Day 3: Celibacy as Shared Spiritual Life

This is Day 3 of 7 of my Devotional Series on Celibacy written a year ago. While much of my thought process has changed since then, it is important to share where I sincerely was in my journey with God and my vocation.

8 Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. 9 May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”

Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud 10 and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”

11 But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? 12 Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— 13 would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!”

14 At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.

15 “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”

16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely,if even death separates you and me.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her. Ruth 1: 8-16 (NIV)

In contemporary Western society, the notion of family is often restricted to the nuclear family. The term “soulmate” usually exclusively refers to romantic or sexual partners. The example of Ruth and Naomi may not be a “gay” relationship, but it’s certainly same-sex kinship. Celibate queer Christians can serve as a witness to the broader world by imitating the kind of shared spiritual life these two women possessed.

Shared spiritual life is a foundational mark of the celibate vocation. In the monastic life, monks and nuns meet together multiple times a day for corporate prayer and breaking of bread. They observe a liturgical calendar and fasting schedule for mutual encouragement and accountability. How can celibate gay Christians cultivate shared spiritual life for the strengthening of their vocations?

I want to look at Ruth’s plea to Naomi as a model for queer people discerning celibate partnerships and committed friendships. I know in my experience, creating a space of spiritual intimacy is of utmost importance in our theosis (becoming like God).

Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you.

It’s understandable when LGBT+ people internalize messages that tell us we are unworthy of love, belonging, connection, relationship, and intimacy. Am I willing to allow other persons made in God’s image to be a conduits of grace when I need it?

Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.

Celibacy doesn’t equal singleness or loneliness. The Triune God has baptized us into a Body of believers for the sake of Their Kingdom. Celibacy requires a daily forsaking of self for others. It may also require us to lay aside our pride by partnering with other people in tasks we cannot accomplish ourselves. Are there other Christians that God is directing me to share lodging, finances, and vocation with?

Your people will be my people and your God my God.

I know within my own relationship, I am tempted to view my spiritual obstacles as “me” problems. The reality is that my walk with Christ is tied not only to my salvation, but the salvation of others. Kyle exhibits a willingness to make my friends his friends and my spiritual life his spiritual life. We both have faith in the same God. It’s also a priority for us to be edified by the lives of other LGBT+ Christians, regardless of their sexual ethic or denominational membership. Are we consciously affirming other queer people as “our people” even if they are not celibate like us?

Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.

This sounds almost like a wedding vow. The kinship of Ruth and Naomi reminds us that our friendships endure eternally. The celibate life is one of anticipation that in Jesus’ New Creation, there will be no marriage, but there will be friendship. Death may end a marriage but it cannot end enduring communion between persons. Because of this, we must pray, fast, and walk alongside our friends with the same kind of fervor someone would have for their spouse. Am I cognizant of the “soulmates” God is placing in my life in preparation of eternal fellowship?

Our eternal lives will be ones of everlasting friendship as we worship and praise the Holy Trinity. If celibacy is a foretaste of the Kingdom, it is essential for us to live into this reality now. We can pray, fast, and cultivate vocations with other celibate queer Christians. We can observe a liturgical calendar, celebrating the Great Feasts, and participating in the Church’s fasts. There is a whole world of intimacy that goes beyond marriage and sex available to us. Celibacy is not a “no” to sex; it’s a “yes” to love.

Holy Spirit, you enlightened the hearts of Ruth and Naomi to give us an example of shared spiritual life. Enlighten our own hearts to seek your will. Crush any force that seeks to idolize marriage as the only path to family. Illumine your Church to heed the example of LGBT+ people crafting their own families, homes, partnerships, and friendships by your grace. Just as Ruth clung to Naomi, keep us clinging to you now and forever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

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