When we hear the word “gift,” we often think of something we receive. So in 1 Corinthians 7 when Paul says that some Christians have the gift of singleness, and others the gift of marriage, we immediately think of what we get; “I’m married, I get romance!” Or, “I’m single, I get freedom!”  And while that is a true and right part of the discussion, it is also true that for Christians, all spiritual gifts are given for the building up of the entire body. So what if the “gift”—of marriage or singleness—is as much for those around us as it is for us?

Marriage gives us a picture of the intimate communion we are invited to share with God in Christ. Married couples are an icon for us of the union between Christ and the Church; they show us what it is like for two to live as one: distinctly themselves, but beautifully united. In that sense, marriage is a gift to the whole Church to help us visualize our relationship with Christ as His Bride. Singleness, on the other hand, gives us a picture of faithfulness to a Bridegroom who is yet to come. Singles, too, live a nuptial life, but they point us to the marriage supper of The Lamb, and the Union which human marriage merely images. Think of the nun who wears a wedding ring and says, “I am wed to Christ.” In this sense, singles too are like an icon for us, and a gift to remind us that the ultimate marriage for which we all long is with Christ, the Bridegroom we await.

As a single woman, I needed married couples to image for me what it means that Christ calls us “Bride.” And now as a married woman, I need my single friends to remind me that the human marriage I enjoy is not my ultimate fulfillment, but only a sign of the greater Marriage to come. Marrieds and singles, we need each other. What’s more, the world desperately needs both of us to point to the God who longs to unite Himself to them in love; the only Love that will satisfy the deepest yearnings of the human heart. So whether you are married or single in this moment, you have a gift to give!