Friday, 8 July 2011

Celibacy: a gift given or a choice made?

Celibacy is both a gift and a choice.

The gift of celibacy is given by God, but the choice is made by the individual.

This is a bit of a paradox in some ways: it seems strange to speak of choosing something of your own free will if God has also chosen to give it.

Who's in control, God or the person?

Well, both.

Check out what Jesus said about being celibate:
Only those people who have been given the gift of staying single can accept this teaching.
Some people are unable to marry because of birth defects or because of what someone has done to their bodies. Others stay single for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Anyone who can accept this teaching should do so.
(Matthew 19:9-12)
This makes it clear that celibacy is indeed both a gift and a free will choice: we are given the gift by God and we choose to stay single. I thought I would go into some of my experience from the journey toward celibacy in order to shed some light on this seeming contradiction. There's a lot more to the story, but this gives the general flavour of how things travelled.

When I found Jesus and received the Holy Spirit, I found a great love was born in my heart for God, and for people. This love was a spiritual love, derived from the very heart of God. The love of God was poured out in my heart by the Holy Spirit and I found myself longing to be with people who'd had the same experience in order to express this love together. I was so affected by this love, so struck by what I had found, that I began to want little else. I found that there had been a change in my deepest desires – I now longed for God and his kingdom in a way that caused me to ache – and I saw that it was possible for these deep desires to be satisfied amongst God’s people.

This, I'm sure, was the beginning of celibacy for me. God, in placing His longings in my heart, was offering his great gift of celibacy and I found that my desire to be celibate grew, even if at first I didn't think the gift was for me.

I looked at the lives of one or two celibates I'd met and found them deeply inspiring. I guess I longed to be like them in some way, perceiving rightly that the source of their fulfilment was in their gifting.

I longed to be fulfilled only in God and his purposes, and, as time went on, I found myself less and less fulfilled by anything else. I remember one time laying on my bed and whispering a prayer: “God, please give me a celibate heart…” God had carefully drawn me and, as the author and fulfilment of my prayer, he was faithful to answer.

And, of course, Jesus said anyone who can accept it should. I couldn't really pass up a challenge like that!

No comments: