40 and Single | One Man’s Story

Today we have a guest post from my friend, John Gunter. John loves his life in Asia, but misses his family, friends, church, baseball, and bar-b-que (in that order) immensely.  He enjoys scuba diving when the time and location permits. John blogs at http://johngunter.net.

Chinese character for love

Chinese character for “love”

As we walked through a park in an unfamiliar city, it was a clear day.  She jumped right into what was on her mind.  “I don’t know what the deal is. I really care for you and want to love you, but I just don’t.”  Just like that, our relationship was over.

She had been the girl of my dreams, as we had dated on and off for four years.  I couldn’t image a future without her in my life.  My heart-felt like pins were being jabbed into my chest.  My breathing literally changed.  I became light-headed.

My heart was broken by her rejection.  However, even as we walked in that park, it was as if the Lord was whispering in my ear, “I am good.  I see you.” He asked me to trust him with the outcome. And I did.

This year, I entered a new decade as a single man: my 40s.  I live in Asia and have lived here for most of the past 12 years.  My work does take me back to America a few times a year, but my adult life has largely been invested in a country far from my own, in cities and neighborhoods far different from my native Atlanta.

And do you know what?  I am okay. I really am.

Yes, I do get extremely lonely. However, my life is rich and free from always longing to be where I am not: married.  This subject of “singleness” is so vast, with many different aspects and emotions, but I’m going to share three truths that have helped me embrace singleness over the years.

First, singleness is NOT a disease to be cured, but rather a stewardship to be lived . . . just like marriage.  Many single adults treat their relational status as something to change at all costs.  As Ruthie wrote about last month, this has been the cause of many ill-advised relationships.  I hate witnessing friends “settle” for bad relationships rather than waiting for the right person.

I have been there.  I have moved forward in relationships with women who, though they were great people, were just not heading in the same direction.  I’ve come close to marriage several times, but I realized our hearts were in not in the same place. God gives us different passions and mine is for the people of Asia.

Second, singleness is an OPPORTUNITY; it’s not something to be avoided, nor a condition from which one must escape.  Yes, the Bible clearly points out in the book of Genesis that marriage is the norm for most people.  Man truly was not meant to be alone.  However, Paul is equally emphatic in 1 Corinthians 7 that singleness is actually a desired life choice.

I know, I know, we just roll our eyes when we hear this referenced.  However, having been freed from the responsibilities of marriage and children (wonderful responsibilities though they may be), we single men and women are wide open to serve and enjoy the world around us with reckless abandon.  This is a wonderful thing!

Instead of lives filled with social gatherings, awkward blind dates, and self-centered time wasters (college football, video games, etc. I’m talking to you guys!) all the time, we could look for ways to serve the world around us.  I had to decide a long time ago that I would live my life and pursue building God’s Kingdom regardless of whether or not a spouse was on the horizon.

Third, for those of us followers of Christ, the very term “singleness” is a myth.  We are NOT alone.  We are not destined to walk this world as hopeless vagabonds who will die miserable and alone.  As believers in Christ, we are already His bride.

We are also part of a world-wide family of brothers and sisters.  I can serve and love the children of those around me as my own, because Biblically, they are directly members of my family. What a joy!

Do I hope to be married one day?  Absolutely. I pray for this regularly and encourage my friends and family to do the same for me. God instructs us to pray out of the longings of our heart and it’s ok to desire marriage!

I am continually challenged to view wherever I am in life as an opportunity granted to me by my Heavenly Father, not as a burden to be disparaged, disdained, and fought against.  God asked me to trust Him that day in the park, and you know what? I did. I never imagined still being single at 40, but when God says He has a plan, I’ve learned to sit back and trust Him. And I hope you can, too.

Birthday

John celebrating his 40th


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Comments
28 Responses to “40 and Single | One Man’s Story”
  1. Tatuu says:

    What an encouragement this is John and thank you for sharing the lessons you have learnt over time with us. Some of them are hard to grasp.

    A few days ago, it hit me that I will be celebrating my birthday in 3 months. I got really scared but reading this…waiting is not that bad after all. Thanks for sharing.

  2. John, it’s so interesting reading this today..i read something last night about how having a family/marriage impacts our effectiveness in ministry

    “…when referring to the gift of singleness, Paul says “But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.” (1 Corinthians 7:7) I believe Paul is saying here that marriage is a gift just like possessing the gift of singleness. They’re both fine for the Christian gifted with either, but they each have their distinct advantages and disadvantages.”
    http://www.lifeofasteward.com/family-makes-you-less-productive/

    I believe the key is understanding and appreciating the gift in every stage of life.

    Great thoughts and perspective.

  3. Steven says:

    Very encouraging! I know God has dealt with me some on these same lines. Especially the third point that John makes. I have often cried out to God throwing my burden of loneliness on Him. He then began opening my eyes to show me that if we are truly His, we are never alone. He is the groom and the church (his people) are the bride. I may not have a physical spouse to hold and love, but I do have a loving God who spiritually holds my heart through the hurt and loves me more perfectly than another human could be capable of doing. A quote I read once that really meant a lot to me was, “A woman’s heart should be so hidden in God that a man has to seek Him just to find her.” ~Max Lucado. I am working daily to be that man who has fully sought out Christ with faith that in so doing, in His time, I will also be blessed by a truly God fearing wife.

    • John Gunter says:

      Good words, Steven. Thanks for your transparency here.

    • Giray says:

      Story: Marrying Later in Life
      The Vaughans and Elliotts understand better than most about the frustration of waiting to find a mate.
      by Shana Schutte
      Next Article in Series:
      Previous Article
      Next Article

      Overview
      Idealizing Love, Romance and the Opposite Sex
      Five Ways to Celebrate Singleness
      The Gift of Loneliness
      How to Recognize a Safe Date
      Story: Marrying Later in Life
      When Thinking About Marrying a Non-Believer
      Next Steps / Related Information
      Like most men, Joel Vaughan wanted to marry, so he prayed for a mate and dated as often as he could. But more than 10 years after high school graduation, he still hadn’t found his wife.

      Then, while in his mid-30s, he was organizing the details of a conference. A package he needed for the event had not arrived the morning it was due. Desperate, Joel did everything he could. Still no package. Miraculously, only minutes before the seminar started, a courier walked into his office and handed him the prized box. Filled with gratitude, Joel silently thanked God for the delivery.

      That’s when he felt he heard God speak to his heart. In the same way I brought this box, I’ll bring your wife. When you have done everything you can, then I will bring her.

      Joel laughs now and says that, by the time he turned 42 and moved to Colorado Springs to work for Focus on the Family, he wondered if he’d just “eaten some bad chili” the night before and hadn’t heard from God at all. Still, he continued praying and enjoyed dating, but without long-term success.

      Then one day, almost two years after moving to Colorado, he unexpectedly met his future wife, Kellie, while picking up his mail. She purchased the town home next to his and had just moved in. Weeks later, when Joel discovered Kellie also worked for Focus, he thought, “God could be doing something.”

      Indeed, He was.

      After their first meeting, Kellie and Joel became good friends, danced their way to love in a ballroom class, then tied the knot a year and a half after they met. Joel now jokes that not only did God “deliver” his wife just as He promised, He brought her right to his mailbox; a true mail-order bride.

      Brian and Cindy Elliott, like Joel and Kellie, also wondered if they would ever find “the one.” But unlike the Vaughans, they didn’t meet at a mailbox, but on a dance floor of the Queen Mary when they both attended a Christian Singles dinner dance. Both were 38 years old when they walked the aisle.

      Joel, Kellie, Brian and Cindy are like an increasing number of singles who are marrying later in life. They understand better than most about the frustration that can result from waiting and praying to find a mate. And they are also well-acquainted with the joys and challenges of marrying later than the average person.

      So if you’re an older single and you want to get married, here is some advice from four people who’ve been there:

      There’s Not Necessarily Something “Wrong With You” if You’re Still Single
      The Vaughans and Elliotts know what it’s like to face the stereotype of having something “wrong with you” if you’re older and still single. Thankfully, when each of them explains why they didn’t marry earlier, they agree that it was due to not meeting the right person. In retrospect, all see God’s sovereignty in action.

      “God brought Cindy at just the right time,” Brian says.

      This can be comforting for many singles who fear that they can’t find a mate because of their flaws.

      “He [God] can overrule our inadequacies,” Brian says. “You don’t have to be perfect [to meet someone].”

      While it’s important to improve your emotional and spiritual health while you’re single, remember that everyone is a work in progress and that God ultimately controls every detail of your life.

      Marrying Later Doesn’t Mean You’ll Have a Harder Time Complementing Your Mate
      It’s commonly thought that couples who marry later in life will automatically have a more difficult time uniting as a couple because each spouse is set in his or her own ways. Not so for either couple.

      “Kellie and I have found it very easy to blend,” Joel says. “She and I were extremely grateful the Lord brought someone to us …after years of wondering and waiting,” which he says helped them merge their lives together.

      Cindy Elliott agrees: “[When I married], I was surprised at the perspective I had on what’s important and what’s not.”

      She doesn’t worry about minor problems like her children’s fingerprints on the refrigerator because she is just grateful to have a family. This has made blending easier than she anticipated.

      If You Want to Get Married, Do Something!
      Both the Vaughans and the Elliotts also say that marrying later can be challenging because it becomes more difficult to find a suitable mate. But many Christian men, Joel and Brian suggest, don’t take the initiative to find a wife.

      “A common complaint I hear from single Christian women is that Christian men don’t do anything,” Joel says.

      “Some people believe that God is a magic genie,” Brian says. “They say they’re not going to work on their issues but expect God to magically bring someone to them. You need to learn about yourself and learn about others.”

      In short, both men agree that guys should get busy and initiate!

      Take Advantage of Your Single Season
      In retrospect, Cindy wishes that she would have taken better advantage of her “single season” by focusing more on God.

      Joel agrees.

      “The Apostle Paul was very clear. You can serve God better being single,” he says. Of course, there is intense emotional pain that can come from being alone. But God is always faithful. “Realize that the key to everything else in life is to get closer to God.”

      So while you’re waiting, praying and dating, develop a heart of gratitude and service to bless God and others.

      Copyright © 2008, Shana Schutte. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.
      Next article in series:
      When Thinking About Marrying a Non-Believer
      Previous article in series:
      How to Recognize a Safe Date

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  4. Tami Storm says:

    thank you for sharing after 22 years of marriage at the age of 42 I find myself in a position I never would have imagined or hoped for,that is single. Being a wife and mother and homemaker was all I ever wanted to be. Now I find myself in acareer I never planned and living in a boarding house. but through it all God has given me the ability to dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. I have had the privilege of participating in other peoples lives and pointing to the goodness of God. God has given me a story where He shines as a giver of joy and peace. It is my pleasure to thank Him for seeing fit to use my sorrows to display His glory.

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Hi Tami,

      I’m so sorry for your heartbreak. What an enormous testimony you are to other women in a similar situation–for allowing your sorrow to display His glory.

      Peace to you this Christmas season.

  5. Beth Ann says:

    Wonderful article and very encouraging! Enjoyed hearing your thoughts, and I agree: “singleness is an OPPORTUNITY; it’s not something to be avoided”.

  6. Ashley Matthews says:

    Thank you John for your inspirational words!! It is all too common for us to dream of the “perfect” romance and to wish our lives mirrored Hollywood love stories (You’ve Got Mail, When Harry met Sally). Or to waste precious hours of every day on Christianmingle.com and over40world.com. Thank you for reminding me that being 41 year single red-head from Montgomery is not sad but is an opportunity!!

  7. Josh Irby says:

    John, great post. What a powerful reminded to exist and grow exactly where God has called us to be.

  8. Erica Johnson says:

    Dear John,

    Thanks for your post. It brought me to tears… Thanks for your honesty and transparency! Have a very merry Christmas.

  9. Jhanice says:

    I believe God led me to read this…i am a single too and being pressured by friends and family for not getting married yet. But I know God has a great plan for me. And I‘m glad that being single doesn’t limit His purpose to be fulfilled. God taught me to enjoy being single while waiting for His answer as I seek Him regarding His plan for me to get married or not and taught me too to make the most of this opportunity in serving Him and His people.

    Thank you for posting this.

    God bless you!

  10. Garrett says:

    Hi John,

    Your article does have some good points. Both singles and married are equally blessed if that is their calling. For those who are single and burn (Pauls words in 1 Corinthians also) it is better to marry. With no marriage and no prospects currently what am I to do? I also find your bride imagery to be disturbing. Jesus was incarnated as a man, I am a man. Does this mean that I have to hope to be a spiritual homosexual in the next life as the only hope of relase from the burning I feel every day? I serve in several ministries and witness regularly, but I can tell you that these do nothing to relieve sexual desire, and desire for marriage. When I have confessed my pain I have been told I am an idolater (I resisted the desire to punch this married man in the face). I have been told over and over what not to do directly related my problem (ie wait until marriage), and advice to simply trust God. However, I have never recieved any good advice as to how to directly address my problem (online dating, only if you make high six figures and have Hollywood good looks).

    I am so sick of hearing about substituting service, worship, prayer, deepening my relationship with God for my desires for sex and marriage. I do all these, and the desires remain strong. As Paul would put it I burn. Therefore (not taking out of context, not reading my desires into the Bible) I should get married. I do not believe that singleness makes one Holier, although I have discovered believeing that does make people snottier, and less loving. Plus the marriage of Christ is to the church as a whole, not individual Christians (only way to avoid the homosexual issue of half of Christians being male, and Christ’s male gender in the marriage issue). After all God himself says that for a man to lie with a man as with a woman is an abomination. So is there any practical advice for my situation that actually works? I witness, serve, pray, have quiet times, worship, and still I burn with desire. IS there anything can be done that will help, or do I have to simply resign myself to that being my lot in life and burn until there is nothing left but ashes. Not a very hopeful picture if you ask me. Not very loving of those out there who presume to be holier than me simply because I am honest either.

  11. Elaine says:

    John, I have a friend who likewise has a heart for the Chinese people. She has spent many years in China, too, and comes “home” each summer. She’s a few years older than you. Maybe your paths will cross some day!

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  1. [...] Ruthie Dean asked me to write an article for her blog on the subject of singleness. I was honored, as her blog is exceptional. Additionally, it is a subject I have thought about [...]



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