I took a road trip with some friends this past weekend, where six of us shared a one bedroom house and loved every minute of it. There was a moment one afternoon, when we were catching sun on the grass at a swimming hole, after we’d just spotted an old man in a black g-string, when I thought to myself: “I couldn’t be happier than I am in this moment.” My friends and I have taken cross country road trips, cried for no reason, laughed when we should’ve cried, laughed when we should’ve slept, gotten into mischief and loved each other through high tide and low. In that moment, with the hippies and children and cold springs on a sunny day, I wanted nothing more than to capture the feeling in a snow globe to carry it with me everywhere I go. Then I remembered my friends would drive back with me, and they were better than the image in the snow globe, and that the moment only highlighted what’s always unfolding in my life, and I felt even happier.
My friends and I got fed up with the whole “meet up for coffee every other week” form of relationships that seemed to occur in church settings, so we started actually sharing our lives with one another. Several of us live within a few miles of each other and we’ll pop in for night caps at the end of a hard day. When we find ourselves in outlandish situations, we text pictures of it and bombard each other with enough inside jokes to carry us through the moment. We see each other in our fat clothes. We listen to each other’s problems for hundreds of hours and then finally say, “find a therapist,” and then keep listening for a hundred more hours. Our lives aren’t extraordinary and we’re not that cool, but we share ourselves with one another and it makes ordinary life an adventure.
One of the most common responses I hear when I talk about celibacy is this: “Julie, how could you possibly endorse a belief that demands someone to be alone for the rest of the their lives?” When I hear it, it sounds so miserable and burdensome that I often want to scheme another plan. These people are right: it’s not good for man to be alone. I can’t think of anything worse than lifelong loneliness, where someone is never known, never understood, never heard when they need to gush emotions. But then I remember no one said anyone has to be alone. That statement presupposes that one is alone if they’re not in a romantic relationship, and I haven’t found that to be the case.
Romantic relationships do go a long way to provide lifelong companionship, and I don’t mean to dismiss the depth of intimacy they offer. I imagine a lifelong romance helps guard against seasons of acute loneliness that arise when, say, a group of single folks like mine part ways (we’re all currently itchin’ for the mountains or the ocean). But I also know countless married folk who feel lonelier in their marriages than they ever felt single. Marriage is not the cure for loneliness, intimacy is. And intimacy can flourish in the life of a married person or a single person, because it’s the quality of the relationships that cultivate intimacy. When I enter into a season where loneliness explodes, a romantic partner won’t be the magical healing balm like many insist; rather, that balm will be found in a place to know and be known, to laugh at and laugh with, to find mischief and adventure and rich conversation. That will be the relational space for my soul to come alive.
I share this for those of you feeling crippled by the prospect of lifelong singleness, whether you’re gay or straight. It doesn’t have to be crippling. Singleness comes with challenges (as does every life situation), but the challenges don’t seem to be greater than they would be if we were married, just different. I imagine moves and life changes will throw kinks in our relational landscapes, and I know loneliness ebbs and flows for all of us, but I think we can be creative when considering ways this can be resolved. There are countless routes to intimacy, and a little intentionality goes a long way to make whatever life situation we’re in a place for relational flourishing.
[Cross-posted from Julie Rodgers.]