A Match Made In Heaven: How Singles And The Church Can Live Happily Ever After, by Wendy Widder
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by the author in exchange for an honest review.]
When I read the author’s previous book , I commented that the book did not really address the plight of singles but was a more comprehensive account of godly living that would be applicable to anyone regardless of their marital status. In contrast, this is very much a book that deals with the thorny place of singles within the modern church. As a single and a very active member of my church denomination and local congregation, I appear to be far more integrated into the local congregation (having always had luck in being adopted by families, as well) than most of the would-be readers of this particular book, but there is a lot about this book that rings painfully true with my own personal experiences. In light of the fact that singlehood and its travails makes up a pretty substantial portion of my church life, it is hard to write about a book like this without being too painfully personal, but I will try to keep it in balance.
There is a lot of tension in this particular book, and it is fortunate that the author recognizes that tension. On the one hand, there are cultural trends towards greater independence (especially for women) and a declining interest in taking the time and effort to let people in or to do the difficult work of making one functioning marriage out of two people. On the other hand, the book is written with a clear goal of legitimizing the status of singles in a church culture that has (largely in response to cultural trends) made a big deal of defending and supporting nuclear families, which tends to attack the legitimacy of those who are unmarried through no fault of their own simply because of a lack of suitable opportunities. On the one hand the book is a pretty clear indictment about the many ways that churches treat singles like escapees from a leper colony (many of which, painfully, I can relate to from personal experience), while on the other hand the book talks about how singles are often pretty jaded and cynical and disinclined to commit to serving a local congregation and community. On the one hand, the book talks about the importance of marriage and family in the Bible (whether we are talking about the extreme importance of marriage in the Talmud or the importance of the family of God, and the marriage of Christ), while on the other it talks about the ways in which our relationship with God is what makes success in all other relationships possible, and that we often make idols of marriage and our earthly families. This sort of tension demonstrates the author seeking to steer a very narrow course between all kinds of possible extremes.
Given the seriousness of the subject and a certain witty and humorous perspective on a part of this author, the tone of the book varies widely across its pages from incisive social commentary, darkly humorous personal stories, thoughtful biblical exegesis (1 Corinthians 7 gets an entire appendix), and what appears to be pre-celibacy counseling similar to that which was dispensed in the previous book of hers that I read . To be fair, some of this difficulty (a lot of this difficulty) is due to the nature of the task. Few people reading this book, and certainly not this reader, are going to be really immediately receptive to the idea of singlehood as a desirable gift, even though it is a proper season for moral development that can offer some benefits of focus on God, if we do not spend all of our time focusing on finding relationships and leaving singlehood far behind and otherwise feeling bitter and put-upon. Singles and the church may seem like an odd couple, but they don’t have to be a match in hell, so long as both sides are willing to take the time to get to know each other, and serve joyfully, seeking to build others in encouragement and share out of the gifts that God has given us all.
 See, for example: