Remembering Our Sisterhood in Every Station

By Trillia Newbellpic of girls

I recently stumbled upon an article by Carolyn McCulley titled, “Sanctification in the Season of Singleness”. In it she encouraged single adults to pursue growth in godliness despite the lie they may believe that true growth only happens when one is squeezed by marriage.

She explained:

When couples speak of their first year of marriage, they often remark that they thought they were mature — until they got married. Then their selfishness was revealed. Yes, that’s one way God works, and it can be fairly intense. But it is not the only way. When said to an unmarried adult, we can hear: “Not only are you unwanted for marriage, you are also consigned to a lifetime of immaturity!”

Carolyn is right. The testimony often heard is the difficulty of marriage the first year and how much sin was revealed in each ones hearts. I’ll admit, that’s my marriage testimony.  Though I’d also say that because of consistent accountability with friends I was quite aware going into marriage that I had sin to be killed. I grew to know the Lord in greater ways through those friendships. But marriage, in fact,  revealed parts of me that I didn’t know existed.

Her honesty about how those testimonies can affect the heart of a single woman was sobering to me. But I think this paragraph had the greatest impact.

We live in a period where the church highly esteems the commitments of marriage and family — as it should, for many in our surrounding culture do not. But I think that this regular emphasis on our roles as men and women, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, and so forth can obscure the one aspect of our identity that we have in common: We are adopted children of our heavenly Father and siblings to one another. While many roles end in this life, this one does not. Since our “siblinghood” is not addressed as often as other relationships in the church, it is easy to forget. Because of that, some of the hardest work we will do is to hold fast to the truth of our identity in Christ while sitting in our own churches. But don’t become discouraged or bitter if this happens. It’s just a training opportunity.

I’m not going to challenge the Church to do better when addressing singlehood, marriage, family and the like. I don’t know what all churches are doing. But I can take a look at my own life and what comes out of my mouth. And this paragraph left me wondering: Am I a good friend to my single sisters? Do I remind them of their identity in Christ or do I simply speak about my family and kids? Am I self-centered?

Her words convicted me. I think I have been wife and mommy focused. I don’t think I’ve completely dropped my single friends, but I don’t know that I’ve been sisterly focused either.  What I mean is, I may not drop my single friends in my heart (I still love them dearly) but because of the busyness of life, I have forgotten to invite them in. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this being addressed. I remember one of my pastors challenging the congregation not to do this.  Obviously this is a problem in the Church.

Married women we may not be able to host people every day or drop everything and go out all night. But we can send an email, make a quick phone call, invite our friends to lunch, or catch up after church.  We don’t have to be fancy–just friends. We can invite our sisters into our lives. Carolyn wisely challenged singles to guard against self-centeredness. The truth is, we all need this admonishment.

I can imagine that there are some moms who are thinking: Great, how am I supposed to do anything else? Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying we need to pack our schedules with friendships and thus neglect our God-given responsibilities as wives and for some, mothers. But I do think we need to think about what Carolyn is saying and prayerfully consider how we might have contributed and how we can be sisters to our sisters.

Over the past week I’ve been reading a compelling book about adoption called Adopted for Life by Russell Moore.  As I was reading Carolyn’s article I was reminded of this section:

In Christ, we find Christ. We don’t have our old identities based on race or class or life situation. The Spirit drives us from Babel to Pentecost, which is why ‘the works of the flesh’ Paul warns about include ‘enmity, strife, jealously’…(Gal. 5:19-21). When we find our identity anywhere other than Christ, our churches will be made up of warring partisans rather than loving siblings. And we’ll picture to the world an autopsied Body of Christ, with a little bit of Jesus for everyone, all of on our own terms (1 Cor. 1:12-13).

What would it mean, though, if we took the radical notion of being brothers and sisters seriously? What would happen if your church saw an elderly woman no one would ever confuse with ‘cool’ on her knees at the front of the church praying with a body-pierced fifteen-year-old anorexic girl? What would happen if your church saw a white millionaire corporate vice president being mentored by a Latino minimum wage-earning janitor because both know the janitor is more mature in the things of Christ? (Kindle, 544-545)

What would it mean if we looked up and looked out and saw our sisters in Christ?  What if we made a decision to change what consistently comes out of our mouths compelled by love, not some strange notion of a service project? I want to be this elderly woman Moore writes about. I want to look up and out and love others. God can help us do this.

The good news is, if we’ve failed at being good friends and sisters, God has grace for that. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). He will also give us the grace to change where needed (2 Pet. 1:3). The truth is, those testimonies won’t change.  Marriage is a sanctifying station. But we can actively remind our sisters that our Christian identities (married or unmarried) aren’t rooted in our station, but in Christ. This is the most loving thing we can tangibly do.

 

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