First I want to say there is a difference between celibacy and abstaining from sexual relations. Celibacy is usually a lifestyle where people do not engage in sexual relations because of religious reasons and a certain calling on their life to abstain. Abstinence from sexual intercourse can also be for religious reasons, but it generally isn’t because a person feels called to abstain from sex throughout their lives: it usually is because they abstain until they meet and marry the person they feel God has chosen for them to share their lives with. I want to share what I have learned about abstaining from sexual intercourse because I feel it may help others who struggle with choosing this as a lifestyle until they marry.
- God is ever-present with you and knows the difficulty of your choice and is there to comfort you. Sometimes we may feel that because Jesus Christ was God, that he can’t possibly understand what we are feeling. Jesus was all man and all God. It says in Hebrews that he knows our weaknesses and infirmities and understands them all. God created us and he created us with the desire to be with the opposite sex; he understands better than anyone what it feels like and what it means to a man and woman to be united, sexually.
- Abstaining from sexual relations until marriage guards and protects our emotions. I know this has been said numerous times, but there is an assurance that we have when our mind, soul, and bodies are in God’s hands and subjection. We have the knowledge that no matter how relationships go, God is honoring my devotion to him and the entirety of my being is covered. There is a peace that comes from knowing that I’m not dishonoring my body and God honors that. Hebrews says that “Marriage is honorable..” This means that it is good, whole, righteous, and that the sexual act within marriage is pure, not defiled or dirty.
- When you are filled with God’s spirit, a sexual relationship outside of God’s covenant of marriage is grievous. I learned this when I was in a sexual relationship and not married. I thought that because we loved each other, and we were faithful to each other that God would somehow overlook the fact that we weren’t married. God never overlooks, sidesteps, or walks around his word and the truth of his word. No matter how much God loves you; he doesn’t love you enough to make any exception for you and your situation. For him to do so, for God to go back on his word in any instance he would cease to be God. Also while in this relationship, I began to feel myself becoming distant from the things of God: this means that I couldn’t listen to someone preaching God’s word, I couldn’t read my Bible or pray. My conscience was being violated, because I was breaking one of God’s principles, and I was in a sinful situation that was causing me to be separated from God.
- Even though I tried to justify sexual relations outside of the marriage covenant, the Holy Spirit in me never gave me peace about it: also I didn’t know it at the time, but I was cutting myself off from the blessings of God: in this present life and the eternal ones. It’s true that those who play house, never get the real house. When we settle for less than God’s plan, we cut ourselves off from the very thing it is that we want. Also, settling for someone who is unwilling to marry you, could be standing in the way of someone who would be willing and able to make a holy committment to you. Abstaining from sexual relations shouldn’t be something you do seeking a reward or a husband; it should be something you do because it is right. The man who I was with wasn’t just unwilling to marry me, he was using me to satisfy his own selfish and self-centered needs, whether he realized it or not. And this fact alone was enough for my heavenly father to want to protect me from such manipulation.
- I was sinning against my own body. In twenty-four years of marriage and living with a man who was consistently unfaithful to me, I never contracted any sexually transmitted disease (other than a yeast infection): however, in the span of two years, I contracted a virus that placed me at risk of developing cancer. Also, in the two years I was sleeping with this man, I was always sick with some type of persistent cold or bronchitis. When I stopped sleeping with him, I still have colds, but the persistence of sickness isn’t there.
- Sexual immorality in the form of fornication continually opens the door for sexual obsession or even possession by sexual demonic spirits. What most people fail to realize is that sexual sin, is sexual sin. When we knowingly disobey God’s word and sometimes unknowingly, we open the door to a flood of demonic influence from whatever demonic powers that are out there. When we have the power to control our desires and inclinations and choose not to do it, we open ourselves up to things that we don’t have control over. Nothing is worse than feeling you don’t have control over your sexual desires; when something else comes that has power over you. This is where sexual deviation comes from in the form of child molestation, rape, bestiality, homosexuality, and the list goes on.
- When you don’t have your sexual desires and feelings under control, there is some element of emotional immaturity. I realized that I desperately wanted love and intimacy with a man, and I did so at the expense of my relationship and peace with God. After traveling through the maze of loss of self-esteem, loss of peace, and a general feeling that I’m doing something wrong, I began to so value the lost elements of my personality that I felt no temporary attention a man could give me was worth losing my self-respect: and my friend, that is personal growth and emotional maturity. I allowed myself to be manipulated as a child, to obtain something that I felt I couldn’t live without. Emotionally mature people are able to delay self-gratification for something much better that is long-term. There are sixty year-old people who are still immature emotionally. Age has little to do with how mature someone is emotionally.
- Lastly, waiting for the commitment you want in marriage is taking the moral high-ground. People who compromise themselves sexually will eventually compromise themselves in other things also. Taking the moral high ground says to yourself, and to others, “I am worth the very best that is available.” It says that even if I have to live the rest of my life alone, it is better than being with someone who de-values me, or gives me less than what I want, need, and deserve.
My grandmother gave birth to twelve children, and of those twelve she lived to bury three of them. Two died as children, and my father passed away as an adult. Of the remaining nine, all left home, married and settled in various areas of the country. She survived my grandfather by fifty years, which wasn’t uncommon for women in the South over seventy-five years ago. The one child who remained was my mentally challenged uncle, Curtis Quince.
As a child I would go to “Mama Lula’s” house with my brother, Patrick; we would sashay into her front door, sit down and talk for a few minutes, then get up and run outside to play. I loved escaping to her house because it was a breath of fresh air from the noise of my seven brothers and sisters. I’m sure the quietness and refuge that I cherished, she had come to hate. There were days I would come by and see her sitting on the porch with a forlorn look on her face: it wasn’t only a look of loneliness and despair, the look said, “no one is going to rescue me from this.” Even as a child, I sensed “Mama Lula’s” relief when Patrick and I would show up, I sensed her thankfulness, and I was equally grateful for the sense of history and peacefulness she had given to me.
It is true that we can spend all our lives as employees, parents, and productive citizens, and one day wake up to realize we are in the house alone. I realized my “nest” was empty after I dropped my youngest daughter off at college. My ex-husband had left a year earlier to build a new nest with a younger, new wife and two other children. I didn’t have time to be bitter; the time that I possessed was spent trying to find a career in post-mid-life and trying to keep two daughters in college.
I joined several meetup.com sites, became an avid hiker, a prolific dancer, and began to explore the singing skills that had lain dormant for a long time. I found the self who had been buried beneath the needs of children and the expectations of a neglectful spouse. I returned to school and acquired a certificate as a drug counselor. I got a job working at something that required skill and thought. It was a great accomplishment. My days were filled. The nights and the weekends became the gaps. I suddenly realized the children had filled the nights and the weekends until now: they had filled the gaps for ten years plus. Overwhelmingly, I began to crave sharing the most insignificant events. A sunset, a cup of coffee, a walk in the park, a walk anywhere; these things became monumental events set against a backdrop of emptiness.
The gaps are here and I refuse to fill them with minutia. I refuse to fill the gaps with things that I’m not passionate about. I spoke with a woman I met and is in a similar situation with the children and the spouse gone;I said, “It’s amazing how much space another person takes up in your life, and when they are no longer there how much space is left.” So I must fill the gaps with Joan. I must fill the gaps with whom I choose to be with and what I choose to give my time to. Time is the most precious commodity of an “empty nester”; use it wisely, make it work for you and you will see the valuable return of your investment.
One afternoon while walking in the isles of Target,I was greeted by a silver-haired woman leaning against a quad cane. When I first saw her I thought how clear and beautiful her face was for someone whose hair had long since lost its youthful color. One look at this woman and I one could tell she was an enviable beauty in her younger years. Yet it wasn’t just the beauty of her face that struck me, there was an aura about her that beamed of vitality, hope, and purpose.
“Hello,” she said. I said, “Hello.” “What are you looking for,” she asked me. “I’m looking for a watch,” I said. She said, “Oh, you may find some very nice watches in here.” “Sometimes you can find real quality ones here.” Somehow our conversation wandered from watches to how old she was when she became a widow. I asked her , “did you ever remarry?” She said, “No.” I asked why not. She then said, “I never found anyone that fit into my life.” We were very deep into the conversation before I knew her name; she said her name was Evelyn Margaret and that she was eighty-eight years old. I told her that I had a beautiful daughter who died at age nineteen. She then said, “you don’t look much more than nineteen yourself. Amazingly, I didn’t feel like a nine-teen year old. I was truly at a low point in my life. So much of my life was unraveling around me and the loneliness I felt was crushing. Evelyn sensed this and she seemed to be an angel sent from heaven. Evelyn told me that she lived in a very nice senior living complex off of Route 9. She gave me her apartment number and said she was home mostly in the evenings because she went on outings in the day time. “I only have a small hearing problem and need a little support when I walk,” she said. “This is why I have the cane.” I asked her how did she get around. She said, “I catch the bus that has a stop near my apartment.”
I looked at her and I was amazed. I wondered how had she managed to defy the stereotype of aging as deterioration? It wasn’t just her physical mobility;Evelyn had managed to capture a freshness and appreciation for life that most people lose as they age. Her zest for life hadn’t diminished, it seemed to have grown. She told me about her mother and how much beautiful jewelry she had and that she had left part of it to her and the rest to her sister. Evelyn seemed like an angel. I’d met her by accident, but she seemed to understand who I was and what made me “tick.”
The life lesson I learned from Evelyn Margaret was that your attitude towards life is what gets you through the tough times; my grandmother was the same way: she lived to be nearly 100. My grandmother’s mind was as sharp at 90 at it was at 65. Here’s a list I’d like to leave with my readers, a list for keeping a youthful perspective on life.
- Keep a positive attitude toward life’s events. It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you react to it. (Wear life as a loose garment)
- Keep moving. Physical movement, such as exercise keeps the body and the spirit alert. People who stay physically active keep their brains alert also. The two are connected. Dancing, walking, hiking, swimming are a partial list of activities that keeps one moving. It’s not the activity, what matters is that you enjoy it and it keeps you moving.
- Keep your mind active by engaging in activities that force you to use your brain. Puzzles, learning a foreign language, writing, reading are a partial list of brain activities. Eleanor Roosevelt was in her nineties when she died, but it is said she had the brain of a someone in their twenties or thirties. She wrote, read, and stayed physically active and involved until the end of her life.
- Surround yourself with people who love and care about you. Loving relationships are motivation for people to stay healthy and involved in life. Love goes a long way in keeping people with a youthful, energetic and positive outlook on life.