I am almost done with my first year of seminary. Hard to believe how the time has went by. This year was a very story-driven year. When you go to school for counseling, you get counseled in the process and your entire life goes through examination- under a magnifying glass. I have never been so vulnerable before.
I had to focus on my story in several, several papers this year. It’s kinda crazy how many ways one can unwind a story about herself and the different angles one can reach it from.
My final story I focused on (in a paper I am now writing) was about a girl struggling with her heterosexuality.
A short story to illustrate what I might mean by that:
Last July, I was working at Whole Foods, in the bakery department. I had been there for a little over the year. I was at the point with my co-workers where my walls were let down and they heard my voice and saw my silliness. They knew I was a Christian, and had pretty lofty morals. They also knew I was a very real person who griped, and cussed and complained sometimes.
I was having a hard day at work, seeing some issues I was having and it led me to talk to my El Salvadorian co-worker who was currently making tortillas. I was packing corn bread.
Her eyes grew wide in shock as I began talking to her: “You’re a virgin?!”
I almost rolled my eyes. How could she not know? Everyone made a big fuss about it when they found out the July before. And also, I’m a church-going Christian. Surely, she knows Christians who stay abstinent. Nope. Not quite.
She looked at me and told me I should be having kids by now. How old was I anyway?
When I told her the news of being nearly an old maid (in the Hispanic sense), she was completely miffed. I don’t think she ever heard of a 26-year-old virgin.
Without saying too much, I cannot say it’s simply a fun, and easy thing being in one’s late 20’s and never having sex. Let’s just get that out of the way.
That’s why I say I struggle with my heterosexuality. As a Christian who follows the Bible, I am expected to be celibate until I find one guy who asks me to spend my life with him. And then after maybe a year of crazy wedding planning (or not), get married. I am a long road til there. In the 20’s people generally go through a intimacy vs. isolation crisis, where they seek out companionship. And some are just left isolated. The Church should be the last place this isolation happens.
Dating is really nice, but also hard. It’s super uncertain. A healthy approach to dating is being uncertain entering in. No normal person enters into a dating relationship knowing if one is right for them. But that is how everyone acts. They won’t date, unless they’re certain. How does one even begin to know until they are like, what, 15 dates in? Or at least good friends with the person before dating, and even then you need some time before you are ready to take the big leap. So dating is no temporary reliever before marriage. It just makes things baffling and confusing. It’s nice. But super vulnerable as you are taking a huge risk- putting yourself out there to be hurt. Also dating puts one in tricky situations in regards to boundaries. Do not misread me. I have not been itching because I am not dating anyone. The issue is much deeper than that.
Singleness for Christians is a time of celibacy, potential intimacy with God, and getting to explore how to live out one’s calling. Many of us struggle with our celibacy, and that’s putting it lightly. The Church has done us a dis-service. It gives us the wrong reasons to be celibate. It’s all about behavior. Following a list of do’s and don’ts. True love waits so you will be rewarded and win Prince Charming. We are overly expectant that we will somehow land a perfect dream of a man or woman for a husband or wife. And we suppress.
Because sexuality is a part of every person on the planet. We cannot simply write it off until our wedding nights. It is not a button you press on or off. It’s an everyday reality. And what do we do when we discover it’s a thing? Something very real and present and even very good in our lives? We stuff it down because we do not know what to do with it. But just because we set it aside, doesn’t mean it goes away. We can suppress and suppress, but if we bottle something up so much, it will explode.
It’s a very real struggle, and sometimes I am just miffed people (especially people who have never truly been single. i.e. let me be in perpetual relationship til I get married early) don’t recognize it. There is a lot of tension to wrestle with– trying to be content, but also longing for a desire that is a very good one.
How do people address it? They tell me just to get married. That’s what all the articles are saying. You poor late 20 somethings, just get married already and then you will feel your true validity in life. And you will get to have sex, finally.
Getting married is not so simple as shopping around for a husband. You cannot just pick one out like a consumer. Marriage is a holy calling. God brings people together. He does not use the same timing with people. ANNNND some very sincere Christians never get married. And they have pretty good examples in the Bible. Like Jesus. Paul. Just a couple examples.
Some people have a lifetime of celibacy to look forward to: what’s the answer for them? Just get married already?
Not only are we idolizing marriage with this argument, but we are demeaning it completely. We strip marriage of its sacred calling. I profusely desire to be married one day, but I do not want to marry simply to settle down. I want to marry because I am being called into the covenant relationship.
Celibacy is not being talked about. Marriage is. And often the goal in the dialogue isn’t marriage. The goal is sex. Get married so you can finally have sex. Marriage, sex, and relationships are all cheapened by this sort of talk. It is not healthy for young evangelical, unmarried adults to hear.
What is healthy to hear? How would I counsel myself? What am I expecting?
I guess I would like people to treat me like an adult, and not like a kid simply because I’m unmarried without kids. I would like others in the Church to pursue me, because I often feel like I am on the outskirts. Separate singles ministries do nothing but segregate singles even further than everyone else.
The most loved I ever felt at church was the ages of 23-25 at a little suburban congregation in Virginia. I was one of the only single people my age there, and I was able to connect with families, teenagers, young married couples. I was regularly invited to peoples’ houses, and was simply treated like family. One lady told me she could be my Leesburg mom. I just felt so loved, and invited into community. I had friendships which crossed generational gaps, and I got along just fine. I did not feel like the minority. I was family.
I did not realize how rare that was.
What gives me fulfillment and validity now is finding my calling. I am in school right now to hopefully live out my calling. I am super excited to be a counselor.
Ideally, the licensure in counseling will be accompanied by a marriage license.
But that might not happen. That’s just the reality.
Will I be fine with that? Can I simply, keep going, keep glorifying God even though I don’t share intense intimacy with someone?
Will I be able to be a celibate without expressing some disappointment at God, and disappointment of the cards I’ve been dealt?
I hope not. I hope that the Church shines the light of goodness back on celibacy. I hope we begin to honor it more. I hope I am able to feel a peaceful intimacy with God through my celibacy. I hope people can give better reasons to be celibate other than the Bible tells you so. I hope I get better advising than just get married.
God created us for relationship. But marriage is not the only relationship. Our lives, if lived out in a healthy way, should contain a diverse web of different relationships, between friends and family and church family and community members and people we see fixing our cars, teaching our kids, or serving us coffee. More than ever, I just want to pursue all types of relationships and learn how I can love people more. That is my calling right now.