There is an expectation in my culture - and I can only really speak for my own - that every woman will find a husband, every man will find a wife. I suppose this began with the primal instinct for the survival of the species, and became the dominant story lived and told generation after generation.
I wonder: has this made us blind? Have we made it almost impossible to see the gift of alternative stories, the stories lived and told by the man who loves a man, the woman who loves a woman, the woman or man who, by choice or circumstance, remains single.
For there is, indeed, a gift in love, no matter what the gender of your partner.
We celebrate marriage - the commitment of two people to each other in partnership for life - in order to celebrate love. The Sacred Story of my tradition (Christian) equates God with Love - affirming that Love is Sacred. Do other faith traditions likewise affirm the Divine source of love?
The dominant story has limited these celebrations to one kind of intimate life partnership, demonising and diminishing the value of all others. Love is still love. Partnership is still partnership - the central relationship in a person's life that nurtures and is nurtured by all other relationships in which we participate. For humans are fully human in relationship, connection, with each other.
What, then, of the single person? There is much grief for one who remains single against their choice, preference, longing. For these people, at least, there is sympathy - for you are still, somehow, reaching for participation in the dominant story (unless you are seeking a partner of the same gender, of course).
What if you choose to be single, though? There is stigma, uncertainty, even fear in response to such a choice. For it is as if you are rocking the foundations of society, withdrawing deliberately from the dominant story.
I heard Amy-Jill Levine speak recently, and almost as an aside (it seems so often to be the asides that stay with me) she mentioned Jesus' singleness, the celibacy of the disciples, as a gift that Jews and protestant Christians have forgotten to treasure. Catholic and Orthodox and Anglicans even, still have monastic orders that affirm and celebrate the giftedness of the single folk. I went and read a chapter Levine has in a book about Jesus, in which she has written line that claims singleness as a gift.
When you view your singleness as a gift - which is easier if it is your choice than if it is a state of being you would rather change - you are able to receive it. You find courage to resist the fear and lack of understanding from those for whom the dominant story is the only story they can see. You discover affirmation and release - and are able to participate in the relationships you do have with greater integrity and presence than before. Because when the dominant story is the only story playing, you don't fit, so you spend a lot of energy trying to adapt. But it is life-sapping to view yourself as 'not married' when what you are is 'single'. I imagine it is likewise life-sapping to view yourself as 'not straight' when what you are is 'gay' or 'lesbian'.
To accept who I am, rather than try to be what others expect me to be - I can actually be me. And what did Jesus come for, but to encourage us to enter into life in all its fulness? How can we encourage fulness of life and being in others, if we do not embrace it for ourselves?
So the story I am living is not the story most people will live - but then, isn't every person's story unique, anyway?
As I write this, finding words I have been seeking for some time, to tell my story of receiving and treasuring a rarer gift, I find myself pondering what other dominant stories in Australia blind us to the gifts held within alternative stories?
Does the dominant story of Christian spirituality (which even the majority don't actually subscribe to any more) blind us to the gift of stories of alternative traditions that celebrate, express and nurture, encounter with the Sacred?
Does the dominant story of European cultural heritage blind us to the gift of stories from Indigenous Australian, Asian, African, Polynesian, South American (and more) cultures in our midst?
Are the dominant stories we tell ourselves - individuals and communities - binding us, blinding us to alternative stories that might actually set us free?