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As a Black, middle-aged, divorced Christian Woman, I find myself facing a challenge that I never imagined I would have to face - celibacy - abstinence from sexual relationships. We live in a time period where sexual promiscuity is as prevalent and as routine as the changing of outer garments. Old fashioned courting and dating is simply considered that - "old fashioned" and "out dated". Words like celibacy and abstinence are nearly obsolete. Even though I may be considered in the minority, I proudly proclaim that I am celibate. External situations and circumstances may have lead to my condition of celibacy; however, I am celibate by choice and not by force. Several factors influence my decision of celibacy. At the top of that list is my spiritual conviction. Before my personal commitment in accepting Jesus Christ as my "personal Savior", celibacy may not have been my choice; believe me I have not lived a "perfect" life. In fact, I could tell you some things NOT to do concerning relationships. I accentuate the words "personal" because for many years I went to church and even professed to be saved (I feel that we as Christians used that term too loosely), however, I really lacked the "total commitment" to Christ nor did I know Him in the manner as I do now. Admittedly, I still have more to learn. The key reason that I am celibate is because The Bible says that intimacy is for those who are married, which I am not. That's simple and does not require too much explanation I could really stop right there, but I want to interject a scripture for those of you who would like to challenge the issue: Hebrew 13:4 (The Message Bible), "Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband. God draws a firm line against casual and illicit sex." My love for God is so strong now because He has proven to be "Faithful" and "True" more times than I can count. So if He says "No!", then it is "No!" Enough said! Another reason for my celibacy is my desire to rebuild strong family values. Divorce is a VERY "ugly" word and has a way of making you question your family values and your desirability as a woman! I admit that it wasn't easy transitioning from being married after 19 years, with the free will to experience intimacy without restrictions, to being Single with the sudden lack of intimacy; there were certainly some very restless and lonely nights. There were also days when I questioned whether any other man would find me attractive. I quickly discovered that there were many others in the same boat. According to the New York Times, in an on-line article published January 21, 2007, "51 percent of all women live without a spouse" and "half of all men find themselves in the same situation". Also, "According to the latest government figures, African American couples are divorcing at a higher rate than either whites or Hispanics. The divorce rate for Blacks currently stands at 12 percent. This compares to 10 percent of white couples divorcing each year and 7 percent of Hispanic couples". iii


These statistics are equally alarming and saddens me since I am both - Black and a woman. When I was a child, The Black race was built on a solid foundation enriched with close-knitted communities and rooted in spiritual values. Our family structure was primarily comprised of a hard working Father, a strong nurturing Mother, and well-mannered children; similarly to the images portrayed in the popular 70s sitcom, Good Times. Now, we lead the statistics in divorce? This is not the "dream" that Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned. We are definitely facing a crisis - a vast number of the heads of our households no longer look like "James Evans"! Far too many Black Women (including myself) are working outside of the home and are primarily the sole "bread winner"; we do not look like "Florida Evans", the nurturing mother waiting with open arms to meet, greet, and to provide "life-changing" guidance to her school-age children. As a result, our children are suffering! How can we achieve balance and find our way back to our Roots or is the Black race as we know it facing extinction? What does this have to do with celibacy, you ask? Well, although I had experienced some "war wounds" from the battle of divorce, I still believe in the sanctity of marriage. Without a shadow of a doubt, I believe the family structure that has been embedded in my mind from my childhood is STILL accessible and possible because God is still God. Therefore, I will marry again, but I WILL wait on the Lord to send and orchestrate the mate who is hand-selected just for me - because I am special and I "know my worth"! No ordinary man can deal with me because I am not an ordinary woman (smile)! When he (my Groom) comes, he will find a Bride who is "single and whole, confident and bold; spiritually Divine with an innovative mind"! My third reason is because I practice "safe" sex! My definition of "safe sex" is "no sex" until marriage. Disturbingly, HIV/AIDS is running rampage in the Black community. "Blacks account for more HIV and AIDS cases, people estimated to be living with AIDS, and HIV-related deaths than any other racial/ethnic group in the U.S. Although Black Americans represent only 12% of the U.S. population, they account for half of AIDS cases diagnosed in 2005. Black women account for the far majority of new AIDS cases among women (66% in 2005); white and Latina women each account for 16% of new AIDS cases. Black women represented more than a third (35%) of AIDS cases diagnosed among Blacks (Black men and women combined) in 2005; by comparison, white women." That's enough for me to make a conscious decision to exercise caution in determining who I will spend my future; it is a matter of life or death! Although I realize there is no "foolproof" way to determine if a person has HIV/AIDS, and that this disease can lay dormant for many years without the symptoms being manifested, I choose to form a friendship first with a potential mate to determine what type of morals, values, or integrity he has. A man with character and integrity would care for my well-being, would not endanger me, and would not withhold life-threatening information from me. With the mutual respect that we have for one another, we will surely create a long-lasting, committed, and intimate relationship. One of the quotes that I coined and patent is "Short-term limitations lead to long-term relations"! Besides, I believe intimacy starts long before the sexual relationship. A smile, a touch, great conversation (I love great conversation), holding hands, are some ways that sparks passion in me. If a man can't turn me on outside of the bedroom; he certainly can't turn me on in it! My final reason that I choose celibacy is because I refuse to settle for the counterfeit. Counterfeit is something that appears real, but is not; it's a copy cat. It looks like "the real thing", it acts like "the real thing", but it doesn't measure up to the "real thing". I refuse to allow good sexual


relationships to mask or deter me from getting to know the true intentions of a man. As I said previously, I am not perfect, and I will be the first to admit that in previous relationships, I allowed good sex to take my focus off the character and heart of the person. Sometimes it is difficult for us women to control our emotions, especially after we have been intimate with a man. Sometimes, "red flags" of warnings flash in front of our eyes and we ignore it because of the "sweet nothings" whispered in the heat of passion. Another thing I want to caution you about - there is power in a kiss! There is something significant about the transference of fluids. O.K., I better stop there ladies read my book "Know Your Worth! Overcoming the Dragon of Low Self-Esteem" to find out the 4-1-1 concerning these matters; we can't let the men in on all our secrets! Furthermore, I am a woman that knows what she wants and I am not afraid to express it! I know some men are intimidated by that but it really is an admirable trait. In me, you will find a woman that is honest and forthright that will not leave you guessing! Wow, that sounds like a profile for a dating service (smile). Some mornings I listen to the Steve Harvey Morning Show on the way to work. There is a regular segment on the show entitled, The Strawberry Letter. A male viewer wrote a letter concerning a woman he met whom he referred to as "His Queen". He said that on the onset of their relationship, this woman told him what she desired and what she did not desire in a relationship. The man stated that this "scared" him because he had never met a woman who knew exactly what she wanted. That's a sad statement! Women, we need to know what we want out of life, make it known, and stick to it. How can you find the man you desire when you don't know or make known what you desire? The Bible says that a "Double-minded man is unstable in ALL His ways (that includes a woman also)". Finally, it is my choice to exercise power over my body, and to wait on my mate. Just like the old saying, "Good things come to those that wait!" I am confident that Celibacy is definitely the right choice for me - and not by force!

Vickie is a gifted and talented author, playwright, poet, producer, newsletter editor, and musical director. Her artistic career spans over three decades. She started her own a talent production agency entitled Soaring High Production, which assist performing artists, playwrights, poets, and authors to "soar to their destiny" by providing a forum for them to display their talents. She produced her first professional stage play entitled "A Change Is Gonna Come", that depicts domestic violence in the church. Her first book, "The Art of Forgiving" is an empowerment memoir that discloses how she gained freedom from the ills of divorce by mastering the "art" of forgiving. Her second book, "Know Thy Worth! (Overcoming the Dragon of Low Self-Esteem)", is scheduled for release in March 2008. This book encourages ladies to find their uniqueness to be released from the need for conformity. "For many years I suffered from a self-imposed identity crisis; trying to please others who were not deserving of my attention!" For more information, visit her website at http://www.forgiven2.com

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Celibacy - By Choice Or By Force