SEVERAL years ago an editor
directed me to write a story on weekend leisure activities in South Florida. I typed out a
lead sentence to the effect of "Tired after a long week, South Florida residents'
first thought upon arriving home from work is what they can find in the
refrigerator." I sent the editor the story via computer.
After reading it, she shot me a look
reminiscent of the last Ice Age, then tapped out a few editing suggestions. She told me to
redo the lead. "What most people think about on Friday nights," she noted,
"is how they can have sex."
Another afternoon I was writing a story on a
black Baptist group when in walked a co-worker with a potboiler on a former nun. Surely,
she said, I'd want to read it. I picked it up, half-guessing its contents: a nun spends
years fighting restrictions imposed by her order and finally leaves it, but not until the
explosive scene near the end where she happily loses her virginity. Only then does she
feel she has finally become a woman. It was such a predictable line: religion restricts
but sex frees up. We only become adults when we have sex. And so on.
About the same time, a single friend asked
to meet me for breakfast. She was a college friend who had surprised all her friends by
going to law school. We were both twenty-nine. She told me of the thirtieth birthday party
of another single friend. One of the birthday cards she got said on the front that there
are worse things than being over thirty. On the inside it announced, "You could still
be a virgin."
I can still see the pain on her face.
"I felt like a freak," she told me. I think many singles lose their virginity
because they have no compelling reason not to do so. They don't want to be considered
Life without sex
Many of our friends even our
Christian friends consider life without sex abnormal. If we are divorced or
widowed, they wonder why we don't use our newfound freedom to explore sexual frontiers; if
we used to sleep around before conversion but now do not, they wonder why we are suddenly
Virginity is literally a joke. I once picked
up a greeting card that read on the outside, "Many years ago, people remained pure,
chaste, and wholesome and were called virgins. Today, some people still remain pure,
chaste, and wholesome . . .". The inside punchline read, "They are called
In a typical news story on sexual issues,
those who promote abstinence and resist casual sex and homosexuality are described as
rigid, cold, manipulative, joyless, immature, and asexual, if not just afraid of sex.
Those who make a case for sex outside of marriage are seen as open, warm, gentle,
pastoral, flexible, understanding, and caring. When the Vatican issued a critical
statement on homosexuality in 1986, some of the stories written about it treated its
writers as dried-up, passionless people who really didn't understand the gusto and joy of
Our culture is not enamored of chastity
chastity meaning faithfulness within marriage and abstinence from sex outside of
marriage. Society expects that everyone not only wants sex but needs sex. Sex between the
unmarried is considered normal. The unmarried are portrayed as sexually active on most TV
sitcoms (look at Friends or Seinfeld).
Only 20 percent of all unmarried women in
their twenties are still virgins, according to numerous surveys, including a study by the
National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. One-third of all single women in their
twenties, about 2.4 million people, have lived with a man at some point, the study said.
(The poll takers didn't seek men's reactions.) Time magazine has stated that at current
rates, 40 percent of today's fourteen-year-old girls will be pregnant at least once by the
age of twenty. (Many, of course, will have abortions.)
A sociologist, Robert Sherwin from Miami
University in Oxford, Ohio, studied how long people were keeping their virginity. In 1963,
he said, 40 percent of all men were virgins before they married, but in 1984, male virgins
had fallen to 28 percent. As for women, 75 percent of those polled in 1963 were still
virgins, but that number tumbled to 38 percent in 1978. (Then women started holding out.
More women are saying no, he reported, and the percentage was up to 43 percent by 1984.)
In other words, everything tells us that the
chaste among us are out of step. I was at a luncheon where the speaker was describing his
forty-fifth birthday. "Up until now," he said, "my two main interests in
life were sex and sex. Now they're politics and religion." Everyone laughed. I felt
completely out of touch. If my two interests in life consisted of sex and more sex, I'd be
in trouble. If nothing else, chastity does force one to develop more wide-ranging
Sex, the Single Christian, and the Church
In the Church, however, it is very difficult
for single Christians to mention their sexual desires for fear of being thought
unspiritual, even though those thoughts are never far from our minds. Single Christians
need support in remaining chaste in a culture that tells us constantly that chastity is
weird or pointless and that they would be healthier and happier if they just gave in to
their natural desires for sexual intimacy.
When people need a place for support, some
head for a bar. Believers in Christ should head for a church. But in most congregations
virtue is assumed but not taught or even actively encouraged. Books abound on sexual
technique for married Christians, but little exists for the unmarried that is not
simplistic and insulting to anyone of average intelligence and normal desires.
After all, people reason, what is there to
teach about abstaining? Even Christians see sex as fulfillment, virginity as a vacuum. How
many Sunday school classes really address this topic the way it should be addressed?
Though there are classes on the family and on being happily married, I see little in the
way of "Abstinence 101" or "Advanced Chastity." No, churches tend to
expect singles to marry and assume that singleness and celibacy are only temporary.
And woe to us if it is permanent. One single
male friend of mine often complains that what riles him isn't the unbelievers, but the
believers. He once wrote, "What gets to me is the incessant barrage of questions
like, 'Are you married?' or 'How old did you say you were?' or 'Oh, you've never been
married?' or 'Didn't it work out?' ad nauseam."
Unfortunately, from the Church's point of
view single people may not need support but they are useful. In various fields involving
sacrificial or dangerous work, such as inner city ministry or overseas missions,
Christians assume that single people are somehow more expendable than married people. This
is true even when it comes to working weekends and holidays. Single people tend to get
stuck with odd shifts because their supervisors assume that they have no family to be
with. Unfortunately, even Christian culture assumes that the addition of a husband or wife
somehow increases our worth. This is contrary to biblical ideals. That's why I like a
phrase printed on the back of Struggling for Wholeness, by Ann Kiemel Anderson and Jan
Kiemel Ream. "You are significant," it read. "Even alone."
Not finding comfort in a church, some of us
head for small groups. My biggest helpers here have been Christian couples who either have
teenagers or college-age kids or who work with that age group as professionals. They at
least understand how common sex before marriage is. But those people are rare.
Failing to find support from their churches,
singles' last resort is each other. Even these relationships can be empty. I'm surprised
on dates to find Christian men who don't hold the same hard and fast line that I do. One
man told me that he couldn't see why two people couldn't have sex before marriage,
"if they really loved each other," to which I replied that women often feel
exploited in these cases. If the man really loved her, he would wait for her. It struck me
how much he, a committed Christian, still believed that he had sexual options. The Lord
gives us none.
Making choices for Heaven or Hell
But we still have to make a choice. C. S.
Lewis says that we choose everyday which direction we shall go in life: to Heaven or to
Hell. Those choices never seem that portentous when first made, but they form an
unmistakable path in one direction or the other as the years go by.
One Christian reporter told me that the
first few choices to abstain from premarital sex were the most difficult for him. But
after he set a pattern of saying no, he grew used to refusing. Then someone tried to
seduce him at a party. What made him fight her off instead of giving in were the prior
choices he had made, which by now had become a habit. He had invested so much in keeping
his sexual purity, he saw no reason to give it up on a whim.
He began by making a choice. Our station in
life is determined by choices, choices to work hard or slough off; choices to sacrifice
for a lofty goal or satisfy the urge of the moment; choices to persevere or give up. Once
we break our pattern of right choices and lose our virginity, our spiritual concentration
is shattered and the best motivation for maintaining purity vanishes. Although we can't
regain our virginity, we can regain our chastity, but all the same, that original purity
is worth keeping.
I've had friends who wouldn't wait. One,
whom I'll call Gwen, had a child by a man she was sleeping with. She eventually left him,
but her sexual experience had so marked her that she no longer had the perception needed
for choosing a husband. Sexual pleasure had distorted that perception and guilt interfered
with her good judgment. So she went from one bed to another. She recently turned down a
very decent job offer to follow her current lover to another city, but like all the
others, she has not been able to get a commitment from that man to marry her.
Gwen happens to have a relationship with the
Lord, but her relationships with men are far stronger. Once she's had sex with them, try
as she might, she can't let them go. She is an emotional prisoner. Chastity is not a habit
Contemporary psychology assumes that sexual
abstinence is impossible: that we need frequent sex in the same way we need three meals a
day. Unlike food, sex can be subjected to a long-term, even permanent fast. If we break
the fast before the divinely ordained time, we spoil the meal. Abstinence from sex, like
abstinence from sugar, results in an ability to do without it altogether.
Abstinence becomes habit. Just as our bodies
have to be trained to get into the habit of sex ask any virginal newlyweds if this
isn't true so they can be trained to do without it. I think we are afraid to find
this out about ourselves because we fear that if we learn how to stay sexually pure, we
will be permanently inhibited.
No, delayed gratification is a valuable tool
in dealing with life and it works in sexual matters. It produces purity and no bad
memories. It gives us the freedom to have deep friendships with the understanding they
won't result in sex. The roles are clearly established; we know our boundaries with each
other. We learn each other's subtleties without the hazing of sexual excitement. We value
ourselves more when we know we're waiting for God's best, whether a mate or God Himself,
without auctioning ourselves off to the highest bidder.
What's so sad is that many people don't even
wait for the highest bidder. They settle for the first offer. One celibate male friend put
it more bluntly by saying, "If you've ever observed people who live promiscuously,
you've noticed their personalities wane shallow. They tend to see much of life in terms of
the least common denominator, namely, having sex. Staying celibate has been invaluable for
personality development and just being human."
A vow of fidelity
Richard Foster, the author of Celebration of
Discipline, has suggested making a vow of fidelity that promises faithfulness to God's
call for chastity in and out of marriage. The Song of Solomon, he wrote, has a lot to say
about sexual restraint, although we traditionally view it as a description of sexual
passion. Verses 3:5 and 8:4 asks that the "daughters of Jerusalem . . . do not rouse
or awaken love until it so desires." This is sage advice for those of us who feel
frantic about not being married, for love cannot be manipulated.
The brothers, who in chapter eight describe
their sister as a wall or a door, are actually saying that if she kept herself a wall,
this means she kept her passions in check, reserving herself for her permanent lover. As a
door, she would be opening herself to temporary liaisons. In verse ten of the same
chapter, the woman proudly announces, "I am a wall, and my breasts are like
towers." She did not give in to lust. According to chapter six, the man kept himself
inviolate from the "sixty queens, . . . eighty concubines, . . . and virgins beyond
number" for her alone, Foster said.
Even though much has been said about God not
judging sexual sin any differently than He judges non-sexual sins, Paul in I Corinthians
6:12-20 draws a distinction between the two. Sexual sin may not be worse than other sins,
but it is different, as he points out in verse eighteen, saying that sexual sin is sin
against our bodies. He makes it plain that the body is not designed for fornication.
When we come to know Christ personally, we
drag Him along as an unwilling participant when we have sexual encounters outside of
marriage, because our bodies are now temples of the Holy Spirit. Small wonder the Holy
Spirit is so grieved. Sex belongs in a special manner to God because it makes us one flesh
with our partner. Unlike other bodily appetites such as sleeping and eating, He has
reserved the satisfaction of our sex appetite for the special relation of marriage
and made it possible for us to give it up entirely.
Learning to bloom and not wilt
One way I've found to bloom instead of wilt
on the vine is by looking for romance not the courtship kind but the destiny kind.
This kind of romance is the expectation, anticipation, joy, hope, and desire we experience
as we lay down our lives for other people. Romance is what we get when we give our lives
away. It happens when we face death.
Jim Elliot, the famous missionary to Ecuador
who was killed by the Auca Indians in 1956, wrote that "He is no fool who gives what
he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." That kind of sentiment comforts me
to know I'm not an utter fool when I spend time doing something for someone else,
when I take hours that most singles would use barhopping or on dates to go to a church
function or volunteer my time to do something I hope will help build the Kingdom of God.
When we die to ourselves and put the pleasures of the single life last, we really grow up
and get a clearer picture of what life is all about.
The pain and dying to ourselves in small,
everyday sacrifices clears our vision for what is truly precious in life. We are working
for higher ends than just our own, for greater causes than how many sexual experiences we
can have. We develop, as I said already, more wide-ranging interests. We begin to see what
is really important.
Thereby, romance comes into our life with
Christ. The decision to choose Christ instead of ourselves is a sort of "road less
traveled by" that the earlier made, the better. Anyone who decides to keep his or her
virginity past the age of fifteen comes to that spiritual wrestling match sooner or later.
A series of decisions
With me, it was a series of decisions. I
read a book on how well God knows our hearts. I gathered that if we don't wish our hearts
to be broken by various love affairs, we should turn them over to God, who would safeguard
us from romantic heartbreak. I did this. I prayed that God would "take" my heart
so that He would choose who I'd fall in love with and when.
Back then, I had no idea it would be so long
a wait, but I must say that my simple gesture of giving Him full rights to my heart has
steered me clear of a lot of shipwrecks. Some people have told me that perhaps my decision
has kept me too inviolate that I've been prevented from finding the right man as
well as the wrong one. To think that way slanders God. It presupposes that He doesn't know
what He is doing.
The Bible says that God searches our hearts.
I believe that, like a good Jewish father, He is on the lookout for good matches for His
children. Waiting on God puts the burden on Him to bring this miracle to pass. Like the
servant Abraham sent hundreds of miles to Haran from Beersheba in search of a bride for
his son, Isaac, God is just as concerned about the right marriages for His children. That
story in Genesis always encourages me, for a few hundred miles to them is like thousands
of miles to us. God went to great lengths to put that unlikely match together.
Of course, God may not bring us a mate. This
is an increasing possibility that chills the hearts of many single people in the frantic
sexual free market that is today's American society. Many people simply aren't marrying.
So we have this tension of whether to put our lives and careers on hold while we look or
go full-steam ahead with our lives, letting the chips fall where they may.
I am an advocate of the second option. Since
college I have lived in Oregon, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and now
Washington, D.C. Singleness has helped me risk, grow, and live in ways that wouldn't be
possible were I married. But I have friends who refused to leave a particular city for
fear that they'd erase their chance of marriage. So they sit and stagnate.
Remember, God does call some of us to remain
single, even if the opportunity to marry presents itself. The Apostle Paul chose to be
single, in a society where men were expected to marry, so he could carry out the
opportunity of a millennium: preaching the Gospel to all the known world.
A single person's loneliness
But this means loneliness. How well I and
every other single Christian knows loneliness. It has been my biggest struggle in life. I
think that's why over the past decade I've put so much effort into learning to hear the
voice of the Lord; just a simple phrase from Him eases my loneliness and keeps me going
"The single person facing life alone
may feel intimidated in the world of couples," writes Brother Benedict Groeschel in
The Courage to Be Chaste. "There is often no one waiting at the airport, no one with
whom to discuss problems, no one to call when you backed your car into a tree. The minor
emergencies of life frequently emphasize the single person's vulnerability and lack of
It's not only the emergencies that are
upsetting; it's the little things like wanting to go out to lunch but finding no one at
the office who cares to go along, or wanting to see a movie without having to sit alone.
Singles use all sorts of techniques to avoid the table set for one: room service while on
business trips or eating behind a steering wheel. In times like these we feel like an
incarnation of Three Dog Night's famous song, "One is the Loneliest Number."
Sometimes I think that loneliness is the cruelest result of the Fall.
I think some people become workaholics
because they don't wish to face the fact that one can be the loneliest number. We blame
ourselves a lot for being lonely or we at least take it out on ourselves, making ourselves
work harder or overeat or hide from it all by turning up the radio, TV, or stereo. Or
the great temptation in our culture we resort to sex, hoping that maybe
giving ourselves to someone else will save us from feeling so lonely.
I've even heard more than one person say
they're lonely because they're not having sex. And that the lack of sex makes them into
cold fish. Sometimes we do this without thinking, like the people I met at a conference on
celibacy at a convent in West Palm Beach, Florida. I was the only person there who was not
a priest or nun. The nuns only one priest dared come and he was the workshop leader
were astonished that I was there. They had never imagined anyone remaining celibate
out of religious conviction without the binding vow of chastity.
The priest leading the workshop and the nun
assisting him asked the group to say which words first came to our minds upon hearing the
word, "celibacy." True to form, we came up with negative phrases: "no
sex," "aloofness," "no joy," "barrier," "cold
person," "non-involvement," "deprivation,"
"non-emotional," "sacrifice," and "mortification." Someone
plaintively added that celibates feel as though they don't belong to anyone.
The natural and spiritual families
Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest who
founded the New Jerusalem Community in Cincinnati in the early 1970s, once gave a series
of talks on the natural family and the spiritual family. He said we all must have a
spiritual family our brothers and sisters in Christ as well as our
biological or natural families.
He said that women are not simply longing
for men; they're longing for wholeness. Men aren't simply desiring women; they too long
for wholeness. He observed that people want friendship more than sex, that the school for
friendship is the Church, and that the excessive perceived need for sex in our society can
be diffused in the Christian community. The human need for intimacy can be satisfied
within the Church, through the spiritual family of other Christians.
"We are all sexual," Rohr said.
"Sexuality merely means the attraction of opposites. . . . Why is the sexual desire
so strong? I think because he [God] is teaching us . . . that we're not whole and that
we've got to be in relationship."
I can remember one period of my life when I
was never lonely: the two years during my mid-twenties when I lived in a Christian
household system in Portland, Oregon. This was during the late 1970s when Christian
household-style communities were quite the vogue around the country and, wanting to be on
the cutting edge, I moved into one affiliated with my church.
The community had several married couples
with mostly single adults in their twenties and thirties. We lived a life into which
loneliness never crept. Except for our jobs, we did everything together: outings, worship,
and meals. One of the women was quadriplegic and we'd simply bundle her into the front
seat, put her wheelchair into the trunk, and take her along wherever we went.
Our worship was rich because we spent so
much time together. We felt free to confess our sins to each other which resulted in
openness and unconditional acceptance. This brought about greater intimacy with each
other. Thus, we felt free to risk in worship. And because of our geographical proximity,
there was always someone around to do something with. Some of our greatest conversations
took place over the dishes.
I belonged so thoroughly to this group of
people that the desire for sex rarely came to mind. There really is something to the
theory that if our other needs for love and belonging are met, sex is not such a driving
A longing for connection
At the retreat on celibacy, the priest
observed that we all long for that sense of belonging or being owned. Sex does have a way
of bringing an immediate sense of connectedness, physically and spiritually. When people
want to belong to or connect with another at a deep level, they fall back on sex for
To be lying in the arms of someone we love
is one of the most secure feelings on earth. There is warmth, there is love, there is
self-disclosure; you know someone in the most intimate way possible. The vulnerability is
so complete that the couple can break quickly through formalities to know and be known,
which is the same thing singles long for. But chaste singles don't have the bonding power
of genital sex. Whereas husbands and wives have the mutual security to cling to in
possessing each other's bodies, singles don't have that comfort.
But, said a nun at the conference on
celibacy, although we think we need sex, our needs are more profound. Without sex as an
outlet, we must be more creative in finding other outlets. This takes work. Sexually, two
partners have given each other the power to not only invade their bodies but their entire
When we abstain from sex, we must make sure
that we not seal ourselves off from emotions and vulnerability that a sexually active
couple gets automatically. We who abstain need to risk in other areas where the stakes are
high: where our bodies may not be on the line but our egos are.
We all have a certain amount of energy to
put into relationships; energy that married couples use on each other and which singles
can bestow on the persons of their choice. But we must choose someone or better still, a
group of someones. The decision to put ourselves into intimate nonsexual relationships is
the best option for the single Christian. This is what Jesus did. To risk is to live
dangerously, but it makes the ride more exciting. My best description of risk comes from
an anecdote, "Who's Elwood McDugle?" from a devotional printed by the Oral
Roberts Evangelistic Association.
It tells of a father encouraging his sons to
take risks for good causes. "Think of Christopher Columbus," he told them.
"He risked everything to sail to a new land because he believed the world was round.
We remember his name. Think of Paul Revere. He risked his life to warn his fellow patriots
and because he did, we remember him. Then there are the Wright brothers. They took some
risks in getting the first airplane off the ground. We still remember them today. And then
think of Elwood McDugle."
"Elwood McDugle," the oldest said.
"Ah!" said the father. "The
reason you never heard of Elwood McDugle is because he was afraid to take risks."
Chastity is a vocation for gamblers
Our commitment to a chaste, single existence
is a risk, a gamble that as Christians we can be content there. And not only content, but
satisfied and joyful.
"Voluntary chastity," wrote
Groeschel, "is not a vocation for the fainthearted." He pointed out that persons
who mock chastity and there are plenty will in the next breath express
admiration for Mother Teresa, not realizing that the nature of her work obligates her to
be chaste and her chastity gives her the power needed for her ministry.
Mother Teresa has managed to draw a large
number of single, chaste women into her order, the Missionary Sisters of Charity, to spend
their lives serving the poor and unwanted. Describing these women in a recent documentary
on her life, Mother Teresa said, "The person Christ has chosen for himself, she
knows. Maybe she doesn't know how to express it, but she knows."
This image of staking one's love on God
gives the chaste person a reason for being. Many single people feel that no one has much
at stake in their existence, and if they died, they wouldn't be missed.
For instance, the boyfriend of one of my
roommates got angry at something at church and so left the congregation. He felt unneeded
and unwanted. As the weeks went by, my roommate began to notice small things, gaps that he
had formerly filled in with his presence. Now various tasks went undone, simply because he
was not there to do them. His absence left a hole in that church body, which now
functioned with an embarrassing awkwardness. And being absent he was no longer being
trained in holiness by the need to serve others.
We are missed. We may not literally kill
ourselves, but by withdrawing our labor from the body of Christ, we commit spiritual
One more thing needs to be said, to balance
what I've said about the difficulty of being single and chaste. Loneliness is a most
devastating way of persuading people that chastity is not for them. It is hard for us to
see the other side of the coin: promiscuity is devastating. In Dancing on My Grave
ballerina Gelsey Kirkland described her affair with Mikhail Baryshnikov. I was struck with
how empty it left her. Even with a glamorous lover like him, all she had was love without
commitment, which really wasn't love at all. She described how, before he slept with her,
she hoped that she meant something special to him. All she ended up being was another
On stage, meanwhile, they were partners who
needed a kind of working intimacy in order to draw out the best in each other. All she
could see was his demand for intimacy without commitment. This was emptiness to her.
"How," she wrote, "could I dance without love?"
Love wasted on God
The essence of chastity in or out of
marriage, in other words, is love. It means curbing one's desires to serve others.
People get the impression that in putting
the brakes on our sexual drives, we are tempted to turn off our capacity for tenderness
and compassion. People observing us don't see the inner anguish; all they see is the outer
resolution. Thus, those who take a moral stand on sexuality aren't seen as courageous or
risk-takers. This is an astonishing reversal of roles that has happened in the latter half
of this century.
I once chanced upon an article titled
"Celibacy: Love 'Wasted' on God" in the Christian magazine New Heaven, New
Earth. In it Nano Farabaugh compared celibacy to the woman in John 12:3, the lady who
poured out ultra-expensive perfume on to Jesus' feet. Rarely have I seen anyone compare
virginity or celibacy to something expensive like perfume, yet this woman wrote that our
sexual purity is of higher worth to God than we imagine.
"In the ten years since I committed my
life to live single for the Lord, I have realized that commitment is one of pouring out
something very costly," she wrote. "In choosing to give up marriage, I chose
never to belong to anyone but the Lord, never to have children or grandchildren, never to
have the security of a husband's love. Having had the opportunity to marry and choosing
not to, I have voluntarily poured out what I treasured, as the woman did with the
Why? Because "Christ is worthy of total
self-sacrifice, is worthy of receiving such an offering," she added. Nano, however,
wrote as a member of a covenant Christian community, the People of Praise, which is
similar to the one I knew in Portland. She probably got lots of support there.
I compare the state of a single person to a
clay pitcher: today's pressures will break us in pieces or harden us. I suggest we fill
ourselves with God's Spirit and pour ourselves out for others.
Looking for intimacy
We need to look for intimacy and love from
people who don't demand sex along with it. When I choose my close friends, I look for
people who think like I do. Of course, I get along with people who don't, but intimacy
involves a certain empathy with my basic convictions. I look for people who listen to me
and seek me out as much as I seek them out.
In other words, we need to find a spiritual
family. But finding one isn't easy. The single man or woman is always faced with the
possibility of loneliness a roommate will get married, a close friend move away,
married friends have children, a community break up, a new job come in a new town. (It
would certainly help if more married Christians took care to include single people in
Battling loneliness for me, as for most
single people, is a battle that may never end, so I try not to get disheartened when the
going gets rough. Some people glibly suggest we can choose not to be lonely. Such denial
has never worked for me. I've found it more helpful to allow myself to experience,
although not be overcome by, the reigning emotion of the time.
If it is loneliness, then I need to walk
through it. Only by experiencing the pain can I go beyond it. My loneliest times are when
God's voice is faint or silent, which trebles my feelings of loneliness. At that point,
feelings are all that count and no amount of cheery logic can dispel that.
Only faith brings us through such hard
times. For my college yearbook, I was asked to choose a quote that summed up my life thus
far. So I chose two verses in Psalm 42 that helped me during my loneliest moments in
Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy
waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me. / Yet the Lord will command
his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my
prayer unto the God of my life. (Psalm 42:7-8)
Christ and the alternatives
Chastity is not easy. Single Christians
still have sexual desires. We are tempted by our culture and our own loneliness to find
quick and easy intimacy through sex. It is hard to be chaste, but that difficulty is not
the last word for Christian singles.
As single Christians, we may not be able to
have sex, but we can enjoy our sexuality. If sexuality means the attraction of opposites,
we can find wholeness through spiritual intimacy with others. We can find romance and love
through self-giving to others.
Sex and sexuality are two different things
that the world fuses together, saying that to be a real man you must be good in bed; to be
a real woman, you must experience orgasm. That's the stuff of fantasy and fantasies
that have caused people untold pain and suffering. We all know that sex doesn't bestow
instant maturity, and I think the opposite is usually true: premarital sex exposes our
immaturity and inability to wait for the best. In fact, it makes us children.
Christ didn't need sex to be a man. Being a
man involves courage, taking risks, leadership, decisiveness, and tenderness and
gentleness as well. If we can't develop our sex lives, we can develop our femininity and
masculinity. God, Who created sex, also created alternatives. We would only do Him justice
to see what those alternatives are.
Alternative Intimacy" is reprinted from the Sex and the Gospel issue of Mission &
Ministry, the magazine of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry. For more information see www.tesm.edu/crisis.