When True Love Keeps Waiting – What Celibacy Feels Like for Older Singles by A. McCracken
She basically says the same things here I’ve been saying on this blog the last three or four or however many years I’ve been blogging here (edit: note: people in the comments say that the woman who wrote this article has written on other sites that she is no longer waiting for marriage to have sex, but for a long term relationship):
Excerpts (use link above to read the entire page):
- At 15, I took a vow of celibacy, “True Love Waits.” I stood in front my church, alongside teens who’d betrayed that promise before it began—including a girlfriend who (I later learned) was secretly having sex and my high school crush, who’d proudly told me he’d hooked up with a girl at church camp.
- … At 37, I’m still waiting. And while I recognize that my strong sense of self-discipline and self-worth has created a possibly endless quest, I can’t deny what I feel in my heart to be spiritually sacred.
- For women who remain virgins into their late 20s, 30s, and beyond, it feels like our choices are constantly called into question. From the church, we hear: Why haven’t you gotten married yet? From the rest of society, it’s: Why don’t you just do it?
- When my essay “Does My Virginity Have a Shelf Life?” was published in November 2013 in The New York Times, I went through a roller coaster of emotions: fear, pride, shame, vulnerability, and excitement. A female writer from Slatesupported me. A female writer from Cosmopolitan tore me apart. Secular media seems to be fascinated with my experience, though with each story, editors have downplayed my church ties and Christian roots.
- I’ve since written about my virginity for Glamour and appeared in a segment on Katie Couric’s talk show. (Even Katie told me off camera I had “fairytale princess syndrome” and I should go ahead and have sex.)
Following the publicity, several of my Christian girlfriends in their 30s reached out to me. Some, still virgins, were thrilled to hear someone who had a similar story. Others shared their experiences giving up the conviction to wait.
- …Plenty of women come to this decision as a way to try to fix dysfunctional relationships, or to address our own hangups over fear, shame, or low self-esteem. One friend decided to have sex after her mom and sister told her they were worried she was a lesbian. Another struggled with weight all her life, and in her 30s, decided having sex might improve her body image.
Christian women who desire marriage rarely grow up imagining themselves staying single through their 30s. And yet, here we are, educated, social, God-loving ladies who find ourselves frustrated and disillusioned because we’re still waiting for “the one.” (I think I’ve heard “God has a plan” so many times, he must be on version 53.0 by now.)
We don’t imagine ourselves staying single because we rarely see women speak up about abstinence or singleness before the church body. According to Dennis Franck’sReaching Single Adults: An Essential Guide to Ministry, 44 percent of adults in the US are single. And yet, he says, married people inhabit (Link): the vast majority of the pulpits and leadership positions in Protestant churches.
- When I offered to share my story with the women’s ministry at church, leaders suggested I speak to high school or college students instead. Even secular media found a place for my story, though showcased as an anomaly. But my church, it seemed, did not know what to do with me.
- Of course the church should support singles and believe their value in God´s eyes is equal to that of married members. But beyond that, we need to see and speak to those older singles who may still believe, in the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “that marriage is a reality of this present age which is passing away.” That waiting is still valued in the eyes of the church and God, even at the ripe age of 37. That someone is out there who will value the decision to wait despite the sexual imperative that suggests you aren´t human and able to connect with another human unless you are having sex.
- What happens when women and men who have kept their promise to save their virginity for that person are 30-plus and still unmarried?
- …While unmarried celibate Christians might appear a minority in need of outreach, we have insight to offer the church because of our singleness. Our situation grants us wisdom on patience, faith, and endurance that I believe can be valuable to the church body as a whole.
I’m over 40 years of age, was a Christian for many years (am only partially Christian these days), and still a virgin, because I was waiting for marriage to have sex, and I’ve not yet married.
I have now decided that as soon as I can get into a stable, loving relationship with a man (and the man does NOT have to be a Christian, as I see no point in the “be equally yoked” teaching anymore), I will be having sex prior to marriage.
There is absolutely no point in waiting any more, and God knows American, Christian culture is geared towards marriage and the nuclear family, so that no help or encouragment or community is extended to older, single, celibate adults – so we have to get our emotional and relational needs met elsewhere.
Here are some comments by a few of the people who left comments on (Link): the page:
comment by S. McKenzie
- – Youth should learn from the get-go, as I only fairly recently did, that sexual temptation is something that all people, married or single, will struggle with – we all have to learn how to rely on God’s power and on the Word of God to keep us from all kinds of sin, including sexual sin. Marriage won’t automatically “solve” this problem, although I am sure it does help tremendously to have an outlet for sexual expression that honours God. I think knowing this can help alleviate a lot of misplaced guilt that singles can sometimes have, feeling like the only ones wrestling with sexual temptation.
- – At 40 with no children (yet), I have heard my fair share of ignorant comments from well meaning (?) people who just have no idea how much pain and angst their comments have the potential to spark. (A few years ago, one person suggested I look into freezing my eggs… A quick look into it showed me how expensive it would be both to harvest and freeze them, and then to defrost and use them…. and I was so struck by the lack of dependence on God on the “testimony” web page that I just knew it wasn’t something I wanted or was even able to do). But at the end of the day, I now recognize that we are ALL a bit (or very) ignorant about different topics and experiences in life, and we have ALL probably at some point said something thoughtless or hurtful to others… So I try to show grace when it happens to me, as I am sure I will need it form someone else.
- – On loneliness: I agree with the commenter who said that we tend to be overlooked for opportunities for coffee, dinner, holidays, etc. There is a certain degree of selfishness in our culture that leads to that. But I also agree with the other commenter who mentioned that it is more a matter of our overly harried, overworked and over stressed lifestyles. I think the best solution is to befriend other lonely people or pray and ask God to show how the time can be redeemed/ used for good. I firmly believe that loneliness is often God’s prompt for us to spend more time with Him.
- – On the seemingly endless wait: I agree that as more time passes by, the potential for bitterness is ENORMOUS. But let’s fight it, people! I remember one person (now deceased) who at 70 was still not at peace that God never opened the door for marriage in her own life. I see how I myself have been becoming more impatient. But bitterness is NOT an attractive trait. We have to constantly ask God to help us to be thankful, to keep trusting His plan for us and His wisdom in it. This from my understanding is how we will get through any difficulty, including the frustration of unwanted singleness. (I really hope I am not sounding too preachy… I am giving myself a talking-to as well if that helps!)
comment by Ann Margret Hoverspian
You said: “Surely there are other intelligent, accomplished virgin writers across the internet who can add to this conversation while actually living self-sacrificial, Christian celibacy?”
Yes! Absolutely. I’d like to think I’m one of them (and I’m almost 43). Perhaps I should write something about this… Thanks for the challenge.
by Vicki Hanes
- I think this is more of result of the tension when the church places so much emphasis on marriage.
- I’m not a virgin out of choice to being celibate, but due to a choice of placing sex within the sacredness of marriage. Since I’m not married, and maybe won’t ever be, my celibacy follows that decision.
- I think the church has more of a problem with me never being married than being celibate.
- A divorced woman is celebrated for making that choice whereas someone who has never been married and never had children is not respected as much.
- It seems that our lives do not carry as much wisdom to be shared with others if we have not been tried by the fire of marriage and parenthood and all the accoutrements, including sex, that are a part of those relationships.
- I guess I struggle the most with messages that I can’t possibly understand what is like to be sacrificial without being a mother/wife. I somehow don’t understand God’s love to the fullest.
- I know marriage and parenthood can be a struggle and therefore I do believe the church needs to help and encourage those in those tensions.But, being never-married at 47 also comes with its unique challenges that, like you indicated, teach me some things and develop things in me that could be of use to people other than those in my similar position.I think God demonstrates the depth of his love to me in my singleness as well. I wish that was acknowledged more by the church.
by Kelvin Smith
- I was married as a virgin at 43, almost 10 years ago. I have no regrets (though with my parents in their 80s, I’m sorry that my kids will likely have limited experience of them as vibrant; my wife’s father they only knew deeply ill with Alzheimer’s).
- I never felt that I had assurance that I would marry, though it was something I desired (and, of course, I knew the odds were in my favor compared to Christian women). In my single years, I was able to do many things both in and out of the church–serving in almost every church leadership role except pastor, traveling through much of the U.S. and Europe, multiple missions trips, singing with a professional choir.
- Now my life is much more limited externally, because it’s filled with two boys that my wife and I are homeschooling (plus the demands of co-owning a small business).
- Each status, single and married, has its benefits and challenges. I’m glad to be sharing life, and yes, enjoying sex, with the woman who is God’s provision for me. But to be honest, I do miss some of the things I used to be able to do. Because we married so late, I may be retired before I’m an empty-nester, and I hope I’ll be still energetic enough to enjoy those years. But I’m not going to short my family responsibilities now to chase after the things I did before.I was very thankful that my church during my single years recognized and encouraged my spiritual gifts and talents; I never felt excluded because I was single.
I got a notification of a response to my note, which is no longer here. I won’t quote the response, in case the author doesn’t want it displayed. But I’ll clarify one thing that was questioned: my wife is just 1-1/2 years younger than me. She had our second son when she was 47.
And I’m not just theorizing on connecting singles with families; my wife’s maid of honor (a single woman) is so much a part of our extended family (she’s “Aunt” to my kids and their cousins) that she’s part of family portraits.
by Heidi Smith
- I love this article and am excited for those singles out there who may be feeling alone in singleness, feel that they “should” be married or feel like they need to have sex to feel validated.
- With the divorce rate so high (50% in Christian and Secular marriages) it surprises me that singleness is not appreciated more than churches.
- In light of the deep hurt and turmoil that goes along with regretting marriage and sex, there are few things more respectable than making the choice to honor marriage and sex as sacred thing that should not be taken lightly.
- I am married and love having a family.
- That said, there is a freedom in single hood that allows flexibility to do and experience many different things and touch people in a way that having a family does not allow.
- “For such a time as this” God has great opportunity right where you are- single or married! I do believe that when you walk with the Lord, weather a husband comes along or not is in his hands and not in our control. Both are blessed greatly by God, neither is better than the other.
- Obviously there are plenty of people who are married and lonely (divorce rate) and perhaps wishing they were single instead and surrounded by healthy relationships instead of trapped in an unhappy marriage. Thanks for the article, Amanda!
by Steve B, in reply to someone else:
- Thanks Kate Too! My exp. has been that far too many singles do indeed define themselves by their lack of spouse – of course almost every Amer. Evan. church doesn’t help by focusing on the family – this is why changes in thinking must occur with 1. singles – they are not “handicapped” or “special needs.”
- Scripture honors celibate singleness with lots of positive examples – it’s always the married people who go off the rails.
- 2. pastoral leadership – most of our leaders got married in their 20s so their exp. is very limited. Whiny singles, instead of involved singles don’t help…
- 3. church community – if the marital majority runs things in the typical Evan. church (including megachurches) then, again, understanding and reach-out is minimal.
- Families typically have hard enough time keeping things straight in their own setting – and again, it’s mostly the married folk that provide the sexual failures in church leadership and community.
- Marriage and family are no guarantees of virtue or godliness – Paul, 2nd best single in Scripture, always points out how we all struggle, married or single with sin.
- My point is that, since Amer. society is now in single adult majority, the Church can really be Single-Friendly in a new Gospel way!
by K Smith
- I’ve been around the block long enough to know that unfortunately, the church, liberal or conservative, really doesn’t support long-term celibacy, and to me that attitude is one of disobedience. People who abstain from sex outside of marriage are not strange, awkward, backwards, etc. The one word they are is obedient, obedient to God’s word.
(Link): Why Christians Need to Uphold Lifelong Celibacy as an Option for All Instead of Merely Pressuring All to Marry – vis a vis Sexless Marriages, Counselors Who Tell Marrieds that Having Affairs Can Help their Marriages
(Link): Perverted Christian Married Couple Wants to “Wife Swap” (For Sex) With Other Christian Couple – Why Christians Need to Uphold Chastity / Celibacy For All People Even Married Couples Not Just Teens
(Link): Secular, Left Wing Feminist Writer Marcotte on Anyone Choosing To Be a Virgin Until Marriage: “It’s a Silly Idea” – What Progressive Christians, Conservative Christians, Non Christians, and Salon’s Amanda Marcotte Gets Wrong About Christian Views on Virginity
(Link): False Christian Teaching: “Only A Few Are Called to Singleness and Celibacy” or (also false): God’s gifting of singleness is rare – More Accurate: God calls only a few to marriage and God gifts only the rare with the gift of Marriage