If there’s one thing that stands out about me, it’s intentional community. Even though I’ve been single most my life, I have almost never chosen to live alone. Having housemates has been a great blessing to me.
As a single Christian guy with same-sex attraction, I find that I fight against sexual temptations much more effectively when living with other guys. I am much happier, too!
But how does living with other guys work with all the potential problems?
I’ve lived almost exclusively with fellow evangelical Christians like myself — the main exception being when my housemates and I have reached out to non-believers checking out Christianity, inviting them to live with us.
This means that I’ve shared in common the most important thing we could have as housemates: a love for Jesus Christ!
We often pray together and share biblical wisdom with one another. The Christ-centered friendships that have developed in this environment have truly changed my life!
I’ve had around 80 different housemates since leaving my parents’ home at age 18. Most have been straight, single Christian guys, but I’ve also lived with families and other guys who also face gay temptations.
As I’ve allowed these Christ-centered friendships to form naturally at home, I’ve found among them some guys I deeply trust and with whom I can be vulnerable. Not only have some friends talked with me about my sexual temptations, but they’ve also genuinely cared and sought to help me bear the burden of the fight against sin through encouragement and accountability.
My friendships with these guys have also provided deep emotional support. They’ve met an inner need, helping me fight against filling that need with destructive sexual sin.
Most of my friends don’t possess the natural love language of touch. They express love through words of encouragement and acts of service, so I’ve had to adjust to receiving and showing love their way rather than with physical touch, as I tend to favor.
Many single guys around my age of 60 are feeling serious loneliness and even depression. I feel the exact opposite!
God has given me real friends who love me. Some of them started off as fellow housemates, and we are still cultivating those friendships decades later.
Instead of retreating into my own place as I age, I’ve decided to go all in to build even more community to help others share in my joy.
A few months ago, I bought a house with a straight friend. We invited 15 of our Christian friends to move onto our 20-acre farm and live together in intentional community to help one another in our relationships with God.
It’s been challenging but very much worthwhile!
There are also many more who want to join us in this intentional community, so we are working out the details to make it happen!
If you are longtime single, how have you dealt with seasons of loneliness and related depression? Have you lived with Christian housemates?
Thank you for sharing your experiences with us! Praise God that He has provided you with the community that you need!
I’m curious as to what your process has been when inviting someone into your community when it comes to living together and sharing life together. How do you decide if they would be a good fit? How do you manage the responsibilities of the house?
James and I bought this place together this past May, but we had been renting a house nearby together for around 3 years. During that time we invited many different guys to live with us, and found what worked and what didn’t. We found that guys who were committed Christians were best, or at least ones moving toward a relationship with Jesus Christ, not away.
Also, we learned not to let guys stay with us who are irresponsible, not working, or violent even if they are Christians. James likes to call them “Jungle Boys”. I could tell many stories about stuff that went wrong. Working through problems was a bonding experience for him and me, but we don’t want to repeat past mistakes.
Our process for inviting someone in is to get to know them first. We seek to find out if they also are Christian and have a desire to live with others well and work out differences. Most we have met from the churches and other Christian groups where we have friends. Of course, the ones already living with us need to agree to new people, especially to those who will share the same room.
Responsibilities for cleaning and occasional cooking are rotated between all residents. Farm projects go to those with a specific interest. I am the main one paying bills, keeping financial records, collecting rent, and fixing issues with the well, plumbing, septic system, electrical, internet, heat, A/C, and whatever else comes up inside the house. James keeps everyone working together on farming projects and repairs all the farm equipment. It is a lot of work but I love doing it!
This is such an encouraging post! I’m so happy that you’ve found intentional community! I think too often we are lured to remain in isolation, despite knowing that community is demonstrated throughout scripture. In sobriety group there is a saying that the opposite of addiction is connection. For too long, I’ve tried to live life in isolation too afraid that if people saw the “real” me I’d face rejection…. this has lead me down a path of addiction. Part of my recovery is to engage in intentional community with other guys, taking off all the masks I wear and allowing myself to be known…. the real me, not just the parts I allow people see.
Thanks for sharing your journey.
Dang, I totally resonate with your comment! Intentional community and vulnerability (“taking off the masks”) has been my single biggest barrier in my spiritual life and also my mental health. I love this post, Marshall, and that it gives hope to those of us that fear that our future is going to be lonely. Whether I’m living with 15 other Christians or just going out of my comfort zone to get to know people, God has provided ways for me to connect with others.
Luke, One of my goals in life is to help older single guys escape from painful loneliness and find real friendship and community!
Yes, instead of remaining alone and fearing the future, reach out to others and find some form of community. Not everyone can or should live with 15 others, but some form of friendship is essential! Try moving toward having 2 or 3 Christian housemates.
I think we share the same feeling in masks being a barrier in both our spiritual and mental health. Sometimes taking off masks can feel a lot like being naked…for me it can feel shameful. It takes me back to when I was a kid in elementary and middle school, I was authentically myself and the kids around me rejected me…. so when I started high school I vowed to myself that I would morph into whatever people needed/expected me to be in order to escape any further rejection. Now I’m nearly 30 and the repercussions of this mindset have left me quite isolated.
But I’m doing the work to break the masks and find real community in my church and online!
Yes, that’s almost exactly my experience too! I had a close group of friends in 6th/7th grade who completely rejected and abandoned me in 8th grade. My fragile pubescent ego was crushed. When I entered high school I decided I had to recreate myself to be more likable. And it worked, for the most part. I had fewer close friends but I was respected by most. However, after high school, it was very hard for me to socialize for a variety of reasons and I’ve felt generally incapable of making friends. I hope your work in being authentic continues and is fruitful. I’m striving for the same thing!
Landon, Thanks! Yes, not only is living in some type of community Scriptural, it really is helpful in so many ways. I agree that connection helps overcome addiction at least for me.
You can’t hide much from guys you live with, so I have to surrender the idea that I can keep faults or weaknesses private. One of my housemates saw me and instantly knew I was discouraged. He immediately hugged me and prayed for me! It works the other way too. Another guy politely told me to back off when I was becoming too emotionally dependent on him.
The results are so worthwhile that I can face whatever pain there is when things get difficult.
Your life was experience is truly and encouragement to me!
I’m thankful for the provision you’ve been given for intentional community with other guys. painful at times I am sure when the masks come off but a blessing to be fully known and fully loved. Your posts always encourage me, brother.
Mike, thanks for your encouragement, but I am NOT outdoing Jesus! I have 2 very close friends out of those 15, and maybe 4 others that are definitely friends, but the rest are still surface-level friends that I’m not sure will be around in a few years. Friendships vary greatly, even among people I live with.
I’m glad you found friends to live with when you were single. I have also lived with guys who dealt with gay attractions, but I was very careful to tell the whole story to my straight friends also in the house who would hold me accountable in a tough way. In addition I talked to mature same-sex attracted Christian friends who understood what tempts me strongly. They gave me some great advice my straight friends didn’t realize I needed. Thankfully, I didn’t fall in love or do anything I regret with my housemates.
Congratulations on your marriage! That works for many guys who deal with gay attractions, especially if they feel attraction to both sexes. I was personally never attracted enough to a woman to get married. I tried dating women, but they and I could see that my heart wasn’t in it. Actually, I am very happy single.
Having Christian housemates is one of the best ways to live for those of us who are single and will probably never marry. There is nothing wrong with living alone, especially for a short season. No one has to have 15 living with them either. Usually 2 or 3 works very well.
As always, I’m grateful for your perspective on things Marshall. I’m mostly content living the single life at home these days, but I definitely *want to want* to live in intentional community one day. Praying for you and your intentional community! I’m excited to hear stories of God’s hand working in these months and years to come.
I understand, Tom. There is nothing wrong with living alone while single! If you find yourself not only living alone, but also being alone and isolated in other ways, do whatever it takes to change that!
Building real community takes time, work, and repeated forgiveness of each other. I have been building friendships with James and some others in the house for the last 7 or 8 years. We did not decide to do this quickly. We put in much prayer, thought, love, and work before we decided this.
What an interesting post! Yes, i have lived in a Christian community at the Christian Service organization until they stopped providing housing and I had to find a place of my own, which was a room in a home in the Woodley Park/Cleveland Park area of DC. Living with others who were strangers all the time had it’s challenges and rewards too. I won’t bore with all the memories!
Do you grow crops on the farm…or have animals? I would think those that live there would need some type of farming/mechanical skills…but it sounds like a neat idea!
I have mentioned a number of times about where I live now, and the situation. Across the street, there is a house that was being renovated for rent. Just the other day, I saw a guy working, so I went over to ask about the house etc. I asked him if had grown up here, and he had not, but grew up in other towns nearby. What he said next was chilling. He said that gossip is so massive here (I knew that) and if you don’t fit in, you get shunned by the community and one can get “ridden out of town.” With everything else, I didn’t need to hear that. Maybe it’s a blessing in this season of caregiving that I don’t get out much. It would be such a blessing to have real conversations with people face-to-face in this chapter of “living in the shadows” but I’m not sure if this is the place to experience such. God knows, and the one thing that has kept me going is the verse from Psalm 139, “How precious are your thoughts towards me, O Lord.”
I definitely know the neighborhood you lived in. It is close to the zoo. The Uptown theater there was one of the last giant screen movie theaters I know of in the DC area. We used to call the grocery store the “Soviet Safeway” because it was small, overcrowded, and had a bad selection, just like stores in the former Soviet Union.
About our farm, we moved there in the middle of the summer so there was not enough time to do much last year. We have chickens and we are planning on getting sheep this year. As long as we keep everything “free range” and “organic” the meat and eggs should be easy to sell at a farmers market. We are working on irrigating a field so we can grow vegetables to sell also.
We are learning farming skills from some nearby farmers who go to our church. Three of the guys in the house are great mechanics, especially my friend James who owns the place with me. We found an abandoned bushhog in the woods on our property and James rebuilt it himself. We use it constantly, pulling it behind the tractor to mow some of our fields.
I will be praying for you to find community where you are. I know that much of your time is taken up with caring for your mother. Still, it would be a good idea to keep trying to volunteer to help in church or community service projects . If you are persistent and you don’t worry about gossip, you should be able to find some friends. I have faced gossip many times.I just stand up to it, tell the truth , and love those who mistreat me.
One of the details that stuck out to me was your mention of love languages. I think it is often over looked that sometimes we have to “translate” love languages. If somebody we are in community with is terrible at our love language, can we learn to accept the love language they prefer as well?!?
Community is never easy. But I agree that it is worth it. Looking forward to hearing more stories about this community of yours!!
Yes! It has really helped me to “translate” my friends’ love languages. When a guy won’t touch me I shouldn’t get hurt and assume he doesn’t care.
Whenever I look at the whole picture of a friendship it makes a huge difference! Often it becomes obvious that the same guy who seemingly pushed me away by keeping his distance is also the one who not only verbally encourages me, but also carries my burdens by gladly doing what I can’t with acts of service. Seriously, some of my friends who love me the most touch me the least!
[…] “How I’ve Thrived in Intentional Community” by Marshall […]
Thanks for sharing this! I’ve dealt with loneliness most of my life. Since college I’ve mostly lived alone and thought I enjoyed it, but after having a housemate for one year I realize I really desire to have that shared community like you talk about. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to find or build it one day.