Thursday, October 28, 2010

Celibacy...A Gift?

"But I wish everyone were single, just as I am. But God gives to some the gift of marriage, and to others the gift of singleness." (1 Corinthians 7:7)

A friend recently posted this really good sermon about celibacy on a board I frequent. Here is the link to listen to it:

It gave me alot to think about. I have always wondered how celibacy could be a gift since it seems so hard and the loneliness at times is so great. What kind of gift would make someone seemingly suffer and feel loneliness was my thought? I have always had the attitude that if its a gift I want to find the receipt so I can return it and get the gift I want instead lol :).

My biggest fear of living a celibate life is loneliness more than any thing else. To not have someone waiting for you after a long hard day of work, or to love you no matter what. The sexual aspect other than failing to M and P at times has not been as hard for me. Of course I have to continue to try and improve those areas with God's help but God has been really helping me lately especially on the P front. So its not the sex but the loneliness that makes the prospect of lifelong celibacy hard for me to accept at times.

Ok I got kind of side tracked for a bit. Back to celibacy and the church. It just has seemed to me that in the church today the single people are sort of swept to the side and sort of ignored while family and the joys of marriage are heavily emphasized, and are center stage. Sure there may be a singles group but even then its just other singles as if the rest of the church does not want to catch the disease of singleness or something. Instead of celibacy being celebrated as something equally as good as marriage many people in church look down on you like your strange, abnormal, or there is something wrong with you for not being married or having a family. Of least that has been my experience.

I have always had trouble seeing it as a gift and something as good as marriage. I guess its because I am lonely alot of the time and don't have a strong community like one needs to live a celibate life. But also because I guess I still hope for marriage to a woman even though its not likely because of my attractions. But this sermon really stressed how lost the church would be without its celibate members. They do so much of the work and devote alot of their life to the church. They dont have families of their own so they are able to go on missions trips easier to the far corners of the world. They have more time to pray, more time to serve, and more time to be there for others in need. They also have more time to get to know and love God one on one! I admit I have not been doing a good job at many of these things at all. I have not been making good use of my celibacy.

I think I have often treated marriage as an idol. I see others who are married and so happy and in love and are blessed with a loving family and I just dream of being them. I have always had a false view that if I could just be married then everything would be happy and care free. That I would then never be alone and always have someone to love. But I have to realize that there is great difficulty in marriage too its just you don't see it from the outside sometimes. I mean most of my relatives have been divorced and are on their second marriage so I guess being married is just as tough as being celibate just in different ways maybe?

Even Jesus says that its better for some not to marry:

10 Jesus’ disciples then said to him, “If this is the case, it is better not to marry!”

11 “Not everyone can accept this statement,” Jesus said. “Only those whom God helps. 12 Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.” (Matthew 19:10-12)

I guess while I have been living the celibate life, I have not been embracing it and have been wanting healing from my SSA so I can be married to a woman. I have been treating celibacy almost as a curse instead of a gift. I have been resenting this gift. This sermon really made me think about alot of things. I really liked how the pastor said that celibates remind the church of the not yet and the unfulfilled promises and marriage reminds the church of filled promises and the now. And how the church needs both to support each other and be reminders of both Gods faithful promises today and the promises that wont happen until we get to heaven when the church is married to God instead of to one another. I still think that overall the church does not do a good job treating both celibacy and marriage as equally good and the church seems to really push marriage from my experience anyways. But I guess that no church is perfect since it is filled with humans.

Anyways this sermon was really good and gave me so much to think about. If you are like me and have been resenting the gift of celibacy then consider listening to this sermon as it really opened my eyes to alot of things. While I still hope for the gift of marriage I have decided I am going to try to embrace the gift of celibacy whether for a season or for my life and realize that yes it really is a gift that the Lord has seen fit to give me so I better use this gift to honor Him and not resent or reject it. Maybe it means He just wants to have me all to Himself with no marraige to get in the way? Who am I to refuse a gift like that from my Lord??

Lord help me to accept my celibacy as a gift from You. Help me to learn how to use my singleness to serve others and not as an excuse to feel jealousy, resentment, and unhappiness. If you do still have a plan for me to one day be married despite all the obstacles I face help me to not reject that gift either. If I am not to be married or in the meantime before marriage help me to find the community I need to fill my loneliness and to treat this as a gift to be cherished and used for Your glory and not as something that I should want to return! Help me grow and to be able to truthfully accept this as a gift and to be able to thank you for this gift and really mean it. Please forgive me for so often resenting this gift. I love you Father.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Washed and Waiting Review

"Washed and waiting. That is my life- my identity as one who is forgiven and spiritually cleansed and my struggle as one who perseveres with a frustrating thorn in the flesh, looking forward to what God has promised to do. That is what this book is all about."

Just finished reading "Washed and Waiting:Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality" by Wesley Hill. It was an incredible read! He put into words so much of what I feel but have never been able to explain. I encourage anyone who struggles with same sex attractions to read it! Also would be a great book for pastors, friends, and family of those who struggle with homosexuality to read as it really does a great job showing what its like for those who struggle with this. The book is sobering and brutally honest at times about this struggle and the hopes for healing but I found overall I came away encouraged and challenged like never before to realize how much God loves me even if I never experience healing in this life.

Of the three books I have read so far on homosexuality this one was by far the best! The other two I have read "Desires in Conflict" by Joe Dallas and "The Broken Image" by Leanne Payne focused alot on the possible origins of my SSA and on how to go about "healing" or "changing" myself. After reading those books I found I came away even more anxious and worried then before I read them wondering how I was ever going to be able to "change" myself and my attractions. This book does not focus on that at all. Instead it basically says if your attractions never change what then? In a way it sort of reminded me of this amazing post on Karen's blog "Pursue God" from last year.

A huge part of this book is about the loneliness we face as christians who struggle with homosexual desires and so choose to be celibate. Hill described this loneliness so perfectly. Of wanting to fit in with the happy christian couples at church but often feeling like an outsider. Of never really feeling like you belong anywhere: "no relationship seems to satisfy this yawning hunger to be known, to be loved, to be inside some nameless space that remains frustratingly, confusingly, closed." Still he says its better to try and form relationships with people at church then to live hidden your whole life: "We're better off for all that we let in- including all the pain we let into our lives when we open our souls to the fellowship of the church. That pain is better than the pain of isolation." Its something I have to and want to improve on for sure. Anyways this book definitely does not sugar coat the loneliness that a christian with SSA struggles with. It was painful for me to read at times as these thoughts on loneliness I have often deeply felt and thought but never been able to verbalize.

The book then goes on to encourage about Gods love while being realistic about the struggles and loneliness we face as gay christians and gives examples of other gay christians who have been celibate in order to honor God. Its not a long read at all at 150 pages and is only three chapters long with two other mini chapters about famous christians who struggled with SSA. One on the famous christian writer Henri Nouwen and another mini chapter on poet and priest Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Anyways I was really encouraged after reading this book. I was challenged to change my thinking on a lot of the ways I view myself as not pleasing to God because of my attractions and struggles with SSA. The challenge I have is the same as Wesley Hills to learn that:

"The Bible calls the Christian struggle against sin faith (Heb 12:3-4; 10:37-39). It calls the Christian fight against impure cravings holiness (Rom 6:12-13, 22). So I am trying to appropriate these biblical descriptions for myself. I am learning to look at my daily wrestling with disordered desires and call it trust. I am learning to look at my battle to keep from giving in to my temptations and call it sanctification. I am learning to see that my flawed, imperfect, yet never-giving-up faithfulness is precisely the spiritual fruit that God will praise me for on the last day, to the ultimate honor of Jesus Christ.

and that:
"The gospel tells us that our obedience matters to God, that he takes note of it. He sees our struggle to live faithfully with same sex attractions. He helps us with grace through his Son and Spirit. He values our perseverance."

It wont be an easy walk and I will face much loneliness and misunderstanding, but God will be there for me and like a father he is proud of my victories and will lift me from the dust after my stumbles. Do I still hope for healing? Of course! But this book has really taught me to leave it in Gods hands rather than try to force healing myself.

The book closes with a powerful afterword by Kathryn Greene-Mccreight challenging the church to better love and realize the struggles and loneliness of its gay members. Here is a part of it:

Do we (heterosexual Christians) simply cast our glances aside from our brothers and sisters who struggle with homosexual desires? Can we continue to ignore the isolation these brothers and sisters experience within the body of Christ? Are we afraid to hear about the same-sex desire of brothers or sisters for whom Jesus Christ died, even when they choose the narrow path of celibacy, despite the attendant trials of loneliness and solitude. "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you,' nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you.' ...If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it." (I Cor 12:21, 26-27) We who are the body of Christ must show love, joy, hope, and fellowship of the gospel to all who are part of the body."

Anyways to sum it up I highly recommend this book if you are a Christian who struggles with same sex attractions, know someone who struggles with this, or want to have a better understanding of what its like to be a christian and struggle with SSA.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

We will never walk alone again

I purchased the new Jars of Clay cd last week and I really like it. The theme of the album is Christian community and how important it is in our walks. Anyways loved this song especially so figured I would share! :)

Small Rebellions
by: Jars of Clay

God of the break and shatter
Hearts in every form still matter
In our weakness help us see
That alone we’ll never be
Lifting any burdens off our shoulders

If our days could be filled with small rebellion
Senseless brutal acts of kindness from us all
If we stand between the fear and firm foundation
Push against the current and the fall
The current and the fall

God of the worn and tattered
All of the your people matter
Give us more than words to speak
Cuz we are hearts and arms that reach
And love climbs up and down the human ladder

If our days could be filled with small rebellion
Senseless brutal acts of kindness from us all
If we stand between the fear and firm foundation
Push against the current and the fall
The current and the fall

We will never walk alone again
No, we will never walk alone again
No, we will never walk alone again

Give us days to be filled with small rebellion
Senseless brutal acts of kindness from us all
If we stand between the fear and firm foundation
Push against the current and the fall

Give us days to be filled with small rebellion
Senseless brutal acts of kindness from us all
If we stand between the fear and firm foundation
Push against the current and the fall
The current and the fall
The fall

Monday, October 4, 2010

Wandering Thoughts for October 4

A few wanderings and small things that dont warrant a whole post for each.

-First of all I ordered "Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality" by Wesley Hill last week! It arrived on Friday. I have not had time to read it but have heard great things and I am really looking forward to reading it. If you have never read this amazing article he wrote on Ransom Fellowship titled “A Few Like You”: Will the Church be the Church for Homosexual Christians? check it out and maybe you will see why I am excited to read his new book! I will let you know how I liked the book when I finish it.

-I read a really good article by Albert Mohler today titled: Between the Boy and the Bridge — A Haunting Question about all the recent suicides of young men who struggle with homosexuality. It really challenges the church to get involved in the lives of young people struggling with this.

-Had a great weekend and enjoyed church. Went to a cookout with people from church and got to know some people a bit of least. I admit I was still very reserved but of least I went and did talk to some people! :) Also I had a long talk with my brother and he really is encouraging me to join a small group at church. I probably am going to finally do it soon. I know, I know I have said I would before but I think this time I really will. He thinks, and I agree, that it just would be alot easier for me to get to know people and get closer with people in a small group environment like that compared to everyone rushing home after church on a Sunday morning. So I hope I can take this leap of faith as its a big step for me to be vulnerable like that.

-Anyways just overall I have been feeling so much more positive about things lately and feel like my life is starting to improve. I feel like God is really working in my life and I am very slowly starting to open up a bit more to others. I still have a very long way to go but its a start of least. I thank you all for your prayers and encouragement please feel free to continue to pray as it is greatly appreciated!

Here are a couple verses from Psalm 34 I wanted to share that really encouraged me to keep trusting the Lord:

Psalm 34:8

Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.

Psalm 34:18

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.