(How to be single and satisfied)
The Heart of Singleness by Andrea Trevenna speaks sensitively and practically into a topic that can dominate our thought life, swamp our prayer life and hinder our ability to actually live the life God has prepared for us. She puts our hearts on trial and concludes that, “Our hearts need to be captured by something bigger and better than having or not having a husband.”
Trevenna begins by unpacking the term ‘the gift of singleness’ through the teaching of the apostle Paul. For many it is an unwanted gift, the kind that warrants a ‘thanks’ through gritted teeth whilst inwardly we grumble ‘but it’s not what I asked for’. Using Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well, Trevenna describes how our hearts are desperately thirsty and long for the one who will quench that thirst. She explains how the gospel of Jesus does just that. Where we might use religion to distract and convince ourselves that we should feel content, the gospel warms and melts our hearts, changing us from the inside. When we question God’s goodness as he withholds marriage from us, Trevenna asks us to ask ourselves, “Am I really going to make the measure of his love whether he gives me a husband, instead of whether he gave his life for me?”
Two fictional single women accompany us on our journey through the book, Sally and Maya. One lives her life in joyless obedience, waiting for God to fulfil his promise to give her the desires of her heart. The other has taken matters into her own hands as God’s will for her life does not match up to her own. Trevenna likens the two women to the brothers in the parable of the prodigal son, one dutiful and resentful, the other impatient and wilful. She suggests that we may identify with either to some extent, and that the root of the problem is in wanting what the father can give us rather than the father himself.
This book is warm, personal, biblical, and pragmatic. As with all conversations like this, it can only go so far in reconciling what we know and what we feel; our sinful nature still urges us to dwell upon what we don’t have rather than what we do. But Trevenna reminds us that marriage is a picture, a precious picture, but a picture nonetheless, of the relationship between us and God. She traces this relationship history along the storyline of the Bible, and we can see that to long for a husband is to long for the shadow of something we already have.
By Ruth Schroeter