Living the celibate life means facing claims that, because I’m not married or having sex, I haven’t truly experienced love. Sometimes those claims come from the culture, or worse, my own heart.
While it’s true I haven’t experienced an exclusive love — the sacred “one flesh” union so many people enjoy — that doesn’t mean I don’t know what it means to love and be loved. I have to remind myself of that pretty often. And in a marriage-oriented, sex-obsessed world, it takes more than a pithy remark about love coming in many forms. Sometimes I have to LITERALLY start listing the ways I experience love through the people God has placed in my life.
The friend who sends postcards from wherever she happens to be — quirky, handwritten reminders that our friendship matters.
The “mahernas” who for years have shared my burdens, rejoiced in my victories, and made me eat (nay, drink) my vegetables.
The friend who lives far away but says “good morning” every day and finds things we can do together: read books, watch Netflix, memorize Scripture.
The couple that invites me over for movie nights and homemade (slightly burnt) dinners, and stays up late with me after their kids have gone to sleep.
The “stupid” friend I tell everyone about, with her Twiggy lashes and fancy hair, who laughs with me till my guts hurt.
The woman who leaves me little love notes, prays with me, and sends invitations even if she knows I’ll be out of town, just so it’s clear I’m WANTED.
The bride who made me her “man of honor,” and whose house is gonna be REALLY close to mine on the new earth, right by her brother (and the dinosaur ranch).
The one who puts up with me 40 hours a week but still wants to spend time with me out of the office, and who’d rather call me “friend” than “coworker.”
The ladies I’ve known since junior high but even now, in their thirties, make time for “hangover” once a month — sometimes more when we really miss each other in between.
The family that lets me walk into their house without knocking, raid their fridge, play their piano, cuddle up on their couch, and even takes me on family vacations.
The neighbors who became brothers through years of churchgoing, Nintendo playing, Survivor watching, Bible studying — who know WAY too many embarrassing stories about me but aren’t ashamed to say I’m part of “the fam.”
The friends who found me via blog and “stalked” me until we became real-life friends — the kind that sing together, take strolls on the beach, all that California stuff.
Then there’s family — my own blood, that is — my parents, brother, adorable niece, aunts and uncles in strange, faraway lands (aka Kansas).
Of course, there are many more, but I’m already over my word count (and probably your attention span and/or capacity for mushy stuff). But in my heart, the list goes on.
So yeah, as a single man, I can’t dote on the “love of my life” (unless you count Jesus, and most people don’t). But I can tell you what I know: my heart belongs to these folks. I’m theirs and they’re mine. Maybe it’s not the “Honey, I’m home” kind of love, the wedded bliss, or the goodnight kiss, but these are the loves of my life. This is love, and it’s the real thing.