Time and again, I discover my demons of old never actually left. I go through a season where I’m emotionally healthy, spiritually satisfied, and my SSA (same-sex attraction) doesn’t seem like all that big of a deal.
Then, right on cue, in walks that cute guy again. Annnnnnd out flies the contentment that moments ago seemed never-ending.
Instantly, I’m back to spiraling, back to wondering if this faith thing can really work out in the end, or if I’m actually as crazy as I sound when I tell someone I’m pursuing celibacy.
It’s in these moments that God feels like the eternal God of “no” — no sex, no boyfriend, no husband, no romance, no intimacy. No love.
God becomes the God who won’t let me eat the fruit from the one tree I’m craving, instead of the God who provided an entire garden just for me.
My faith shifts from one of following Christ to one of abstention. All I feel is Jesus holding me back from the love and intimacy I desire, completely ignoring the love and intimacy found in the very arms holding me.
And when the only beauty I behold is the beauty of the forbidden fruit, should I really be surprised that I pass Jesus up for the fruit instead?
My problem isn’t Christ’s inability to outshine the appeal of sin, it’s my inability to ever look up from my sin to notice. My problem isn’t my weak will; it’s my misplaced virtues.
C.S. Lewis explains these backwards virtues in the beginning of his work, Weight of Glory:
If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point.
This is just what I’ve done with God. I’ve made my primary call of obedience a call of abstention. I have placed the highest virtue on what not to do, instead of acknowledging the real virtue found in what I’m in favor of, not what I’m against.
Lewis led me to finally ask the right question: what am I called to?
My primary call is a call to freedom, a freedom rooted in Christ. Galatians 5:1 (ESV) says:
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
We all find ourselves slaves to something apart from Christ: slaves to passions and pleasures (Titus 3:3), money (Matthew 6:24), and to all kinds of deadly fruits of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21).
Without Christ, I am a slave to sin, and sin’s ultimate wage is death (Romans 6:20-23).
When we take on Christ, we shed this yoke of slavery to sin, and the fruit we instead get “leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life” (Romans 6:22, ESV).
We remove the fruit of the flesh, and begin producing fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Love. Joy. Peace. The very things I’m after when I think about running away and into the arms of some guy.
Ironically, God is trying to say “yes” to those things by saying “no” to my pursuit of a boyfriend. The truth is I am freer in Christ than without Him — celibacy and all.
In 2 Corinthians 1:19-20 (ESV), we learn that every promise of God is fulfilled in Christ:
For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you . . . was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.
Every promise. I complain about all the things I don’t get when I begrudgingly decide to take up God on His “meager” offer of Christ.
And yet I gain not only Christ Himself (if that weren’t enough), but every other promise as well. God feels like the God of “no,” but Scripture unequivocally describes Him as a God of “yes.”
Yes to Christ, my Faithful and True. Yes to Christ, my eternal husband-to-be. Yes to Christ, who pursues me with a fervor and passion that no man on this earth could match.
Yes to the Church, a spiritual family meant to leave celibacy full of rich relationship and love. Yes to committed friendships, to expressions of deep same-sex love rooted in Agape, not Eros.
Yes to Love. Joy. Peace. To the things my heart longs for, above all else.
I’m a human, and my flesh is naturally going to dwell in tension with my spirit. I still wake up many days longing for a husband in bed next to me.
The trouble is, the forbidden fruit rarely looks rotten at first glance; it looks adorable, charming, and like it could make all my dreams come true. But at what cost?
God has not so much said “no” to this one fruit as He has said “yes” to the rest of the garden. I can have this one fruit if I want it, but it requires my giving up the garden, giving up the fruit of Christ Himself, and love, joy, and peace that come with Him.
In the end, I find the cost of following Christ is indeed great, but the cost of forsaking Him, even greater.
My flesh cries out for a relationship, for Eros love.
But in a louder voice still, my soul cries out, “To whom else shall I go? You hold the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
Do you struggle to see God as a God of “Yes”? Do you see Him more as a God of “No”? What have you gained in pursuit of following His call to singleness and celibacy?