Confession: Over the years I've avoided reading books on singleness. I didn't want to read them, just as I didn't want to be single. I keep hoping that eventually my singleness will cease to be an issue because somewhere along the way I'll find that I've passed on to the next stage of life. You know, the one you dream about from the time you're a little girl. Marriage. Hopefully followed by Motherhood. Single Street is just the highway to get there, right?
Something prodded me to take a closer look when I heard about this book. I recognized that Something, or more appropriately, Someone. I had no idea what I was in for! This book is astounding. It's honest and scary and a little confrontational, in all the good ways. It's full of grace and faith and tenacity. I highlighted so many passages that when I went back and typed them up afterwards they filled 5 pages on Google Docs. It was definitely the Lord prompting me to pick up this book a few weeks ago, and I'm so glad I know Him well enough to recognize and respond!
What makes this book astounding? Joy Beth Smith takes us on a real-life look at singleness in all its messy struggles. "Honestly, it's crushing to live under the constant weight of unmet desires," she says in the first passage I highlighted. Oh sister, I know the language you are speaking! In three parts, she proceeds to unpack the heart of a single woman and challenge us to live in Truth and Hope and Purpose.Part I: Unfulfilled Promises.
We grow up being taught that someday we will be wives and mothers. If it doesn't automatically happen, either not when you expect or perhaps not at all, it causes a lot of questions. In Chapter 3 Joy Beth asserts, "There aren't the guarantees we're raised to think there are. And us asking these questions is not questioning God's character, but it's questioning what we've been handed down from family and the church." Hmm. That's rather true, isn't it? God never promised us a husband. Who builds up that expectation? And what can we do about facing that heartbreak and living as valid and valued members of Christ's Body? For one thing, Joy Beth urges us to dig into community. We do desperately need other people in our lives - people who will come alongside us, support us, speak truth to us, and to whom we can do the same thing. Those are universal needs, and I happen to agree with her observation in Chapter 4: "If the church were to live in that community that we see in Acts, we would actually have better, stronger marriages, because we're getting married for the right reasons, not only to solve the loneliness problem."
Part II: Sexuality.
"Paul tells me to get married if I must due to my lust; well, Paul, if it were that easy, I'd have a minivan full of kids by now." That line from Chapter 7 really resonated with me! The celibate life is flat-out difficult, and often grows more difficult the longer it goes on. And it's not really talked about because there are no easy answers. Zero. Zip. Nada. I loved how Joy Beth calls us to glorify God by owning up to the fact that He made us with this sexual component to our lives, and by stewarding it to the best of our ability. She explains in Chapter 6, "Stewardship is the quiet, daily work of acknowledging your sexuality, seeing where it's integrated into your life, seeing where the edges are fraying, and being faithful to patch up as needed." She also speaks straight truth when she tells us in Chapter 8, "Sexual purity is a sacrifice, one that the Lord demands of us, and for good reason." As ever, the real pattern for our lives can be found in Jesus Christ, although maybe in a different way than we've ever thought about before: "I embrace my kinship with a sexual Jesus who also struggled against His flesh, against weariness and fatigue and temptation, and still He sinned not. That's a Jesus I actually admire a great deal, one I'm willing to spend the rest of my life trying to model both my singleness and sexuality after" (Chapter 6).Part III: Living In Reality.
We as single women may feel like we're missing out on a big part of life, but if we have followed God and He has led us here, we need to be living out the lives He wants us to live. This section is full of "You'd better say 'ouch' if you can't say 'amen'" lines, such as: "My purpose is not waiting for me at at the altar or inside a cradle. I need to learn how to live a life that's pleasing to God right now - I need to figure out what Biblical womanhood looks like apart from these roles we fill" (Chapter 12). This world needs women who are faithful and women who live out their God-ordained callings. We can help set the standard no matter our marital status. We need to step back from holding marriage up as an idol and live unashamed, grace-filled lives of purpose. What has God called you to do? Are you doing it? Are you seeking Him? Who are our lives to be centered around anyway? Check out another quote from Chapter 12: "When we become pursuers of God, we will make amazing wives. And mothers. And daughters. And friends. Because when we feed that main channel, all those tributaries will benefit."
This review barely skims the surface of Joy Beth's book, and if my reflections have stirred your interest, I cannot recommend this book highly enough, either for single women or married women who want to find ways to be an encouragement to their friends, sisters, or daughters. May our hearts ever be drawn closer to one another and to our Heavenly Father, whose good plans for our lives may look different than ours, but they are still good.
I received my copy of the book from the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.