(Warning: There will be mention of Christian beliefs in this post. If that at all bothers you, you have been forewarned and feel free to proceed as you see fit.)
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 ESV)
I heard this verse most recently at a wedding I attended this month. It was after the traditional reading of 1 Corinthians 13 (for those less versed in regularly used Bible passages, it’s the ‘Love is Patient’ one). I’m pretty sure I’ve heard that verse before in weddings, but some things in my life have recently happened to make me ponder my singleness, community, and what I’m supposed to do about it.
(Do not worry, I’m not about to rant or bemoan my single status in a blog post. I do that when it’s not on the internet.)
This past week, a river cruise company had an excellent discounted airfare for trips during Christmas. My parents had already tried this company before and thought the deal was too good to pass it up. It was billed as a certain amount per person regarding the rooms on the ship. The company does not allow more than two people per cabin which means that my folks and I would need two. But to have a cabin with just myself, we’d have to pay the price of two people. This is in no way throwing the cruise company under the bus (what an image). They need to make money, and honestly their policies make sense. So we needed to find another person to come with. Who to ask? Who possibly has that money in such a short amount of preparation time? Who is willing to not be with their spouse on such a trip? Due to the lack of forewarning and amount of money, my parents and I could not find anyone and so those 24-48 hours of possible plans are null and void. I completely understand why those we asked could not come (single or married), so I’m not blaming them.
I’m not really blaming anyone, I don’t think.
I had dinner last night with the final person of my now defunct writers group. She’s on her way this week to NYC for graduate school. Her husband is already there, working, and they have a tiny apartment for this awesome chapter of their lives. I will miss her, them, and the group that has meant so much to me in my time here in middle Georgia. Many friends have moved in the last two school years (for a variety of reasons) and I’m back to seeking out friends, hoping there might be some singles wanting to hang out (married friends are great too, but there is a spot of truth in ‘three’s a crowd’ platitude).
My 20th high school reunion is this year, and someone has actually made an effort to put together something this fall for our class to come together and well, reunite. I’ve been waiting for a legit reunion since I (think) found out about them through movies or my own parents’. When I was younger, I would plan it out, making sure I had a very attractive date, sure that I’d be married, or dating, whatever. Now here it is on the horizon, and I’m realizing I have like three single guy friends and only one of them is local and we’re relatively new friends. This kind of ask requires a much longer, deeper friendship. And then, does one need a date to a high school reunion?
So, it’s been building up in my head and as I’m a person who would rather sit and think than actually do much…
Am I supposed to be one of two? I’m not talking specifically about marriage. I’m talking about all things in life. It seems that the world in many, many ways expects not a single human, but at least a pair. Tables at a restaurant? Usually set for four or more. If you’re alone, you’ll have to sit at the bar or perhaps take a whole table and feel guilty for being only one at a table that can fit four or six. You’re a motorcycle in a parking space for a car and everyone who realizes what’s taking that spot curses you. The cabin on the cruise ship is the same whether it’s just me or me and another. But the price is billed as one thing per person, and if I want a cabin, I’m paying for two.
There’s fairly regular theme in church sermons that comes around at least once a year. Sure, one must sermonize on sin, tithing, marriage, witnessing, the state of our world, and the awesomeness of God, but there’s also koinonia. This is a Greek word for fellowship and in the culture of church, it means specifically Christian fellowship or community. There was a time I cringed every time that word was said in church. Also, in both Christian books and conversations with Christian friends, there has been a focus on intentional community, especially if you’re single: you don’t live alone, you live with others and create your own family. This kind of environment is godly and keeps you from becoming a hermit which is apparently not godly (I’m summarizing what I’ve heard and read and probably putting it through my own filter with is definitely not rose-colored). And the very idea of this tends to leave me annoyed, frustrated, and a little panicky.
I’m doing an assignment for my online class about tribes; specifically, what are my tribes? I’ve fiddled with this and come up with what I think will be a good response, but I look at the example provided by the professor which includes next to name -> family -> married family. I look at my draft and there’s my name -> Margie (my dog) -> my parents -> extended family. There’s other groupings: writers group, teachers, college friends. But I look back at the space of just me and my dog. That’s it. That’s the family that I created. And as much as I love Margie and she is a great dog, she is not much of a contributor to my household. There’s definitely some emotional support, some cuddling, but she brings nothing financial, domestic, or can even let me know if the outfit I’m trying actually works. She is not the second in the ‘two’ in the verse that started this post.
I don’t believe that the verse is necessarily about only married people even though it’s used in weddings. It’s probably about friendship and community. And really, I have a great community. But they are part of other tribes, smaller and more intimate. I might hang out and have a really good time with my single teacher friends, but they’re part of the twenties crowd; dating, still figuring out who they are and have a fair more amount of optimism than the tribe of single women over thirty. I love being with several of my couple friends. Their husbands are great and honestly, I rarely censor myself around them because these men have become my friends as well. But they belong to their spouse; the family they’ve created. I have parents who have given, sacrificed for, and loved me over the years and I know how blessed I am to have them. But again, they are part of a smaller tribe of two. They chose each other forty years ago.
All these people I’ve mentioned would totally help me if I stumbled and fell. I don’t not believe that. But they might not be there when I fall. They might be with their tribe of family, far away physically and/or emotionally. And that’s right, and good, and correct. There’s no blame in this post.
Someone, if they read this, will think, say, or consider commenting that God will always help us when we stumble and fall. I know. I know that. But God, despite the tangible ways that he reaches us, is still God. Not a person right next to me walking this path I’ve forged for myself. Another person reading this might tell me that I’m not dead yet. There is still time for me to find me a man and get hitched (sorry about the colloquialisms, but it is the South). I know that, too. There’s still time for all that, but what no one really ever wants to say is that it can be lightning in a bottle. It could not happen. That’s as much of a possibility as the other.
I could stay a ‘one’ without being a part of a ‘two.’ Whether that’s marriage or just a lifelong single friend. And if I do stay a ‘one’…am I doing it all wrong?
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