facing the loss of marriage

“But, Tony, I don’t want to be alone my whole life! I want to get married and have kids. I want a wife who I can love and who I can grow old together with. My biggest fear in life is being alone. So I can’t be gay because I don’t want to be alone!”

I’ve heard this many times from my handful of Christian friends who experience same-sex attraction and who still want to uphold the traditional sexual ethic.

Just about every Evangelical Christian I know plans on getting married. The conversations are never about if marriage happens but always when marriage happens. It’s assumed. We write in journals about what we hope to find in a spouse. We pray for our future spouse. We set people up on dates.  And after the first date, we talk about whether or not he or she is the one. “I just know we’re going to get married!” Obviously, these aren’t all bad things, but you get the point.

Just scan your church bulletins. You will find most events geared towards married couples or their families. “Dad’s supporting one another in fatherhood,” “Parenting 101,” “Couples group,” “Moms praying for their kids.” And it seems that everyone’s goal in the “Singles group” is to, well, pick from the finest available men and women.

We are obsessed with marriage. Sometimes we equate Christian faithfulness with getting married and having kids. We’ve framed marriage as the best thing in life, the holy grail of the Christian faith. All too often we fall into this idolatrous trap.

So it does not surprise me when every single gay Christian I know who wants to maintain the traditional sexual ethic is greatly distressed at the prospect of never getting married.

It happens to me too.  I’ve gotten depressed about having to be single.

For a couple of days during my junior year of college, I emotionally lost it. My relationship with a good friend went through a rough patch, which for some reason triggered a surge of fears within me.

I imagined myself in my 30s, in my 40s, all alone. All my friends married. No one cares about me anymore, all they care about is their families. I live by myself; go to work every day and come home to an empty house, with absolutely no one to talk with. No one to hug or embrace.  None I can love. No one.

With this image fresh in my mind, my life felt pointless. I had no energy during those few days; all I wanted to do was sit in my room and cry. Thankfully bawling to an older, Christ-filled woman made me feel better.

I’ve also gotten really angry about having to stay single.

There were a few days at Wheaton where I was just flat out angry about being gay. Really angry. I sort of hated… everyone. I would walk around Wheaton’s campus and think, “who gives a @#$! that I got an A on this paper when I’ll never experience romantic love with another person… that idiot got a C, but he will live a better life than me because he can get married.” Or when I listened to friends, I would think, “Wow, I’m so sorry you are stressed out about your girlfriend… please tell me more about how awful it must be to be able to experience an intimate relationship with someone.” Selfish and sinful thoughts? Yes. But I was angry. I wanted the world to suffer for my suffering.

But I’ve come to realize this: it is a lie to believe my life will be less meaningful or less satisfying just because I’m single.

Jesus did not tell His disciples, “Go and marry and make babies.” No, He told his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. He told us to be the “salt and light of the world.”

And I’m beginning to see just how exciting it could be to live this out as a single man.

My senior year at Wheaton, I was blessed to mentor an underclassman who is strongly and exclusively SSA. It has been one of the most important relationships in my life thus far. God has used my story to change him. God has used me to give him hope. This kid has grown exponentially, in surprising and awesome ways I never could have imagined. And I do not know if he would have grown like this without me.

This blows my mind and humbles me.

As I move away from being mainly in Christian circles, I know that it will be a door opener for dialogue with non-Christians too. There’s something about saying “gay” and “Christian” in the same sentence that gets people to listen and open up to you.

This is the sort of stuff God does. He takes messy stuff and makes beautiful things out of it (Gungor’s “Beautiful Things” anyone?). Redemption for me has not meant becoming straight; redemption for me is God using something I used to hate about myself to change mine and others’ lives.

I am convinced my life will still be filled with blessed purpose, without being married. God will use all the unique gifts and talents He blesses me with and He will use my gay orientation.  Every Christian — gay, straight, single, married, young, old — has gifts and characteristics God wants to use to impact His Kingdom. That is why we are all here. He doesn’t need us, but He loves us.  When we see those gifts make an impact, it is exciting. I know it breathes life into my soul.

This is a long post, but here is an important final thought: Who does love the single person? Who is the single person’s family?

-Tony

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9 thoughts on “facing the loss of marriage

  1. This is just amazing. I love everything about this blog and as a Christian who has always loved the gay community you’ve really put the words to how I’ve felt. This post, I think, has a lot of import to even those who heterosexual but are afraid of being single. The Lord has a plan for you and when you are open to seeing it, you will be happy. Thank you so much for writting this, it’s truly eye opening for me.

    • Thanks for the encouragement and support, Shelby! It means a lot to us.

      And yes, you’re aboslutely right that this post draws parallels with heterosexual singles. I’ve found a lot of solidarity with older single heterosexual individuals because we face very similar struggles of feeling alone and less worthy b/c we are single. But, God most defintely wants to use all of His people, and everyone can find purpose in their life when following Christ!

      I wouldn’t necessarily say it will bring happiness. Christ never promises us this for our lives. Right now, I am happy, but there will be many times when the pain of singleness will return (or the pain of anything else). But it has most definitely brought me a sense of consistent joy to follow Christ — to know that He always cares, is always with me, and that some day, everything will be set right.

      Blessings!
      -Tony

  2. Many amens to this post. The perfect family is virtually always held up — at least in Evangelical circles — as the Christian ideal. That in itself should show that the definition and place of marriage has changed in the Church throughout time — in the early Church, a theologian was excommunicated for suggesting that maybe-just-maybe marriage might be considered a gift from God on par with celibacy. But hey, back then they also let priests have concubines, so what up?

    This idolatry of families is so detrimental to the Church’s ability to include and properly support people who are single, people who feel called to celibacy, and then the gays who in many churches are just de facto dumped into that second category due to their orientation… Not only does it make singles and celibates feel miserable and perhaps like failures, but it also means that the Church regularly lacks roles where their gifts can be used for the betterment of the body and appreciated fully. Church of the Resurrection, where I went while at Wheaton, though perhaps not fantastic at toning down the whole you-need-a-family-pressure, took the cake for involving its members who had no plans for marriage and therefore were able to give freely of their time and love to the church.

    I hated talking about this with my straight friends. But considering that I didn’t have any gay friends until the end of my junior year, I only talked to the heterosexually-inclined ones. They would just be quiet, and nod, and be like “Yeah man, that’s rough.” But I knew they were just going to go hang out with their girlfriend afterward and be relieved that their own orientation didn’t burden them thus.

    But I actually did come to terms with celibacy. I reached a point where I accepted that I might be celibate and felt that I could embrace that as a good gift, if that is what God asked of me. A lot of that goes back to the earlier discussion about the distinction between sex and sexuality. At some points, I even was excited that I might never commit myself to anyone so then I would be able to freely love and care for the Church — it was a romantic and fulfilling notion.

    Obviously on this point we disagree but, at least currently, I do not believe that gay relationships are inherently immoral; that is, I believe that gay relationships can be immoral in the same way that straight relationships have the potential for immorality, but I do not believe the same-sex nature of the relationship is reprehensible. However, I wouldn’t have ever felt any confidence that God had led me to this conclusion had I not first reached the point of submission and celebration of celibacy. If I hadn’t ever been okay with celibacy, I would’ve assumed that my sinful selfishness and my fear of loneliness had driven me into subscription to terrible theology. But since I was completely open to and even semi-excited about lifelong singleness, I felt more comfortable finally admitting that I believed “gay is okay.”

  3. I have been struggling lately with keeping my faith rooted to the core and being gay!! i ask for your prayers everyday that I will live a life that is for Christ!! I do have a question to ask: if two people who are gay decide to take sex out of the picture and still be together and strive to work on being better Christians, is that wrong?

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