Today’s blog is a guest post by Rachel, a single girl teaching English in inner-city Memphis. You can find her at Why I…, her blog where she writes about anything that pops into her head, from television to theology to the perils of assembling furniture on your own.
Jeremiah 29:11 is a very popular verse. It is framed on walls and written on coffee mugs, engraved in jewelry and emblazoned on t-shirts. And that makes sense; it’s a very encouraging verse.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
– Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)
God gave this message to the Israelites when they were in exile in Babylon, waiting to return to Jerusalem. In verse 10, He tells them that He will fulfill His promise and bring them back to Jerusalem. I’m sure the Israelites were overjoyed to receive this message from Jeremiah. But before God gave them these words of hope and promise, He also gave them a series of commands:
Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
– Jeremiah 29:4-7 (ESV)
God does not tell them to wait patiently with their bags packed until they can return to Jerusalem. He does not tell them to live separately, focused only on the day of return. He does not tell them to practice living like they will in Jerusalem and forget all about those Babylonians around them.
No, He charges them to invest. To pour into the city and the people around them. To settle. To commit. To not view this as a season or a transitional period, but to throw themselves into their lives wholeheartedly.
Many people often view singleness as a time of preparation for marriage, as a training period that gets us ready for the real work of being wives and mothers. I think that is a horrible trap that can rob us of joy and effective ministry if we fall into it.
If you live with roommates, they are not guinea pigs for you to use to perfect your cohabiting and compromise skills. If we approach them as “practice” or “preparation,” we will miss out on opportunities to love them for the unique individuals that they are. Rather than dealing with frustration by saying, “Well, this is a good opportunity for me to practice patience before I finally get a husband,” why not look for ways to demonstrate love to them?
Our roommates, our classmates, and our coworkers are not just tools God uses to make us perfect wives and mothers; they are beautiful image-bearers of the King who deserve to be treated as such. Rather than biding our time in what we think of as a fleeting season of singleness, we need to be investing in the lives God has placed around us right now. They are not here for my benefit; they are here for me to love and serve and show Christ to.
Instead of waiting for some future time, why don’t we invest in the kingdom right now? Build houses, plant gardens – build into the people who are in your life now and plant seeds of the gospel where you are now. Do you feel like you were made to be a mother? Well, go find some kids to mother! Volunteer for a mentoring program, get to know the kids in your church or neighborhood, become a foster parent…maybe even adopt as a single mom if God leads you there! You do not have to wait for a husband or children of your own to invest in the next generation.
God knew that the Israelites were not going to be in Babylon forever, but He also knew that putting down roots and seeking the welfare of the city would bring Him glory and draw more people to Him. We may sometimes feel like being single is the same as being in exile, but if we spend all our time waiting for a future season that may or may not come, we will miss out on the good works that God has prepared for us to do in the here and now.