Actually, I’m gonna let Walter Brueggemann (theologian) do some talking first: “Sexuality is good and is ordained by God as part of creation. … Sexual identity is part of creation, but it is not part of the creator. Sexuality, sexual identity, and sexual function belong not to God’s person but to God’s will for creation. … Sexuality is ordained by God, but it does not characterize God. It belongs to the goodness God intends for creation” (Genesis, 33-34).
So I’m not saying that sexuality and our identity as single people are as essential to our being or image as culture pushes on us. But here’s something I’m wrestling with: on the one hand, Jesus—“in whom the fullness of God dwelled”—was single for his entire life and ministry. But that’s not to say that he didn’t necessarily feel the same wants and desires that we do—perhaps including the one for a partner. (Perhaps not; some may not agree with that position theologically.)
Perhaps it was that his understanding of his Father’s love for him was enough. His understanding of his place in God’s story was enough. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t ‘with someone’ like culture told him he should be because he knew whose opinion mattered. Perhaps if I was in a more content relationship with God, it wouldn’t matter as much; perhaps if I was concerned with the one opinion that counted, it wouldn’t matter as much.
The bottom line is: I have community; I have accountability; I have people to laugh with and cry with and pray with and live life with; I have people who are seeking to do the same things that I am; I know that I am loved. And I know a lot of single friends who are in this same place. The one thing that we do not have, that we cannot achieve or attain, is to be wanted.
And for us, that is the one thing that continues to hold tension …
[The ellipsis is symbolic of the tension. ☺]
More about tension on the way.
One year later, I’m not married. Not engaged. Not even dating. So my sense was probably off by a little bit. ☺
On a more serious note …
Over the last year, I’ve been talking with various friends about what it means to be a single Christian, living the full life that Christ came to give us. What does it mean to be a single, sexual being? Sensuality and sexuality are part of what it means to be human, to be stimulated by touch, taste, smell, sound and sight. So what happens when there is no one to give that kiss or embrace, no one to pull close, whose smell you can inhale and feel like you’re home? Being is communion, writes one theologian. If God was not in communal relationship, he argues, he would not be, so integral to his nature is this concept of communion. So what about us, created in his image, when we do not have such communion?
One song asks: “Who doesn’t long for someone to hold, who knows how to love you without being told?”
Many of my friends are now married, and they have other concerns and issues to deal with. Responsibilities only seem to mount as we roll through this thing called life. I realize marriage and/or relationship isn’t the Promised Land. But it can sometimes seem like it, not just because it’s what the church pushes (consciously or not); but because everyone wants to be loved. Everyone longs to be special to someone else, to mean enough to that person that they’re at least near the center of that person’s world. I hope I’m not over-generalizing or over-emphasizing the human want/need for love. I don’t think I am, but I realize all the while that I write from my limited, single perspective.
I’ve heard people say that unless you’re content being single, you won’t be content when you’re married; or that you should have all of your desires met in God because that would be too much for another person to carry. And there’s some truth in such statements. But I can’t agree with them completely.
You see, if you notice in Genesis 2, even before what’s become known as “The Fall,” there existed a need for something other than, or in addition to, God. When God created the man, he said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” The man, who enjoyed unbroken communion with God and with nature was still alone. There was a need for companionship, relationship, with someone like him.
It was a need that God didn’t meet straight away. After saying this, God brought the animals and birds to the man to name them; but none of them was a suitable partner for him. And I’d assume this took a while; who knows how long it took? The point is, there was a delayed response to need.
It took long enough so that when God did create the woman, the man’s response was one of true value and appreciation: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!” It was because of the conflict brought on by unfulfilled need, the waiting and wanting, that he was able to truly value what he had been given. As Donald Miller puts it, “God directed Adam’s steps so that when He created Eve, Adam would have the utmost appreciation, respect, and gratitude” (Searching for God Knows What, 65). The point is: what we want that we can’t have plays a part in making us who we are. What we do in response to these wants impacts how our faith and how our character matures. God has embedded in us desires that he wants us to do something about. (Now, not all of our desires come from God, but that’s a whole other blog.)
In the specific case of relationships, it’s okay to want one as long as this doesn’t become the driving motivation of our lives. We do have to be prepared to accept that we might not get it right away, or even at all, but it’s okay to want it. It can lead us to prayer and a better relationship with our Father. And hopefully it will.
More on relationships coming …
It’s been awhile since I blogged properly. Almost three months, in fact. I suppose I did set myself up for failure: I think I spoiled y’all with twelve blog postings in March alone; there was no way I could do that again. ☺ But I’m sorry for being out of touch.
Life was hectic and draining for the last few months, up until the end of last quarter, which ended in mid-June. Towards the end of that period, I wrote in my journal:
I cling to sanity by my fingertips, holding on for dear life, and fighting desperately against the melancholy flood that threatens to engulf me and make me helpless and hopeless. Fear of the unknown, uncertainty about the future, inability to trust my Father; these cripple me and leave me gasping. What happened to the peace I had?
Since then, I’ve had space to breathe, I’ve rested more (and slept more) than I had for months, spent time recharging with friends who’ve renewed my spirits and been to the beach a number of times; for those who don’t know, the beach is somewhere I’m always able to recharge. For me, the beach has always been a place of peace, a place where I encounter God. There’s something about seeing God’s waves crashing onto the breakers; something about being reminded that he set the boundaries for the waters to go no further; something about the sheer magnitude of the ocean; something about the blueness of the skies, and the sun on my face. It always humbles me, it is always life-giving.
So the summer has started brilliantly, with life, with love, with friends, with class, with the sun and a smile on my face. It’s already been busy, and the coming months hold much more: more classes, volunteering for the Obama campaign in California … well, that’s enough, actually. And I’m already looking forward to the coming year as well, seeing what comes up, what pieces of the puzzle God gives me—there’re already a couple of possibilities that I’m looking into, but as and when they take shape, I’ll write about them (unless busyness takes me away from the blogosphere once more).
Oh, another reason the summer’s been so wonderful is the wealth of babies that have appeared on the scene in recent weeks andmonths. As Bono sings, “Freedom has a scent like the top of a newborn baby’s head …” and I can tell you, holding my hours-old ‘nephew’ Jackson (“Lil’ J”) and my day-old niece Amy, words don’t do the miracle of life justice. So congrats to Matt and Sara, Gabe and Maribeth, Will and Maria, Kyle and Andrea! And still to come: Benjie and Rebecca, JP and Susan, Adam and Katie …
Aren’t they gorgeous? I’ll write again soon. Hopefully.