I recently saw an article written by Marshall Segal and it got me to thinking about how to maximize singleness when you are over 50. It is a great time in life. There is much freedom that may have been lost when married, raising kids and working. As a single person over 50 you are most likely far less busy with chores, soccer, piano, and meeting the needs of your spouse and your children. Below is a take on the 5 points he had for younger folks who most likely had never married before. Obviously that doesn’t apply to us. So I have applied these 5 tips to us! But I couldn’t stop there. I have one more that I felt was very important.
Making the Most of Singleness after 50
By now you have probably realized that marriage will not meet our unmet needs, solve our weaknesses, heal our wounds, organize our lives, and unleash our gifts. It is far from the solution, Paul makes marriage out to be a kind of problematic Plan B for Christian life and ministry. Marry if you must, but be warned that following Jesus is not easier when you join yourself to another sinner in a fallen world. If you are single over 50, you have probably experienced this first hand. While marriage can bring joy, comradery, help and relief with certain parts of our lives, it immediately increases our distractions; we are now responsible for our spouse and eventually children and their protection, needs, dreams, and growth. It’s a high calling and a good calling, a demanding one that will keep us from all kinds of other good things, but it is not the only calling!
When we find ourselves single over 50, I think most of us are probably a bit wounded, battle scarred and probably trying to catch our breath. I know I was. I realized a season of singleness is not punishment or the minor leagues of life. I have come to understand that it was an answer to prayer for healing. I now see it has the potential to be a unique period of personal growth, undivided devotion to Christ and un-distracted ministry to others. With Spirit in you and the calendar clear, God has given you the means to make a lasting difference for his kingdom. You’re all dressed up, having every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3), with literally everywhere to go.
But where and what?
I can’t answer that for everyone, but following are five lessons that may help you change the world (or at least your little corner of it), to use this time of singleness and your wisdom. With God’s help and Spirit leading, you have the freedom to invest yourself, your time, your resources, your wisdom and your flexibility in growth, relationships, ministries, and causes that can bear unbelievable fruit—here’s to living single, satisfied, and sent!
1. Remember that true greatness will
often look like weakness
I have learned to trust God’s provision. Sometimes it looks like I am waiting when many times I should be moving. That I should be nervous, anxious, worried, but I am not. He says, instead, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all” (Mark 10:43–44). Servants in this life will rule the next. Slaves in this life will be kings forever. True greatness isn’t the kind that appears in bold letters on our favorite website. No, it shows up in the details, the impact of and in other people’s lives. If we aspire to be great, to make a change in the world (which is true greatness) we need to give ourselves to the small, mundane, easily overlooked needs around us. Then we need to learn, if he brings me to it, he will provide for me and bring me through it. This leaves us free to consider how we can be of service to others, rather than being consumed with how our personal needs are going to be met. Trust and service are signs of true greatness.
2. Notice the people God has already put around you
I have a couple of thoughts on this one. My first thought is that God will surround his servants with love and support, through trust. Trusting him. He will also cause us to look within. Many times we attract those that are a reflection of something we need to heal. If you are called to serve, and you feel uncomfortable, judgmental, and fearful, stop and ask, “What is the lesson you have for me here Lord?” God has put you on the planet and in your neighborhood so that you and all the people in your life might seek him. That’s God’s mission statement for wherever you live, study, or work. Paul says that God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him” (Acts 17:26–27). This is a time for you to seek God and to feel your way toward him and as you do this to share the way with others that their path might be made straighter. Open yourself up to Spirit’s guidance and Spirit will use you to guide others.
3. Practice selflessness while you’re single
“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3–4). Now one thing I think most of us over 50 need to learn is the selfless act of self care. Give yourself permission to take good care of yourself. You cannot serve others if you are broken down! But then we should think of a few people or families for whom we could lay down our single life for. No one is expecting you to care and provide for others right now—no one, that is, except for God. Be mindful of the needs of others, consider contributing your time or other resources. It could be money or food, or just time, energy and love. Sometimes the act of just looking at someone and truly seeing them is an act of love. Try it.
4. Say yes to the spontaneous
One of your greatest spiritual gifts as a single person is your Yes. Yes to a random phone conversation. Yes to coffee. Yes to help with the move. Yes to stepping in when someone’s sick. Yes to a late-night movie or the special event downtown. To show up for a friend. To prepare and serve a meal. To be a driver or an ear to listen. You have the unbelievable freedom to say yes. When the spouse doesn’t exist yet, you cannot hurt him or her with the selfless, impulsive decisions you make to serve others. Be willing to say yes and be a blessing to others, even when you don’t always feel like it.
In blessing others you will find blessings.
5. Do radical, time-consuming things for God
Just as you are free to say yes to spontaneous things, you’re also able to say yes to things that require more of you than a married person can afford. Dream bigger, more costly dreams. Start a daily prayer meeting or some regular outreach. Commit to mentor and disciple several men or women younger than you. Organize a new Christ-centered community service project. Do all of the above. You’d be surprised, with God’s Spirit in you and a resolve to spend your singleness well, how much you and your no-longer married friends are truly capable of, especially when you dream and work together. Be radical but not reckless. The idea is not to spread yourself dangerously thin, so make decisions prayerfully, listen for Spirit’s guidance. Work in community with people who love you and can tell you no.
How could you use your gifts to do something radical or time-consuming to show others Jesus in you?
6. In all things be Grateful
At this stage in life, like I said, many times we are battle scarred and road weary. But we should know that “God turns all things to good for those that love him”. Look for the lesson, the blessing in those battle scars. Use what you have learned through these battles and on the road you have taken to help others find their way to the love of God. My daughter is a recovering opiate addict. She has been in NA for 8 years. She now sponsors other women in the program. She holds their hands and gentle guides them and helps them find their path. She doesn’t drag them kicking and screaming down hers but she warns them of the possible pitfalls if they choose unwisely. So many times, people hold on to anger and bitterness. It is so much better to accept the lesson, and keep your eyes on the prize and on God and know that your unique path continues. Where will it take you? What wondrous things will you see and do? Isn’t it kind of exciting to think of just asking God to take your life and use it how He sees fit and then just wait to see where he takes you? What a wonderful adventure it could be and what amazing people you could meet!
Vickie Washburn is a seeker of God, a spiritual mentor, healer and coach. If you would like to work with Vickie you can find her at vickiewashburn.com