In the past month or so, several people have asked why I made the decision to remain single in response to my same-sex attraction and given the fact that marriage to someone of the opposite sex is still a real and God-honoring possibility for those who experience ongoing SSA.
The Calvinist in me would say I didn’t choose singleness; singleness chose me. And that’s partly true. As I’ve mentioned before, I think God designed me in such a way that I can thrive as a single man. My personality, my hobbies, and my schedule all lend themselves to singleness, which is incredibly providential. At the same time, I’m intentional about singleness and doing it well. I’ve become more and more proactive about building relationships, serving people, and striving for sexual purity. So yeah, in some ways, singleness chose me — in other ways, I chose singleness. I continue to choose it every day.
Singleness in my teens
Being single in high school was easy. I was too busy with music and writing and church to think about dating. (Notice I didn’t mention studying!) Shortly after graduation, friends were getting hitched left and right. (This is Utah, where people marry young.) The marryin’ age was no longer in the future; it was now. I had to consider whether marriage was realistic for me, someone who continued to experience same-sex attraction.
On the night I “came out” to my parents, I told them I still wanted a wife and kids, despite being attracted to men. They told me it was a good and godly desire, which I was free to pursue. (Such a beautiful response, by the way.) Looking back, I think my desire for marriage was actually a desire for things I believed would accompany marriage: 1) the “healing” or diminishing of my same-sex attractions, and 2) achieving the American dream, which included starting a family. I didn’t desire marriage for what it was designed to be — a living expression of God’s faithfulness to his people — I only wanted the perks (real or imagined). By God’s grace, my priority at that time was to get a degree, which put thoughts of marriage on the back burner. Phew!
Singleness in my twenties
College and the start of my career bought me enough time to realize I was pretty good at being single (while being “out” to my parents and a small group of friends eased the pressure to date or get married). I’d racked up years of experience learning how to love God, serve people, and foster community without the help of a spouse. Or, to put it another way, I’d settled nicely into singleness.
Not that I “settled” for singleness. I don’t believe it’s something we settle for. Jesus told his disciples the single life is a high calling (Matthew 19:12), and Paul said it’s BETTER to remain single, especially when it comes to ministry (1 Corinthians 7:8). So I started seeing singleness the way God does. I started to notice all the ways singleness was a blessing, as it offered more time, opportunities, and even relationships than many of my married friends. Of course, there’s a learning curve in using these gifts to bless others and serve God rather than self, but my twenties gave me lots of time — and God gave me lots of grace — to figure it out.
Singleness in my thirties
By my thirtieth birthday, lifelong singleness had become a viable, even attractive, option. I was “out” to family, friends, my church, and the blogosphere, and pretty vocal about my intent to remain single for the sake of Christ. That’s when it started to feel deliberate or “vocational,” as some call it. That’s when it felt most like a decision. I’d also started to notice other Christians, such as those at Living Out, who chose to remain celibate in response to their same-sex attraction, which made the possibility far more appealing than the bleak picture of singleness painted by secular culture.
Being more open about SSA and singleness in my thirties has also meant facing more challenges and temptations. Saying “no” to a sexual relationship with a man was no longer a hypothetical situation; it was a reality. That is, I’ve experienced the pain of obedience, of practicing what I preach. I’ve also faced more “fiery darts” in my spiritual life than ever before, perhaps because I’m so public with my story. But openness has also meant more accountability, more community, more hope. I’ve connected with people all over the world. Being in fellowship with other single Christians has proven in real life what I’ve always known in my head: singleness really is “the happy alternative” to marriage.
Singleness in the future
Having never been married, I can’t say for sure, but I think I’m better suited to pursue holiness through singleness. But my “decision” (if we’re still calling it that) to remain single has always come with a caveat: God is full of surprises. I’m open to the idea of marrying a godly woman, but since I’m not actually pursuing marriage, it certainly would come as a surprise!
There’s something I love about the phrase “single on purpose.” Better yet, single with purpose. I’ve spent the past few years striving to be single in the best possible way — with Christ-centered intentionality, commitment, even passion. I think singleness is something we have to keep seeing afresh, making adjustments as we go. After all, being a single teen is a lot different than being a single forty-something (or octogenarian). Like marriage, it’s not going to be easy, but I truly believe it can be happy. Especially if we use the gift to honor God and point people to Jesus. When I’m doing that, I know I’m making the right — here comes that word again — decision.