some things to mind. I wonder how many people feel this way in the Church? How often do individuals struggle to find their place in church, and simply stop coming? And do the rest of us notice when they hit the cutting room floor?
And I wonder: what percentage of these people are single? Is it harder for singles to be included and integrated in the life of church?
This past Sunday, I preached a sermon centered around what it means to be single and a follower of Jesus. During my message, I asked all who were present to raise their hands if they are married. In both services, about 75% raised their hands. In many ways, this is positive. Marriage is a gift and an opportunity — and every raised hand represented a person who was learning, daily, what it means to keep a vow with another person.
But there is another aspect to that. If 75% or more of the church is married, then it probably also means that we aren’t doing a very good job of reaching single folks — especially since just over 50% of American adults are married. And when you realize that over 1 in 4 adults (age 18+) has never been married, and that nowhere near 1 in 4 people in my church can say that — it is a startling reminder that most churches have a long way to go in learning how to love, include, and empower single people in our shared journey with Jesus.
In response to this challenge, Carissa Mulder has written a thoughtful article: “The Single Life: Where Do We Go From Here?” While Mulder’s article is targeted toward single women, it has a lot to teach all single folks — and those of us who are married. She challenges single folks to pursue three “goods” — faith, knowledge, and friendship. All three of these are vital aspects of life and, I would argue, what it means to be human — whatever our marital status happens to be.
And in reference to Paul’s advice that a single person can more readily focus on the things of God, Mulder agrees. But she also says that being unmarried can take a person in the opposite direction: where a single person can just as easily focus on her- or himself. In either case, the single person has the opportunity to choose.
And really, isn’t that true for all of us? Ultimately we all face this choice: focus on God and others, or focus on ourselves. And when we choose to focus on God, He calls us to love others, and we find ourselves learning to care for those who are other than us — whether they be single or married, divorced or widowed, young or old, gay or straight. And in the process of focusing on others, I believe that we become more ourselves — that by turning the focus away from ourselves, we become more the person God has always meant for us to be.