Cross posted from Spiritual Friendship
Over the last few months I’ve been slowly working through what it looks like to grieve the loss of the “what might have been.”
For me the “what might have been,” is the husband I will never have. As a celibate gay man I will constantly wrestle with the intersection of my desires and my convictions. By following my desire to become like Christ through the life of the Orthodox Church, I must always be willing to give up anything that runs contrary to that life. For me, I’ve experienced this sacrifice most profoundly as I slowly grieve the real cost of my celibacy: saying no to a romantic and sexual relationship with another man.
It seems almost humorous that I’ve pursued celibacy since I first began understanding my desires but am only now really coming to terms with all that entails. It’s one thing to accept an idea when you don’t feel the concrete burden; but it’s something else entirely to still hold to a conviction when you begin to feel its true cost. Over the last year I’ve met several men who—if circumstances were different—I would eagerly pursue romantically.
I’m a romantic late bloomer I guess, but it is what it is. One or two of those mild crushes have developed into real, deep feelings of love and affection that would naturally lead me to pursue a romantic relationship. Instead of a future without an abstract husband, it is now a future without “_____” by my side. Dreams are easier to give up when you are only sacrificing a rough outline of a future, rather than a real possibility. As I’ve worked through these feelings, I’ve been processing quite a bit of sadness, sadness that comes from slowly grieving all that I give up for God’s call for my life.
It’s good to grieve, and as a future counselor I understand that grief and sadness have a real place in our lives. Grief gives us an appreciation for what we’ve lost as well as a renewed connection with our heart. It’s easy to discount and discredit our emotions and simply become numb, but grief and the process of grieving allows us to comes to terms and acknowledge the depth of our feelings. However, grief has its season and eventually runs its course. It is something we must go through, but we also know that in time, the depth of pain and loss will slowly pass. My self-denial and pursuit of celibacy in accordance with my theological convictions will have its cost but I must remember that it is for a larger purpose.
Despite of its cost, singleness and celibacy offer real gifts and blessings. As much as I long for a husband I also acknowledge the reality that—even if I did not have traditionally Christian convictions about sex—I have little room in my life, practically speaking, for such a relationship. While I may dream about spending my life with “_____,” I also cherish all that I am able to do because of my singleness. Spontaneous travel, greater financial resources, and most importantly the relational capacity to pursue close friendships with many close friends would be to some extent sacrificed if I were to pursue a romantic relationship. Time to cultivate numerous close friends instead of just one partner is but the icing on the cake for what God has called me to in my celibacy. Ultimately, however, my celibacy is not merely the outcome of a cost/benefit analysis; rather, it is the life God has called me to. I trust in his goodness and blessings and believe that while He knows the real cost of my singleness He also knows what is best for me and what ultimately will transform me according to His likeness. Faithfulness to God’s laws is not a mere obligation, but rather is the path through which we will most fully become the men and women we were, and are being, created to be.
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33