Heather Bellamy spoke with Sheila Jones about what she has experienced in a life-time of singleness.
The desire for intimacy and relationship is deeply ingrained in all of us, but for some Christians, singleness is a lifetime journey. Heather Bellamy spoke with Sheila Jones, who has walked with God for many decades and is now 80, and has never been married.
Heather: Did you ever want to get married?
Sheila: Yes, especially when I was in my later 30s and 40s. In my 20s and early 30s I was so busy and happy in the work I was doing that it was not such a big issue.
Heather: Why did you never get married?
Sheila: Because nobody ever asked me.
Heather: What have been the wrestles that you have been through with that?
Sheila: I think probably, the biggest practical issue for me and for many single people, is the social stigma. It's just not acceptable. It's not quite so noticeable now, when people are referred to as Ms, but I have found that a lot of people are not happy to refer to me as Miss. It's looked on as an insult, on a level with spinster and old maid. The social stigma is a nuisance.
Also, for single ladies in business and even in the church, they are simply not thought of. It doesn't enter in to the picture as a possibility for any position and that can be difficult. Although it's not as much of a barrier as it used to be.
On the other hand, one lives through it and we carry on, but that is quite a difficulty.
Heather: Have you been fulfilled being single, or have you been unfulfilled, emotionally and in yourself as a person?
Sheila: Oh, I think there's no doubt about the fact that one can be fulfilled as a single person. It's a great joy to me to remember that Jesus was single and I've never heard anybody suggest that he was an unfulfilled, or inadequate person. I think as a single person one can be very fulfilled. Of course that doesn't mean that you experience the family life and married life and children as a married person does, but it does mean that as a person, who you are, that you are complete. You are not a half person; you are you as a complete person and that is lovely.
Heather: Where have you found fellowship and friendship, so that you're not alone?
Sheila: The easiest time was when I was working in India with other foreigners. I was in a church work situation, so that we were all colleagues and all working together. Those have been deep relationships, so that my close friends, even now, 40 odd years after we've left our work there, we are still close friends.
Heather: What has God spoken to you about your singleness, or singleness generally, over the years?
Sheila: One thing I remember He said to me, I'd been in a conference and I was just coming home and thinking over all that had been shared in the conference. As I was travelling, it seemed as though my whole life went across in front of my eyes. It was as if God said, "Look at your life. You see that with the way you lived, the way you were brought up and the circumstances of your life, added to your personality, it was very unlikely that you would marry." Then He went on, "It was not specifically my intention that you would not marry, but knowing your life and knowing who you are, I also knew the loneliness you would suffer and I loved you." That was probably the most significant thing God said to me; that having looked at all my life, He said, "I knew all about it and I loved you." As I look back on my life, I'm just amazed at His love for me over the years, in so many different ways.
Heather: What have been the riches you've found through being single? You've spoken of some of the challenges and stigma, but I would imagine the other side of the coin is there must also be riches to find in being single?
Sheila: I think St. Paul put it very briefly when he was writing to the Corinthians. He was saying that it's quite good for those who are single to remain that way. Not that they have to, but that the married person, be it a man or a woman, has many concerns; looking after their husband or wife and family and how to please them. Whereas a single person really only has the Lord to please. I have found that there is a tremendous freedom in being available for God to send anywhere and to have joy in many different experiences and many different types of work and places to go and places to live. You're free because you have only yourself to consider with God and so only doing what He wants. Whereas for a family person, obviously there are a lot more complications.
The freedom and liberty of singleness is very precious and I have found such riches. Jesus said, if we leave our families and country, or anything for His sake and the gospel's we will receive a hundredfold. Well, I've never counted it to be a hundredfold, but I look back and I think, I've got friends in different parts of the world. There's even at least one little baby in India called Sheila and there's a little baby, well, they're grown up now of course, but there was a little baby in Argentina called Sheila too. Children there call me Aunty, Sheila Aunty in India and Aunty in Argentina. It's very precious and valuable.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
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