Surprised by Celibacy

If you’ve read many of my posts , you’re aware of the fact that I’m attracted to women. I don’t mean I occasionally see a pretty girl in a magazine and I happen to think she’s cute; I mean I’m attracted to women. All those things straight couples seem to feel for one another physically, emotionally, sexually, spiritually—I feel those things toward other women. It sounds weird even saying it because I tried so hard to hide it, deny it, change it, or at least reframe it in my mind for so long that it feels a little awkward to state it so explicitly on the internet.

You’re also probably aware that I believe sexual expression is reserved for a man and a woman in a lifelong marriage, where the two commit to sharing their lives with one another and never go back on that promise. And when I fell in love with Jesus, I fell in love with the entirety of God’s way: that He created the world with such brilliance, that He grieved when we decided we knew better, that He rescued us when we’d made our choice and our choice was our sin, and that He’s coming back one day to write a glorious ending to a tragic tale. I cry at least 6 times a week when I think about that story because it’s so overwhelming to me that God would take such drastic measures to open the door for a relationship with us, the ones who decided we’d get on better without Him. As cynical and selfish as I can be, that kind of love wins my heart every time I start to feel a little inconvenienced by the call to respond to His love with a life that honors Him.

Which leads me to celibacy. When I started blogging earlier this year, it took me all of 2.5 posts to realize celibacy is a pretty uncool topic to write about. For one: it’s kind of an unknown world, and it seems many Christians can’t wrap their minds around the idea that someone would be gay and always gay and come to terms with lifelong-non-romance. (Which explains girls night out when they all gush about their men and then turn to me with a silent pause to say: “Jules, how’s your job?” and we all laugh because we know it was their way of including the gay in the straight talk, which was awkward but sweet of them). More than that: I don’t like talking about celibacy because I was seriously confronted with frustration from those who believe celibacy is a death sentence—that the message itself creates shame and despair in other gay people. That shut me up on this topic because the last thing I ever want to do is cause someone to feel shame and despair. I want every single person who ever feels despair to come sit on my couch, pour out their hearts, laugh with my neighbors and drink all my beers. It breaks my heart that God’s plan for His children is often internalized as a burdensome message of misery to searching souls. It keeps me up at night. 

So I’ve spent a good bit thinking about celibacy, about the difficulties. I’ve thought about how unnatural it can seem (do we think about Jesus when we hear love songs?), or how misplaced many feel when they’re distant observers of romantic affection rather than partakers of the goods. I don’t really know how to “do celibacy” well. I haven’t studied ancient monasteries and I don’t know what to do with the fact that I’m a relational being living in world that says the fullness of redemption is only experienced when you lose yourself in the romance narrative. I don’t have the answers for how we’re to be intimately connected with others in the way we’re created to thrive. I don’t know how I’ve lived this thing out in light of how fickle my commitment feels and how counterintuitive the whole thing seems.

But here’s what I do know: I wouldn’t trade my life for anything in the world. It’s all kinds of awkward and uncharted and (worst of all) offensive to people who don’t get why I live the way I live. But I wouldn’t trade it because the whole gay celibacy thing happens to be where I most deeply experience the presence of God. This is what forces me daily to ask: What was God’s vision for how we would thrive? How do I live into His story with the whole of my life? How do I honor Him with my heart, mind, body, and soul? What could possibly carry this inadequate hooligan other than God’s grace and His grace alone? It’s in asking those questions that I’m constantly reminded of God’s giant story of redemption that’s all about Him and not about me. And it’s in my inability to live into that story that I experience His grace sustaining me, carrying me, holding onto me like a dad snuggling his little rascals. And I love it. I love the intimacy I experience with Christ.

So if you feel burdened by the belief that sexuality is reserved for a man and a woman, I believe God grieves that you’re crumbling under the weight of it. I don’t think He’s miffed because you can’t live into some hetero ideal; I believe He wants to enter into the experience with you to surprise you with the ways He’ll bring you to life. And I don’t say that as one who’s looking through some sexy chic glasses and painting it a pretty pink; I say it as one who’s stumbling along in the process as well, yet experiencing the passion of His presence in the midst of it. It won’t always be easy, but nothing about the Christian life is particularly easy: that’s why it’s so mystically beautiful when it leads to such a vibrant life nonetheless. I guess I want you to hear me say you’re not alone:  this whole thing can be a little awkward and unclear, and I know you might endure the grief of lost dreams, but Christ came to walk with you through the uncertainties, and intimacy with Him is worth risking it all.

Julie Rodgers

Julie Rodgers shares life with inner city youth in West Dallas. She also writes and speaks about faith and sexuality, so check out her blog or find her on Twitter:@Julie_rodgers.

8 thoughts on “Surprised by Celibacy

  1. Thank you, Julie.
    I’m single, straight and resonating with your words so much.
    I am seeing this so often in life. These difficult things that I’m going through, trying to figure out how to have meaningful relationships in the family of God and thinking that people would like it if I just got married so that they wouldn’t have to support me so much.
    I see God here, in this mess. This is where I meet Him.
    I will be returning to these thoughts, thank you for sharing out of the riches of your heart.

  2. Thank you Julie for this. It’s a welcome reminder to me ‘as one who’s stumbling along in the process’ to keep going and especially that ‘intimacy with Him is worth risking it all.’ Thank you again

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  6. Wiping tears from my eyes from this line, “I wouldn’t trade it because the whole gay celibacy thing happens to be where I most deeply experience the presence of God.” How beautiful is that. It makes me immediately think of Rich Mullins (late CCM artist) saying how he has realized that God’s picture of his life doesn’t necessarily match his own picture of his life, and that perhaps God is more glorified by the particular set of weaknesses that he has, than if he had not had those weaknesses. Here’s the interview:

  7. thank you for the recognition that it’s not some easy path, but that, whilst it is rewarding, we will just end up stumbling along the process, and take each God-given day as it goes.

    i wonder if you could give me any advice on how to explain my celibacy to my liberal and non-Christian friends. I’m scared they’ll think I’ve got some internalised homophobia, or that I’m repressed or something, which i very much disagree with. so apart from “it’s my choice based on what god wants of me”, how can I explain it to them without them thinking I’m some poor oppressed charity case or a traitor to gay people.

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