Arleen Spenceley is author of the book Chastity is For Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin (Ave Maria Press, Nov. 2014). She works as a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times, and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in counseling, both from the University of South Florida. She blogs at arleenspenceley.com.
Chastity Is For Lovers was inspired by my desire to encourage the people who already practice chastity, and to present chastity to the people who don’t practice it yet. I want people who are virgins to know they’re not alone, and I want people who are saving sex from now on to know that chastity truly is possible, and I want people who haven’t heard of it, or who’ve got it confused for abstinence, to know what it actually is.
Do you feel yourself drawn towards any particular vocation or do you prefer to be open to all of them?
I am most drawn to marriage, but I’m not married to it. I’m still not sure to which specific vocation God will call me, but I hope to be open to any of them when that’s clearer to me. In the meantime, seeking Him first is a fantastic way to prepare to accept the call to any vocation. Doing so will refine our desires, and pave the way for continuing to seek Him first when I become a wife or a nun or otherwise consecrated single person.
Tell me what it’s like to be single. How is that different from dating, marriage, and religious life?
I’m two kinds of single: unmarried, and also not currently in a dating relationship. But I’d consider myself “single and mingling,” ’cause I do date. I can’t tell you what it’s like to be perpetually single, because I don’t know yet if I will be. But I can tell you that this season of singleness — if it indeed is a season — is actually kind of exciting. That has less to do with what I’ve done during this season and more to do with what God is done. It is clear to me, almost always only in retrospect, that how single I am has been integral for my ability and availability to do some of what God has invited me to do.
Had I not been single while writing the book proposal for Chastity Is for Lovers and then while writing the book itself, I probably would have neglected the writing or the relationship. That isn’t to say a person can’t write a book, or travel and speak, or otherwise serve the Church while dating or married. But because of my particular circumstances, another commitment would have been a bad idea.
I wrote the book proposal during my second to last semester of grad school. At the time, I worked 32 hours a week as a staff writer for the newspaper, interned 14 hours a week as a counselor at a youth shelter, took two classes and lived, interned, worked and went to school in four different cities. As much as I had moments of hoping I’d meet a guy to date, God didn’t open that door and in retrospect, I’m super glad that he didn’t.
One problem I personally have with being single is loneliness. How do you deal with that?
When loneliness hits, I say “focus on Jesus, focus on Jesus, focus on Jesus,” over and over, in my head. The last time I “ached” like we sometimes do while we’re single was when I was interested in a specific guy — a guy from whom I wasn’t hearing. And while I hoped he’d text me or call, God legit spoke to me when this thought popped into my head: “You don’t ache because you’re alone. You ache because you’re looking in the wrong direction.” I hadn’t been seeking first Jesus. I’d been seeking first some other guy. So I needed that reminder to focus on Jesus.
Who’s your go-to saint when it comes to anything relating to dating/boys/love life/etc?
For most of my adult life, St. Francis de Sales has been my go-to, ’cause we’re basically BFFs. In undergrad, while I studied journalism, I suffered from anxiety. One day, I stumbled upon a quote from St. Francis de Sales about anxiety, and it really helped. A few days later, I stumbled upon another de Sales quote. It was also about anxiety, and it also really helped. I’d never heard of de Sales before I stumbled upon his quotes, so the journalist in me had to do some digging. I looked him up, which is how I discovered that he’s the patron saint of journalists. I’ve felt a connection to him ever since.
If you’d like to see the quotes I stumbled upon, click here.
What advice would you give to young girls and boys right now?
I’d give both females and males the same two pieces of advice: a) Reflect a lot on the fact that you are of infinite value because you exist, and b) Focus on Jesus, focus on Jesus, focus on Jesus.