Why Iíve Never Married
Called to be Single? A Christian Testimony
Of Celibacy & Agonizing Loneliness
Like coming from behind cover to expose myself to a hail of bullets, I am about to expose my soul to you. Most attacks Iíll suffer will be Ďfriendly fire,í but shots mistakenly fired by friends, wound as seriously as bullets from the enemy.
Nothing could be more sacred to me than what I will share, and yet experience suggests that most readers will despise me for it Ė or at least think me sadly misguided. Since I understand little of the following myself, I guess I shouldnít be surprised that most other people completely misunderstand. Their reaction still wounds, however.
Nevertheless, I risk everything for the tiny proportion of readers who might find some comfort in the Lordís dealings with me. My prayer, however, is that no one feels threatened by my experience. God loves us individually. His plans for me are not his plans for you.
When Jesus said we must deny ourselves and take up our cross daily, he was referring to a choice that causes pain and shame and yet is voluntarily embraced for the Lordís sake. The most obvious aspect of my life that fits this category is that I am a 48-year-old virgin. Being single brings me shame and pain every day and I could Ė to some extent Ė choose another way, but I believe that for some reason I cannot fathom, being single is Godís perfect way for me, at least right up until this moment.
Since I was about 13, marriage has been my deepest craving and, next to purely spiritual matters, the most important thing in life. I prayed for a girlfriend almost every day for years and years and years, with never a girlfriend in sight. Iíd have settled for absolutely anyone whose birth certificate said female. I later realized Iíd have to drastically raise my standards. So I narrowed the field to absolutely any Christian whose birth certificate said female. My loneliness and my daydreams seemed to know no end. From a young age I saved every cent I could, hoping it might help me marry earlier. Marriage was going to kill the agony in my lonely heart and take me to heaven on earth.
In high school, my class of nearly 40 students had a popularity poll. Yes, I came bottom. It took the first 18 years of my life to muster the courage to ask a girl Ė any girl Ė for a date. She refused, of course. Once, to my amazement, someone agreed. Instead of being overjoyed, I belly flopped into a pool of pity for her, appalled that anyone could be so lonely as to consider a date with me.
In my early twenties I became increasingly disturbed by 1 Corinthians 7 saying that it is good to marry but even better not to. Until this passage began to eat away at my presumptions, I had never considered the possibility of not praying for a wife. I well knew the verse that says it is better to marry than to burn. Iíd have thought that if anyone on the planet was ďburningĒ it was me. Nevertheless, my continued singleness despite 10 years of fervent prayer suggested that God was less impressed by this line of argument than I was. I also found it unsettling that in that same verse Paul recommended marriage for those who are unable to control their longings. My difficulty with that is that since self-control is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23 Ė slightly different Greek word), why should I be deficient in that area? Additionally, I felt challenged that the most important command is to love God with everything within us. I knew I loved God with my will. I would always force myself to choose him. And I thought I loved him with my mind (although I later questioned that, since I was forever daydreaming about marriage). Parts of me seemed to love the Lord fervently but what about my emotions? My heart seemed to long for marriage rather than God. I knew God deserved to be first in every way, and that any rival to him being first was my greatest spiritual enemy. I began to feel challenged about what I would do if God were to say I could marry with his blessing, but if I remained single it would give him slightly more glory.
If it were a choice between God and sin, Iíd choose God. That was settled once and for all when I had just entered my teens. But if sin werenít involved, would I still choose God over my insatiable yearning for marriage? For me not to marry would seem like hell on earth, but would I choose that pain just to give God a little more glory when I could marry with his blessing? I wrestled with the question for a while and then told God that I would choose whichever gave him the most glory, even if it meant the perpetual shame and agony of never marrying.
Soon after, I was feeling close to God and I asked him which marital state would in my case give him the most glory. A feeling of devastation came over me that I interpreted to mean my Lord was saying it would give him most glory for me never to marry. It was perhaps the worst moment of my life.
Since then, I have never prayed for a wife, though for agonizing hours at a time, day after day, year after year, I have been sorely tempted to. At times the trauma was so great that I felt it would surely have to manifest itself in physical or mental illness, but although it sometimes seemed awfully close, the Lord never let that happen.
But had I misheard God in thinking he said that in my particular case he would be more glorified if I never married? Many times the hope that I had misheard has grown very strong, only to again be dashed. One thing that makes me wonder whether I misunderstood is that had I known I would marry, but only late in life and that prior to that I would suffer as much as I have, I think Iíd have felt as devastated as I did when that feeling came upon me all those years ago. Was that what God was getting at?
I have no confidence in my infallibility in discerning the Lordís directives. Although at the time I felt utterly convinced, I could have been wrong in what I believed the Lord was saying. If the Lord were to affirm that his highest pleasure would be attained by me marrying, Iíd be delighted. But for me to know I should marry I would require irrefutably clear proof from God that itís not just my emotions (my desire for marriage) trying to fool me into thinking I had previously misheard.
Although Iíve tried desperately to kill it, the hope that I might one day marry keeps resurrecting. Iím amazed that this whole thing seems nearly as painful for me as it was all those years ago. I had imagined that the pain would eventually ease. Nevertheless, the continued pain has allowed me to offer a continual sacrifice to the One who deserves my all.
Iíve always been deeply grateful to the Lord, however, that he granted me several years of relief by blessing me with a Christian sister as a girlfriend. After having been deprived of friendship with the opposite sex for virtually all my life, I could hardly believe my luck. At last I had a friend whose chest wasnít hairy (presumably). At last I could hug a woman and not get arrested. I could have intense conversations, a hundred thousand words long in which I could squeeze in up to half a dozen of my very own words. I could visit dress shops and discover shades of red I never knew existed Ė no, not dress colors, my face. I could understand why the greeting card, To the gal Iíve been waiting for all my life, pictured a man standing outside a Ladiesí Rest Room. I could have arguments of marriage-like proportions. It was marvelous. I kept insisting that because of God this couldnít end in marriage and so she kept dumping me. Time after time after time I felt the devastation of being certain that our friendship had ended, only to my astonishment to find us back together a few days or weeks later. I wasnít afraid of hurting her because I thought it impossible for anyone to fall in love with me. And I had no fear of getting hurt myself because I knew I simply could not hurt more than I had hurt every day before I met her. Any time spent with her before plunging back into pain would simply be a blessed relief. We didnít kiss for months. When we finally did, I didnít have a clue as to how to go about it. Determined not to be outdone by a vacuum cleaner, I kissed her so hard I bruised her lip. She felt so guilty that the next morning she felt compelled to confess it to the church deaconess.
My dear friend wanted to marry me, and my hope that marriage might be in Godís plans for me grew. I earnestly sought the Lord over a long period of time that if marrying her would bring him the greatest glory he provide objective confirmation Ė guidance that I could be sure was truly from him and not manipulated by my own emotions. Without it I could never be certain I was not reneging on my earlier commitment, and I was determined never to do that, no matter what the cost. But the confirmation never came. Eventually my friend and I drifted apart and the Lord has provided no other.
Most of the time Iím convinced that no woman deserves me. Everyone deserves someone better me. Added to my feelings of inadequacy is the realization that I would frequently be uncomfortable about marital duties eating into valuable ministry time. Yes, although it has been a painfully long process, I have changed in that ministry is now more important to me than marriage. It is, however, the Lordís prerogative to change me yet again.
Since my commitment half my lifetime ago, I have often prayed that I wouldnít miss out on marriage because of my own foolishness Ė pride, a religious spirit, my inability to hear from God, my lack of faith, weaknesses that would make me a poor husband, or whatever. I trust my Father enough to believe he has heard me.
You are free, of course, to think me a misguided fool. I commenced this webpage by referring to ďfriendly fire.Ē A dramatic example of ďfriendly fireĒ is Peter unknowingly joining forces with the enemy by assuming his friend Jesus had his guidance horribly wrong, so dear Peter lovingly tried to discourage Jesus from going the way of the cross. Of course, I have nothing like the infallibility of Jesus. This makes it easy for caring Christians to be influenced by Godís plans for their own lives and conclude that in five seconds they know Godís will for my life better than I do after virtually a lifetime of seeking God on the matter. Jesus promised that those giving up a wife for Jesusí sake would receive a hundredfold, plus persecution (Scriptures). I have exposed myself to ridicule for the sake of a tiny minority of readers who might find something of value in me confiding my secrets.
I am not suggesting that the Lord might want you single. There are many spiritual virtues that marriage can hone within you, and marriage could well be in Godís best for you Ė maybe even for me one day.
Nevertheless, a Scripture that recently keeps coming to mind is that soldiers do not become entangled in civilian affairs (Related Scriptures).
To change the thought slightly, the divine Coach has me on an extremely rigorous training program. World-class athletes make enormous sacrifices in order to reach their peak. They live a life of self-denial Ė not necessarily denying themselves relationships, but relationships are inevitably affected Ė because their eyes are fixed on a moment of glory. We happen to be headed for endless glory, but to my thinking that is an inconsequential bi-product of what drives me. My heart is fixed not on my glory, but on bringing glory to my Lord. He is the love of my life. His glory means everything to me. And the pain of sacrifice fades in significance when I gaze upon the One who sacrificed his all for me. We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). He loved by suffering for us. We, likewise, love by suffering. Like a little boy longing to be like Daddy, his hero, I joyfully follow in the footsteps of my suffering Lord.
Superficial friends want to share each otherís joys. Deep friends want to share each otherís pain.
Occasionally, during times of prayer or worship, the Spirit of God comes heavily upon me. During these precious moments I commonly find myself desiring to express my love and my oneness with the crucified One by suffering for him. You might expect this to be morbid, but it is sheer ecstasy. At those times, suffering for my Lord seems the height of spiritual intimacy and fulfillment. This feeling comes from the Holy One and yet for those brief moments the yearning becomes mine. After just a few minutes the feeling fades, but the memory drives me forward. As ridiculous as it seems, Iíve wondered whether the Lord is preparing me for martyrdom, as he did for many New Testament Christians (Scriptures).
Sadly, most of us have little conception of why, after a cruel beating, the early Christians left ďrejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the NameĒ of Christ (Acts 5:41; more).We shake our heads, wondering if they were from another planet. Significantly, we, too, are from another world, but the full implications have yet to hit us. To puzzle over Paul longing to share in Christís sufferings (Scriptures) is as much a sign of our immaturity as a little boy puzzling over why older boys enjoy kissing girls. There are depths of love and spiritual intimacy that are currently foreign to us. I pray our eyes will soon be opened so that we understand what an exquisite privilege it is to share in Christís suffering.
I suspect the Lord sees my singleness as a means of toughening me; edging me closer to peak spiritual condition and the rare joy of sharing in Christís sufferings. I donít seek suffering Ė that would be perverse Ė but I seek to find and yield to my Lordís specialized training program for me. My Hero ďlearned obedience from what he [voluntarily] sufferedĒ (Hebrews 5:8). His suffering was real. He sweat drops of blood, leaving a perfect example for me to follow. At present, part of my suffering Ė my ďcrossĒ Ė is the pain of being single. Of course this trial pales in significance, relative to what my Lord endured.
I am well aware that marriage has its own set of trials that can toughen and spiritually develop a person. It seems, however, that my personal Coach had decided that singleness best fits my particular training needs. Whether this will continue for the remainder of my life is his decision. Even when I fail to understand it, I affirm the wisdom and love in Godís every choice for me. I die daily to my own longings. My desires for lesser things are swallowed up by my longing for things of eternal significance.
Iím in training to be a lover of God; not a lover of pleasure (2 Timothy 3:4). The Lord has great plans for us. He wants me to have passions that lift me to the highest realm in the universe; not be dragged downwards and enslaved by cravings that are meant to be my slave.
So why have I never married? Because the Lord Jesus is worthy of the costliest gift I can give him. And from Godís perspective: because the pain inside me keeps my heart soft and allows me to be better used of God to minister to hurting people. Someone more Christlike than me would not need this artificial stimulus Ė and maybe one day I wonít need it either Ė and yet even the great apostle Paul needed an unpleasant, pride-puncturing thorn in the flesh to keep him on track. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
Update: April, 2008
Iím older now. Iíve still never had sex, still never get to hug anyone and still expect never to father a baby. But there has been a development.
Two years ago, a woman on the other side of the world emailed me with exceptionally deep needs. Soon she asked about receiving further help by phone. In my ten years of Internet experience I had never ministered by phone internationally, but I agreed.
As I got to know Vicki, it felt as if the Lord had been preparing me all of my life, developing within me the needed skills to effectively minister to the complex issues in her life. Only a tiny portion of people would have the necessary skills and experience to support Vicki, and a combination of additional factors, including me being male, single and available by phone 24 hours a day for as many hours as required, makes it my sober judgment that no one in the world would have been as ideal to minister to her as me.
I knew from Vickiís first e-mail that my writings had powerfully touched her but I had no idea that even then she had found my photo on the website and liked what she saw. I truly thought that impossible for anyone. The thought of my physical appearance makes me cringe in horror, but she had virtually fallen in love with me the moment she saw the photo. She had felt that sharing her full story would completely turn me off her but she was so desperate for great intimacy with God that she sacrificed all possibility of a relationship with me in order to put God first.
We began spending several hours every day on the phone and have done so ever since. This would normally have been impossible, both because of time zone differences and me not having sufficient free time, but it has coincided with me being unable to work in my secular job due to chronic fatigue. Also, had it occurred much earlier, international phone calls would have been prohibitively expensive. Moreover, for very many months, when particularly long phone calls were needed, I could get phone calls for virtually half the usual cheap price and during that time, Vicki, although a very conscientious worker, was employed in mindless tasks that allowed her to work at full capacity in her job while being able to talk to me by phone for hours at a time.
Vicki and I quickly starting thinking in terms of marriage, but for months the inner pain I had known for almost all my life mysteriously lingered. My every thought of the time when the Lord had spoken to me about being single continued to feel like a knife in my stomach. I kept praying as to why this was, but received no revelation. I have no idea why the pain remained for so long, nor why it eventually left, except that it leaving was the culmination of decades of prayer.
By the Lord ministering through me, Vickiís life has been transformed, and our wonderful God has used her to do what I would have thought impossible. He has at last filled the unfillable hole in my heart and removed the never-ending, gnawing ache. I thought such peace might be possible if I were married, but never without me not receiving so much as a hug. Despite every other experience Iíve ever had strongly indicating that I should be out of my skin craving to be with her and married to her, I have never felt so content in all my life. On every previous occasion, the slightest hint of a long distance relationship had simply inflamed my yearnings tortuously, sent my mind into overdrive and proved far worse than nothing.
I had also expected that even if ever I began to enjoy marriage, it would fill me with regret over having missed out on such joys for most of my life. I wondered whether that grief would even detract from being married. But I find myself fully healed. Something far deeper has occurred within me than merely falling in love. If Vicki were to die tomorrow I will still spend the rest of my days enjoying far more contentment than I had ever known before knowing her.
When Abraham thought he would have to sacrifice his child, his agony lasted only three days, but it must have been intense. The trial would have been meaningless had he known ahead of time that he would never be asked to go through with the sacrifice. Lest we suppose that God specializes in short trials, however, letís remember that Abraham was childless until he was a hundred years old!
These days, I find myself often thinking of George Muller, who felt led of God to engage in highly expensive charity projects, without ever so much as making his needs known, but relying solely on prayer for finances. Although for more than sixty years, Muller daily experienced astounding miracles of provision, the life of faith never grew easy for him. Even in his later years, when he gained international fame, he still had to pray in every penny, often having to economize and wait virtually to the death knock before it arrived. The Lord so believed in Muller and so cared for his continued spiritual development that he kept the tests coming for sixty years until finally granting him a financially easier life when Muller entered his late eighties.
In my life, too, the Lord has kept the same trial Ė loneliness, inner pain, low self-esteem Ė repeating decade after decade until finally toward the end of my life granting release from the pressure.
Iím too old to have what humans regard as a long marriage but in the light of eternity even the longest marriage is but a flash.
Colossians 3:1-2 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Even as Iíve written this Iíve felt the occasional twinge of pain, but itís very rare these days. I am more thankful to God, however, for all my decades of agony, than for the peace I now feel. All that pain has helped grow within me the fruit of the Spirit and the ability to identify with Ė and hence minister to Ė hurting people. That, unlike ease and earthly pleasure, is of eternal significance.
Iím still single and still donít know when I will ever meet Vicki.
Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
What makes this verse seem powerfully applicable is that I literally find it incomprehensible that I should feel such utter contentment in my current circumstances. I am continually flabbergasted by the extent of my contentment Ė and grateful for it.
I donít know if it will continue, but almost as amazing as the contentment is that I would not be overly concerned if it ends tomorrow and I plunge back into pain.
Why am I willing to re-enter the torment Iíve known for most of my life? Because God is worthy. Because there are things in life far, far more important than oneís happiness. Because an adventurer can retire to a soft life but there is something special about facing hardships and challenges. Even though in the midst of the challenges his whole being screams for the agony to stop, when a hero has finally reached safety and looks back, he does so with a peculiar sense of achievement and fulfillment. I guess itís like women who during childbirth are certain they will never again subject themselves to such pain, and yet later end up wanting still more children.
My willingness to return to the pain seems crazy. It verges on the inexplicable. But then so do these scriptures:
Things donít have to make sense when we serve a supernatural God who keeps telling us to lay down our lives, store up treasure in heaven, and that ďour present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in usĒ (Romans 8:18).
For most of my life, being single has made me feel incredibly inferior. Iíve felt not only desperately lonely and empty but that everyone sees me as a freak that no woman could possibly want. Worse still, Iíve felt than anyone thinking that way is right.
Iíve felt not only lonely, but alone in my loneliness Ė that virtually no one else is so old and yet so sexually devoid of experience. Like a drowning man grasping a couple of toothpicks, I would cling to the knowledge that one or two in my circle of acquaintances were even older than me and had never married. I would feel crushed whenever one of them finally married, since it magnified my feeling of aloneness and being a freak. I would wish that awful feeling upon no one.
What if the Lord were to tell me that the time has now arrived when it brings him more glory for me to marry than to remain single? Would me marrying be a crushing blow to my unmarried readers?
I recall finding a book about coping with singleness. The author had been single much longer than most people but she was now married. To me, her marriage destroyed all credibility for her to write on the subject. It might not be rational but it felt to me that getting married nullified all her years of experience as a single person. Would people feel that way about me if I ever married?
If I were ever to marry I did not want it to be in defeat. I wanted to eventually reach the point where I could truly feel complete as a single person so that I could at least give other singles hope that it is possible. And yet that point was devastatingly elusive.
Some psychologists believe that sex addiction is fueled by loneliness. Sex addicts use the high of sex to try to fill the gnawing emptiness of feeling unloved. I believe Christians can attempt to clean it up a bit and yet suffer the same thing by becoming addicted to fantasizing about marriage. I think that was me. The desperate loneliness and pitiful self-esteem would temporarily fade while imagining what it would be like to be married but it just fed the addiction; causing me to regard marriage as the answer to just about every problem under the sun and making me feel even more sorry for myself over being single. Over my decades of singleness I gradually brought my fantasies under more control and found a little more peace, but it was a painfully slow process and far from complete.
Then, long after writing most of this webpage, my life changed in the form of the long distance relationship Iíve mentioned. We had never met face to face and could not do so for over three years. The emotional torment I had intensely feared would accompany such separation never materialized. I knew she loved me and the contentment that brought absolutely staggered me. Iím not suggesting that everyone would get this out of a long distance relationship. Iím sure God, and him wanting to compensate me for all my decades of torment, had much to do with this miracle. Nevertheless, it confirmed to me the truth of the psychological observation that feeling unloved is at the heart of so much sexual craving and frustration.
To the average single young man determined to live by Christian morality, sex feels like eighty to ninety percent of marriage. So I will focus on this as I describe what has happened within me during my extraordinarily long journey.
God confirmed that Vicki and I marrying brought him more glory than any other alternative. There have been so many indications. Just one of the signs is that as a teenager Vicki asked God about marriage and he told her that her married name would be Morris. This disappointed her, as she knew no one by that name. The Lord also revealed to her that I would have a ministry and be signficantly older than her. Over the years, she also had two visions that she believed to feature her future husband. He looked like me. For someone who has truly felt ugly all his life, I find it miraculous that every photo I sent her of myself caused her to see me as about the best looking man on the planet. Despite my strong bias against believing it, I know she is genuine about this. Most likely, a significant aspect reason for this is the visions and the way the Lord had been preparing her for me over so many years.
It seemed weird maintaining contact with each other by means of a phone company rather than cheaper Internet alternatives, but to my surprise it proved most valuable because it produced literally hundreds of pages of detailed phone records, providing impressive proof to Australian Immigration of the length, intensity and genuineness of our relationship. Finally, God worked the miracles required for us to live in the same country.
It is still not six months since our marriage was consummated. To my surprise, I find sex is peculiarly less significant and yet better (in terms of sheer pleasure) than I had expected. I enjoy it more and yet crave it much less than I had dreamed. It is like an adult eating cotton candy for the first time and discovering that it is more delicious than he had imagined and yet has less substance to it than he had imagined.
Put another way: even though I had no physical involvement with women, in my thought life and cravings I had been a hollowed-out sex junkie for much of my life. I was endlessly tormented by a gnawing ache for sex, with almost my entire waking life pathetically devoted to craving sex while trying to do other things. Especially when I was in my thirties and younger, my life was so dominated by sexual cravings that I used to dread the thought of, after marrying, having to be separated from my wife for just one night. I knew it would be sheer agony trying to survive one night without sex and yet now that I am married I am so satisfied that even though I find sex enjoyable, it feels as if I could go the rest of my life without it and barely miss it. I feel I could thrive while going indefinitely without the thing I had ached for nearly all my life.
Usually, when an addict is delivered he can never again indulge in that substance or he will crash right back to being hopelessly addicted again. Now, after denying myself for decades, God has performed the miracle whereby sex is something I can take or leave. I feel complete without it. I had expected that in marriage I would feel like a junkie who still has cravings but can get a regular fix. Instead, I enjoy a contentment like someone who has never suffered the agony of that addiction. I would have never thought that possible.
At long last, Iím not merely intellectually convinced there is so much more to life than sex, I actually feel it is true. It took decades, but Iíve been gradually freed from slavery to the gnawing cravings of my passions and now life is deeper and richer than ever. (For a little more on this, see Not Such a Big Deal.)
As you know, I had always thought it likely that if ever I married I would fill with regret over all the years I had ďwastedĒ being single. I feel no such regret. I am happy to be married but I praise God for everything that he built into my life through the pressures of being single. Yes, it was agony but as my love for God moved me to make that choice of denying myself for all those years, if I were given a thousand lifetimes I would love God just as much and make the same choice.
Time is proving that we have an exceptionally good marriage. I believe a significant reason is that we take nothing about each other for granted. We are exceedingly grateful for everything our partner does and is. For decades I have strongly believed in concentrating exclusively on oneís marital obligations; never oneís supposed rights. And I refused to let myself fantasize about the perfect wife but focused instead on how to make the most of it should I end up with a far less desirable wife. Very many years ago, the Lord asked Vicki whether she would live for self or live for love. She make the right choice. Likewise, I live to give, not to get. Thatís just who I am. In fact, to have meeting oneís own desires as oneís focus is to shrivel up and die.
I had thought that all those agonizing decades of singleness were making me set in my ways and undermining any capacity I had to be a good husband but now it seems those painful years were actually equipping me to treasure and cherish Vicki.
Yes, my marriage is unusually happy, but earthly happiness is of little consequence. Actually, more often than not, happiness is a negative; lulling its victims into growing soft. It is in the tough times that we usually learn the most and develop spiritually. Not even eternal reward means much compared with honoring God. I would gladly trade all of heavenís rewards if it would enable me to bring the slightest joy to the love of my life: the Lord Jesus.
If you would like to read a little more about what I suffered and gained through being single, see click here.
The Greatest Spiritual Discovery: Dying to Self
Singles: Celebrate your sexuality!
More for Singles
Recovery from Sexual Abuse
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