I’m aging out of the single’s ward and I feel like a failure because I’m still unmarried. I’ve made good choices throughout my life and I’ve worked hard to put myself out there in the dating scene. Despite my best efforts, nothing significant has happened to me in terms of relationships. The gospel is supposed to make us happy, but it’s hard for me to feel that way when each Sunday, I’m constantly reminded that I lack the blessing I want most in my life. How can I motivate myself to continue being active in the church when I feel like a failure?
Thank you so much for your question. I can understand the feelings and frustrations you are experiencing. Two weeks before I turned 31, the church organized five single stakes in my area and then reemphasized the church policy that singles wards are for those aged 18-31. I remember sitting in that stake conference surrounded by literally 1000’s of attractive singles, and facing the reality that in two weeks, I would no longer be a part of those single’s stakes.
Transferring to the family ward at 31, never having been married, was a tremendous challenge. Not only had I never been married, but in ten years of attending a single’s ward I had never even had a committed girlfriend and now I was being cut from one of the most significant sources of dating prospects, the single’s stake. My last Sunday in the single’s ward was so hard on me. I met with the Bishop in tears, not understanding why I had never even come close to finding a spouse, or even a girlfriend! I went home discouraged and sad.
However, I received a text message that afternoon from a friend, inviting everyone to a birthday party for her roommate. Even though I didn’t know the roommate, I figured that I was no longer in a position to turn down opportunities to associate with others singles and determined I would go to the party. There, I met a very beautiful girl named Amie who recognized me from one of my comedy performances. We began chatting that week and enjoyed some fun conversation. I mentioned to her that my first Sunday in the family ward was coming up and that I was feeling a little apprehensive about moving on from the single’s ward.
When I showed up to church, it was overwhelming for sure. I sat in the overflow by myself surrounded by happy families with their rows of children and wondered why the Lord would have allowed me to end up in this position. It was then, out of the blue, that Amie came walking in and sat next to me. That was the first time I had seen her since we met at the party and ultimately ended up being our first date. Amie also became my first girlfriend. So think of that, for ten years I had been in a single’s ward and NEVER had a girlfriend, yet on my first Sunday in the family ward, at age 31, I had my first date with my first girlfriend.
To me it was the Lord teaching me that He was still aware of me, that He knew who I was and that He had a plan for me and perhaps most importantly that He had not forgotten me. Amie and I dated for two months and had a wonderful relationship. We ultimately determined that it was not to lead to marriage and we went our separate ways, but have maintained a warm friendship since then.
I have now been in that family ward for two years, and there are a few things that have helped me stay in my ward and find peace and joy in my circumstance that I would like to share with you:
1. It is sometimes easy to view the church and the gospel as something that is supposed to serve us and give us happiness. We want blessings, opportunities, joy, a family, financial stability and often feel that it is the obligation of the church and the Lord to give us those things. When we are lacking something such as an eternal family, it is easy to become frustrated and blame the church and the Lord for not providing these blessings, especially when we have always lived the gospel, paid our tithing, served in the church, etc. And why shouldn’t we expect those blessings, didn’t the Lord say, “Whatsoever thing ye shall ask in my name it shall be given you?”
Whenever I would feel this way, I would be reminded of the great words of Jesus Christ, “He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matt 10:39). These words remind me that I was put on this earth to be a blessing to others and to serve others and the Lord. That also means being willing to accept whatever calling and position the Lord sees fit to give me. If that means I needed to leave the single’s ward so I could serve in my family ward as a single person, then so be it, because it’s not about me. The church is not here to serve me, I am here to serve the church, God and His children. Reminds me of the famous JFK quote, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” (Can you hear JFK’s voice in your head when you read that?? 🙂 ) Think of that same quote but with the church, “Ask not what your church, ward, and stake can do for you, but what you can do for your church, ward and stake.”
As I changed my focus to how I can use my talents, gifts and my situation to serve my ward, not only did I feel peace and joy restored to my heart, but I was able to see more and more the wisdom of the Lord and His timing, which leads me to my next point.
2. It is human nature to want what we want, and to want it right now! Elder Maxwell delivered a speech that had a great impact on me, which I think about often when I begin to feel impatient with my situation as an unmarried, mid-30’s man in the church.
He said, “Patience is tied very closely to faith in our Heavenly Father. Actually, when we are unduly impatient we are suggesting that we know what is best—better than does God. Or, at least, we are asserting that our timetable is better than His. Either way we are questioning the reality of God’s omniscience as if, as some seem to believe, God were on some sort of postdoctoral fellowship and were not quite in charge of everything.”
As difficult as it may be sometimes when I am feeling unhappy with my circumstances and that the blessings I have not been promised have not quite been realized, I remember to have faith that if I remain true to the gospel of Jesus Christ, that Heavenly Father will order all blessings for me when I am ready to receive them, when they would be of greatest value to me, and when they would allow me to fully become who He has envisioned for me to become. I have to remember that I am a child of God, not an “adult.” I am learning, growing, and progressing, but as a child I do not fully understand or comprehend all things that my Father does. Think of a child who at a very young age wants to play with matches, but a loving parent who knows best hides the matches. When the child is a teenager, now the parent gives the child matches and teaches how to safely build a fire. There is wisdom and order in our progression through mortality, and God is our perfect Father who knows best when to bless us with certain opportunities.
Learning to submit fully to His will and trust that He really does love me, and knows what is best for me, and wants to bless me in the way that He feels is best is always challenging, but as I have allowed myself to grow in faith of God’s power and knowledge, I have felt the reassurance that His blessings will be realized.
3. As much as I would LOVE to be married to a special woman and have the blessings of children and a family, I recognize that there are many opportunities that are available to me as a single person, which would not be available if I had the responsibilities of husband and father. I decided I would take full advantage of those opportunities. I started my own business, joined a jazz band at the community college, took a stand up comedy class, started producing comedic videos, auditioned for commercials, joined a gym, started a basketball group that plays several times a week, etc. If the Lord doesn’t want me to be married right now, then I sure ain’t going to waste my time as a single person!
Think of any married couple you know with children and think about all of the opportunities they forfeit on a daily basis! Granted, we all would gladly make those sacrifices when we have a family, and we certainly should not procrastinate having a family for those options. But if you aren’t married, enjoy being single and explore all of your talents and gifts! Join a pottery class, learn how to draw, try yoga, join toast masters, take a road trip somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit, start a community outreach program, run a marathon, join a book club etc! The possibilities are endless!
And think about it, what could be more attractive to a possible future spouse than those who are well-rounded, out enjoying life, exploring new activities, gaining experience, and learning how they can improve themselves? Even if you’re a single parent, bring your kids along with you, explore these opportunities when your ex’ has the kids, or drop them off at grandmas one night a week! Enjoy the fact that if nothing else, you do not have to answer to a spouse and ultimately can come and go as you please!
It’s a tough time my dear friend, my heart goes out to you. I know what it’s like to spend countless evenings alone, feeling unloved, undesired and unwanted. I know what it’s like to sit in sacrament meeting completely alone and to see family after family fill the pews with their children, all smiles and giggles. I promise you the Lord loves you and is aware of you. You will feel His love and guidance as you seek to lose yourself for His sake by serving others. Trust that God is infinitely wise and learn to have patience in His timing, and finally just live it up as a single person, worthily of course!! Go enjoy all the opportunities that you can enjoy that would be nearly impossible if you had the responsibilities of a spouse and/or children.
You’re going to make it through. I bear my witness that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church of Christ, and that the 1st Presidency and Quorum of 12 Apostles are inspired by God, even when it comes down to a policy such as the age limits on singles wards. There is purpose, and a reason for all things. Live the gospel my friend, and you will find what you seek.
Editor’s note: There are also midsingle’s wards available for LDS single adults. You may find a list of midsingle’s wards at http://midsingles.wordpress.com/midsingles-wards-list/
Paul Green, is a real estate broker and professional improvisational comedian, actor and trainer. He has trained thousands of professionals and teenagers on principles of leadership, communication, team building and creative thinking and has provided heart-filled advice and encouragement to all who he has had an opportunity to interact. His greatest passion is helping individuals find creative and uplifting solutions to the many challenges of life by applying the principles and doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He looks forward to hearing and understanding the challenges of his readers and helping them to overcome these challenges. For his full bio, click here.
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