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Category Archives: Interviews

A Second Call: Lisa Gee on Celibacy

Lisa GeeMy name is Lisa. I am 48 years old and have been living single for the Lord in the world for a bit now.

When did I first hear the call?

The first time I heard the call was at my first communion. I was seven and did not know about any such thing. All I knew was that I wanted to belong totally to Jesus and that thought brought me joy. I wish I could report that I kept that ideal but I did not. Why? Maybe I did not trust that this call was real; also I had never met anyone living this way. So I got married and soon had five children. However my husband was an alcoholic and we were separated.  There I was, alone, with five children under eight. What was I to do? The wise thing family and friends thought was to find a nice Christian guy and try this whole thing again. But God had other plans and in the midst of all my worries and fears I heard the call again. Of course there was joy but I thought I have to be reasonable, don’t I? After pondering it for another 3 years I said “yes” to this beautiful way of life in March 1996 and made a public declaration in August of 2000.

What sustains me in this calling?

The most important thing for me is time alone with God in both quality and quantity. If I cut this time short I forget why I am doing this and it becomes drudgery.

Single parenting and celibacy, how does that work?

That was a deep concern of mine; would this choice make life harder on my children? The answer is the divorce made life a struggle but celibacy brought stability and a sense of peace to the home. While we never had much money, my children love each other and treat me with respect and in it all God is glorified. I am the least of all celibates and do not consider myself equal to those who have been true since their youth. But I am grateful that God made something beautiful out of past mistakes. My hope is in His Kingdom when we will see Him as He is.

What has been my biggest struggle?

Unbelief! “Is that God really calling you? Are you sure?” This has left me weak but God is strong and that is my hope. Another pitfall for me was to ask everyone and their uncle about the call. While it is good to check in with a trusted friend or spiritual adviser at the end of the day no one knows that tug in a celibate’s heart and it cheapens the call when we try to defend it from those who just don’t understand. Keep holy things holy. This call is holy!

Next week: book review by Lisa

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Posted by on Thu 18th Apr 2013 in Interviews

 

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Flexible, Outpoured Life: Let God Choose

Let God choose …

Ruth Dowling made a commitment to celibacy when she was 24 and is now 53. She lives at ‘Spreading Flame,’ a Jesus Fellowship community house in London. For the last twenty five years Ruth has suffered from ME and has been unable to work for most of the time. However, she has fulfilled a somewhat hidden but vital ministry of prayer, befriending and encouragement. Let God choose …

Here are some of her thoughts:

“The fruit of a commitment to celibacy must be a flexible, outpoured life – let God choose what that means. As GD Watson writes: “It is a flexible spirit with no plans of its own” (The Inner Spirit of the Cross).

“It isn’t a good idea to become celibate only in order to fulfil a specific ministry because your ministry may well change with time.

“Most importantly, celibacy is about loving, about being devoted to the Lord and the brethren and those we seek to serve.”

 
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Posted by on Thu 22nd Nov 2012 in Interviews

 

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Why Celibate?

Piers Denholm-Young from the Jesus Fellowship, Coventry, speaks about his experience of celibacy:

I was thinking about why I am celibate. It’s good to revisit something like this.

I originally asked God in 1976 if I could be celibate. I was 24 and inspired by the possibility of being like Francis of Assisi and following Jesus the Lamb wherever he went. To me it was the highest way and I didn’t want to opt for anything less. Call it youthful ambition perhaps, but there you are.

I also felt that I could hack it. I had been engaged and we ended it, so I knew something of such an attachment. I definitely was not interested in having children, or devoting a large part of my capacity to raising a family. I wanted to be free to serve God, though what that would entail I had little idea. But my prayer was one of those that shoots through the ceiling and you know it’s got through.

So it was not really a surprise when my prayer was answered. Brethren sensed my calling, and one or two things I read confirmed it to me.

I made no vow then, but just accepted that I was celibate. I felt free of the game of looking at women (sisters) as possible partners, and pressed on with life in community.

I was given the virtue name Single Hearted – more interesting than Denholm-Young, and it was plain sailing for the first 20 years or so. Community was quite segregated and there was limited casual interaction between brothers and sisters. While being rather austere, it made celibacy simpler.

It took me a while to accept wearing a silver ring – what would my parents think? But since 1987 I have worn one and never taken it off.

I did have a couple of short experiences of falling for people that passed off quite quickly, and then in the third decade I had a more serious heart struggle over someone that I found myself alongside, but nothing was said and again I managed to let go and it blew over. The fourth decade – that’s another story for another time.

Back to my reasons for being celibate.

Quite early on I started enjoying spiritual fathering, finding sons, and some daughters, that I could train. That remains a wonderful motive for being celibate. They grow up faster than natural kids, and you get grandchildren pretty soon too. They become your crown and joy, and even the delinquent ones continue to be in your heart.

God keeps showing me that celibacy gives the freedom to love widely, rather than being limited to a wife and children, and then what’s left over for others. That makes marriage sound like a mean affair, and in fact it knocks a lot of selfishness out of people, while celibates like me can be quite selfish in their freedom if they are not careful. But I do enjoy being available to love the poor (especially at the Jesus Centre drop-in), my natural sister, my community house family including children, friends near and far, people I bump into randomly, or meet in evangelism. Plus I can love nature on mountains or in the back garden (I’m well known for liking bugs); it can be a real empathy.

And of course there is more time and freedom to seek and love God. I call it sitting by the sea when I go down the cellar or somewhere quiet and take time with him. I may pray or write verses or just be still (my weakest one). I can check my own heart, meditate, find prophetic insight, pursue a theme, and so on. I have scope to study scripture and read, to fast, to walk in the night. I’m free to waste time too, so it’s a responsibility.

Celibacy is an offering to God. One of the strongest words I ever heard from God was at a big event the church had in the early 90′s. I realised how much it had cost us so far to build, and it brought me to tears in the Spirit as I heard God say ‘I have made you (to be) an offering’. We are corporately a living sacrifice to him, and celibacy is a particular expression of this, an offering of love to him who first loved us and called us to be part of his bride. It is painful at times, but rich.

Celibates love Jesus. Now that does not instantly float my boat; after all he is a man, albeit a majestic man and an incomparable role model. But my images are of a bearded man with long hair (did he?) and a long white robe. I love him for what he did for me, but not for looking like that. However, he made it clear that we can love him in ways other than singing soppy songs with tearful eyes. Sorry – I do get moved by songs once in a while, and of course manly David loved God in song and prayer. His presence brings me to unsentimental tears.
He said ‘If you love me, keep my commandments’, so obedience is loving him. And his new command was to love one another, so I love Jesus by loving my brethren and being there for them. I also love him by doing good to ‘the least of these my brethren’ (Matthew 25.40) and meeting the needs of the poor and rejected. For Peter to love him meant to feed Jesus’ sheep, and as a pastor I must do that too; celibacy helps me have capacity. Plus I guess that to advance the kingdom with gifts and the gospel is to love Jesus. So there are lots of ways that I can work it out.

There is a theme that I return to, which is the quest of the human heart for union. The fall and our physical limitations leave us essentially lonely. We are made in the image of the triune God and so we long for oneness with others while still being ourselves. Even marriage with its intimacy can be an elusive reaching for the union of being that we are made for (I have known a taste of it, sublime but still limited). Celibacy is one path in the quest, loving many, exploring how to love God and to know him more.

We shall only find our full home and consummation of union in glory, but for now our hearts draw us on after Jesus.

 
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Posted by on Fri 16th Nov 2012 in Interviews

 

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An interview with Andy

Andy - given to God

Andy: ‘I wanted to give myself to God as fully as possible’

Andy has been a committed celibate for over ten years.

Undividedblog recently asked him a few questions about his celibacy. Here’s what he said:

Tell us a little about yourself and why you are celibate

I became celibate in 2001 after I had been a Christian for eight years. I was becoming increasingly aware of God’s power and love towards me. I felt like God was limitless and that I was limitless in him. I wanted to give myself to him as fully as possible. It was a very difficult decision because I had always wanted to get married. But God softened my heart gradually until I reached the point where I chose celibacy.

How have you found celibacy? (i.e. your experience)

There was a time shortly after I committed to celibacy when I really regretted it. I felt like I had ruined my life. I was not living in Christian community at the time and celibacy seemed pointless. But when I moved into community, celibacy made perfect sense.

Although it can be tough at times, I regularly thank God for the gift of celibacy because it makes me more available to him and the church.

How have people both inside and outside the church responded to your celibate commitment?

When I made my celibacy commitment, I was a member of a church where the gift of celibacy was not properly understood. Although most people were supportive of my decision, some didn’t like it and said I shouldn’t talk about it. Others thought it was a bit weird and that there must be something wrong with me if I didn’t want to get married. I found that hard.

In the Jesus army, there is a much clearer understanding of the vision and purpose of celibacy and so I feel valued. New friends often ask questions about it and I really enjoy sharing with them my passion for God and how that is expressed in celibacy.

What is your vision as a celibate?

This has changed over the years. When I first became a celibate, I had delusions of grandeur! I thought God was going to make me into some kind of Christian superstar! I hoped to be an international Christian celebrity speaking at churches all around the world!

I’ve realised that celibacy is a much humbler path than that! Single-heartedness in my walk with God. Availability to others. Freedom to love all kinds of people.

 
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Posted by on Fri 7th Sep 2012 in Interviews

 

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