Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Falling in love - the celibate way

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What happens when an avowed celibate falls in love?

What happens if you've made a choice to live single for the rest of your life but everything inside you is screaming to have intimacy with a certain person?

I know a few people who've experienced this. I've been there myself, too, once or twice.

The process, in simple terms, runs something like this: feelings, longing, conflict, turmoil, pain, honesty, conviction, resolve, embracing the cross, restoration, relief, joy. Throw in a few other emotions and make this process repeat itself, not necessarily in the same order each time, and you have a good approximation of what it's like.

Tough, unbearable, madness at times, but an immensely deepening process. With God and your friends involved, it can bring a celibate great refining and, ultimately, a stronger resolve and a much deeper love for God.

Falling in love, having feelings for someone, developing a crush - however you want to phrase it -  is just part of life. It's normal. It's healthy. It's human.

It's what you do, or don't do, about it that counts.

Having feelings for someone doesn't have to take away from your celibacy; it can add to it. Obviously, that statement needs to be interpreted carefully, and obviously it makes things much easier to keep yourself guarded and to avoid the pitfalls where possible (it usually is possible). But if your guard has been low and you find yourself struggling in this area, it can be one of the most deepening experiences a celibate can have.

Celibacy, first and foremost, is about choosing love for God above others - and what better a way to live this out than to actually have to do it!

Incidentally, married people can develop feelings for someone other than their spouse, if they're not careful. Perhaps a similar thing could be said of marriage. What better a way to live out the "forsaking of all others" than to actually have to forsake someone in favour of your spouse. Surely that is part of the working out, the nitty-gritty, of love.

If a celibate renounces their love for a person, in favour of God, however much turmoil that may or may not cause them in the short term, then they are moving in the power of their celibate gifting. The gift of celibacy finds life and joy and the blessing of God through such experiences of renunciation. It could even be argued that this kind of experience is necessary in order for the gift to be fully experienced, for the vow to be truly ratified. Having promised to do, or not do, something, you're bound to have to either do, or not do, it eventually!

But there is a deeper point I need to make.

The natural, normal way of things, at least in our western society, is that when you have feelings for someone, you freely pursue those feelings until they are brought to a final conclusion: either a relationship, or finding that the other person is not interested. Either way, in the normal run of things, your feelings have dictated how you dealt with the situation. But when you have an 'absolute' which is at liberty to tell you that your feelings are not right and need to be dropped, when you have a commitment that you've made which is in opposition to your feelings - lifelong celibacy is one example of this, but so is marriage, or a specific commitment to, say, a year of singleness; there are other examples too - then you are in quite a different boat.

In this case, your conscience, your spirit, your will to do what is right come into play, and there is a choice to be made as to whether to be wilfully led by your spirit or swept along by your emotions. And if your spirit, not your emotions, dictates how you deal with the situation, and ultimately governs the outcome (despite the conflict in your emotions and the painful process of working it out) then you have taken a step further along the path of emotional - and, yes, spiritual - maturity.

3 comments:

Solly Gratia said...

It does happen to marrieds, and requires an equal amount of honesty and determination to commit all to the Lord, and raise it all to a higher level.

s0upy said...

Yes, thanks for that. I bet it does.

Anonymous said...

Well said and thanks for this post. Although one already knows what you have here written, it re-clarified my mind.