Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Gift of Celibacy

Galatians 5:24 -"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires" Zondervan NIV Study Bible

It might surprise you to know that in some Christian homes, the topic of sex comes up pretty often. When I was in my early teens, my mother brought it up constantly. It was usually an uncomfortable, passionate speech she'd make to her embarrassed young daughter about '"God is always watching" and that it was wrong. If I got anything right out of all of the impromptu warnings of chastity is was that sex was immoral, dirty and most assuredly high on God's list awful things. This did not however, keep me from abstaining from anything. The rebellious curiousity took over sooner or later and I decided to taste what was forbidden fruit. Of course, as is always the case, there were consequences. There always is when we seek to disobey.

Some years later, I got married. When we decided to marry we also decided to wait. This time I would get it right. I was confident that I'd be rewarded for my decision to obey. My fiance and I remained committed and as soon as the last guest left our reception we planned to cash in on what we were missing. I ended my time in the desert with a wonderful man and I slept well knowing I had him by my side and the single life was over. Wrong.

Just shy of 5 years after 'I Do', I buried my husband. The Single Life, Part 2. Now, I was a Widow. This created an interesting problem. As a wife, I was sexually active. Now, I was finding myself dizzy with confusion as to what God expected of me, sexually speaking. I broke the seal. Now what? Was I to be some spiritual eunuch and forsake all of the drives that I would naturally have, suddenly being alone? I read and I read. I read articles on sexuality in the Christian realm from every magazine article I could find on the internet. Some said masturbation was fine, some not. I couldn't even find the word in the bible to reference. Why would God be silent on such a big deal? Was was He so pointed on somethings and not on this? The lack of direction on the one hand made me feel confident that I could approach it with reckless abandon. At times, I felt ashamed to even think about satisifying my urges. Was it because of the endless messages that I received growing up that left me guilty and afraid to give in?

The answer came for me as I was pursuing something else. After a brief and horrendous relationship, early on in my Widowhood, I had come to ask God to reveal Himself to me. I mean, really make Himself known. He did. This encounter with God sparked a great pursuit of wanting to know as much as I could about Him and how He felt about me. I wanted to draw as near as possible. I often thought of Mary Magdalene sitting at His feet just to be near Him. I wanted to take every opportunity to find Him. I became aware of something in the middle of all of this. I didn't have any of the sexual urges I had before. I had been given a gift. The gift of Celibacy.

It would have appeared to me in days past that 'gift' and 'celibacy' didn't belong in the same sentence. I likened it to being put on a water and iceberg lettuce diet. It was about as appetizing and satisfying as far as I was concerned. Now that I had this gift, I wanted to find out what the bible had to say about it. Surely there had to be something? I found a verse that I think speaks to this very topic and answers the question of how did I come to find that this time of my life would be a thing to treasure.

Galatians 5:16 - "So I say, live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature." Zondervan NIV Study Bible

There is something that needs to be said about gratifying the flesh. Whether we satisfy our cravings of the flesh through smoking, drinking, overeating and also masturbation we are still making a decision to satisfy ourselves and phyiscal desires over our pursuit of God. The key is, to not have to be at war with the urges in the first place. It was very difficult to think of abstention when I was focused on me. I struggled with the right answer because I wanted to scratch my itch. When I became greatly focused on God and following after Him, it wasn't even an issue that came up on my radar.

God, in His grace, rewards us for our devotion. A life fully given to Him, lives to hear and obey the Spirit and doesn't seek after it's own. There is so much peace in being free to pursue God and to fulfill all of the wonderful things He has planned for me without being weighed down by guilty pleasures. I think that is what He wanted for me all along. I get up in the morning excited for my day, looking for what roads He will take me down. I pine not for what I am missing.

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