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Christian expectations of love

Views 313 | Time to read: 4 minutes | Uploaded: 4 - 14 - 2015 | By: Jason Tong


“You're a nice guy; I'm sure you'll end up with a great woman who loves you.”

It's strange how such well-intentioned words could make me so uncomfortable.

Aside from being painfully optimistic and presumptuous, this common sentiment is rooted in a misguided understanding of love: that romance and marriage (and sex! OMG) are not only requisites for a fulfilling life, but are at some point expected of any normal human being.

While I don't think anyone would consciously agree to such a philosophy, the sad truth is that our culture operates on it. The way we act and plan our futures is influenced by this expectation; I've been involved in numerous conversations about what qualities my friends desire in a spouse, or how many kids they want and what their names would be. Ring by Spring culture probably epitomizes this idea.

By no means am I saying that love is a bad thing—of course not! But as C.S. Lewis writes in “The Four Loves”: “Love begins to be a demon the moment [it] begins to be a god.” The problem with such a mentality arises when we make Love an idol that inevitably fails us and leaves us broken.

As an up-until-now closeted gay Christian pursuing lifelong celibacy, I know this feeling of brokenness all too well. I struggle with the prospect of perpetual loneliness, and failing to fit the mold of the “standard Christian” is only one part of the story.

The other part is based upon a lack of others' understanding when it comes to being single, and it's important to note that this is a problem for straight singles as well. The assumption that springs from the expectation of love is that everyone is either in a relationship, is going to be, or is somehow messed up.

Rather, the truth is that some of us are called to singleness—a gift just as great as marriage. If only we actually understood that.

Some of us want, more than anything else, to get married and raise a family. While this is certainly a legitimate and praiseworthy goal, my worry is that this dream falsely promises fulfillment.

How important is parenthood or spousehood to me? Would I be content with my life if I never find romance? Do I place my self-worth in my ability to attract a mate? If I find this expectation difficult to let go, it might be a sign that I am ultimately looking for fulfillment in something that was never meant to replace God's love—in something other than Jesus.

But the desire to be intimate—spiritually, emotionally or physically—with another human being is powerful; I often ask myself where I shall put my love, if not in a romantic relationship.

In our frantic scramble to find "The One" in each of our lives, I feel that we have pitifully underrated an arguably more important kind of love: friendship. It is what the ancients called the “crown of life,” and by comparison, modern society ignores it. This is the stuff of David and Jonathan, of Paul and Timothy, of Lewis and Tolkien!

True friendship, I believe, might even last longer than marriage; in the New Creation, sexuality becomes irrelevant and the Church is married to Christ. Personally, if my pursuit of celibacy is a commitment to strong friendships and a greater reliance on God's grace, perhaps it's not such a bad deal.

I once heard that the biggest threat to your future is your expectation of what it should be, and to this, love is no exception. For those of us who fall outside the schema of the ideal love life, the expectation of love can be devastating. But praise God, because that's not the end of the story.

There are other places we can put our love: in friends, in family, in the body of Christ. And even more, we look forward to the Kingdom, in which we can expect love—the kind of love worth waiting a lifetime for.

While the primary purpose of this article wasn't to publicly come out as gay (and celibate), I do want to make myself a resource to those of you who may be queer/questioning and in the closet, as I was prior to this. If you'd like support, please don't hesitate to send me an email (jtong@westmont.edu), drop me a note (MS#2092), or contact me however you feel most comfortable. The Lord bless you and keep you.

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