This year Becky and I would have celebrated our 47th wedding anniversary. But God had other plans. The older you get, the more you realize that relationships aren't quite the facile, simple thing of story books. Mistakes are made. Casualties are sustained. Death intervenes.
I have now been single for almost 10 years. One thing I've discovered is that singleness is a gift of God. That's exactly what Paul calls it in 1 Cor. 7:7 -- a charism, a grace gift. This one verse unlocks the entire chapter. "Each person has his or her own grace gift from God." There isn't one fixed plan for every Christian when it comes to marriage. Marriage is the norm, no question about it. Paul exalts and elevates it. Marriage is a precious gift of God to the human race. I recall this every time I run the Dallas Marathon, which goes past the exact spot on White Rock Lake where I proposed to Becky in 1976. Paul is all for wholehearted, full-blooded marriage. He himself, of course, had the gift of singleness. He was able to cope with it and make it work in his own life. To be single is to possess a charismatic gift from the Lord, just as much as it is to be married. Singleness is a calling. It isn't for everybody. It might not even be my permanent calling. But at the moment it is my calling. The world says, "Get teamed up at all costs." It fails to see every phase of life as a precious opportunity to fulfillment and usefulness.
Every calling has its opportunities and privileges, and every calling has its restrictions and challenges. Paul wants everyone to know that marriage is an option -- it's not for everyone -- and that there are some really good things awaiting those who pursue God's calling to singleness.