“Boys will be boys.” “It’s not healthy to suppress those sexual urges.” “You can’t expect a person to go without it for too long.” “If she (or he) doesn’t ‘put out,’ I’ll just look elsewhere.”
We’ve all heard, or been told, one of these lines. Sexual purity and fidelity seem to be values of the past. Just read the most recent headlines associated with the #MeToo (#YoTambien) movement, and you will quickly learn of yet another actor, CEO, judge, pastor, president, reporter, or news broadcaster who has fallen from grace because of his or her history of promiscuity and/or sexual harassment.
Where are our role models? How can we teach our children, teenagers, young people, and single or married adults that purity and fidelity are not just old-fashioned values, but are worth seeking and pursuing?
Here, Dr. Carlos A. Zazueta gives us his viewpoints on singleness, sex, and…cold showers.
1. Tell me what it was like to be a single pastor in your thirties and early forties.
It was not easy. I came from a denomination where many church leaders and congregation members believed every pastor should be married. They had good reasons, such as: not to follow into temptation, to be able to counsel couples, to have an adequate companion in ministry, and that “it’s not good for a man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). But because of those beliefs I often faced criticism and judgment. When I became a pastor I was single, and I stayed single for more than 10 years.
I remember one meeting with church leadership. After giving my monthly ministry update one of the elders asked me, “And when are you planning to get married?” Before I could answer, the senior pastor explained he had no problems with me being single. If I was called to be single—happy, content, and focused on ministry—then that was fine with him.
But there were challenges, constantly. Congregation members always tried to play matchmaker between their daughters, cousins, sisters, and me. They always asked me, “When are you going to be married? When are you going to get married?” It made me feel as though I was not “complete” unless I was married.
I recall a time when I was preaching a series on marriage and after one service a married couple asked me, “How is it that you dare to preach and teach about marriage when you are not married? You need experience in order to be credible.” I reminded them, “I am simply teaching the Scriptures. Those divinely-inspired words of God came from single men, the apostles Paul and Peter (a widower), and Jesus Christ. It’s amazing these single guys had so much to say about marriage.”
Being a single pastor certainly had its disadvantages, but it also had its advantages.
2. What are the advantages of being single in ministry?
The apostle Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 7:25-28. Being single in ministry is a blessing because being married can be a distraction for the individual who wants to dedicate his or her life to fully serve God. I mean “distraction” in a good way. When you are married you need to care for your spouse and the family. Personal ministry decisions need to be weighed with the family in mind.
But when you’re single it’s much easier to make major life-changing decisions, such as the decision to move to a foreign country to be a missionary, which is the decision I made. I moved from Mexico to the United States in order to study at Dallas Theological Seminary. Yes, I had to leave behind my extended family in Mexico. But it was a much easier decision to make—with only $500 in my pocket and no assurance of a scholarship—than had I had a spouse and family.
3. On several occasions I’ve heard you say, “It’s a calling to remain single.” Will you elaborate?
The same way I believe it’s a calling to be married, I believe it’s a calling to be single. The goal is to be completely fulfilled in the Lord. Those who are called to be single don’t feel the need or have the desire to be married. They are content. Lucy Swindoll (sister of Pastor Charles R. Swindoll) is a perfect example of a single woman, a businesswoman, who has served the Lord in many different venues, yet is happy and content.
In the end, God is the giver of gifts and he knows what is best for us, and we are called to obey, whatever our circumstances. Whether single or married, God wants to work in your life. Be content with where he has placed you. When others can see God in you, his purpose is accomplished.
4. You did not marry until the age of 43. How did you maintain sexual purity all those years?
Discipline, prayer, and cold showers. Believe me, I face(d) the same battles every man faces: sexual drive and desire. When I was in high school there was a psychologist that told my health class, “You should not deprive yourself. Go ahead with whatever you need to do, including masturbation.”
But what I was learning from the world did not match up to what I felt God was calling me to do—to be different, to live a holy life. I had a deep sense of commitment to the Lord to remain pure until (if/when) I got married. And it was only that commitment to the Lord that kept me turning away, like Joseph, from opportunities (Gen. 39:6–12). That commitment was expressed in these practical ways:
- Accountability Partner: I was advised by a mentor to have an accountability partner. He also advised me to take plenty of cold showers and to use up my energy with exercise!
- Learn Weaknesses: I introspectively learned my moments of weakness and tried to avoid exposing myself to Internet sites, movies, books, and even idleness during certain times of the day that would feed on those weaknesses.
- Prayer: I expressed my emotions and struggles to the Lord in prayer about my desire to be married, but yet gave my life to the Lord in such a way that if his plans for me were to remain single, then so be it. (My wife’s version of that story can be found in “Throwing Stones”.)
- No Secluded Meetings: I did not meet one-on-one with a woman unless I had the intentions of dating her. If I was meeting a woman for ministry or counseling reasons, it was always at my church office with others in close proximity and I faced the window of my office, so that I was always in sight of other ministry staff.
- Manage Eye Contact: When making eye contact with a person of the opposite sex, I don't lower my eyes any lower than their mouth. I don’t need to “look them up and down.”
- Careful with Touch: It is an accepted part of Hispanic culture to give hugs. But when hugging, I always put one of my arms behind my back so that I don't fully embrace a woman. It needs to be a brotherly hug.
- Stay Busy: It helped me to have male roommates so that I had vital friends to hang out with and keep busy.
5. When you give conferences to young people, what is one piece of advice you stress regarding sexual purity?
Singles have a tendency to experiment with different sexual partners, pornography, etc. and once they get married they think everything will be okay. That’s a lie, because “sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.”
However, if you’re single and have already crossed the physical line with someone, know that God accepts you in grace (Eph. 2:8–9). Do not feel pressure to enter into a bad decision because of past mistakes.
6. How do you know when it’s better to remain single or to get married?
It’s better to remain single:
- Than to marry an unbeliever.
- Than to marry someone who will be a stumbling block to your spiritual growth.
- Than to marry for the wrong motives (e.g. family pressure, feeling old).
- If you are not willing to give yourself fully to your spouse—to sacrifice yourself, your own desires, and your own needs.
- If you are not willing to be married for the rest of your life.
It’s better to be married:
- If your life will be more complete with a spouse, not in a Hollywood way, but in a more-fulfilled-to-serve-the-Lord-together way.
- If God brings you someone who loves you and you are both willing to mutually love and submit to one another (Eph. 5:21).
- If your relationship will illustrate the sacrificial love that Christ has for the church.
- If you are willing to spend the rest of your life giving, instead of receiving.
God calls us—regardless of our marital status—to live lives that honor him, that focus on serving him. The time of being single is not just waiting for the right person, but it is about becoming the right person.
Additional resources on singleness and sexual purity:
Dr. Carlos A. Zazueta received a bachelor’s degree in industrial and systems engineering from the Instituto Tecnológico de Culiacán, México; a Master of Theology degree in pastoral leadership, and a Doctor in Ministry degree in Christian leadership from Dallas Theological Seminary. Carlos serves as pastor of Iglesia Stonebriar en Español in Frisco, Texas. Since 2007, he has served as Insight for Living Ministries’ Spanish-language pastor and the voice of Visión Para Vivir. Carlos married the love of his life, Karla (yours truly), in 2011. Carlos’ greatest passion is helping Spanish speakers learn how to love God with all their minds in the language of their hearts.