About the Guest
Many people who find themselves still single at an age that they'd hoped to be married wonder what they've done wrong. Emerson Eggerichs says, "You are here because you made GOOD decisions." Also hear from Gina Dalfonzo and Carolyn McCulley.
Many people find themselves still single and wonder what they’ve done wrong. Emerson Eggerichs says, “You are here because you made GOOD decisions.” Also hear from Gina Dalfonzo and Carolyn McCulley.
Michelle: There are a lot of things that we singles don’t want to hear about relationships, but Emerson Eggerichs says there are some things we need to hear.
Emerson: Many of these adult children, who would be talking to me, have really tried to do what God wanted them to do. They are thinking, “I don’t have a relationship.” I say, “You know what? You are in this situation you are in because you made decisions to close down on certain relationships that you didn’t think were the best; but let’s remind ourselves why we are here—because of the good and righteous choices you made—you’re not a victim here; you are here because you made right choices.”
Michelle: Wow, those are some really refreshing words for singles, especially from somebody who is known for his advice on marriage. Hey, we’re going to explore the issue of long-term singleness on this edition of FamilyLife This Week.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. You know, we spend a lot of time around here affirming marriage—and that’s a good thing—but so much so that sometimes it may seem that we forget to affirm others, who are living a God-honoring life. Maybe, you’re in a tough marriage or a blended family; but especially if you’re single.
Now, if you’re married, do you know what it is like to be single? No, I’m not talking about that time in between high school and age 26 because, when I was that age, I was happy to eat ramen noodles and cereal for either breakfast or dinner; you know, they are interchangeable. There was a freedom there; but as a single woman, as I’ve gotten older, I also feel the burdens of life that most everyone else feels. While many of my friends have had to learn how to live selfless lives through marriage and children, God has used other means to refine me and sanctify me in that way.
If you’re single, I want our time today to be encouragement; and if you’re married, I ask that you keep listening; because what we’ll hear today might be helpful if you have a single in your life. Today, I want to help both sides come to, maybe, an understanding; because I know that there can be misunderstandings on both sides, so let’s dive in.
Today, I’m talking with Gina Dalfonzo. Gina has written numerous articles for Guidepost and National Review. She’s been an editor for BreakPoint and also Christianity Today. And she is a brand-new author; she has written the book, One by One: Welcoming Singles into the Church. Gina, thanks for joining me today.
Gina: Thank you so much for having me.
Michelle: I’ve just got to say: “Thank you,” “Thank you,” “Thank you for writing this book and putting words to feelings that many singles have, but they just don’t know how to articulate and how to share that.”
Gina: Yes; I have had several single people say that to me. [Laughter] I’m so glad that I was able to do that and to just help a lot of my fellow singles express what’s been on their mind but was, sometimes, hard for them to say.
Michelle: Yes, that’s a hard thing; because you never know, when you open up and share and be vulnerable about a space where you are living right now, how that’s going to be received. Just as I was/when I first saw your book—the cover of your book—there is a picture of five people on the cover. Two couples are sitting relatively close together, and then there is one single person sitting way over on the other side of that row with a big gap in between.
I was just thinking, “That’s me.” Sometimes, I’m the only one in that row. Sometimes, a family will sit down on the opposite side. I kind of wonder: “Do I smell bad?” [Laughter] or “Have I offended somebody?” Have you ever felt that way in church?—or is that what others are telling you?
Gina: Yes, I have felt that way. I think there are many others who feel that way. It’s just a question of/I think for a lot of families, it’s just a question of: “What is the norm to them?” You know, churches/so often the norm is the nuclear family. You know, which families are great; but the problem is, when that’s what you’re used to, that’s what you see. We see what we are accustomed to seeing/what we expect to see; we see others that are like us. People that are not like us: honestly, sometimes, they don’t even register on our radar.
The thing—where you end up sitting by yourself—that’s one very prominent example that is just/it doesn’t happen for malicious reasons. It just happens because families, sometimes, they just don’t see that you came into church alone and that you might be glad to sit near somebody. It’s something that just does not occur to them.
Michelle: One of the first conversations I had with a lady in my current church was about singleness and why—she asked me, “Why do most single women have chips on their shoulders?” I was just curious, in your research as you’ve put this book together, “Is there something that single people are doing that are kind of giving off that sort of closed-off impression to people?”
Gina: Honestly, from my research from all the people I’ve talked with and so forth, I think single people are just tired; you know?
Gina: You go through this for days and weeks and months and years, and it’s this systematic thing; it’s a pattern. I was just talking to somebody yesterday about how it is a pattern that happens, because we just don’t talk about these things. Pastors don’t talk about singleness. They talk about—all their sermon illustrations are about marriage and family or sports—but that’s another conversation. [Laughter] We just take it for granted in our churches that normal people get married and have families. The implication from that is that single people are not normal/like they are doing something wrong.
People don’t intentionally fall into these patterns of thinking. They naturally arise out of the messages that we get from a very family-focused church, so we don’t talk about singleness. The church ends up treating single people like second-class citizens—that’s the phrase that you hear crop up a lot—we just/we get overlooked for just like the simplest things. We get overlooked for social activities; we get overlooked in small groups—that the families clump together; the single people get left out—so we get very tired.
If married people are willing to hold up their end of that conversation, they might start to see some of those chips disappear from our shoulders.
Michelle: Interesting; good insight. I’m just curious as to entering into conversations: “Can you summarize?—just what are a few things that singles and also marrieds can do to bridge this gap?”
Gina: Again, so much of it comes down to just be willing to be able to see and listen to each other and, then, to act on that also. When you have listened to somebody’s/to what somebody is going through, then stick with it—be persistent, keep reaching out with as much empathy as you can/with as much compassion as you can—offer practical help if you can.
Single people can come into married people’s lives and help out where they can—help out with the kids/just be there as loving friends—married people can do the same with single people. You know, be available if they have emergencies/if they need help. We all/we all need help to get through this life, and that is true for married people and single people. I think it’s so important that we keep trying, even though, as I said, we get very tired sometimes/tired and jaded.
We love God and are single; we belong in church just like everyone else does; that’s where we go to worship, to serve, to be in community with the family of God. The difficult part is, when you know you belong there, but people treat you like you don’t. We have to keep trying/keep persisting and ask God to keep us from/keep our hearts from hardening and keep us from getting bitter. It would be so easy to express what’s going on with us/tell the church what we’re going through, and that we need help.
Michelle: Such great encouragement from Gina Dalfonzo for single people but, also, for married people. We need to remember to enter those conversations, because that’s what’s important: ask questions, and be curious about somebody else’s life, and reach out in empathy. Singles can help out, and marrieds can too; we all need each other in this life.
Hey, speaking of encouragement, I had an encouraging conversation with Emerson Eggerichs. You’re going to want to stick around; but it’s going to be after the break, so stay tuned. Two minutes, I’ll be back with Emerson.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. Today, we’re talking about singleness—maybe, singleness that has gone on a little bit longer than you wanted—I call that long-term singleness. I sat down and talked with Emerson Eggerichs a little while ago about singleness; and I know what you are thinking, “Why would you talk to a marriage guru like Emerson Eggerichs?”
One thing you might not know about Emerson is he has a daughter named Joy, and Joy was single until her mid-30s. Joy also happened to start Love and Respect Now, a spinoff of Emerson’s ministry, Love and Respect. When I sat down with Emerson, I was curious to know how it was for him to hand off part of his marriage ministry to his single daughter.
Emerson: I think it was harder on her—you know?—in that sense. We had many discussions about this [prospective suitors]—and you know being this relational guru she was, and then having a dad—I mean, that’s kind of intimidating. We talked about whether or not we’re kind of sabotaging this, because what guy kind of wants to come into this to be evaluated? [Laughter] Yes, there were many discussions and a lot of prayer; but she stayed the course and just gave this over to Christ. That’s one of her messages to the Millennials because she was single, talking to singles.
The trust factor there/the transparency that many people had with her, on the heels of her own transparency, really made her content and her presentations potent; but yes, she was in her mid-30s when she met Matt Reed. Matt had come to Christ about eight or nine years earlier/had a dramatic conversion. He’s an intellectual—he’s a genius, academically, in that sense—he’s just a very smart person. When your daughter dates somebody, who’s 35, you either conclude, “He is the most godly guy on the planet, who has never been married,”—you know?—or “He is a felon.” [Laughter]
Michelle: Right: either/or—there is no gray. [Laughter]
Emerson: There is not a whole lot of gray area; but she had a list of about 20 things that she had been praying for in a husband for over 10 years—way before she even knew he existed. She was: “Well, Dad, should I? I think he’s got a lot of qualities, but I don’t know.” I said, “Well, give me that list.” We went down the list—check, check, check, check, check, check—all of them checked; he aligned. It’s kind of like/I said, “Okay; here is the deal, Joy. If you don’t marry him, I’m going to find him a wife; alright? [Laughter] I mean, it’s just that simple.”
Michelle: Matchmaker; sure!
Emerson: Yes; “I mean, if you don’t want him, there are a whole lot of women who do.” She has just been so grateful, and they have a great relationship. They are in Paris now because of his work. They have a thing called Newlyweds in Paris; they’ve got that as their hashtag—and just doing something constantly, and letting people know about Paris, and their exposure for the first time as they are entering that culture. It’s just been fun to watch them.
The French/all their neighbors—I mean, he is there with a job—and Joy loves people; he loves people. They are having/French people are coming over to their home—they are having all these get-togethers—which is really not too common in France.
Emerson: They are just excited about it, and it’s just opened up all kinds of doors for them. We’re tickled for them.
Michelle: That’s neat.
Okay; so help parents of singles know how to encourage their child/their adult child.
Emerson: Well, I think over the years, as I’ve talked to that adult child—many of these adult children, who would be talking to me, have really tried to do what God wanted them to do. They are thinking, “I don’t have a relationship.” I say, “You know what? You are in this situation because you made decisions to close down on certain relationships that you didn’t think were the best. You’re not a victim here; you are here because you made right choices. Unfortunately, it’s led to this aloneness and loneliness—and it’s a suffering—but let’s remind ourselves why we are here: because of the good and righteous choices you made.” That’s what I said to Joy; we saw God honor that. At that time, I didn’t know what the Lord might do.
There are 70 million Chinese fellows in China that I understand that are never going to have a wife because they’ve—the abortion of the female—
Emerson: —has truncated this. This is a huge issue; so what do you say to a guy, out in the boondocks, who loves the Lord; but there isn’t even a woman around?
I’m not dismissing the reality of pain and suffering and loss of opportunity; but in most cases, if you are part of a church, and you’re a young man/woman who made the right choices, but now are feeling like you’re trapped, let’s remind ourselves of what went on here—that you made those decisions, rightly so—and let’s not question in the dark what we knew we did was right in the light.
But also the challenge I extended, even at Joy and Matt’s wedding, is: they both made a decision to be the mature person rather than looking for the right person out there. They made a decision: “What is it that I have to have in my life to be that right person? Am I continuing to deepen that?” They both made a decision to be the mature person, and then they looked for a mature person; but they also looked for a person, who had a mission that was bigger than themselves. When you put all that together: “I’m committed to being a mature person; I’m committed to finding that mature person in Christ and to be in a mission bigger,” I just believe that, in the long-run, God is going to honor that. That is going to be honored; that is touching the heart of Christ in a very deep way.
I would have the parents just be cheerleaders: just continue to affirm what it is that those young people, that they care deeply about, have done; and remind them, “You are on the right course. We don’t have answers to the unanswered question; which is, ‘Why hasn’t God brought someone into your life?’” Joy is big on this idea [of someone saying]: “Well, sweetie, you’re just not ready yet.” So the 17-year-old, who gets married, was? Joy makes this point, “Don’t say that to these singles; because it’s very dismissive that somehow then: ‘Sweetie, you’ve got something wrong/there is something wrong with you; but you know, if you get that cleared up, everything is going to be okay.’”
But apparently, the 17-year-old that got married is okay; they are very mature. I’m always guarded when we’re talking about being a mature person, finding a mature person, and being on that mission together—that if it’s not happening—“Does that mean I’m not mature?” We have to always be wise in what we’re saying, but I think the sentiment is understood.
Michelle: Well, I love what you say; because it’s something I have not heard very much—if at all—was: “The fact that you’ve made these choices, and they’ve been good choices; for some reason, it’s not what God has for you yet.”
Emerson: Correct, correct. That’s hard to take; and yet, over the years in a college town, that was one of the things that the Lord spoke to me about: “Tell this individual that they are where they are, because of the good choices they made.” I saw people tear up. I knew that—just as you had echoed that—that is something that we need to say more to them because, sometimes, we make these right choices, and we come to a point where we start questioning and having regrets. We say, “I guess it’s not working”; the next thing you know, we’re in bed with somebody.
Emerson: That’s what’s happening, unfortunately. There is a pain there that is beyond words.
Michelle: I love that encouragement from Emerson: “You chose the better.” It was an extreme balm to this single girl’s heart; because there are many times I have to defend why I’m single or why I’ve chosen to do what I do. I needed to hear, “You’ve chosen God, and that is a very good thing.”
I really think this applies to married people and to single people. There are many times in our lives, where we walk through a hard or a rough patch, and we’ve made that decision to choose God. It is still a rough patch, and we’re feeling squeezed. We need to step back, and we need to say: “I chose God,” and “I chose the better.” Maybe, for you right now, it needs to be an active present tense of: “I choose God; I choose better.” Just some important things to think about.
Hey, something else important to think about—you singles, as you are anticipating or maybe, though like me, and not anticipating—but come spring time, we’re going to receive the “Save the Date”/we’re going to receive the wedding announcements; then we receive the wedding invitation. Then, there is also the anxiety over how to answer that question—and you know what I’m talking about—at that well-meaning married person, who comes up to you and, maybe—or maybe, they just sort of elbow you—it’s the phrase that you’ve been dreading all night long.
Well, my friend, Carolyn McCulley, has actually come up with ten unfortunate things that you should probably not say to singles at a wedding. Here is Bob Lepine asking her about that list.
[Previous FamilyLife Today® Broadcast]
Bob: Did you/have you heard all of these, personally?
Carolyn: Oh, yes; definitely.
Bob: People have said these things to you.
Carolyn: Oh, yes; but this was curtesy of a good friend of mine, who was encouraging me in the book. She sent me an email one day and said, “Here’s the top ten things never to say to a single woman.” She also gave top ten responses we shouldn’t give either. I thought, “For the sake of not appearing to be bitter, by Page 18, we’re going to drop those responses.” [Laughter]
Bob: What’s the first one?
Carolyn: “You’re next!”
Bob: Don’t you think everybody—I mean, you feel like you’re trying to comfort a single friend if you say, “You’re next!” But you shouldn’t say that; huh?
Carolyn: Well, it only gets old when you’ve heard it about 25/35 times.
Bob: What are some of the other things?
Carolyn: “Why aren’t you married?”—a personal favorite of mine.
Bob: Somebody has actually said that to you?
Carolyn: Oh, yes; in genuine concern; it’s like they want to be able to identify something that’s sticking out of you—some genetic mutation/some reason—for not being married. [Laughter]
Bob: How do you respond to: “Why aren’t you married?”
Carolyn: Well, when I’m exercising self-control, I’ll say something like, “Well, it’s God’s plan for my life right now.” When I’m not exercising self-control, I say something sarcastic that I regret later. [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, I do think, though—and this is just a point of application of what we’re talking about here—for married folks, as well as older singles, as you attend a wedding—if you do know of someone, who is at the wedding, who is single—maybe, a friend of the bride or the groom—maybe, you need to stop and consider that possibly this is the fourth or fifth wedding they’ve been to this year and that they are perhaps a little weary of being a bridesmaid or waiting to catch the bouquet.
Carolyn: It’s true; my first year as a Christian, I attended I think either 12 or
13 weddings. Two of them were for my younger sisters, and two were for former boyfriends and other good friends. It is an act of graciousness and humility to propel yourself sometimes to events like these and say, “I’m going to rejoice with those who rejoice.” Sometimes, you just don’t want to have somebody point out what you feel or what you perceive as lack in your life when you’re trying to focus on: “This is God’s plan for me. It is good, and I can flourish in it. I can be fruitful.”
Bob: Yes, we need to make sure listeners understand. I don’t/this is kind of a sensitive question: “You’ve been single now for how many years?”
Bob: Alright. Notice, I didn’t ask how old she was; I just asked how many years she’d been single. [Laughter]
Carolyn: Very good.
Bob: You’ve undoubtedly had some relationships that, maybe, you thought were headed toward marriage.
Bob: You’ve never been married.
Bob: You would have a desire to be married?
Carolyn: Yes; now, more than ever! [Laughter]
Bob: As you approach this subject—you’re approaching it with the challenge of being 41 years old, having a desire to be married—and that/the subtitle in your book: Trusting God with a Hope Deferred—that’s where you are, and you don’t know how long you’ll be that way; right?
Carolyn: That’s true.
Bob: Yes; so with that context, when you go home, and get another wedding invitation—and it’s one of your friends, and you’re being called again to rejoice with those who are rejoicing—does it get harder?—does it get easier?—does it just depend on whether you had chocolate before you opened the invitation or not?
Carolyn: That’s a good question. Actually, I think, over time, it has gotten easier; and primarily because the Lord has shown me that He is a God of abundance, not a God of scarcity. Just because other people are getting blessed, doesn’t mean one less blessing is now available for me. I can look into the lives of my friends, and even family members, and say: “God is at work; He is doing these things,” and “He has got a plan and a purpose for me.”
Michelle: Carolyn McCulley with some great, encouraging words for singles, especially for single women. She wrote the book, Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Carolyn is also, not only an author, she’s a speaker; and she is a producer, director, and editor extraordinaire of her own film company, Citygate.
Hey, I have a question for you: “Has the past year left you feeling just a little empty?” Well, I have an answer for you, and I’ve got some great news for you. Nancy Guthrie says that God does His best work on empty; in fact, she guarantees that. Next week, on FamilyLife This Week, we’re going to talk about emptiness and how God fills that emptiness. We’re going to give some practical tools on listening to God through all of this and, actually, holding onto Him. That’s next week.
Hey, thanks for listening! I want to thank the president of FamilyLife®, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, Justin Adams. Thanks to our producer, Marques Holt. Justin Adams—doing double duty today—is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator.
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