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Single Living

My Baptist pastor Brother Don and I rattled along in his pickup truck, driving down the bumpy country road on the way to church. These were my college days in Kentucky, before I was Catholic. I’d been listening to a lot of Rich Mullins, my favorite Christian musician. His song “Elijah” had one line in particular that always struck me: “It’s OK to be lonely as long as you’re free.”

When I was a single young man in my 20s, I used to think that was the coolest line. Hey, if you’re single, maybe you’re just free. Free to do whatever you want. Free to live life on your own terms. Free to seek God with abandonment. Just me and Jesus.

As we drove along, I recited this line to Brother Don, thinking I’d impress him with my spiritual insight. But Don, happily married for three decades, shot back: “I wouldn’t call that free,” he said. “I’d call it empty.”

Ah, the wisdom of a simple country preacher. He had a perspective that could only come from being in a happy, healthy relationship.

Today, as a man who’s been single, married, divorced, and now single again, I see the wisdom of my old pastor. Being free isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. As a single person, sometimes you just feel, as Brother Don said, empty.

I was married for six years. If I learned anything about myself during that time, it’s that I like having someone to share my life with. A companion. A friend. A lover. I think I’m designed that way. It’s not good for me to be alone.

Then again… my feelings can shift from day to day.

Maybe I shouldn’t be saying this as a CatholicMatch member, but sometimes I wonder: Do I even want to be married again? Some days I definitely do. Some days I don’t. Some days, I want that companionship. Other days, I don’t want to risk what that companionship entails.

Am I willing to risk having my heart broken again? Going through the whole process of getting to know someone, placing my trust in her, investing in a life together, all with the possibility that it could end in a broken relationship?

It takes a lot of energy. Am I really up for that?

Depends on the day.

 Rich Mullins had another verse that I think my old pastor would agree with:

“When you love, you walk on the water

Just don’t stumble on the waves

We all want to go there something awful

But to stand there, it takes some grace”

This is true. We want to find that perfect someone. Or even that imperfect someone. Just someone to share our lives with. We want it “something awful.” But we need grace to stand still. To wait. Whether we’ve been married and had a taste of that matrimonial communion or whether we’ve never been married… we all need grace to stand there, waiting for God’s will to happen.

“It’s OK to be lonely as long as you’re free?” 

Rich Mullins was a bright and gifted man. He had a keen spiritual insight and was right about a lot of things. But maybe he was wrong about this. He died in a tragic car accident when he was only 42. He remained single, so he never experienced that married perspective that Brother Don shared with me in his pickup that day on the way to church.

I think my old preacher was right. We don’t have to kid ourselves that loneliness is good just because we’re free.

Sometimes we’re just lonely. Empty. It’s part of our calling as single Christians. But God gives us the grace to “stand there” if we ask for it.

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14 Comments

  1. Dawn-58330 May 15, 2012

    Chris, seems we have some things in common. I appreciate your insight here. I’ve never really thought about being single being about feeling free. I suppose it is at times. More often than not I’ve found it alone, solitary. Sometimes empty, but not always. Like you, I treasure Rich Mullins’ gift of music to us. I will say hello to KY for you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Chris Easterly
    Chris Easterly May 16, 2012

    Thanks, Dawn! Yeah, being single encompasses a lot of feelings, doesn’t it? Free, lonely, empty, expectant, etc. I’ve always found that Rich Mullins’ music speaks to that wide range of emotions too. Love him. Give my best to our home state. :-)

  3. Donna-829006 May 17, 2012

    I have been divorced since 1997. And I was only married a bit over 2 years. I have not really dayed. I have always surrouned myself with many friends. That all changed for me on 08/29/05. That was the day Katrina changed my life. My life has never been easy. I have had health problems since I was 19months old. I have struggled with everthing in my life. My Mom the beautiful Catholic woman she is has always told me, ” offer it up to the Lord.” I didn’t understand what that truly ment until not long ago/
    Anyway, after Katrina I was relocated to Houston, TX then to Mandeville,LA. Finally I settled with my parent in Covington,LA. I did not know at the time that God had a reason for everthing I went through all my life.
    At first I was lonily. But my being single and childless and on disability I was the child picked by default to be with them. Well not long after being in our new home, Mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and Dad always had heart problems but Katrina put him into an early Alzheimer’s. I had originally had planned to move back to New Orleans and be around my peps again and rejoin my life.
    Well that was over 6 years ago. My life had a dramatic change as well as I did. I had a difficult time meeting people out here and there is nothing to do so sometime I would just mope.
    Being away from the evil temptations of the city and no friends around here and thing with my parents was becoming more difficult. My health was getting worse which I thought was because of the stress both emotional and physical. I figured I would turn to the one I could always count on, who I have often leaned on at my lowest. Yes, the Lord. I really strated to pray. I knew at this point that God has put me there to be there to help my parents. I accepted that this was God’s plan for me and I was not about to turn my back on the 3 that have always been there for me, God, Mom and Dad. I just was worried that I wasn’t strong enough to do a good job and didn’t want to let anyone down. So I kept praying for strength and patients. All of a sudden one sunday at mass I felt the Holy Spirit enter my heart. I had never felt anything like this before. Ever since then my life has become so wonderful. I am the happiest I have ever been. Oh finally the doctors diagnosed me with Addison’s Disease which they think I have had since the tramatic illness I had as a baby but I was treated for years for symptoms. And that was the exact opposit way to treat Addison’s. So physically I am so very much better. And all these positive things just keep falling into place. I am getting ready to go back to school for a psych degree and with the ministry work I am already involved in I will able to do more and hopefully after I no longer have my parents I am going to start doing missionary work. Life is GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    So don’t wast your time feeling alone. It’s not worth the energy it takes. I was actually thinking earlier today about my past life. I suddenly realised that I don’t even remember what it felt like when I was unhappy. There is a George Harrison song “Blow Away”. The jist of the song is he feels alons and unhappy then he remembered all that he has to do is be happy and love the Lord. As the song goes on he keeps moving into a better place because he stopped thinking about how bad things can be and just love the Lord and be happy in the Lords love. There is a couple of lines in the song that are how I felt not being able to remember what it felt like to feel empty alone and unhappy. It, “…about to go down..then suddenly I remembered all I ahve to do is to is to love you, all I have to be is to be happy….It’s instan amneasia, the yin to the yang.”
    Please do spen your life feeling alone. You are never alone. Remembered what the Lord said, ” Fear not, for I am with you…”

  4. Anne-702606 May 23, 2012

    All said and done the truth is at first in the book of Genesis God created a man Adam but later God found out that Adam needed a helper, he was lonely and God removed Adam’s rib and created a woman who is his helper.

    Single life you can be free as you think and do anything your pace but later you will sincerely realize you are missing something in your life. A partner who you will share lots of things together, you can never buy love or peace not matter how much money you have. You need a partner to love and cherish until end.

    Anne
    from Kenya

  5. Michael-113430 May 27, 2012

    Whatever state (married, never, divorced, annulled), we are likely to feel empty and alone at times. But we must endure. We must risk. We must grow. Recommend Fr. Andrew Greeley’s “Life of a Wanderer” -good insights centered around the Virtues. And a scary comment on those who do not risk and who don’t grow -which, in his framework, is a lack of trust in God..

  6. Carrie-529869 June 4, 2012

    I find this musing on the line by Rich Mullins missing the point. He’s not talking about “freedom” as the world defines it…as in “freedom from responsibility or free to do what you want”. He’s talking about the freedom that Christ gives. Free from sin, being set free from the chains that hold us down, the freedom to love.

  7. Chris Easterly
    Chris Easterly June 5, 2012

    Hi, Carrie. I guess I’ve always interpreted that lyric as meaning more of a worldly freedom than spiritual freedom, because he mentions freedom in the context of being lonely. But there’s certainly more than one way to interpret it so thanks for your comment! Too bad Rich isn’t around for us to ask him.

    • Carrie-529869 June 5, 2012

      Well, listening to all of Rich’s talks and knowing the lyrics he has written, I don’t think Rich would ever tout a worldly freedom, and propose that it was a good.

  8. Kathy-779734 June 8, 2012

    My thoughts were those of Carrie’s exactly. :)

  9. Diane-173836 June 8, 2012

    I agree, Carrie. Rich’s lyrics, talks and writings speak often about freedom from worldly shackles, the freedom that can only be found in Christ. Also, I think it’s important to note that his lyric did not say “It’s GOOD” but rather “It’s okay” to be lonely… God Himself said in Genesis that it is not good for man to be alone; but it can be okay to be lonely, insomuch that we all – married, single, or religious – will not experience the complete fullness of who we were created to be until we experience perfect union with God in heaven. So in that sense, our earthly loneliness reflects a deeper ache for that eternal union.

    • Diane-173836 June 8, 2012

      From “Rich Mullins: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven”: “Even when I was engaged, even then… in those most intimate moments of our relationship, I would still feel really lonely. And it was just a few years ago that I finally realized that friendship is not a remedy for loneliness. Loneliness is a part of our experience and if we are looking for relief from loneliness in friendship, we are only going to frustrate the friendship. Friendship, camaraderie, intimacy, all those things *and* loneliness live together in the same experience.” ~ Rich Mullins

      “I think that part of being human is being alone. And being lonely. I think one of the stresses on a lot of our friendships is that we require the people we love to take away that loneliness. And they really can’t. And so, when we still feel lonely, even in the company of people we love, we become angry with them because they don’t do what we think they’re supposed to. Which is really something that they can’t do for us.” ~ Rich Mullins

      “When you are praying alone, ad your spirit is dejected, and you are wearied and oppressed by your loneliness, remember then, as always, that God the Trinity looks upon you with eyes brighter than the sun.” ~ Saint John of Kronstadt

  10. Annette-883345 August 26, 2012

    Wow, I found this today and exactly when I needed to read/hear it… to stand still in God’s Grace and wait for His will to be revealed…. I am struggling with being patient with God. I was married for 16 years, divorced just about a year ago…. my ex-husband just quit…. decided he was not happy and wanted to be done with our marriage. It is extremely lonely at times. Being thrown from a couples world to being a divorced, single, part-time mom leaves me a lot of alone time….. and I struggle with how and with whom to spend it……. and also struggle because some days I do not want to put the trust and effort forth to build another close relationship… and then other days I want so badly to have someone special to share my life with….. so, thanks for the wisdom: to stand still in God’s Grace and wait for His will — His timing….. I will make that my prayer!

  11. Mae-976460 June 18, 2013

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful insights about being single. Yes, it’s true that somehow you feel free to do anything you want when you are alone and single. But there are times that you would feel the emptiness in your heart, and you are not free from feeling it. God is the only one who could help us.

  12. Guy C. October 19, 2013

    Speaking for myself, I would feel a lot of better about being single, if God just came out and told me I was unfit for marriage. Instead, I am left wrestling with loneliness, confusion, fear, and an inability to accept my state in life. In short, I am too scared and confused to know what God’s will is for me right now. I had bad experiences with women, including one that became engaged to somebody else without telling me. Yes, there is a lot of pain being single, but I guess I can always just continue doing what I am doing. I think the church also teaches that a man MUST pursue the woman if he is serious about marriage, but I am too paralyzed with fear and confusion to even think about doing that again. Nothing is clear to me right now.

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