Apropos of our discussion of friendship, romance, and the very confusing boundaries and barriers between the two, I wanted to share this excerpt from Wesley Hill’s Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality. In this part of the book (in the section titled “The End of Loneliness”), Hill is listening to a professor speak about a queer woman who was trying to figure out how (or if!) to sublimate her love and desires for women into love of God.
There is a place, in the Catholic tradition, for hermits and stylites and other people with a radical, isolated dependence on God, but that kind of life tends to be something you have to meditate on your suitability for, asking permission to live in the desert. Relying on God alone to sate your longings for community and love may be possible, just as living on the Eucharist alone was possible for Catherine of Siena, but it’s a specific gift, not a kind of life to wind up in by happenstance.
In her desire for other women, the counsel wanted human relationship. She wanted to know and touch and see and be involved with another human person, whose facial expressions she could read and whose embrace she could rest in. But the counselor suggested she look to Jesus, who is human, yes, but who relates to other humans through his Spirit now that he no longer walks the earth. The lesbian woman could not touch Jesus. She could not look into his eyes and see his face. Nor would it be appropriate, if she could see him, for her to gaze into his eyes in that way.
I think we need a more robust understanding of how necessary human community is. It’s no use trying to be more spiritual than God, you know! God is the one who created humans to want and need relationships, to crave human companionship, to want to be desired by other humans. God doesn’t want anyone to try to redirect for community to himself… God wants people to experience his love through their experience of human community, specifically, the church. God created us physical-spiritual beings with deep longings for intimacy with other physical-spiritual beings. We’re not meant to replace these longings with anything. We’re meant to sanctify them.
It makes sense to give more support to the people who do have a gift for this kind of like (as Eve discusses in a riff on one of Wesley Hill’s blog posts), but also to make sure that “Go forth and sublimate!” isn’t the primary kind of advice we have to offer to the lonely — whether they’re lesbians, Nice Guys, or what have you.
It’s hard (and sometimes counterproductive) to try to commit to giving other people romantic connections, but it’s a lot easier to do small things to honor each other as physical-spiritual beings — cooking for others, visiting each others houses, building things together, etc. I’d love to know, in the comments, what you guys do (or admire others for doing) to build up the experience of human community for each other.
P.S. Washed and Waiting is discounted for a limited time — the ebook is $3.99 til September 21st. I think large swaths of it are irrelevant (and potentially frustrating) for non-Christians or for Christians who don’t grant many of the sexual ethics presuppositions of Hill’s faith, but the second of the three parts of the book (“The End of Loneliness) seems like it might be of interest to a bunch of the readers here, period.