Party of One: Truth, Longing, and the Subtle Art of Singleness
Joy Beth Smith
Looking through the table of contents of Joy Beth Smith’s Party of One: Truth, Longing, and the Subtle Art of Singleness, one is hit by truth after mythbusting truth. It’s all right there in the chapter titles: “God Doesn’t Owe You a Husband.” “Singleness Isn’t Seasonal.” “Jesus Might Not Meet All Your Needs.”
And that’s before we even get to the section on sex.
Those chapter titles are emblematic of Smith’s no-holds-barred approach to the subject of singleness—a subject sorely in need of such an approach. Like many of her fellow single Christians, Smith is tired of the fake promises and formulas, the awkward silences, and the stigmas that surround singleness in today’s church. She attacks and dismantles them with refreshing candor and wit. Even more importantly, she also offers a vision for single Christians that is both more holistic and closer to the spirit of Scripture than most of what we’ve been getting from Christian thinkers and leaders.
“There is so much life God has given me to live, with or without a husband,” Smith writes, “and I can’t waste it sitting in my disappointments. . . . Instead, I want to drink deeply of life and let go of all the rest. And I want to do it with my sisters, bringing community to those who feel isolated, hope to those who feel desperate, and truth to those who feel deceived.”
To that end, Smith held roundtable gatherings of single women in various cities, to share their joys, hopes, fears, and frustrations. (Full disclosure: I was a member of one of these roundtables. I also endorsed the book.) Their thoughts, as recorded in Party of One, are a rich source of information and insight for single Christians, as well as married Christians who want to know more about how to support and encourage single people. (Though the book is geared toward women, I believe men can learn a lot from it too.)
These women open up about broken relationships, dashed hopes, and unfulfilled longings, as well as new dreams and unexpected joys. They puncture the myths, shatter the illusions, and serve up a healthy dose of truth about the ups and downs of the Christian single life.
As one woman, Katie, puts it: “When someone tells me how I’d be great at being a wife or mom, it invalidates what I’m doing right now that feels valuable and life-giving, and those are things that don’t depend on a man or children. People don’t trust me when I say I’m content. There’s nothing wrong with that desire or hope, but you can’t stake your life’s fulfillment on a happy marriage.”
Messages like these, when taken seriously, can transform our often misguided and narrow views of what the Christian life is really about, not to mention how Christian women are supposed to think and act. By raising her own voice and promoting the voices of many other women on these topics, Joy Beth Smith has done not just single people, but the whole church, a deeply valuable service.
Gina Dalfonzo is the author of One by One: Welcoming the Singles in Your Church (Baker, 2017).