“One is a whole number!” Singles on Salt&Light Family Night share this and other perspectives on singlehood
by Christine Leow // February 25, 2021, 6:03 pm
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash.
Is it possible to live a fulfilled single life and yet want to get married?
Is there an age when I’ll stop wanting to get married?
Why does singlehood feel like a consolation prize?
The questions came fast and furious on Salt&Light Family Night’s (February 23) discussion on being single and Christian.
Close to 350 – 90% of whom were singles – clicked on to join the Zoom chat show on February 23.
Close to 350 – 90% of whom were singles – clicked on to join the Zoom chat show on February 23 – and their honest questions started streaming in almost immediately. On hand to provide perspectives on the topic were panellists Dr Florence Tan, 73, Pamela Koh, 40, and Isaac Ong, 33, all of whom are single.
Dr Tan worked for 30 years with discipling ministry, Navigators, and lectured for 18 years at the Singapore Bible College. At 73, she continues to teach and disciple people in person and over Zoom, and oversees cell groups in her church. She also gardens, cooks, keeps fit at the pool and enjoys a busy “family” life with her five godchildren and three god-grandchildren.
Koh, 40, was a missionary to Japan for six years before returning to Cru Singapore to be their in-house counsellor. Last year, she saw “one of my dreams come true” when she set up Cru’s counselling arm for tertiary students, Thrive.Sg, to promote emotional well-being, healing and resilience.
Ong is a multi-hyphenate. The 33-year-old is a singer-songwriter who was in the finals of both Channel 5’s The Final 1 and The Voice (SG/MY). A champion of social justice, he runs his own social enterprise Colours Global and also works with youth ministries in churches.
There were heartfelt confessions of struggles (“No one wants to date me”) and expressions of self-doubt (“Am I being picky?”).
The diverse panel fielded viewers’ questions with good humour and authentic sharing. There were heartfelt confessions of struggles (“No one wants to date me”), expressions of self-doubt (“Am I being picky?”) and commiserating (“Don’t you guys hate Christmas, CNY and Valentine’s Day? I feel like a loser seeing people move on but I’m trapped in singlehood”).
There was also levity. Several participants asked to have a meal with Dr Tan to chat with her some more and Ong appeared to receive a cheeky proposal: “You seem like my ideal partner. God-willing, our singlehood struggles could come to an end.”
Dr Tan shared that, as a Christian in her 20s, she was intent on following the model of Jesus, who was not married. But then Jesus’ life ended at 33 … “so what do I do at 34, 35, 36?” she said wryly. “And I’m 33!” jumped in Ong to viewers’ amusement.
Here are some of the perspectives shared by the panellists.
What does a healthy view of singlehood look like?
Contentment, was Dr Tan’s answer. Singlehood has never been an issue for Dr Tan, nor has she ever felt like a “second-class citizen” in church compared to couples, she said.
“I enjoy being who I am. I enjoy my status, which happens to be single, never married for all these 73 years,” she said cheerfully.
Sharing Ecclesiastes 5:20, she added: “This is my portion and what God gives to me and I can be at peace with myself and the people around me, and truly enjoy what I am doing.”
Ong agreed. “I don’t identify singleness as my core identity. I am just living my life and I just so happen to be single.”
“A single person is no less a person,” pointed out Ong.
Although the term “my better half” is often used, people do not become whole only when they enter into relationships, because “we are already made whole by God”, he said.
“One is a whole number, ” agreed Dr Tan.
“People do not become whole only when they enter into relationships, because we are already made whole by God.”
This, said Ong, is a view that everyone can have, not just those who are single. Singlehood needs to be celebrated by all.
Shared Ong: “Having to walk that journey (of being single) is really hard because all the time I feel like I’m living in a 24/7 CNY reunion dinner! … When are you going to get married? When are you going to get married?
“When I speak at a church, when people introduce me, they always like to add ‘And he’s single’!
“Everybody says it out of good and heart intent. We may not know how to celebrate singlehood.”
How can I manage my desire for marriage yet find fullness in God as a single?
#1 Trust in God’s leading
Dr Tan admitted that in her 20s and 30s, she did wonder if God had made a mistake and that was why she was not married. But she never felt resentment.
“Was I open to marriage then? Yes. Am I open to marriage now? Yes. But I am willing to allow God to lead me,” she said.
“I’m not living my life to get married. If the Lord wants me to get married, He will give me a guy I would fall in love so hard with whom I would end up marrying.”
#2 Tell God your struggles
Ong admitted that, in his 20s, being single was “really tough”.
“And the revelation that I got was this: Isaac, you may have idolised something so much and so hard that it begins to hurt.
“I’ve noticed a lot in my life that the moment that I don’t get something I really desire or I want, it begins to affect the way I live, the way I laugh, the way I talk, the way I walk, I’ve come to realise it is no longer something I just want or desire anymore.
This journey of uncertainty is something that, not just singles, but married people go through as well in their relationships.
“It may come to a point where I’m subconsciously idolising it, where without it I’m incomplete.”
In moments like these, Ong said he cries out to God and tells Him of his dilemma: Wanting God and God alone, yet desiring a life partner.
“You have no idea how many of my prayers actually don’t start with ‘Dear Jesus’. It starts with: ‘Lord!’ and just weeping and weeping.
“And sometimes, it doesn’t end off with ‘Amen’. It ends off with: ‘Aiyah, I don’t know lah God.’
“I see some people smiling because they are like, ‘Oh my goodness, is that biblical?’ Absolutely! Go and read Psalms. I think for me that’s where I’m at.”
Ong pointed out that this journey of uncertainty is something that, not just singles, but married people go through as well in their relationships.
“That whole journey and that up and down road is not exclusive to the singles. And out of all that, there becomes such beauty in the fellowship and the relationship with the Lord.”
It is these moments of “messy faith” that are defining.
“Be authentic. Wrestle with the Lord. He will provide grace and His Holy Spirit.”
“A lot of the sweet relationship moments are in the tears and in the things that only the Lord knows and understands.
“In desiring marriage and in desiring God, in pursuing Him, He really satisfies and you really find a deeper relationship than you thought you would have.”
Added Koh: “Be vulnerable. Tell Him you are struggling. Be authentic. Wrestle with the Lord. He will provide grace and His Holy Spirit. Let the Lord minister to you.”
#3 Have a supportive community
Koh encouraged viewers to “have a community to support you – inspiring men and women in your life you can talk to”.
“Sometimes God’s love is manifested in the community we are in, people around us.”
Ong has two or three close friends who “know everything about me”.
“Because they know, they check up on me, check in with me and hang out with me.”
#4 Keep a check on yourself
Koh also advocated intentional self-checks – processing emotions and making sense of life events – to discover unmet needs.
“I check if I’m using busyness to mask loneliness.
“It can even be ‘good’ things – having lots of hobbies or lots of social activities – but if we are not meeting our needs but numbing our loneliness with busyness, then our needs go unmet and we end up being even more vulnerable.”
One way that she does self-checks is through reflective journalling, she said.
At what age will I stop wanting to get married?
The panellists agreed it is not about not ever wanting to get married, but coming to terms with being single so that there is peace instead of a paralysing fear at the prospect of singlehood.
Koh called this state “surrender”.
For Ong, it is a state of peace.
As for Dr Tan, while she is still open to the prospect of marriage, she is not searching for a partner. Instead, her desire for familial relationships is met by being included in the life of her married friends and playing mother and grandmother to her many godchildren and god-grandchildren.
Check back soon for more sharing from our Salt&Light Family Night panel about flourishing as singles.