F R I E N D S – Don’t Let The “Friend Zone Anthem” Be Your Song

So there’s a new song out by Marshmallow and Anne-Marie (No I had not heard of them either) called Friends.  It’s all over pop radio right now.  The song and video encapsulate what we call the Friend zone.  In fact it is often called the Friend Zone Anthem.

Here’s the videowarning, there are a couple of bad words in the song.  If that bothers you, don’t watch it.  Here’s a video with just the lyrics without any bad words.

Now I’ve written extensively about the friend zone and avoiding it here at the blog for years.  (Some posts are linked below).  But I haven’t written on it in a while and I know that there are a lot of people, especially younger guys, who find themselves in these situations.

Let’s first define some things.   I’m not saying now, nor have I ever said, that you can’t have friends of the opposite sex.  That is not what the friend zone is.  I have had many female friends over the years.  The friend zone instead occurs when one person (usually a guy**) is romantically attracted to another person (usually a gal) but the feeling is not mutual.  What the woman says to the guy is that “I don’t want to date you, but I want to be just friends” or something to that effect.

What happens next is that the guy thinks that if he stays friends, and in fact increases his friendship with the woman (because after all she just invited that friendship verbally), that eventually the woman will see him in a different light and become romantically attracted to him.  The guy does all sorts of nice things for his friend.  The woman, may well appreciate some of those things, but at the same time doesn’t become more attracted, and in fact usually less so.  This is because that plan is no where in the vicinity of how female attraction works.

Some might say, what’s the big deal?  Everyone needs friends right?  What’s the harm?  In a way that is what the song/video seem to be saying.  That’s why its the Friend Zone Anthem.  Just a part of life, poor guy.

But the truth is there actually can be a lot of harm.

First, it isn’t really an honest relationship.  What I mean is that the guy is being a friend to “get the girl”.  That’s not usual friendship.  Also, many times when the woman says this, it is her way of saying no, not her way of saying let’s hang out more.

Another thing that can happen is that the guy can get mad at the woman.  This happens because in his mind he’s working to win her affection.  She gives it to other “unworthy” guys who don’t treat her as good as he does.  Let me be clear right now on this part.  No woman owes you her romantic feelings.  You owe no woman yours.

It’s also a colossal waste of energy, emotion and time.  If you spend all of your time as a guy trying to “win your friend” you just become more emotionally invested.  You don’t spend time meeting and trying to date other women.  The truth is, if you want to be married, you don’t have time, energy, emotions or resources to waste chasing someone who wants to be “just friends”.  It’s not worth it.  There are plenty of others.

Here’s the point:  The harm in the friend zone is that people get more hurt than they have to.

Look, I lived this as a young adult male.  I was always this guy.  So I’m not writing this as someone who has always been above this speaking down to you.  I’m writing it to implore you to avoid it.  Like the plague actually.

How do we do that?

First, let me say this to the ladies.  If you are in this spot where you have someone in the friend zone, I get it.  But you have to draw a harder line.  Say no.  Don’t say, “no but I want to be friends”.  Just don’t.  You are not being nice.  You are either being naive or you are using this guy for whatever he does for you.  The best thing you can do for him is tell him no and then not hang out “as friends”.  It might be hard.  But it’s right.  Better for you and better for him.

If you are a guy who finds himself in this spot, it’s time to change.  Right now.  Walk away from it.  Now.  You won’t be hurting her by doing this.  You aren’t missing an opportunity with her later.  She is not The One.  You are only hurting yourself.

Don’t be friends to get her to like you.  Don’t be friends and hang out with someone you break up with.  Don’t hang out with someone as friends who you went out with a few times and she still wants to hang out as friends but not date you.  Don’t do things for her thinking it will change her mind.  Walk.Away.Now.  Move on.

Again, is it easy? Probably not.  But is it the truth?  Yes.

What you don’t want be ever is the guy in this video:

This is a real life picture of what it looks like.  Even better, he’s still hanging out with her apparently:

Take a good look at this guy.  I’ve been this guy.  Don’t be.

Friend Zone Post Links

Get Out Of The Friend Zone

Avoid The Friend Zone

Why It Doesn’t Matter If You Treat Her Better

Don’t be Friends First

You Can’t Serve Your Way To Attraction

Quit Being Nice

Avoid The Nice Guy Trap

** I understand that this can happen the other way around where the guy tells the woman that he just wants to be just friends.  However it is far, far less common and usually ends much, much more quickly.  But, if you are in that situation, everything I just described applies the other way around.

You Can’t Have It All

Carrie Underwood accidentally stirred the the twitter pot recently when in an interview with Redbook she said that at 35 she may have missed her chance to have a big family.  This was of course one answer to one question in the interview but people jumped on it.

Now Carrie wasn’t trying to say that no one over 35 can have a kid.  She also went on to say that they have talked about adoption and they do a lot to help kids which she enjoys. But that wasn’t good enough for many who insist that there are no limits to fertility.

I bring this up because I think we need to be honest about where our culture is at. Especially as we navigate singleness, marriage and children.

First, we have convinced ourselves that 40 is the new 30 and 50 is the new 40.  But that simply is not true.  We tell folks not to hurry and grow up, to enjoy life before marriage, to take advantage of singleness.  Frankly we worship youth in our culture.

One reason the secular culture (with the western Christian culture often tagging along) worships youth is that we don’t have a right view of eternity vs. the temporal life.  Without going into a complete ten page theological dialogue here I want to address this.

In the temporal life we have a physical, and even eventually a mental peak.  What I mean is that at first, physically we are growing and then maturing.  But at a certain point, we start to age in a different way.  We have passed our peak physicality.  This is true for me at 45 years of age.  I can get in the best shape possible but odds are I won’t jump or run or even lift what I did in my 20’s.  All of my reverse dunking on the basketball court is in my past, not my future.  Eventually my body will diminish even more.  Someday, my mind will probably start to do the same.  This is called reality.

In our current culture people don’t want to peak, so they come up with ways to extend the peak.  Now I’m not suggesting that we should quit working out at 40.  Not my point at all. But the goal isn’t to stay young, it’s to stay in the best shape possible because our bodies are from God (not to mention we will feel better and all the other benefits of that).

What I’m suggesting is that worshipping youth and denying reality is not healthy.  It is especially not healthy if it is used to justify not growing up, not being committed to growth as a person while denying consequences.  I think this mentality is one of the things that really hurts single people today.

We’re telling people, and in frankly in particular women, that you can have it all.  But you can’t.  None of us can. Our choices have consequences.  If we don’t talk about those consequences with young people we are setting them up to be severely disappointed as they get older.

Now I know that there are exceptions.  I also know that science and medicine have in many ways extended not only our age expectancies but also women’s fertility.  But there are costs even to that.  If a woman waits until her late 30s to start having kids she is more likely to have trouble getting pregnant and more likely to have complications affecting both her and the child. These are actual facts.

This doesn’t even include the fact that it is harder for a woman in her 30s to get married than a younger woman.  Again, we can cry that it’s not fair.  I get that.  But that won’t make it any less true.

Now here’s the thing, I’m not telling anyone what choices to make.  What I want to suggest is two things.

First, understand that you are probably not the exception.  In other words, count the cost of your decision making.  Do you want to get married? Do you want a big family?  Then go ahead and work for that.  If that’s not what you want, then don’t.  But don’t believe the lies that you can have all that you want whenever you want it without any cost.  Live in the real world.

Secondly, I want to encourage you regardless of what you want to see the eternal view not the secular one.  What I mean by that is that when you view your life as a believer from an eternal perspective, it changes the peak dynamic.  You will still have a physical and mental peak in the temporal life.  But that’s not the end.  Instead, when you die you will be with Jesus in the present heaven, which will be better than any peak you had here.  Then at the resurrection and renewal of all things – the final heaven – you will never peak.  You will continue to grow and grow and grow.

What this means is that I can go ahead and grow up.  You don’t have to fight to “stay young” so to speak.  We can have a long view and understand that God is growing us overall, calling us to grow more and more.  That even in my aging in the temporal life, God is growing me.  There is no need to delay adulthood.  There is no reason to delay responsibility.  In fact the opposite is true.  You want to grow as much as possible.

Should You Budget Money For Dating?

The other day while driving I was listening to some Dave Ramsey.  In case you’re not familiar, briefly, Dave wants people to live biblically with their money, meaning stay out of debt, control your money instead of letting it control you and be generous along the way.

He has a radio show and people call in with all kinds of scenarios asking his advice.  Very rarely do I ever see Dave not have an answer.  In fact, I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen it . . . until the other day.

A young never married guy called in and said, “Hey Dave, I’m following your plan.  No debt, I have a budget etc.  I’m not married but I want to be.  Here’s my question, how much should I budget for that pursuit?”

One thing about Dave is that he’s always honest with people and he just laughed and said, “I have not been in that world for so long, I have no idea.”  After both he and the caller laughed a little, he did toss out a couple of thoughts, but it made me think of a couple of important ideas and some practical ones if you find yourself in that position.

To begin with, as a single person you need to have a handle on your money.  I’ve written once about this before, but you and your money are not less important because you are not married.  The biblical principles for money apply to all of us, no matter what our marital status is.  I messed this up quite a bit in my 20 years of singleness (as well as doing a few smart things) and I’ll share more about that later.

Secondly, I think it can be really healthy, if you are in search for a spouse mode, to intentionally budget both some money time in that direction.  It is ok, and in fact I would suggest a good idea, to be intentional about looking for said spouse.  As is well documented all over this blog, I’m not a big believer in platitudes that say, “It will just happen” or “God will bring you the one at the right time” or “being content with singleness“.  Again, there are probably double digit posts here on this.  We have to act.  Especially if you are out of college and living in the “real world” so to speak.

Now this is different than obsessing over it, making it an idol, being desperate for it, or letting it run your whole walk with God.  That’s all bad and admittedly it can be a fine line.  But intentionality, especially when involves doing it with God and within His guidelines, is always good.  In any context including this one.

That means I’m going to have to carve out time and, as the caller mentioned, carving out some budget money is not a bad idea either.  But again, I need to be intentional with both, because I don’t have a limitless supply of either.

Let me throw out a few ideas about how one might do that. A couple of caveats here.  I did some of these at some level, but I did not really handle my money as well as I should have as a single.  Also, these are just ideas.  I would really love it if some others would chime in here with either ideas that they’ve used or that they might try out if they thought about it.  Finally, this assumes that you actually have a budget.  If you don’t I’d start there**.

I think I’d start with an overall spouse search budget.  Then I’d have a couple of sub categories.

I’d have a meet people budget.  Depending on your mode of operation this could include different things.  But as an example budget an amount for online dating.  Look for deals.  A couple of hints here.  Rotate your paid subscription to different sites.  For example, sign up for three months of Eharmony, then if you want, sign up for three months of Match.  They’ll let you keep your profile for free so you can easily rotate the one you are paying for.  Look for promos.  Eharmony will do free weekends for example.  The point is, part of your monthly budget could go to this.***

Then have an an actual go out with these people budget.  If you aren’t in a relationship this does not need to be large amount.  I know there is debate in certain circles about the guy paying which I get.  I think in general it’s good for us to pay.  However, we should have a budget for what we are paying and frankly I wouldn’t bust your budget meeting someone the first couple to times.  It’s ok to go somewhere nice, but just be smart.  Too much too soon is not helpful anyway.

Now, if you get serious about someone, it is time to stop putting money in the meet someone budget, for now, and start putting more into the actual going on dates budget.  Eventually if things go really well, you could start a ring budget.

A question I thought of is this, “What if I have dating budget money left over at the end of the month?”  Maybe nothing shook out or led to any dates.  Or maybe a couple of inexpensive meet ups but nothing beyond that.  Great.  Now I have extra money.

I don’t think I’d roll it over into the dating fund of the next month although maybe now and then you could.  Perhaps put it toward savings or towards a particular purchase you’d like to make in the future.  Maybe some months you spend it on you.  The point is, you don’t have to spend all you have allotted each month, but you have it if you need it.

The point here is have a plan.  See what works.  Try different things.  But budget for it.

I welcome other thoughts here.  What do you think?

 

** For a great budgeting app go here.

*** This is a pretty good breakdown of some different sites.

Will She Go With You?

Over the last three posts we’ve been talking about Servant Leading, what serving has to do with attraction, and the fact that in marriage the man is the head which has many responsibilities including loving (serving and leading would be a part of doing that well). You may want to read those before you dive in here.

Today I want to talk about as a single man, knowing the previous thoughts, how should that affect how you go about things in terms of dating and looking for a wife.  There are at least two parts here: How we prepare ourselves and who we seek to marry.

The number one thing has to be that you have to be going somewhere, and that needs to start with following Jesus.  Now I’m not saying following Jesus perfectly.  That’s a ridiculous standard.  But are you overall submitted to Him?  If not, you need to try to move there.  If you move there, typically He’ll give you some direction.  If someone were to ask where are you going – do you have an answer?  Does the first part of that answer sound something like, “With Jesus.”?

The second thing you need to think about is the role you have as a man and how to best exercise that role.  The idea of headship in a marriage should be exciting and humbling at the same time.  With it comes responsibilities.  But if I understand that as my role, then I’m better able to become the man I need to be to fulfill those responsibilities.* Or as I heard in a sermon recently – If you know who you are, you’ll know what to do.

Let me also state that while both of the above can be hard, they are not only essential but doable.  We have to embrace them.

Now, let’s talk about this from a dating perspective.

First of all, you are not – I repeat not – the head of your date.  You have zero authority. That doesn’t mean that you can’t lead while dating – see this post for more thoughts on that. But you don’t yet have that role in your date’s life which is important to remember both in terms of pressure on yourself and frankly for her as well.

Secondly, I would advise you that as you are dating someone to ask the question, “Would this person respect my role and come with me?”  I could list 100 qualifiers for that statement (this doesn’t mean you command something and she says yes etc) but none of those change the general question.

If the answer is no, then you need to not marry that person.  It will not go well.

Here are two “pictures” of that from my own life, one from dating and another from ministry.

After some dates with one woman we began to talk about what we wanted in life, in the near and far future.  We weren’t getting real deep here but just talking and getting to know more about each other. In the midst of that conversation she said, “I don’t ever want to leave this town.  Ever.  My family is here, my life is here. I couldn’t marry someone who didn’t think they would always live here.”

I knew right then that this wasn’t going anywhere.  It’s not that she was a bad person or even that she wasn’t a Christian.  But that is not my life.  I told her that.  I would go wherever I thought Jesus wanted me to go. I had to know that we would follow Him wherever, no prerequisites.  We stopped dating shortly after.

The other example was in ministry but I think it paints a picture of what it would be like if you married someone who didn’t come with you.  In the ministry that I lead it means going to where kids are.  We go to their turf.  It’s what we do.  I lead other people to also do it. Some people do it with me and some don’t end up doing it.  I remember a meeting with a volunteer who was struggling.  This person said, “I feel like you don’t care about me as much as this other person.  You talk to them more.  I can tell you are close to them and I don’t feel close to you at all.”

I thought for a moment because they were right.  But the reasoning was the problem.  I said, “Well it’s not that I like them better per se.  I like you.  I believe in you and love you. But here’s the difference.  They are in it with me.  They show up.  They go with me as I go. You don’t show up.  My job is to lead people in this mission. That’s where I’m going.  If you want to be with me – you have to actually come with me.”

Now again, I could list 100 caveats and talk about how this can look all sorts of different ways.  But the general truth stands.  You can’t make everyone follow you.  Jesus let people walk.  It’s complicated.  Jesus pursues us yes.  He left His throne to do it.  And yet He doesn’t make people go with Him in response.  And He doesn’t chase them either. The rich young ruler walked.  A man says, “Let me first go bury my father.”  Jesus said “Let the dead bury the dead – follow me.”  The gospels and parables are full of this.  Sometimes you have to let people you wish would come with you walk.  It’s true in life.  It’s true in ministry.  It’s also true in dating.

Remember that marriage is a picture of the Kingdom (as is Celibacy).  They both point towards the Kingdom in unique ways.  Part of the marriage picture is this idea of response to invitation.

I would strongly advise you as a man not to marry someone that wouldn’t go with you. You may be thinking, “Bro you have no idea.  There just aren’t that many women out there like that.”  Maybe.  But there are more than you think.

You need someone who will come with you.  When I do weddings I always tell the groom that the bride needs to know that he isn’t leaving no matter what, and I tell the bride that the groom needs to know that she is on his side no matter what.  I know that both of those will get tested.  But they are necessary.

This doesn’t mean that the only qualifier for a spouse is that she would come with you. However I would tell you that it is one of the essential qualifiers and one that often gets overlooked when the woman has a bunch of other qualities that you are looking for.

I wouldn’t advise marrying any woman who didn’t respect you and who wouldn’t have a posture of going with you as you follow Jesus.**

 

 

* I first read about this idea of roles then responsibilities on this post.  I think it is helpful in seeing that how we view the order of roles and responsibilities is extremely important.

** I would also advise women not to marry anyone they didn’t respect or want to go with

You Can’t Serve Your Way To Attraction

In my last post I began talking about this idea of being a servant leader that we toss around in Christian circles.  I’m not going to rehash all of that here.  You might start by reading that post.  Today I want to talk about the servant part and in another post I’ll talk about the leadership side.

I want to clarify a couple of things quickly.  I’m not suggesting here that we shouldn’t serve people.  Not at all.  We often should.  Again, Jesus served.  He called us to serve others.  What I’m suggesting that serving and leadership are not the same and our motive for serving matters.

Jesus did not serve in order to gain followers.  He didn’t serve to earn relationships.  The reason Jesus is the greatest servant is because he didn’t have to serve at all and yet chose to.  Not only that, but He gave the ultimate service in dying for us.  Jesus served His followers.  But again He didn’t serve to get followers.

Not only that, but Jesus knew what people actually needed not just what they wanted.  He didn’t serve them based on what or how they wanted to be served.  Think of the washing of the disciples’ feet.  At no point did the disciples think, “we’ll like Jesus more and follow Him more if He would wash our feet.”  In fact Peter saw it as an affront at first.  He knew who Jesus was (or at least was coming to know) and he knew that Jesus was the one who should be served.  That’s what made it so incredible.

So what does this have to do with being a single man in the church?  Here are some thoughts.

First of all, we need to understand a very important fact.  Despite what we are sometimes lead to believe by evangelical leaders, you can not serve your way to attraction.  What I mean is that there can be this idea that if I serve a woman she will be attracted to me.

Let’s say you really like a girl.  You are attracted to her and you want her to be attracted to you.  One line of thought is that you need to get to know her and do things for her or even “minister” to her.  She is moving and needs help so you volunteer to help move her.  You’re in college and she needs help studying so you help her study.  You offer to carry things for her.  You open every door for her.  You look for every opportunity to serve her.  She is going through a hard time and you are “there for her”.

Those are all fine things.  But none of those things will make her attracted to you.  If she is already attracted to you, those sorts of things could help advance the relationship at some level.  But they are probably at best neutral in terms of attraction.  However, if she is not attracted to you and she knows you are attracted to her it could be a negative.  You could end up in the nice guy/friend zone.  You are meeting her needs which is great for her, but that won’t make her attracted to you.

On top of that, and this gets back to how Jesus served, if you are serving to get her to like you (be attracted) really you aren’t being a servant.  There are strings attached.  Women see right through this.  They might take the help.  But that’s as far as it is going.

This is one of the ways that nice guys get clobbered over and over.  “I did all of this for her and yet she chose this other guy.  He does’t do anything for her . . . ”  Well that might be true.  But too bad.  First of all, that’s not part of the deal.  Service means just that.  Pure servanthood operates without expecting anything back.  Also it doesn’t matter because if the other guy who doesn’t serve her is who she is attracted to, then . . . well . . . she is attracted to him.

What I’m saying here is that serving the girl is fine.  That’s your choice.  But if you do it so that she will date you, then that’s really on you.

Jesus served out of strength.  He did it out of love.  Not romantic love or “feelings” love. He doesn’t call us to do it out of those things either.  He wasn’t qualifying himself as worth being with by serving.  He was already worth being with and they knew it.

This by the way carries over into marriage.  We tend to sell guys on this idea that if they do certain things they will get certain results.  Serve your wife to “earn” points (I’ve actually seen Christian leaders say things like this).  But that’s not sacrificial service.  That’s selfish service.  It’s for sure not leadership.  I don’t do the dishes so that my wife will like me better.  I do it because why should I not do it.  I do it because she made a great meal and the least I can do is help clean up.  But I don’t do it expecting her to have sex with me. And I’m not counting on it making her want to.  I’m for sure not doing it to bank “points”.

Let me be clear once again.  I’m not anti serving.  But I’m saying don’t serve with an expectation of a result for you.  Don’t serve to be more attractive because it won’t make you more attractive.  Don’t serve to get something in return.  Serving is not a tactic.  And it won’t work.

Finally let me add this.  If you are serving someone in an effort to chase or get them to like you, I’d stop.  Stop being the nice guy.  Stop putting yourself in the friend zone.  Stop trying to earn it.  Don’t be used in that way.  I spent significant time there in my life.  It’s not effective and it won’t help you.  Don’t let anyone tell you different.

Should You Pray For A Spouse?

One of the things I did a lot as a single person is pray for a spouse.  That took a lot of different forms.  Sometimes it was simple and relaxed.  Other times it took the form of crying out (read begging) for God to bring me The One.  Often when I really thought someone could be the one it was praying for God to “make it happen”, sometimes before I’d even been on a date (that hurts a little to type – Ha!).

But over and over again for years, it never happened.  God didn’t “answer” my prayer.

This really begs two different types of questions.  First, should we, and if so how should we, pray about gaining a spouse.  Second, why is it that God doesn’t seem to answer this prayer or as I like to say, why doesn’t God just “poof” us a spouse.

Before I give my feeble attempt to answer those two questions (the first one in this post and the latter in an upcoming post), let me remind us of a few things that we need to clear out of the way.  Platitudes that we know aren’t true and that I’ve debunked here before.  Those include but are not limited to: There is not a Christian Soulmate; God does not owe you a spouse; God is not holding out on you; God Has Not Changed His plan for marriage; It might not be God’s fault; and You don’t earn a spouse.

Ok, now let’s get to it.

First of all, I think it is absolutely a great thing to pray for a spouse.  Why would you not take your desire to God.  You don’t need to try to kill that desire (ignore the whole “it’s when you don’t want it it will happen thing” – that is sort of good advice if it means, don’t be desperate, but pretending you don’t want something is called avoidance, not dealing with it).

We need to take our heart to God.  But I think how we pray can really help us here.  Let’s get very practical.  Here are some things I’d encourage in prayer about a spouse.

  • Avoid praying for THE ONE as there isn’t the one.  This also decreases the pressure when you do meet someone and makes hearing God less pressurized as well.  Maybe pray of A One or something like that.
  • Pray for wisdom and discernment.  “God show me what to do and who to pursue further.  God show me what you want me to do.  Do you like this relationship?” etc.
  • Submit to God.  This was huge for me.  I finally quit praying for a spouse.  I took a step back and said, “God, I’ll do whatever you want (You’ll probably need to at least mostly mean that), Just tell me what to do”.
  • Understand that there are different forces at work.  So pray for protection.  Both in searching for a spouse and also for protection of your heart, mind and will from spiritual attack.
  • Pray for God to show you (through others, directly, or in any way) the things that you are doing wrong in this process. “God show me my sin,”or maybe “God show me where you are working on me right now.”
  • Also ask God to show you lies you are believing.  Lies about Him, yourself, the opposite sex, marriage, singleness – you name it.  Ask Him to help you not believe them.
  • Ask Him to heal wounds that you have in this area.

This seems like a lot of prayer.  But I think too often we get wrapped up in the wrong prayers.  We pray for The One because we’ve made marriage an idol.  Or we pray for a particular One because we’ve made that person an idol.  We might pray for a spouse and not pray for anything else – therefore essentially basing our whole prayer life with God on finding another person.  I’ve done all of those things.

Finally as we pray we need to be willing to hear anything.  We need to be willing to hear yes or no.  I think a big part of what makes listening to God hard is that we are afraid of what He will say.  What if God wants me to marry a person I’m not attracted to?  What if He wants to me to remain celibate for life?  What if He calls me out on a sin?  What if He tells me not to marry this person I really want to?  It’s the old, “What if God calls me to move to Africa” fear.

But here’s the thing; If we aren’t fully submitted to Him, it will  be hard first to hear and secondly to trust what we hear as coming from Him.  This is of course true of all prayer not just prayer in this area of our lives.  But it can be especially true in areas of prayer, including this one, where we have a high emotional involvement.  It can border on anguish sometimes, and I want to acknowledge that if that’s where you are at, but we can’t stay there.

In summary, we should absolutely pray about this area of our life.  We should do it in submission to God, while at the same time avoiding false submission sounding platitudes and being open and honest with God.  Heck maybe the starting point could be, “God, right now I want what I want.  Help me to step back and be submitted to you.  That’s what I want, to do what you want.  Help me do that.” Then go from there.

Can You Be Disqualified From Celibacy

One day a few years ago I was meeting with a pastor, who was perhaps in his late twenties, to discuss a singleness talk that I was going to be doing at his church.  We talked about many of the things that we discuss here on this site.  As the discussion turned to celibacy it took a bit of a different turn.

He shared that part of his story was that even though he was married he thought there was a good chance that he was originally gifted/called to ministry from the context of celibacy.  Now he was not complaining in any way about his wife.  In fact he has a good wife and a good marriage.  That wasn’t his point in sharing.  He had two points really.

The first was that when he was growing up, he never understood that celibacy was an option or something to be called to.  But later on as he learned about it he began to ask God if he might be called to it.  Just knowing him a little I wasn’t surprised by that.

He said that he flat out asked God in several ways and that looking back, God answered in every way that he was indeed called to that.

But this guy had already had sex. (Not while he was a pastor, but previously in his teenage and college years).  As he met with some elder men they agreed with his original calling to celibacy but warned him that it would be much harder because of all the sexual experience he had already had.  In the end they advised that he go ahead and marry and he agreed and did so.**

There is a lot of important questions that this raises.  It raises some questions that frankly I don’t have perfect answers to.  However I think it is worth some discussion and thought.

Before we dive in all the way, let’s first say this.  We need to raise our kids in the church knowing that celibate ministry is an option.  We just have to start talking about this.  Not only do we need to talk about it with the 30 year old guy but really with the 13 year old guy.  We need this to be a normal dialogue in the church.  Parents need to talk about it. Youth leaders need to talk about it.  Pastors need to talk about it.

We need to share that there are indeed two paths to pursue.  Doing this well would completely change the game.  I’m going to come back to this soon and talk about why that is and give some thoughts on how to set that up from a practical stand point.

But today I want to raise a different question.  That is: Can you be disqualified from celibacy?

Let’s remember that celibacy is not just living a pure life until you get married.  That’s called chastity.  Really we are all called to live a chaste life.  Celibacy means that I have the calling and/or gifting to live a life and serve God from an unmarried context.  Ideally it’s a vow just like a wedding vow, but to God and not another person.  I’ve talked about the different ways we get there here.

But the question is, what if you’ve already had sex.  Or even; what if you’ve already done a bunch of sexual things or been wrapped up in porn or other activities.  Are you then disqualified from pursuing a life of celibacy for the Kingdom?  Do you have to get married instead?****

This could happen all sorts of different ways.  You could become a Christian after you have already lived a life in which you had sex.  You could be a Christian thinking you were going to get married and slip up and have sex.  There are many examples.

Here is my take.  That’s all it is.  My take.

I don’t think that your past necessarily disqualifies you from a present or future calling.  I do think it can affect it.

I’ve written before that regardless of your past you are not disqualified from marriage.  In fact I went further and fully believe that it doesn’t even disqualify you from who you marry. In other words, just because you’ve had sex doesn’t mean you have to marry someone who has also had sex and so on.  If we repent of our sin and fight to live out of God’s forgiveness then His grace is bigger than all of that.

I believe the same holds true for the call to celibacy.  Your past does not disqualify you from that call.

Now that doesn’t mean that it won’t be tough.  It doesn’t mean that we don’t face some unique challenges as we grow out of our past and into our calling.  Paul is also clear; if you are can’t go without – get married.  But if you are called and/or gifted in that way, you can lead that life – with Jesus.

I’ll say more about this in a future post about celibacy but one thing to keep in mind is that marriage and celibacy do have some things in common.  They are both a calling and a choice.  And regardless of calling the choice isn’t made just once.  This is vital.  A married person has to choose to honor his vows.  Over and over again.  The same holds true for a celibate man.  We are all faced with temptation.  We are all faced with our past.  While both are a one time vow, both require deciding over and over honoring that vow.

I’d love to hear what you think?  I’d especially love to hear from those readers who are called to celibacy.  I know there are some.

 

** I’m not suggesting that my pastor friend or his elders were wrong.  Marriage at that point may well have been the right answer for him.  But I don’t think it should be assumed for everyone in that spot.

**** One caveat needs to be said here.  If you are married, even if you were called to celibacy at some point, you are now called to honor your marriage vows.  God will still use you.  No one who is married should get divorced claiming a new found calling to celibacy.