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Singleness and Celibacy

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“Celibacy is a vacancy for God. To be a celibate means to be empty for God, to be free and open for God’s presence, to be available for God’s service.” (Henri Nouwen, Thomas Aquinas)

If you are single, you are a celibate.

Some of you may find this a bit of a scary term to use. You may have some interesting pictures that the word “celibate” conjures up in your mind. But in truth, to be celibate just means to leave a vacancy for God. To be empty for God, open for His presence to fill you.

If I am a single believer in Christ, I am consecrated (set apart) as a celibate for my First Love, for God alone, until the Lord may lead me into a new season of courtship and marriage.

Jesus was single. Jesus was a celibate. Jesus had a vacancy (an emptiness) within Him reserved for God alone. Even with this vacancy, this emptiness, Jesus was a fully-realized man. He wasn’t a half-realized man. He wasn’t a half-fulfilled man. He was fully fulfilled as a human, and as a man.

And so it is with us, also. 

Contemplate this for a moment. Take some time and go for a walk, or think about it wherever you are right now.

If you are single, you are a fully-realized, fully-fulfilled human being, AND woman or man. We are not above our Master, our Beloved, who also walked out His entire life on earth AS A SINGLE MAN who died at a young age, IN HIS PRIME.

Yet, Jesus fulfilled everything He was called to do. He was not jipped. He was not a disgruntled, ripped-off, discontented man who complained to the Father that he was not being given what He was entitled to in order to fully live the life He was meant to live. Jesus did not feel that He had to postpone His “real life” until His “partner” or “spouse” came. He went forward, in joy and serene acceptance, and did not see His singleness as an obstacle to be removed, but saw it as the path in which the Lord’s will would be fulfilled on earth.

And He did fulfill God’s will, without a spouse. Without children. Yet His life is the most fruitful one in all the universe.

To be single, to be celibate, to be a man or woman who never partakes in sexual union, does not make you less of a woman or a man. If it were so, we would have reason to say that Jesus was only half a man…

…but He was the most alive Man this world has ever seen. And we will never see another as real, as fruitful, as fulfilled as this Man, whom we adore and willingly lay down all of our agendas for, to pick up this high calling, this privileged position as a single, as a celibate for our Beloved.

Selah. Ponder that.

~Alison

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  • Matt

    I saw one of your comments on Fast/Pray. And just read thru this blog post. I think you make some good points, and I always like references to Nouwen. But I think you’ve misunderstood the essence of celibacy: it is a lifelong commitment to God as one’s only spouse. Jesus was truly a celibate. The Apostle Paul was truly a celibate. Fr. Henry Nouwen was truly a celibate. A wise pastor friend of mine says that, if you were to consider sexual desire as a radio dial, the “volume” for a celibate would be dialed down a bit, but it is a gift that still needs cultivation. If you are a celibate man, you wouldn’t intentionally be in situations where it would be difficult to keep God as your only spouse. If you are a Christian who is seeking a marriage spouse, you are abstaining (deliberately refraining from sex) because you recognize that sexual union is only blessed in the marital embrace. I just think it’s important to make the proper distinction between abstinence and celibacy. Incidentally, the abstinent Christian, the celibate Christian, and the married Christian are all called to chastity.
    Thanks,
    Matt

    • http://alisonlam.com Alison

      Hey Matt,

      I am sorting through my website comments and I just discovered that I never replied to this comment of yours! I wanted to say a very belated thank you for your thoughtful words and bringing up some good points about the difference between abstinence and celibacy. Yes, I realize the core essence of celibacy is essentially about lifelong commitment to God as one’s only spouse, but I think I was making a point about the state of the heart before God while single and abstaining from sexual union. That’s good what you said about celibate’s sexual desire is dialed down a bit in terms of radio volume.

      I agree wholeheartedly that all are called to be chaste in heart, whether abstinent, celibate or married.

      Blessings to you,
      Alison

  • Brian

    Ali,

    I really found this post of yours quite meaningful. Gracefully written thoughts on something that rests on my heart these days too.

    Brian