A Celibate Life

“To the unmarried and the widows, I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.”

                                                            1 Corinthians 7:8

The Apostle Paul had strong reasons for being single. Now that you are single again, you may be asking yourself whether the single life is best for you for the rest of your life.

Very soon after my wife died, my mind whirled back to the day I met her nearly forty years earlier. I suddenly felt I was starting life again at the age of twenty-five. I thought I might soon go through some of the same stages of dating I had known earlier: singleness, seeking, finding, loving, and marrying again, and building a life as a couple. It was a dizzying thought, and I set it aside as unrealistic.

I then remembered my wife’s advice not to get involved with women until at least a year after she died. I set out to honor her advice, which I believed was wise. As time passed, I felt drawn more than once to women I knew, even before that first year was over. I wondered if marriage might be in my future at some point after all. Then I drew back, but even now, eleven years later, I’m not sure now what my marital future may be.

Some Bible scholars think the apostle Paul may have been a widow-man. He most likely had been previously married since it was a requirement to be a member of the Sanhedrin, as he was. Some had speculated that his wife either died or possibly divorced Paul after becoming a Christian. He may have recommended singleness partly because of conflict in his marriage over his Christianity, as well as a way to focus on one’s mission in life. Jesus did not marry, and he said, “At the resurrection, people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30 NIV). We widow-men have not entered heaven, but we have entered a life beyond the one we once knew. This new life will best be lived in singleness for some of us. You may want to think about your own advantages in the single life.

Some men think being single does not necessarily mean being celibate, avoiding sexual relations with women. You may already have heard some seniors say, “The rules don’t apply after age seventy!” You also may have heard about “arrangements” some seniors make to live together outside of marriage to preserve their retirement benefits, including healthcare, as well as securing their children’s inheritances. But Christian morality, as well as common sense, recommends a choice: celibacy or marriage. The sexual act itself carries emotional, moral, and spiritual implications at every age.

A cousin of mine in his eighties resolved this dilemma by marrying his widow friend in a Christian ceremony not registered with the state. They are married in the eyes of God, but they both have preserved their retirement benefits and are enjoying a happy marriage.

There are challenges in the single life. God knew what he was doing when he provided a wife for Adam. But the difficulties are overcome by millions of men in all cultures and religions. Remaining single can be a wise, virtuous, and happy choice.

Now, many of my diversions are homebound and solitary: reading, writing, Netflix movies, television, gardening, cooking, and correspondence. I would enjoy things with another person: travel, camping, long hikes, the symphony, art museums, and in-depth conversation. I have traveled a couple of times with women friends, and I was surprised how well we managed without romance or intimacy, just friendship. It is a big, new world being a widowed man.

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