In my last post, I wrote about the “fruitfulness” of childless couples—about how God will work through their self-donation to each other to bring his love into the world, and how they need to to focus not just on each other, but on the ways they bring God’s life into the world.
Lovely for married people and all, but what about the rest of us?
I thought about this the other evening as I was watching the movie Ghost Town. It’s the story of a grumpy, self-absorbed bachelor dentist who develops the ability to see dead people. They see that he sees them, and they inundate him with requests for help with their “unfinished business” in this life, so that they can move on to the afterlife. He, of course, has no interest in helping them.
I won’t give away the entire movie, but I will tell you that his life is changed by Albert Einstein’s quote “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” Einstein wasn’t Catholic, but his words echo that profound line in the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes: “Man, being the only creature created for his own sake, finds himself only in a sincere gift of himself.”
Notice it doesn’t say “married man” or “people who give themselves to each other in marriage.” It’s addressed to all of us.
It isn’t just the married people whose self-gift can bring God’s life into the world. It’s all of us. Single, married, divorced, widowed—we’re all called to the spiritual “fruitfulness” that brings us out of ourselves and leads us to Einstein’s ”life lived for others.”
In my previous post, I talked about how God works through the sexual union of married couples to bring new life—physical or spiritual or both—into the world. That’s what human sexual expression is about—it’s about total self-gift leading to life.
So where does that leave us singles? We understand that we’re not supposed to be having sex. So where does our fruitfulness come from?
A wise priest once told me that we singles find our spiritual fruitfulness—or life-giving potential—in giving ourselves to Christ (and it doesn’t have to be in an “I give myself to you forever in formal consecration” kind of way). Whenever we surrender ourselves to God, whenever we say, “I want to set aside my own will in this situation and follow Your will, because I trust You,” we are uniting our lives to His, and He will use that gift to bring His life into the world.
It seems so easy: and sometimes it is, but sometimes it’s not. I first learned about this when I was suffering in the aftermath of a failed adoption. I had prayed, had received what I thought were clear signs that God was calling me to move ahead, and yet the adoption didn’t work out and I was left with a broken heart. I learned that even in the midst of that pain, I could give the entire situation to God, and that He would somehow use it to bring His life into the world, in a way I will probably never understand in this life. It didn’t end the grieving, but it brought me comfort in the midst of it.
I think one of the greatest dangers of single life is the tendency to focus on ourselves. It’s easy to do, but I suspect we have all had those moments where we realize the wisdom of Gaudium et Spes, that we really don’t find ourselves until we give ourselves away. Yet, we don’t always know how to do that. We reach out to people where we have the opportunity, but that doesn’t feel like enough. What is God calling me to? How can I bring God’s life into the world?
Fortunately, we don’t have to figure it all out ourselves. We can just give it God. We can surrender ourselves, or situations and our suffering to Him. We can focus on Him instead of ourselves. We can allow Him to work through our lives.
We can look forward to the next life, when we will finally see all of the spiritual “children” we helped bring into this world.