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They met in Adoration.
He proposed on top of the Eiffel Tower after touring cathedrals all day.
She caught his eye on a silent retreat.
They had been friends since high school, and a dance changed everything.
All these different stories are from real friends of mine. And they all sound like something out of a Catholic Hallmark movie.
But they are real stories, not fabricated. And aren’t they beautiful? These are the starry-eyed stories their grandchildren will scoff at while secretly hoping to have the opportunity to be just as romantic someday. And don’t we all want a romantic love story?
But that, I think, is also the problem. We want the romantic parts of the story without the struggle. The first rule of writing a story is “there is no plot without conflict.” Our loving God and Author of our stories knows this. The Biblical narrative is full of conflict, journeys, struggle, climax, and resolution. But the modern era is steeped in a subtle yet pervasive lie; life should be easy, and when it’s hard, something is wrong.
The Cross of Christ is the ultimate example of love for Catholics, and yet so many of us can’t bear to look at it. The pain is too much, and we can’t endure it.
When we are in the midst of suffering ourselves, whether from feeling extremely lonely, despairing of ever finding a spouse, or settling for a less-than-Hollywood relationship just because we want someone there, it can be incredibly tempting to look at the ideal stories, like the ones I listed at the beginning, and start to hate our own stories. The “if only” and “I should” and “what if” thoughts begin to creep in.
So often, though, we ignore the painful parts of someone else’s story; the breakups, the miscarriages, the long-distance relationships, or worse.
As Teddy Roosevelt said, “comparison is the thief of joy.” And if we truly believe God has a plan for us, why do we try so hard to imitate someone else’s story instead of trusting the plan? Their story is not your story. Your story is not going to be a poor copy of someone else’s life. God does have a plan for you, including your love life. And He hasn’t forgotten about it.
If we are so concerned with what hasn’t happened yet, then we forget to live in the moment. We are unable to be grateful for the gifts God has given us in this season. Spend time with a family and you start to understand how much freedom and time you have as a single person.
And as Gandalf said, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” One of the things that sets the average from the extraordinary is intentionality. What do you do with your time? How do you invest in your life right now? Are you procrastinating because you think “later” will be better, or do you learn what you can today?
You might be called to marriage, but you are definitely, always, eternally called to holiness.
Sainthood is our highest vocation. Marriage and family life, the priesthood, religious orders, and consecrated virginity are paths to get there. But if we focus too much on those paths, we forget to move forward with our lives and they are merely reduced to labels. And our lives are so much more than mere labels. You are so much more than just a “single Catholic.” You are wonderful and fearfully made. You are beloved. You are gifted. And you’re probably really funny, too.
Investing in your life now, while you are unattached and single, allows you to dive deeply within your heart with Christ to become as whole and healthy as you can be, before you are involved in a relationship.
Do you need to balance your hormones? Make a doctor’s appointment. Do you have trauma from your past that needs healing? Find a therapist. Do you struggle with commitment issues? Seek out structure. There is no magic wand to fix you and make you perfect, but that’s not the point of seeking healing. It’s to become more like the person God has created you to be so that His work may be continued in your life.
And it’s okay to not be perfect. Our weakness gives others the chance to love us. And receiving love is just as important as being able to give love. As the Lord told St. Paul, “My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).
I am a strong believer that you should go after your dreams even when you’re afraid.
If you want that master’s degree, send out the application. If you want to live abroad, get your passport and do some research. If you want to go on mission, call the organization that lights up your heart most and find out what they need from you. Write your novel. Climb the mountain. Learn to cook. And this practice of listening to God’s voice in your heart about personal things will help you learn how to discern His will from your own selfishness in relationships.
Remember, He made your heart and knows what’s in it. Ask the Lord why those desires are in you, look around and see where the world needs your passion, and do something about it.
Invest in your life. Have patience in your suffering. And find the joy God has entrusted to you to share with the world.