Wednesday, September 29, 2004

the gift of celibacy

i know this is a weird thing for me to be blogging about. i've just celebrated my 17th wedding anniversary, what the heck do i know about celibacy...

please don't read from my words anything that would make you think that i know what it's like to come home at night to an empty house and an empty bed. i do not know the pain or loss associated with that. i am not writing to that end. i just think that the church has screwed this up massively and want to begin to put my thoughts on this in order. i believe this needs to be a place where the emergent church does it better. challenges the status quo of the way churches today help/challenge/minister to those in the church who are unmarried.

i must also qualify that this is not written to anyone in the blogosphere directly. i have many blogging friends who are godly, amazing single women - i love you all. i hate that there isn't a liam in your lives. the things i'm writing are inspired by, but not directed at any of you, and please, please clear up any misconceptions i may have in this regard. i just think it's time that we tangle with the poor way the church has chosen to treat the unmarried.

i have only met one person in my life who was truly pleased to have, possess and claim the 'gift of celibacy'. he was a theologian and very content to be single. i have met other men who claimed to be 'bachelors till the rapture' and found later that many of them used that to hide a gay lifestyle the church had forced them to hide.

far too many of those unwilling singles are incredibly wonderful women, dedicating their lives to god and helping others. i regularly think that many if not most of you would make a far better wife, mother and housekeeper than i do, why did i get liam and others didn't? it makes very little sense to me.

i know that most of the time 'celibacy' is never talked about, taught on or even discussed. i can still see the shock on the youth group's faces when i told them they all currently were possessors of the gift of celibacy. because of where they were in life they needed to face the fact that not being married means something to god. otherwise it wouldn't be called a 'gift'. i know most would like to find the return department, and would even face the day after christmas lines to return this unwanted 'gift'.

if we as a community could take the time to 'unwrap' this gift i think we might find that a change in perspective would allow us to more fully understand what god intends the gift of celibacy to look like, and reap some of it's benefits instead of despising it's possession.

i know that i have many times despised some of the 'gifts' that i have been given as a woman. the church didn't welcome females with my gifting set. i spent most of my life in the church resenting them and wanting to exchange them for something that 'fit better' or was more fashionable to the church.

i have written about the new math for relationships before and how i try to help the teens i work with understand that being whole doesn't depend on other people, but comes from within.

i also tell my students that 1/2 people only ever attract 1/2 people. whole people avoid 1/2 people like the plague. if they are only 'the loops' looking for that other 1/2 of velcro to stick to that is all they are ever going to find. wholeness draws wholeness. like i said above, it's a magnet. 1/2 + 1/2 does equal a whole. you can manage a life long marriage with that kind of math. but god desires magnification. he longs to have marriage be a picture here on earth for us that mirrors the trinity, that brings community, communication and wholeness. magnify those around you, multiply wholeness.

and i think we set up the unmarried in our christian communities to only be looking for that other 1/2. that they aren't whole in and of themselves. it's a horrible shame, and even sinful. i remember back to when my parents, active in a very small church decided to create a social, fellowship type small group - very cutting edge for the 70's - my mother brainstormed the idea (and i know i've heard it in others areas since, but honest, she came up with this one herself - there was no google back then!) to call it 'pairs and spares' - little bowling logo and everything...

yuck. who wants to be a 'spare'. what kind of message does that send? we, the church MUST do an about face on how we minister to the unmarried in our midst. stop setting up 'singles ministries' that are a poor masquerade of a match making service. start to celebrate those things that the unmarried bring to the table. start to honestly address the difficulties facing each one. stop lumping them into a seperate category and become inclusive and inviting.

one of my best friends in the world speaks truth into my life like few others do. she is an amazing single woman. she is the best cook and baker, the most gifted woman with children, everything a proverbs 31 woman is supposed to be, and yet she is single. she has told me many times of how god has 'told her' that she is not going to be single, that 'this one' is it, or that marriage was the subject of that retreat just for her as a signal from god that she wasn't going to be single forever... it breaks my heart. instead of glorying in the place she is right now (seminary - heading toward an amazing ministry that i envy so much, free to travel at the drop of a hat, and spending every cent she makes on herself) she sees my life and wants it more than anything.

i don't have the heart to break her heart and challenge her messages from god. who am i to do so? but i hate the crash that follows her 'logic'. watching her pick herself back up off the ground after another man informs her that he never intended anything he ever did to insinuate he was interested in her that way... my heart literally weeps for her losses. how did we get from 'gift' to this?

i know i'm not the only person needed to help unwrap this gift - we as a church must do it together. too many are feeling, or being treated like 1/2's in the kingdom and i know that isn't what god intends. somehow we need to find out what it means to be unmarried in the kingdom and celebrate that with those who are unmarried. help them find their way through the maze of purity and lonliness, childlessness and ignorance (not the single, the church). help me will you? lets unwrap this 'gift' together. let's not settle for the crappy way we're doing it now - there is much to be redeemed here. i for one want to participate in the process of redemption. care to join me?

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