I haven’t always loved being single. And I most certainly haven’t always loved church.

Sometimes, or maybe most of the time, both have the potential to be awkward. Combine them together as a single person in the church, and you’re bound to feel a little out of place at times. With the probing into my love life, genuine interest into my “type,” and a long list of eligible bachelors from well-intention, albeit concerned mother,s it’s easy to feel more like a project and less like a person.

We would much rather fix a problem than know a person. Or we would rather avoid a single person completely because he or she doesn’t measure up to our expectations. Problem-solving is easy and isn’t nearly as messy, and we feel a whole lot better about ourselves afterwards. Especially if all goes well resulting in 2.5 kids, a minivan, and a Goldendoodle puppy.

Singleness in the church and the South, in general, isn’t something to be fixed or avoided. It’s something to be embraced.

As a single person, I don’t need you to pull me out of the depths of my singleness through a set-up. I also don’t need you to relegate me there in the form of a singles group.

What I need is for you to embrace me.

At the end of the day, we’re all lonely. Married and single alike we’re dying for connection. In fact, I would imagine there’s no lonelier feeling than being married and waking up next to someone who, at times, feels like a complete stranger. As a single person, I must admit there are times when I feel the deep pangs of loneliness. But there are also times to distinguish between the fact that just because I’m alone doesn’t mean I’m lonely.

It’s not a marriage issue; it’s an intimacy issue. Because marriage won’t cure loneliness, and the fact that we think it will, sets each of us up for the most profound type of failure:

It causes us to enter into any relationship with unrealistic expectations.

As a single person, it causes me to look ahead to marriage to fulfill my deepest needs. It creates the expectation that then and only then will I finally be known. As a married person, it forces us to shop for our self-worth from our partner. We look across the bed and ask for another human to give us everything we need and more.

Marriage won’t cure loneliness because it assumes another person can carry the weight of our identities when in reality people often get crushed under them.

As a church, we have the freedom to be fully seen, fully known, and fully embraced in Christ. Then and only then can we turn around and offer the same to others.

Which means we get to be a safe place for single and married people alike to find deep, intimate relationships no matter what stage of life. It means we’re free to invite people in to see what our lives actually look like, rather than just the glossy Instagram versions in search of likes and validation.

And as a single person, I am free to find intimacy in a variety of relationships. I don’t have to look to my future spouse to provide me with the depth of intimacy that I can have from a strong community of people. Instead, I can first and foremost look to Christ to be known. Afterwards, I can look to a mentor, a group of friends, and a few others as well.

Loneliness, like singleness, isn’t to be fixed or avoided. Both are to be embraced.

Only when we wrestle with our loneliness can we write a brave new ending and usher intimacy in.