Q. I was widowed a few years ago and totally devastated by my loss. I am so tired of feeling lost and lonely. Though I have no desire to remarry, I would like at least to have some companionship with the opposite sex. But these thoughts make me feel so guilty and disloyal to my late husband, who is now with the Lord. What should I do?
—Alana Purvis, via e-mail
A. You feel lost and lonely—lonely because you have been severed from a living part of yourself, and lost because you don't know what to do next. You can't visualize how the rest of your life is supposed to go, now that the life you shared with your husband has been taken away. What next?
This is one of the big "Who am I?" meaning-of-life moments that we don't expect to have again after we marry and settle down. Once we've begun a successful relationship, we find it takes on its own existence. When this union is broken the surviving partner reels disoriented, feeling like an amputee.
It's up to the surrounding community to offer the bereaved a role that is useful, honorable, and fulfilling. You're not getting this; in fact, few single people in our culture do, since pairing up is relentlessly presented as the only choice. Singles are continually pushed together and prompted to find a mate, as if anything short of couple-life is deficient.
Christians desperately need to recover a way of seeing the single life as valid on its own terms, and not simply as a holding tank. Though never-marrieds are made to feel like failures, that would hardly be history's judgment of their great example, the apostle Paul. He found his life so fulfilling that he said, "I wish that all were as I myself am" (1 Cor. 7:7).1