How many of us “kissed dating goodbye”?
How many of us re-kissed dating hello?
How many of us thought that a “yes” to chastity would ensure a secure road to having a wedding by 25, four kids by 35, and a lifetime of marital bliss?
How many of us never thought it would be quite this hard?
In my recent years of doing ministry I have met a plethora of young adults who have found themselves with the same story: “I did everything right... I obeyed all the rules. So why am I still not in my vocation?”
I have wrestled with these same questions myself.
While the problem of prolonged single-hood is highly complex and I do not pretend to have its solutions, I would like to discuss a few issues, which I believe are keeping many of us from choosing the marriages—and religious vocations—God is calling us to... And which I seldom hear being addressed.
It’s truly beautiful to witness so many people embracing the Church’s teaching on human sexuality: not only saving sex for marriage, but seeking authentic holiness with such fervor! And yet, in our broken humanity, it’s so easy to go toward one extreme or the other when, as Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas both said, “virtue is the mean between two extremes.”
I have done this countless times.
In my desire to do God’s will, I wanted to completely throw out my own free will. In my desire to find a good spouse and enter into a holy marriage, I over-spiritualized every little thing, forgetting to relate to men on the most basic, human level. And in my desire to save my heart for the man I will one day marry, I shunned many potential relationships, refusing to take any risks and step into the discomfort and vulnerability of the dating realm. And I see many young adults doing the same.
We are over-spiritualizing, overcomplicating, demanding to know if a relationship will result in marriage before we have even had a date with the person; trying to make decisions off signs rather than the true desires of our hearts. And furthermore... we are running.
We are running from intimacy.
We are running from commitment.
We are running from taking risks.
We are living in fear, and God calls us to freedom.
I see so many people today getting paralyzed somewhere along the way of these three basic steps... Steps which are necessary for any life choice, but especially when it comes to a vocation:
1. Take a risk.
We live in a culture of control. We demand to know the end result before we even try something. But dating involves risk. Love involves risk. It’s vital to guard our hearts and always use prudence, but we need to be willing to step out in faith and risk our hearts a little bit as well (again, virtue lies in the balance).
To ask a girl out without knowing whether or not she’s your future wife; to grow in friendship and love with a man even if he might walk away in the end. We need to ask ourselves what we are truly afraid of. Are we afraid of rejection? Of vulnerability?
Are we fleeing intimacy and calling it chastity?
Let’s not forget that intimacy is both joyful and uncomfortable, as it involves seeing both the beauty as well as the poverties of another... And revealing our own.
2. Make a choice.
I used to be the queen of indecision. I was terrified of making any choice for my life... What if it was the wrong one? What if it wasn’t God’s perfect plan? What if I chose one thing and later, something better came along? For years I felt an anxious need to keep all my options open.
This is pure misery. And it is not a problem unique to myself... It’s a problem our society struggles with at large.
We are afraid of commitment because we live under the illusion that something better is always lurking around the corner.
But by not choosing to move forward, we are choosing to remain in limbo. Yes, God has a perfect plan for our lives but we must cooperate. Only we can ultimately choose our vocations, and what kind of life we will live.
3. Be faithful to the choice that you make.
Countless times when I would make a decision in the past, and struggles would inevitably come, I would think, “Oh! This is hard! There is suffering and discomfort!... I clearly made the wrong decision.” And I would jet. Choose something else.
Our culture is bombarded with the message that not only is suffering bad, but that it’s abnormal. If there is discomfort or hardship, you must have gone down the wrong road... So leave. Choose something else.
Generations before us knew that suffering was a part of life. It’s a part of true friendship, relationships, marriage, parenthood, and any family life. The cross and resurrection are never far from each other, and with the joy of intimacy also comes pain. We need to understand that this is normal. And our generation needs to get a little more comfortable with discomfort.
I am right there with you... Still waiting and praying for the man God has for me. Learning, living and laughing lots along the way! I pray that we will have the courage to face our fears, open our hearts, choose love... And save the dates!