Kinship

kin·ship

noun \ˈkin-ˌship\

: the state of being related to the people in your family

: a feeling of being close or connected to other people

I have become drawn to this word since hearing Wesley Hill use it last month at Calvin College.

He was talking about the concept of “Spiritual Friendship” and the relationships that folks committed to celibacy can be pursuing.

These family-type bonds are built out of friendships to become something deeper, something that involves more of a commitment than we typically bring to the table in our relationships.

For me as a single gay Christian, I find these kinship relationships to be ideal to enter into the messy, beautiful, intimate, supportive parts of each other’s lives. I have experienced these sorts of relationships over the last few years. They take work to maintain, but they are so worth it. The beauty of these friendships is when I move from guest to family, from friend to brother, from “mister” to “uncle”.  It is in these transitions that the friendship becomes not about what fun we can have together, but how we can serve one another.

Here is an important distinction. I don’t crave these kinship relationships just because I may feel lonely from time to time. This is not just about getting MY needs met. In these family-style relationships with a strong commitment to one another, I can serve, too. I have more time, energy, and love to pour into these relationships. Wesley Hill frames his conversation about celibacy as a “positive call to love” rather than just a call away from sexual intimacy. In not having a spouse, I am freed up to dive in to committed friendships, be they with other single folks or with married people and their kids.

These friendships have given me space spaces to process what it has meant to wrestle with faith, doubt, and sexuality. They have also given me practice to love others better, to encourage, to listen, to serve. When done right, I feel my own relational longings met while also knowing I am giving back.

I hope that through this blog, and so many others that I have taken inspiration from, the Church as a whole can begin to see new and creative ways to care for one another. To form friendships far more committed than the kind we find on Facebook. To stick with one another through anything and everything. To support their mothers, fathers, children, divorced, unmarried, widowed, and celibate folks alike.

What would it take to encourage these deeper sorts of friendships? Do they require living in community? Should we do more to honor or recognize these relationships as part of our Church culture?

For more on these conversations, visit www.spiritualfriendship.org

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