JACINDA MELSON, WOMEN’S RESIDENT DIRECTOR AT BOYCE COLLEGE, has spent time in South America as a journeyman for the International Mission Board and teaches Sunday School at Hunsinger Baptist Church. She is also single into her 30s. Below, she discusses singleness, ministry, and contentment with Towers editor Andrew J.W. Smith. Singles can do much more than just serve in the nursery.
AJWS: The idea of lifelong singleness: How can we learn to see that as a gift, as Paul seems to think it is?
JM: As one of my friends told me once, “singleness is an opportunity to serve the Lord only.” Having a husband and a family is a good thing, and it is God-given. But when God doesn’t give those things, what do you do? You still say, “I will follow you, Lord, and I will be guided and directed by you, for whatever you have for me.” A lot of times girls don’t see the preciousness of singleness. It is a gift because you are single to serve the Lord during that time. We need to see that as good, because the Lord withholds no good thing from those who fear him. We can use our singleness for his glory.
AJWS: What does contentment in singleness look like for you?
JM: In college and high school, I saw a lot of friends pursuing relationships that I thought were unwise. So I had a close-fisted attitude about my own singleness — I wanted to show the world how to be a content single woman. But it was an overconfident contentedness, as I realized I wasn’t compassionate enough toward the girls who struggled with their singleness and who really did want to be married. A few years ago the Lord began to open my hands and say, “I want you to give me your desire to be single.”
There is an Amy Carmichael quote that has stuck with me through the years: “I wish thy way, and when in me myself shall rise and long for something otherwise, then, Lord, take sword and spear and slay.” And that’s what he continues to teach me. It’s still a journey to be content on a daily basis, no matter what my struggle is. It is a gift to be able to say that this is where the Lord has me. And as a single woman, I have the capacity to do a lot of really good things for him. And that’s where my focus should be. It goes back to Christ: Is he enough in singleness and is he enough in marriage?
I certainly go through seasons in my struggle with contentment. It requires a heart check, a balance — remembering my desires and motives and casting them before the Lord. Today it may not be difficult. Tomorrow it could be. But I still can’t work through it without the Lord and his grace. I’m thankful for the women of faith who have gone before me like Elisabeth Eliot and Amy Carmichael who have shown how to live in singleness, loneliness, and loss while serving the Lord. I’m thankful for them.
AJWS: Are there unique challenges that single women face here at the seminary?
JM: I think sometimes we come into seminary with expectations — whether that is to be married by the time we leave, or to have clear vocational direction by the time we leave. Sometimes women are somewhat forgotten in serving local churches or other kinds of ministry. Single women are a minority, especially at a seminary that is a training ground for pastoral ministry. It can be challenging to find our place here. So in light of those challenges, I have sought to be intentional to get involved in my local church and local ministries.
AJWS: What advice would you give to women facing those challenges?
JM: Seek the Lord and trust him where he has you now. Be present. Put all of your effort and energy into your undergrad and seminary training and into your local church. We need to be able to say: “Lord, thank you for showing me where I can serve you now, and help me to be patient as I wait to see you work in the desires of my heart.”
AJWS: What are some ways that a single woman in the church can be involved in ministry that a married person can’t?
JM: I personally have more time and flexibility — to reach out to people in my community group, to teach Sunday school. I’m not inhibited by having to meet the needs of a husband and family. Your time is opened up to care for the orphans and the widows, the sick, the hurting. You can be available — encourage moms, be diligent to pray for your pastor and church leadership, serve the church in ways that others who have more commitments can’t. If you don’t feel like you have a place, be bold and ask leadership: “Here are my gifts and talents. How can I use these to serve the church?”
AJWS: What are some ways that married people in the church can encourage single people?
JM: By encouraging their gifts and talents, spurring them on, being an advocate for them, and opening your home. Single people want to belong and feel like part of a family — especially if ours is hours away. We want to be part of your family too. We want to be able to speak truth in love to fellow Christians in the church. We are co-laborers, and we are also striving to glorify the Lord in our words and deeds. We can pour into the lives of fellow believers, teach the Bible to middle school girls, mentor younger members. Single people can do much more than just serve in the nursery. See our value for the kingdom and help us rejoice in it.