I recently read a piece by Wesley Hill about Celibacy for the Common Good as well as several posts from A Queer Calling and, after getting a more clear picture of what celibacy really is, I can’t in good conscience say that I’m called to it. That’s not to say that I won’t stay a virgin as long as I remain unmarried, but just that I’m not called to it in the vocational sense. Wes describes the call to celibacy as foregoing marriage in order to love more broadly, to pour out affection and service en masse instead of funneling it towards one person. While I understand this desire and applaud it, I find myself with an overwhelming desire to focus my affection on one person and have it reciprocated. If I had my choice, I would be able to direct all my energy into showing one person how much I care about them and not worry about it seeming weird or unnatural or having to hold back for fear of causing discomfort. It reminds me of a heartbreaking line from the movie Magnolia when Donnie says, “I really do have a lot of love to give! I just don’t know where to put it!” I know that I can spread my affection out to all my friends and family, but the other person has to be willing to receive it as well. They have to put in the time and show up, otherwise I’m left sitting here not knowing where to put my love.
It’s a difficult place to be in because I regularly read posts where people talk how not all single people are called to the vocation of celibacy, but if you’re unmarried and you desire to please God, it’s kind of the only option. Whenever I think about this topic, I’m reminded of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7:8-9 “8 But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. 9 But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” It seems like this applies to my situation, but I’m never completely clear how. I think the passion he’s talking about here is sexual desire and, while I definitely have that, it’s not really my primary concern in wanting to get married. I think, based on this passage, Paul would say that I should remain unmarried since I can pretty much keep my passions in check, but what about desires for love and intimacy? And all that aside, marriage isn’t exactly the kind of thing you can just decide to do, it’s much more complicated than that. Anyway, all this to say, based on the definitions of celibacy and the descriptions of celibate life written by Wes, Sarah, and Lindsey, the celibate vocation doesn’t sound too great to me, but I’ll keep living my life seeking to be the person God wants me to be and we’ll see where that ends up.