I gave a talk at a singles’ conference last weekend. I love singles’ conferences. There’s just something about seeing so many of you all together in one place – when I know that many of you feel isolated out there in the “real world” – that is very gratifying.
Anyway, at this conference, my talk was supposed to be on “living the single live to its maximum potential.” There could be all kinds of innocuous ways to approach that – you know, “do lots of good deeds,” “don’t forget to pray.” That kind of stuff. But I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to find a way to go a little deeper, to address something that really hit Catholic singles where they live.
Then I remembered an online singles’ class I taught several years ago. (Important note: if you are one of the singles who actually took that class, please contact me. When my computer was stolen I lost all of my outlines and notes from the class, and I’d love to rebuild what I can from the students’ notes.) In that class, we had an extensive discussion on the question of “to seek or not to seek?” In other words, should single Catholics organize their lives primarily around finding eligible members of the opposite sex? Or should they go about their business, doing what they believed God was calling them to do, even if doesn’t seem like it’ll lead them to anyone marriageable?
My initial reaction was to say that single Catholics, if they felt called to marriage, should order their lives around finding a spouse. After all, if you wanted a job, you’d go out looking for one. You wouldn’t sit around and wait for God to drop one into your lap. Shouldn’t marriage be the same way?
But then I remembered a line from John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. God had created Adam and given him all of the good things of paradise, but then observed that it was not good for man to be alone. He was created to give himself in love to another human person, but there was no other human person to whom he could give himself. God said He would create a helper fit for him.
At this point, JPII said, “Adam waited on the gift.”
Adam was in a bit of a pickle. He was created for love, but there was no one on earth for him to love. And there wasn’t a danged thing he could do about it. He could only wait for God to act, wait for him to create “the gift” of Eve.
How many of you have ever felt like Adam? You believe you’re called to marriage, you organize every detail of your life around finding someone to share your live with, and yet no one has emerged. You want to “make” it happen, but you find that you can’t.
Some people do “make” it happen. They lower their standards. They talk themselves into marrying someone they know isn’t right for them. You could do that too, but somehow it doesn’t seem right.
Maybe we too, in a certain sense, need to “wait on the gift.”
That, of course, doesn’t mean we sit back and do nothing. We give God room to work. We post our profiles on Catholic Match. We put on some mascara (those of us who are female) and go out every once in a while. We work on ourselves – staying healthy and holy, and working out (with the help of good therapy where necessary) whatever issues we’re carrying around.
But we don’t make every decision in our lives based on “will I meet someone to marry?”
Case in point: many, many years ago, I became very enthused about attending the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family. But at that time, the only program was in Rome. I told myself that I couldn’t go because I didn’t speak Italian. Which was mostly true – my childhood Italian vocabulary revolves mostly around eating, and doesn’t include many theological terms. But I could have learned Italian. My silent objection was that I wouldn’t be running across many, if any, marriageable American men over there on the other side of the pond.
Of course, they opened an American campus and I got my degree just fine right here in the good old U.S. of A, where I also didn’t meet any men I wanted to marry. And I missed out on a great experience.
Has this happened to you? Have you missed out on great experiences, missed out on something God was calling you to, because you were holding onto your all-encompassing goal of marrying yourself off?
Do you get involved only in activities and organizations that you think will lead you to marriage? Do you attend the parish singles group once, look around the room, say “no one here for me to marry” and never return? (An unfortunate decision, since there is a good chance that a perfectly marriageable person showed up the next week, looked around the room once and never came back.)
I know, you keep hearing other peoples’ stories. “Oh, we met in church. I was just kneeling there praying and suddenly there he was.” And you think, “What, has God forgotten about me? I pray in church all the time and that never happens to me!”
The thing is, God hasn’t forgotten about any of us. He gives us lots and lots of gifts. Friendship, health, family, relationships, beautiful views of the Rockies – everything good in our lives is a gift from God. But we can get so hung up on the one gift we’re expecting that we neglect to see all of the good things He’s placed in our lives.
Look, I don’t know if, or when, God is going to provide you with the gift of a spouse. But I do know this – this life isn’t about “what I’m going to do after I’m married.” It’s about “what am I going to do now?” This present moment is the only time we have for sure. How do you want to spend it? Do you want to keep scanning every room looking for the love of your life?
Or do you think it might be a good idea once in a while to walk in anyway, and see what other gifts God might have for you in there?