By Margaret Leong
When I was a child, I thought there were only three types of singles: spinsters, nuns and priests. Since nuns and priests willingly give their lives to serve God, they choose to be single. But what about the spinsters? You see, my experience with them as a young child was not very pleasant. They were the usually strict grumpy teachers who mainly taught Chinese in school or those eccentric ladies in church who shushed and glowered at children. I remembered being scared of them and often wondered if they were unhappy because they were ‘left on the shelf’.
Desire to be single
And yet, at 17 years old, I knew I wanted to be single. Oh, don’t be mistaken. I was interested in boys all right. Through my university years and as a working adult, I dated and was even in a couple of relationships but somehow deep down in me I felt that marriage was not my thing. I just did not desire marriage or a long-term relationship.
My friends would say to me, “Don’t worry, you just haven’t met the right man. That time will come.” Or “You are too fussy, Margaret. Lower your expectations and give love a chance.” Well-meaning friends hooked me up with single male friends of theirs. They thought that if I met more people, I might just meet THAT man for me. When I tried to explain to them that maybe being single wasn’t that bad, they tut-tutted me.
Life as a new age bachelorette
Meanwhile, I was having the time of my life as a financially independent strong-willed single woman; my way of life strongly influenced by the ‘-isms’ of a modern urbanite: relativism, activism and feminism. I was the prodigal daughter having stopped going to church. I left the home of God our Father and stayed away for 23 years. I was determined to prove that I was in complete control of my own life. I made my own rules, I danced to my own tune. Not even God could tell me what to do.
That seemed to work well in my 20s, 30s and early 40s. I was the poster girl for the new age bachelorette; travelling extensively, partying hard, and working even harder. I went to church once a year for the obligatory Christmas Mass.
Then something happened.
The search for meaning in life
I started to ask THE question – What is the meaning of life? With no responsibilities and commitments, I found it difficult to understand my purpose on earth. What do singles live for? I was experiencing an emptiness, a boredom that could not be filled by another holiday or dinner parties or date nights or …. anything. I flipped through Philosopy books written by Plato, Aristotle, Jean-Paul Sartre, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Bertrand Russell – hoping to find answers. I found none, of course. Then one day, by the grace of God, my journey home started.
It happened in the most un-dramatic way. I looked down at my hands and a thought just struck me: how under-used my hands were. As I held them up I saw St Mother Teresa’s lined and calloused, gentle and loving hands; her pair of humble yet strong, meek but powerful hands. Then I heard a voice telling me: “Put your hands to good use. They are too smooth. They are meant to be purposeful.”
The journey home
And that’s how, four years ago at age 44, I started my journey home – single with a purpose. As St Paul said in 1 Cor 7:34 ‘… a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and be holy in body and in spirit.’ I have 23 years of catching up on my Catholic faith. And I am so thankful that I do not have familial distractions to pull me away. I started going on mission trips to Sabah and Indonesia. I developed a Day with God discipline where Saturday is spent with God from morning mass to attending a faith formation class in the afternoon to quiet reflection in front of the Blessed Sacrament in the evening. I try to attend a talk during weekday evenings. I serve in my church’s ministry of lectors. As a single, I am blessed with the gift of time to devote to God. After all, our first and primary relationship is with God our Heavenly Father. I know I am called to do more.
God has a plan for each of us. When we embrace his plan and do his will, we experience joy and peace in our hearts. Everything just falls into place. My vocation and mission as a single in the secular world is to live a joyous Christian life so as to be a witness and evangelist to those around me. That is God’s purpose for me – single and joyous to do his will.