Podcast: Singleness, Sex, and the Church: A Conversation Everyone Needs to Hear.


Join Josh and Kit as they discuss Singleness, Sex, and the Church with special guest Connally Gilliam.


…sex is the god of our culture…

…what about this bigger story!?!…

…what if I die celibate, would I have lost out on anything?,…


Connally Gilliam

Click for Full Podcast Transcription

Josh 0:28
We are truly grateful to have Kylie Gillam on our podcast today she serves as the US navigators is the author of two wonderful books. One is called the revelations of a single woman, loving the life I didn’t expect. And the other she wrote with Paula Reinhart called and yet undaunted, embraced by the goodness of God, in the chaos of life. Kindly is a international speaker. She holds an MA in theological studies from Regent college, Vancouver, British Columbia. She has seven nieces and nephews and is the godmother to five and she is just a wonderful voice today in today’s world, and I think has been just a lifeline to so many people, not just a lifeline, pointing to kind of how do I survive with the difficulties of challenges in life? But really, how do I thrive and draw near to Jesus, even in some of the places that are most difficult for me? So, kindly, thank you for being a part of this podcast today. Yes, my pleasure. And we want to talk about singleness. Because you have a thing to say about it. And really, I think you are one voice for me many years ago that kind of opened my eyes and ears and heart to some of the just the call of the church in relation to single men and single women in her midst. And in some ways that I just had kind of was clueless before that. And so I know you’ve been a just a wonderful to a lot of people. So maybe let’s just start kit. Connelly what what’s, what is the life of singles like today? I mean, what are people experiencing? What are the unique challenges in today’s world, it’s walking, and maybe especially walking as a single men and women of faith.

Connally 2:03
Where the life of singleness can look like so many different things. Because if you’re talking to someone who’s 27, and never been married, and someone who’s 55, and it’s gone through their second divorce, it’s a really different, really, really different story. But I think probably the thing that I’m increasingly aware of, and I wrote the book on singleness that came out, really, I think, January of 2006. So it’s been a while. And even since that time, so 14 years, what I have seen is that we live in a culture that is increasingly fragmenting and isolating in general. And so what you get is for the single person, the experience is a compounding, isolation, and a sense of being outside of it. And you can define it in 1000 different ways. Is it marriage? Is it marriage and family? Is it social capital? Is it a sense of belonging? Is it a tribe, whatever it is, but a growing feeling of that? Whether that’s actually more true for singles are not I’m not sure. But I think there’s that deepening feeling.

Yeah, yeah,

Kit 3:23
that’s a good point. I never thought about that. But um, I think because of where we are in our culture, that it may be just that sense of, of being on the outside is exaggerated. Er, yeah. exaggerated on top of it being a real a real situation. That’s very interesting. Yeah.

Josh 3:43
I think you know, so I think about a lot of the men and women we walk with here, who another kind of thing to mix into this is, we live in a very individualistic, sexualized culture. And so that fragmentation added to the this as a person of faith, these messages from the church to say, you know, no sex outside of marriage, feels like maybe even a more significant loss. And I think there are a lot of younger people and maybe people all ages asking the question, people of faith asking the question, why not? That’s not fair. Yeah. And I and so not just the there’s this kind of double edge of, I have desire, sexual romantic desire, what am I supposed to do with that? And then also, I feel even snubbed by God, or snubbed by married people, my pastor is always, you know, sharing messages about his family. And it’s kind of painful.

Connally 4:39
I mean, I think decidedly, I think because we probably all agree that sex is really the God of our culture. So it’s almost like the the message that one can carry inside of herself or himself is, I’m being cut out from worship, from the most primal elemental level. Giving thing available because if it sex is God, and your faith is saying, This is not your sexual is not to be expressed in a physical way with another person outside of, you know, marriage between a man or a woman and you’re not in that case, you feel like I’m being cut out from the worship of the God. Right. And so it carries that kind of primal sense of being unjustly put outside the wall. And, and I think what’s tough is that we, in the church haven’t actually understood a story that’s more powerful than sex is God. We don’t actually, we don’t actually buy it. I think a lot of it’s inside of down in our guts, we don’t actually buy that there’s actually a bigger, more beautiful, more powerful story.

Kit 5:46
That is so right. That makes sense. Yes. Oh, my gosh, I think that’s really resonating with me, because I think, because my I was thinking about asking you about the church and the church’s role in elevating marriage. And I think it’s both what you’re saying it’s elevating marriage. And it’s been, and it’s partially because we don’t fully understand that there’s something better right than marriage, because we really have kind of thought that’s the thing. And so, because I was going to say, what does it been like for you as a single person? different seasons of your life and watching the culture change? church culture change? And, and how the church sees marriage? And how that made you feel?

Connally 6:28
Yeah, well, I mean, I would say I was very typical of seeing marriage, just like your typical Protestant, you know, woman who’s, you know, now, I’m 54, would have seen growing up through the 80s and the 90s. And which is that’s the consummate good, and marriage and the sex that goes along with it. And then the nuclear family that gets built as a result, seeing that as the ultimate good. And it’s taken me so like, embarrassingly long to realize No, that’s decidedly a good. And I love that there’s such thing as marriage, and I love there’s such thing as nuclear families, but there’s the bigger realities of extended family. And this bigger reality of a God who was at work, who’s got a big story that includes married and single people alike.

Josh 7:21
So let me so let me just tie those two together in some way. I like it. Because you talked earlier about this, the God of sex, and this, which, and if I understood you correctly, you weren’t saying you’re Christians kind of recognize and are walking up to this this idol but but you’re pulling the curtain back on on the Wizard of Oz on this? Yes, God that is among us that we are bound before and, and this God looks so powerful, so inviting, so in. I mean, it’s it’s, it’s it, it’s that’s, you know, hey, that’s where you’re gonna find you

Connally 7:57
incredibly open like saying, hey, anyone come in to worship here on any terms whatsoever? Right. The doors are flung open, equal opportunity to come worship at my altar.

Josh 8:09
Yeah. And and on demand, if you want it, yes. So so as in this, you know, for for Christians and going to church on a Sunday morning, or God doesn’t really seem to compare. I mean, I think if we’re kind of, you know, mashed up that way, we’re really, in some ways a crossroads of like, like, gosh, is, is God, is Yahweh, really the all powerful God? Or is there one that’s, that actually has more life? And so, so you, you said a couple times that what about this bigger story? So yeah, because it’s, it’s if it’s a, if it’s a, if it really is a bigger story, it’s got to be, first of all, bigger than the story that married Christians are living. Right, right. And it’s got to be big enough for single Christians to be living life capital L overflowing as singles. So let’s talk about that. Bigger. I know it’s Yeah, I

Connally 9:07
mean, and it seems so in a way intangible, and I’m gonna be really candid and Frank, but like, somebody in their orgasmic experience that feels far more real to them. Oftentimes, then, oh, I’m embedded in a large, gigantic eternal story, right? Like really like what you feels more real in the moment? Yeah. But I think what I have and I’ve been forced into this discovery, right it’s not just like this was a nice idea is the deaths the tragic death of one nephew and three years later and other death you nephew and seemingly, you know, fluke accidents catapulted me into having to ask questions about eternity. Is there actually more to this picture than meets the eye is there actually more to come and as a single person who’s walking in celibacy? What if I’m really never getting it in this life? Like my prayer was always like, God, please let me lose my virginity before my estrogen. Like, like, seriously God, how do you not answer that prayer? Right, like, and so what if I die? What if I die? celibate, right? Well, I have lost out on the thing. And, and really what it has taken me a while to discover is like no, I will have lost out on a thing that is true. But I haven’t lost out on the thing. The thing? And I don’t know, maybe that sounds too well, no, no.

Kit 10:42
And I think what you started to say to is so compelling when you said that, the that that tragic experience again, catapulted you into some depth. Yes. And you end up in the church really, as well intentioned as it is, it does not prepare us for depth. So we it’s almost like, we need to learn how to talk about these things, so that we have capacity to receive it when it’s there. You know, what is God’s vision for this fullness of life that you’re talking about, versus the orgasm versus, you know, the, the vivid, bigger story, like, I don’t think that we’re taught about it, and these really difficult experiences, if we allow them to do allow us to have that depth to receive what you’re talking about.

Connally 11:34
Yes. And you know, and now this is, I mean, just use that word receive. And again, if God’s not real, then it’s like, throw the whole thing over and go get what you can get where you can get it, right. I mean, because there is there is really nothing if there’s nothing bigger. But I mean, part of it’s been at me having to beg God to ask him say, if you are real, if I am not making this stuff up, will you please like, come in to the deeper places my soul that he places the places even of sexual longing? And will you somehow show up? Like, I

Kit 12:10
know what that means, but I love it, you know, like,

Connally 12:13
yeah, lay it all out, go, you gotta do something with this, because I can’t solve this. And I live in a world that everyday is screaming, like, seriously, Connolly, what is your problem?

Josh 12:24
Well, and so, you know, my story is as a person who’s walked through sexual addiction in my own life, and I think it’d be so, so bold, to speak. Single brothers and sisters, like, part of what you’re talking about, has deep, deep, important implications, not just for celibacy, but also for chastity. Because sex is not available to anybody on demand as sex as God designed. And, and so there there is, and, and let’s be real, like, just because you’re married does not mean that you have a deeply satisfying sex life. Certainly not all the time. And. And so so what do we do with sexual desire? What do we do with that longing, and that desire not to miss out on on this thing. And in part as a part of what part of it has to be behind this, and part of what has to be behind our struggle is not just, you know, like, matching up the idol of sex. And then the, the, the true God and which one is is better and more powerful, more life giving? I think the other we have to ask is, which one is is truly good, which one is truly loving? Because otherwise, then we’re just kind of, you know, standing at the at the idle or at in church, putting our coins into the machine, like waiting for the good to come out, as opposed to like, like, part of the question you’re asking currently is like, is this going to be worth it? Right? If I continue to walk in and celibacy? Is it like, Lord,

Connally 13:59
have I missed out on something that that once I pass away, is irretrievably lost, right? And I’ve been a fool. I mean, the fears like maybe I’ve been a fool, because I really think I read this in the second book, that at one at one point, sort of celibacy and chastity but chastity in a sense as a single person, not just within the context of marriage, that was, like celebrated and now it’s almost an example of someone who’s off in some way, like emotional unhealth on some level.

Josh 14:34
Yeah, you’re Yeah, you’re not Yeah, this I think that it’s not set explicitly, I think out in the water. Today, airwaves is you know, if you’re, if you’re not married and having sex and you’re you can’t be you’re not fully realized and your humanity, right,

Connally 14:47
that’s exactly what it is. And maybe, maybe, Josh, what you’re really saying is, it’s the fear that if I’m not being sexually active, that I will actually have missed out. capital L life and I will be less than a human. I think I think that’s the lie that has a sort of a quiet insidious power. Yeah, I

Kit 15:09
think that’s right. And again, I’m thinking about so many of the women that I meet with that are so disappointed, so angry, and really feel what you just said. And so, um, I know, this is a big answer, but just for the for men and women that are listening, like, I’m just longing for you to share some of your wisdom, you know, some of your counselor wisdom that you’ve learned from God, on your journey that you would pass on about being single, and maybe even and including the, you know, the sexual aspect of it, like, you know, I just feel like you have, you’ve really not just lived the story, but you’ve really reflected on this story, you know, you really asked got into the depth of it.

Connally 15:54
Oh, gosh, I think there’s so much a couple things come to mind to starting going backwards starting you said about the sexual part of it. I think for me, it’s a couple of things I’ve learned. One is that to not deny or vilify my sexual desire, that my sexual desire is good that the urge to merge, right? That urge to merge is deeply reflective of the image of God in me, and that it’s the sort of Trinitarian three in one. In the same way, my longing to know and be known holistically, including in my body, is that’s a good desire. And so I think that’s really foundational. So I’m not, in a sense, trying to manage something that’s always erupting, that’s negative, you’re actually capturing something to that. You’re saying that sexual desire is good, but you’re also saying, and it’s even beyond what you know? Yes, that’s right. And it’s representative of some memory on what I know. And so go ahead. And, actually, I mean, this is kind of maybe it sounds crazy, but it’s I practice sometimes saying, Thank you, God, that I’m a sexual being. Thank you that I have an urge to merge. Thank you that there’s something in me that longs to bear fruit, so to speak, that all those impulses are really good. And then partially, it’s turning it back to God and say, okay, so God, what do you want to do with it? Wow, that’s really because I didn’t put this stuff in me, you put this stuff in me. So I’m willing to integrate my sexuality with you, in your way on your terms, because I think that’s the path of life, but you gotta show me what to do with it. And how, how to walk with it. versus this is troublesome thing that has to be managed? That just makes me angry that I don’t get to, you know, get it on my terms?

Kit 18:00
Yeah. All right. That’s really, yeah, good stuff.

Connally 18:03
So um, yeah, yeah. So that’s a big piece. I think the other thing, which we started talking about earlier, before we began the podcast, but is, there is, I think, also a very legitimate longing in my life, for good male strength, and for belonging to family. I think those things are really real and really, right. And the ideal, of course, is that the church can provide that family, but the church is just a collection of all of us, right? And so most of us don’t know, a lot of extended family health, like we’re so transient, and there’s so much fragmentation. So I hold my expectations fairly loosely. But But I think that those are two other things. I’ve asked for God, I’m like, God, I want good mental strength in my life, will you show me my role in having that, and, and again, you got to do it. It’s a hit and miss. Because not every man is trustworthy. And not every married man is in a secure place in his marriage where he can interact in any way of significance with a single woman. Yeah, but brought the category of brother does actually exist. And so asking God like, bring me some trusted brothers, and then teach me how to honor the marriage of that brother. So that to keep that as healthy as possible. And then another practical thing I really have seen is with this question of family, especially if one doesn’t live near her family, or it’s the ones original family is not healthy, it’s not good to be around is saying, God, bring me some family with some kids that I can be a part of, because there’s something really basic about like, go into a kid’s birthday party or soccer game or being just included to see a school play. or something like that, which weaves one in to this sort of extended family tribal feeling, which I think helps carry us, you know, married but also then single?

Josh 20:13
Oh, sorry. Let me just jump in here. Yeah, sorry.

No, no. The reason why to jump in as a married man with with six kids in my house is because two things. One, I think a lot of marriages have the, I feel the sense of like, wow, I don’t want to invite a married person or a single person to this chaos, like, it’s hard enough to, you know, for me to be like, I don’t want to subject them to that. So there’s a learning curve, I think for for marriage and the church to recognize that there perhaps what can be in their court in in broadening and taking hold of their place in the family of God. The other thing though, I have to say that the couple of people we know and we have a woman who has been a babysitter for our kids since our oldest was young, for so for over a decade. Now. She’s She’s not able to babysit as much anymore, but, but she still shows up to their events, and to their school plays and graduates, things like that. And it means something different. When she walks in the room right off the bat and grandma and grandpa are there. It says it’s a different message. And I think it’s a very meaningful message to our kids that only she can give as an because I think there’s something even that they recognize, like, well, she didn’t have to be here, you know, like, it’s and it’s a great gift. So we love it, we love her for it for just the love she’s poured in her kids in that way.

Connally 21:33
I think it’s really true that like the adopted aunt or uncle, so to speak is a real role. It’s not just like a B team JV, a well, kind of role. It’s actually it actually plays a distinct, a very, very distinct role. When I was at Falls Church, I used to go to church and I would feel so lonely as like, oh, there’s no sanctuary in this big sanctuary. And, and so I got to know this couple and finally said, I call them on the phone. I was like, y’all, I feel like a moron saying this, but I need to have people to sit with each week. And because I just feel insecure and lonely when I go each week alone to charge. And I said if I could just sit with you guys. And they said, We would love that. But we’re always late. And I said, Well, how about if I save the seats, they’re like, great. Win, win. And out of that. I ended up going to games until you know, game night and spaghetti night. And, and it was just, I wasn’t there. The kids parents, and they, they were not my actual blood nieces and nephews, but it became this like mutual life giving win win for which I’m still grateful today.

Kit 22:50
One of the things you’re really good at, that I noticed in your book, but also noticed in our conversation is vulnerability. You know, you’re willing to call somebody up and say that, like you’re willing to be this person that has needs this person who asks for things. And I think sometimes, you know, we especially if we’re in a hard place, we’re kind of embarrassed for like, you know, so I just really honor that and and love that and affirm that like, and I think that’s something we all could learn about, you know, it’s just

Josh 23:24
Well, kind of let me ask you about that. Like, do you ever I think one of the things I hear from singles is this kind of concern. And like, I don’t want I don’t invite myself like, how do you? What do you do with that?

Connally 23:35
Yeah, you know, I think I mean, I’m sure there’s been times where I goofed up in this whole area. But I think what I do is I just risk naming the reality, like, is this weird for me to invite myself? Like, do you guys just need family time for x y&z event? Because just tell me, you know, so it’s almost like, all the hidden suspicions that create all this shame, and nobody ends up moving forward or taking initiative. It’s almost like, let’s just pop them into the light. And it’s a little awkward, but let’s just say it, and then if it works great. And if not, well, we’re no different place than we were before.

Kit 24:18
I think you’re right. I think sometimes we believe these lies, you know, yeah, we’re going through something hard. And, you know, we think, Oh, I shouldn’t really talk about it. Because you know, the people aren’t going through this. And, you know, then you talk about it. And then there’s a release for everybody. And everybody feels freedom to be where they are and to be honest about their stuff. And so, I think you’re right, bring it to light and let these things come out. You know, when they’re their lies, let’s call them lies.

Connally 24:43
Yeah, let’s call them lies. And I think really, I think too, it’s being able to, I think envy or different single people I’ve known is really can be really big. And so it becomes, like you said earlier, Josh, you’re like this Cuz you’re married doesn’t mean you have this hot sex life. But but sort of envy gets in there like, of course you’re like satisfied because you’re getting it on your own terms all the time, you know, and I’m a load bearing load off from all joy. And it’s I think it’s partially being willing to say, you know what, God, that couple has their story, but you have given me my story. And you’re good in my story. And out of that place, I’m going to move forward, also wanting to to be a blessing to that couple, you know, their marriage. I mean, if I can see a couple as well, your marriage is actually valuable to me, not just you have something I’ve wanted to haven’t gone gotten, that then changes the dynamic among the three of us.

Kit 25:51
I can’t even explain how it works. But it’s sort of does with some mutual blessing. It’s not just saying, Yeah, I want I want what you can give me it becomes what what can we give each other? How can we give each other Yeah.

Josh 26:06
Go ahead. Well, I was gonna I was actually gonna shift gears I, and maybe it’s because of the somebody the conversation I’ve been having recently. But I want to come back to before we wrap up to God, and sex a little bit for the single person. And I think that like that tension of, of unmet desire, unmet sexual, physical, romantic desire. What currently what do you do with it? I loved when you talked about acknowledging, and not vilifying or denying that you have sexual desire and and, you know, the many facets of that. And I think on a long term basis that it sounds like there’s there’s just a part of us spiritual journey with the Lord. But in that in a moment, in a moment of longing, temptation, loneliness. Wait, what would you say to someone listening who’s single and be like, you know, it just gets to be too much. Yeah, advice, practical advice that might be helpful that person in that situation?

Connally 27:13
Well, I mean, I literally have asked, you know, friends, I’ve reached out in those moments, especially if I’ve been dating somebody, and I can just feel I’m starting to just, like, be hungrier and hungrier. And yet I know, where I don’t know where the relationships gonna go, right. And so whether it’s, I’m totally alone, or I’m in some big you with patient place in a relationship, it’s for me, it’s been reaching out and just inviting some friend into it. And asking them saying, This is my like, I am so hungry, and part of me is just like, forget it, I just want it and, and saying, but I know there’s a bigger story, will you just, you know, listen to me and pray for me. And it sounds so old school, but it’s actually true and things shift. I mean, the thing that I think I’ve been slow to learn. And while I haven’t, you know, been like getting it along the way, I’ve had plenty of sexual forays to different degrees and things what I would consider mistakes, and I’ve had, you know, your periodic passing through masturbation and these sort of different things that you do to kind of deal with your sexual desire and, and again, I look back at that and it’s not like a big guilt thing, or it’s not a big vilification at all it’s like, Okay, well, I am a human being, but what I realize is that it actually kind of numbs me out. And, like, sort of playing around the edges of sexuality in the end hasn’t been good for my soul. And, and so I can actually ask someone to enter into a time of struggle with me ask a friend. Because I actually know, I know there is more of a capital L life out there to be had and I know from experience that that is just not true. And it’s like, I can’t deal with this and I’m being cut out and I got to finally just go get what I want. That that’s really not the path of life. Like I think I just know that now. I don’t know Josh, that’s maybe not practical enough. But you know, I think inviting others in there’s no I think that’s the kind of bottom line.

Josh 29:49
I you know, I I just say like, you know that for the men I’ve worked with over the last 20 years who like the number one weapon against temptation is from areas or singles for For most of men I talked to is pick up the dang phone and reach out for help. And, and it’s initially it might be about like, hey, just talked me off the ledge because I’m really feeling tempted to go act out sexually, like I have it many times before. But ultimately, I think what most most people who kind of begin doing that find is is, is it’s a point of deeper connection. Yes, it can even in some ways, uncover it not, it provides, it provides a different kind of intimacy and connection, that may not be as as sexually thrilling physically, right. But that is is more meaningful and is more in line with what the person’s soul is really after then, then the sexual acting out would have been?

Connally 30:45
Yeah, cuz it’s constellation. I mean, that I think that’s really what you’re describing is that I’m offering my current reality, whatever it is to another person who responds with empathetic presence, is to then receive the gift of constellation, and there’s something that’s soothing. And that, so while you might not have the buzz or the thrill, there is something about a deep, soothing, it’s, you don’t necessarily ski down the Black Diamond mountain at that moment. But you do get the soothing waters of the Caribbean, so to speak, you know, and that’s actually quite real.

Josh 31:25
Yeah. Yeah.

Kit 31:27
And it’s interesting, too, because reaching out to somebody is so important, you know, for in the moment, you know, talk me off the ledge, talk me down to speak truth to me. But what you’re talking about, too, is this reminder of that life vision, that bigger story, it’s not just about don’t do that don’t be done differently about this moment. It’s think differently about the bigger picture, which I think when I think about the, the women that I talk with, who have ongoing struggles, you know, with pornography, and masturbation or, you know, sexually acting out that, that that’s it this, this is helping me think about how to talk them a little bit differently about it, you know,

Connally 32:11
yeah, yeah, cuz it’s both and right, because I want him You want a friend who’s like, of course, you want to get a girl, right? Exactly. Saturday night, and it’s beautiful. And, you know, the sun is setting like you’re a normal human being. Yes,

Kit 32:28
Yes. I love that. So important, isn’t it?

Connally 32:32
And when you have like, when I suppose when I’ve had older people, like older women who are not threatened by my sexual desire, when I’ve had them be like, yeah, totally makes sense. Of course. You want to get it girl. Of course.

Kit 32:50
that normalizing so important in those moments. Oh, my gosh,

and then cast a reminder of you are wrapped up in this bigger story.

And at the same time, yeah. It’s both and yeah, yeah, that’s

Josh 33:05
great. Great. Connelly you’re a gym. I’m so grateful to know you. And would you I’d love i’d love it would put you on spider but i’d love it. If you would just pray for them. anyone listening? I know they’re single and other marrieds listening as well. I’d love if you just closed us in a sure for them. That’d be great. Thank you.

Connally 33:25
So Father, I do thank you that there is an eternal intimacy of Father, Son and Holy Spirit that I don’t even begin to understand but and there’s pleasure in the center of that. And there’s the pleasure of the Father and the Son and the Son and the Father and the Spirit in there. And somehow we get invited into that Lord, and I pray for each person who’s listening right now, God, that you would make something of that more real down in the bones of each person who is listening and that by the power of your spirit, hope could be ignited that there is a bigger story. And there is strength in companionship available to anybody married or single for the journey. And Lord, show us how to be the men and the women on the journey who lives life out of that capital L kind of place inside of us. We can’t do it on our own. But because of the work of Jesus and the power of the Spirit, it is possible. We thank you for this and it’s in Jesus name we pray. Amen.

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