A Love Worth Fighting For

“What really matters in life is that we are loved by Christ and that we love Him in return. In comparison to the love of Jesus, everything else is secondary. And, without the love of Jesus, everything is useless.”

–St. John Paul II

I want to tell you a story. But first, I want to share a secret. In order to be happy, and I mean like really happy, you’re going to have to do the work.  And you can avoid that work, fight it, ignore it, pray it goes away… but it won’t; happiness is only truly found in His love and devotion.  So while you may have found some fleeting glimpses of joy in the things of this world, there is nothing that can compare with my dear Savior’s Heart.

So here’s the story.

Once upon a time, a little girl was adored and loved; I mean, deeply loved.  At night, after her bath, she would wander into the kitchen in her pajamas.  There, she would find her father and mother talking over the stove as dinner was being cooked.  “Daddy, I am ready for you to dry my hair now,” she would say.  Quickly, he would stop what he was doing and walk with her to the bathroom, where he would blow-dry and brush her hair, while telling her, “Look in the mirror!  Who is the most beautiful girl in the whole world, even more beautiful than Ms. Universe?!” “ME!” She would exclaim, basking in the adoration and love she experienced, knowing that she was safely and deeply loved and cared for.

I was cherished as a child, loved beyond measure, and adored with every ounce of my parents’ being.  I never missed a meal, I never wanted for anything, and I never went to sleep in fear for my life.  In fact, even as an adult, I have no worries that I won’t eat, that I may not be able to pay my bills tomorrow, or that I am not still unconditionally loved by two people in this world.

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a wife and mother.  The love I received was an example of the kind of love I cherished. Was I loved perfectly? Of course not; only God can love us perfectly.  Yet, I had an example of a love that was a lasting, a love that, in many ways, I would want my children to experience.

The books I read were always about love, the movies I watched were about romance, and the relationships I experienced were filled with deep devotion (or, maybe just infatuation).  Nowhere in my life plan could I have imagined I would be single (and childless) at thirty-one.  No, what I thought was that him (or any other “him”) would/could be the one; you know, the one who would ride in on that horse and save me.  (True story: He did save me…just didn’t need a horse to do it!).

What an awakening I was in for; all of my plans were simply about one thing: me.  They were crafted by a very scared twenty-something year old girl who was terrified to be the woman in her thirties with no husband, no child, and {gasp} no prospect; fears that were formed all too deeply based on the opinions of others and the selfish need to check things off my to-do list.

Ironically, my current life is my favorite chapter thus far.  No relationship I have ever had compares in the slightest to the joy I have now; and it isn’t because of me.  No, it’s simply because of Him.  Living for Him, and not the hims of this world, is the key to true happiness.

I’ve written a good deal about this subject over the last couple of months.  I’ve been told countless times to share my story/heart, to speak to the reality of being single yet called to marriage; and the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, is this: there is no magic formula, nor perfect answer, that is going to satisfy everyone.  The thing about life is this: if you’re doing His will, you are going to be filled with joy, and you will be complete.  In fact, the most perfect, most joyful, most peaceful and complete act in the entirety of history was Christ’s death on the cross.  Did He suffer? Yes.  Did He hurt? Yes. Did He weep? Yes.  But He did what He was called to do.  And we, my dear sisters, are no different—we are called to do what He commands.

I realized at one point (fairly recently) that I cannot do all this on my own.  It’s no surprise that my word for the year has been “surrender”.   And honestly, I am so glad I hit rock bottom after attempting to manage my life for so long. So, in order to do justice to this whole vulnerability thing, I want to offer some advice (and ask some questions) to you single women:

To all the single ladies:

1. Do you trust that He has a plan for your life?  I mean, truly and completely trust that He is taking care of everything and that all you simply must do is comply?  If the answer is no, it’s time to submit.  It’s easy for us to pretend that this God of the universe has our back and is managing things.  Yet, it’s really challenging to actually live it when we find ourselves stuck in a rabbit hole we created.  Bad relationships, fear, uncertainties, comparison—we women, because of Eve, do a HORRIBLE job with letting our dear Father hold onto our hearts.  We continually try to manage all of our affairs, specifically those of the heart.  And until you let go, you will never experience the fullness of all He has to give.

2. Do you know your vocation? I don’t mean what YOU want; I mean, do you know what He is calling you to?  How are you called to live out holiness in this life?  I hear so often from people that He hasn’t told them the specifics of their vocation.  Here’s the thing about God: If He hasn’t “told” you an answer, there are two possible options: you aren’t listening (meaning, you aren’t praying or being silent enough), or He is calling you to wait until He is ready to tell you-meaning, keep praying and listening.  I recently found myself telling a priest that I simply didn’t want to date again, and that honestly, maybe I should just live the consecrated life as a lay person.  He said, “Betsey, you can’t run away from marriage. You have to run toward the single life or the consecrated life.”  And in that moment, my dear Father gave me another pearl of grace: He reminded me that marriage is my calling.

3. Deal with your treasure chest of issues. Wounds don’t heal themselves; you have to tend to those things. Truth: either you deal with them now pre-marriage, or you deal with them during marriage.  You decide which is fairer to future hubs (and your possible future children).  One of the greatest gifts God has given me is the opportunity to grow in holiness, to allow Him to really sort out some things in my life, pre-marriage.  Had He not, there is no telling how my life story (and my eternity) would have concluded.

4. Stop feeling sorry for yourself!  Seriously…stop!  You aren’t pathetic, you aren’t an old maid, you aren’t pitied. No one looks at you and thinks: “Wow, that poor woman.  No one loves her and she just can’t get a man.”  And if they think that? They just don’t get it, and you should be the LEAST of their concern.  As gently as I can say this, I am going to: I am so saddened by this mentality that pervades the atmosphere in which we exist that asserts so many lies about single women.  You are not inferior to married women! I have said this before in an article and will say it again: marriage isn’t the goal, and it isn’t something that lies just beyond the fields of waiting.  Marriage is a tool for holiness.  It took me awhile to wake up and realize that my current life is not less than the lives of my married friends.  It isn’t inferior, it isn’t beneath, it isn’t inadequate; no, it’s actually really full.  And I want each of you to start vocally saying the same thing to yourself!  You, my lovely sister, are ENOUGH simply where you are because He has you there for a reason.  And if it’s good enough for Him, it’s perfect to me.

5. This is your dang life. Wake up, serve Him, go to bed, repeat. Marriage isn’t going to solve your problems.  God isn’t looking down from amongst the clouds and thinking, “She’s a real waste of space and her life simply doesn’t matter till I bring her that man she wants…” No, God wants you to look to Him NOW and to entrust your life to Him.  You have something to offer this world.  And the more you look at what you don’t have, the more you miss what you do have.

6. Be honest with yourself about what you want and what you have to offer.  For the most part, I dated guys I could never marry.  Why? Because I had no idea what I was missing, and I was dating for the wrong reasons. Once I embraced what I truly wanted and what I really deserved, I could be much more specific about who I was being called to marry.  I wasted YEARS of my life on men who had literally NO concern for my soul or my heart; heartbreak, tears, sadness, depression, anxieties, mistakes, lack of sleep, money, etc. all because I simply didn’t trust God (and trust me, I wasn’t a peach to deal with either).  Do I regret it?  No. Why? Because I would not be half the woman I am today without the lessons learned during those years.  And I pray one day, should His mercy allow me to be a Saint, that I can truly know that, “Every Saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.”

7. If you aren’t getting asked out, you’re going to have to face reality—there is a reason for it.  I won’t go through a list here, but I will tell you: it’s time to take a personal inventory and a real thorough look at things, and ask yourself what is going on. You don’t get to delay things forever. If you are called to the religious life, get going.  If you are called to the married life, start preparing.  But at some point, you have to ask yourself what He is calling you to and how you must cooperate with His grace to get there.

There is a deep longing in each of our hearts to love; we were created from Love and for Love.  Yet, we are all called to love Him differently, although completely.  When you die, God isn’t going to say, wow, you really didn’t work hard enough to find a husband.  Instead, He’s going to ask you how you knew Him, how you loved Him, and how you served Him. If that is within the vocation of marriage, then it’s up to you to entrust your future spouse to His providence. If it’s within the vows of a religious vocation, then you must discern where He is calling you.

The hardest step in this spiritual journey is the first. It’s the steepest, the rockiest, and the darkest.  Yet, it’s also the most beneficial.  So go ahead and take that leap.  And see what kind of surprises He has in store.

The greatest question He has continually asked me moment by moment is, “Will you let Me be enough?”  Yes, Lord.  You are all that I need, and more.

“Jesus, my Lord, my God, my all!

How can I love Thee as I ought?

And how revere this wondrous gift,

So far surpassing hope or thought?”

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