Today I wish to talk about a subject that is very dear to my heart and is something that I have meditated on since I committed my life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 2005. I want to talk about celibacy and the Christian life, with references to my own experience as a reference. Let me begin by first defining what celibacy is: the state of being unmarried, which also implies abstinence from sexual relations. Now that being said, let me explain my thoughts on the subject from my own experience.
My first experience with the Christian faith happened prior to becoming a teenager, probably when I was about ten or eleven I think. My dad and mom pastored a small Pentecostal church, and we had a visiting evangelist preaching that week. He gave a sermon, the topic of which was about how it was important to come to Christ when he was calling you because he might not give you a second chance. I have to admit, that scared the crap out of me! I did not go to the altar during the service, because I was very shy growing up and did not want to be the center of attention during church. That night at home, however, I made my mother know for sure that I wanted to be saved. I did not want to go to hell, and so I was ready to give my life to Jesus in order to avoid going to that awful place that was so vividly described by the evangelist. So my mother prayed with me, and I genuinely felt better about the state of my soul, very clean in fact. I then resolved to be a good little Christian, reading my Bible and paying attention in church etc. I did a good job at least until puberty came along.
I must confess that during my teenage years I was not a very chaste individual. I had these new urges that cause me to have most impure thoughts, which led to me exploring my own body in ways that I shall not go into detail in this piece. I also had a friend close to my age that was also experiencing these changes, and we were very close. We spent a lot of time together, and eventually we became intimate. I am not proud of this fact, but it is the truth. We never went “all the way,” so to speak but we did do things together that would probably make others blush in shame. This period in my life lasted for about five years or so, pretty much my entire teenage life. I never looked for a girlfriend (though he had many over the years), never really had that desire to be honest. My need for affection was being taken care of at the time, and so were my sexual desires. Naturally, however, given my Christian upbringing, I knew what I was doing was morally wrong. Many times I would lie in bed, wracked with guilt with the knowledge that what I was engaged in was not pleasing to God and that I was in danger of eternal damnation. But no matter how guilty I felt, no matter how much I acknowledged I was wrong, I never managed to put a stop to it. I simply loved my sin more than I did my Creator. I am ashamed of that now, of course, but the truth is the truth. It would seem that God would have to go a different route if he wanted me back.
I was eighteen years old, and had just graduated from high school. My ‘friend’ was sixteen years old, just a little younger than I was. We were still very close, staying with each other all the time. This all changed when my friend stole a gun that belonged to one of my nephews (my parents and I were living with my sister and her family at the time); we later found that out because my mother talked to his grandmother about it. I was crushed naturally, to think that someone that I had cared about for years would just do that and walk out of my life so casually was emotionally devastating for me. I distinctly remember breaking down in the kitchen, my mother trying to console me. She probably did not know the true reason why it hurt me so, or at least has never given any indication to me that she did. This was a very painful event in my life, but it got me away from the thing that was keeping me from being with God. I have to think that this all happened in the providence of God, and that he allowed it to happen in order to get me to the place I needed to be in order to surrender to him.
A year later (2005) and I was nineteen, we had moved to our own place and I was adjusted. I saw my friend again but it was never the same and eventually he exited my life for good. I remember being so lonely, and feeling so unwanted. This continued for a while until finally it was like a voice spoke to me and said “Aren’t you tired of running from me?” I really was tired of running. I told God that I wanted to serve him and that I would do my best. Later that November, around Thanksgiving, I had an awesome experience with God. I remember watching some older movie that was about the Bible and early Christianity (I think Anthony Quinn was in it), and the end of the movie has Christians being crucified for following Christ. I found myself saying that I wanted to be like that, willing to die for Jesus. Why couldn’t I? I must have prayed for over an hour that night, alone in my room. I’m not talking about some little silent prayer either. I’m talking about real prayer, tears streaming down my face, snot dripping from my nose, etc. I did not even really know what I was praying for to be honest; I just knew that I wanted to be closer to God. It was like I was Jacob wrestling with the angel; I told God “I won’t let you go until you bless me!” All I can say is that I had an experience with God that was beyond anything I had ever experienced before in my life. My body was shaking, and I slowly began to experience what we Pentecostals refer to as “speaking in tongues aka glossolalia.” I could feel it bubbling up inside of me like a fountain, and it just kept pouring forth from me like a river of liquid love. It seemed as though the entire room had lit up, and I felt the most peaceful, sweet presence come over me that I have ever felt in my life. I laughed and I cried, and I felt so clean and pure. I felt the Holy Spirit just envelope me in his arms, and I knew then that God had filled me with his Spirit and given me a new lease on life. I told my mom and sister-in-law about it in the morning, and mom started crying and praising God (because she had always said that I was the only one of her children that had never been filled with the Holy Ghost before). Now I said all of this in order that you might get a picture of where I’ve come from and how this relates to my thoughts on celibacy. Don’t worry, I’m getting there.
Now after this spiritual “revival” I decided that I wanted to totally give my life to Jesus. I prayed and prayed for God to totally remove any and all sexual desires from me. I really wanted to be celibate. I honestly felt that because I had lived such a deviant, perverted lifestyle that I now had to be celibate in order to make up for it. I did not really have a concept of the Catholic idea of penance at the time, but that’s exactly what I was thinking! I felt that I had to be chaste and celibate in order to show God that I had truly changed. Looking back, I can see how that aspect was wrong, but my desire for purity was driven by a desire to show God how much I appreciated his second chance. I knew God did not have to give me a second chance, but he did and so I was very thankful for this new lease on life. Part of me believed (naively so) that once I had been filled with the Spirit, my sexual inclinations would disappear. That was not the case, though the Spirit did give me a great amount of control over my desires. I found myself being able to look at other people as people instead of just potential sex partners. I look at them with an appreciation of their beauty without lusting after their bodies. God did give me much help over this aspect, but I wanted total freedom from all desire, both the sexual desire as well as the emotional desire for companionship. I have prayed and prayed for years that God would completely remove these desires from me, and to be honest I have even at times resented the fact that he has not done so. I’m thinking “Come on God, I’m actually begging you to do this for me so that I can serve you without any hindrances in my life!” He’s never taken it away, so I guess it is my ‘thorn in the flesh’ so to speak. “My grace is sufficient,” he says.
Over the years I’ve tried dating or initiating a relationship with any female that happens to catch my interest. I just thought maybe God didn’t want me to be celibate after all? But none of these attempts have been successful. Most girls don’t seem to be interested in me at all, except as a friend or someone to talk to. I’ve only ever had one girl really let me take her out (twice in fact), but it never worked out because she wanted to be with some other guy that she’s sleeping with now. And the last girl I asked out to dinner completely ignored my invitation and avoids me now. So in light of all this, I’m once again considering the celibacy question. Is it or is it not for me? I honestly don’t know. On the one hand I would love to be celibate because it allows me to devote my entire life to serving God and the Church, but on the other hand I do feel an emotional need to be loved. I like solitude, but I hate being lonely. I really need prayers about this situation, because the last thing that I want to do is make a choice that will place me out of the will of God for my life. Right now, I have just decided to concentrate my energies on college and getting my bachelor’s degree. I don’t think I’ll make any further attempts at romance for a while, and I’ll just see what road the Lord is going to lead me down next. I’ll end this blog post with a quote from the Greek philosopher Socrates. “As to marriage or celibacy, let a man take which course he will, he will be sure to repent.”