In thinking about finding our vocation, we like to say that our vocation found us. Neither of us set out with the goal of finding celibate partnership. Our life together emerged organically in ways that surprised and delighted us.
We’re well aware that some people consider celibate partnership as a sort of “Holy Grail” for LGBT Christians who are striving to live into celibacy vocationally. We’ve talked to LGBT Christians who perceive celibate partnership as a way to have lifelong companionship without any moral quandaries related to sexual activity. There’s a tendency to see our way of life as “marriage minus the sex,” but this fails to consider the specific textures, features, and patterns of celibacy that undergird the life we share.
Celibacy can be lived in diverse ways. Monastic communities and religious orders provide windows into various celibate ways of life. Additionally, many people live lives as singles in the world according to their unique gifts and abilities. The two of us do our best to learn from monastics while also discerning our own vocation as a community of two. As we have gotten to know other people who are living celibacy, we have come to see that celibate vocations are characterized by vulnerability, radical hospitality, a shared spiritual life, and commitment.
We’ve talked before about how we met and the challenges of finding language to describe the relationship we share. We have a few posts geared towards people who are considering the possibility of celibate partnership. But over the past few weeks, we’ve noticed that a sizable number of people interacting with our writing assume that we actively sought a romantic relationship with each other in an effort to get as close as we could to marriage without violating the teachings of our Christian tradition — that we found a loophole and decided to take full advantage of it. In fact, we’ve received several emails from people who want to know, “Where could I find a person who would desire a celibate partnership with me?”
While we can appreciate the various motivations that prompt readers to ask this question, we want to be clear that we were asking different questions of life, purpose, and relationships when we first met. The broader questions matter, especially in a world where marriage is often the default vocation. We think that beginning with partnership in mind when embracing a celibate vocation is putting the cart before the horse. It would be impossible for us to list all of the salient questions that we were asking, but we would like to share a few with you now.
What does it look like for human beings to have meaningful relationships with other human beings? We live in a time and place where marriage tends to be exalted above all other forms of relationship. One of Lindsey’s central questions in discerning vocation has focused on how people can understand that a relationship has meaning if it is not headed toward marriage. This question became a regular fixture in Lindsey’s prayer life: asking God to reveal meaningful relationships while highlighting various meanings present in those diverse relationships. God has shown us that we’re both fantastically connected with so many people; we talk about them as our family of choice. Though we share daily life in our little community of two, there are very few ways in which our relationship is more exclusive than other meaningful relationships that we hold dear.
What way of life has the greatest potential to draw me towards God? The world is full of choices, and many of these choices have the potential to draw a person away from God. Sarah has long recognized a need for accountability. Living in close community with other people enables Sarah to make better decisions. Because of this awareness, Sarah started looking at monastic communities while first discerning the possibility of celibacy several years ago. When it became clear that God was not calling Sarah to a particular monastery, Sarah prayerfully considered how God would provide strong connections with other people.
Where do I find strength and support to do the things God is asking me to do? Living in Christ radically reshapes one’s way of life. God frequently calls us towards more than we could possibly ask or imagine. Doing what God would have us do is incredibly challenging, and God provides communities so that the Body of Christ can be built up. Lindsey has a natural gift for encouraging other people and finds encouragement from others to be life-sustaining. It has been important for Lindsey to cultivate deep relationships characterized by mutual support.
How is God asking me to love others? As we’ve said before, we believe that celibate people love and serve the world differently than married people do. The differences may not always be readily apparent or even definable, but they are there nonetheless. We’ve found intrinsic knowledge in our hearts that God is calling the two of us to love and serve the world as celibate people. Neither of us desires marriage, but we are grateful for the opportunity to choose to opt in 100% with another person. We find ourselves propelled toward loving other people more fully because we provide consistent support, care, and encouragement to each other. In many ways, celibate partnership has helped both of us to be less selfish, more open-hearted, and more compassionate than we would be living separately.
In no way is this list of questions exhaustive of how we were processing the world when our celibate vocation found us. We do hope that we have given you a glimpse into what kinds of things were on our minds when we met each other. When people ask us about how they could meet their celibate partner, we try to change the question by asking How do you understand celibacy? and What draws you towards a celibate vocation?
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