When our oldest sister was struggling to get pregnant, it was hard for me to listen. Unsure of what to say, we would pray for her, wait with her and watch to see what happens. Each time she felt flutters. Each time she was disappointed, until years later now she has 3 beautiful children. It really broke our heart to see what she went through and I only share this not to expose her or make a story of her pain and her broken dreams, but because it was hard to understand just how much it hurt her. It was easy to encourage her and tell her not to give up. But even as her sister I didn't get it. I couldn't feel the pain. I could see it, but I couldn't help.
When something happens to your sisters it awakens a beast inside you that you didn't know was there, like a sleeping tiger in your heart. It just bursts out in half panic and half manic defense. But even in those situations, I had so much hope even when she had none. It was crucial that we were there for her even when she couldn't feel how much her pain hurt us.
My sister's younger children are now a year old or so, so when I start to casually ask, "Soo... when are you going to-" they are quick to respond with, "Soo... when are you going to get married?" And I start to realize that the rat race doesn't end up with singlehood. It's almost like that's when it begins.
It's taught me that the doubt and social exclusion we feel being single is not just for single people. It's part of being human. Everyone doubts themselves and feels left out and weird, no matter what their vocation. If you're married with two beautiful children, you probably wish you had three. If you're a newly wed on the best honeymoon ever, you probably wish you had a better job to get back to or a fancier house or less debt from the wedding.
Nothing is ever enough unless you have gratitude for wherever you are, no matter the stage of life, no matter what. Even those who have nothing can feel like they have enough, and certainly those who have less than you. So when you figure out how to do that - let me know. Better yet, write a book and make a million dollars and then just give it to me. Thanks.
I know my sister looks at her kids now and feels the great consuming love of a mother, but it's not as if her life is easier. She may not feel "lonely," but she still has just as many opportunities for people to treat her like a failure, judge her decisions. Its frustrating to see how people just won't give her a break. I still have to calm myself down when I feel like someone is giving her a tough time or she doesn't have enough help. We still have opportunities to pray for her, wait with her and watch... to see what happens. Who will her children be when they grow up? And what will SHE be when they grow up?
I tell this story because my middle sister, who has had to counsel both of us for the last five years, compared this process to me, and my "search for a soul mate."
Each time I went on a magical first date I would tell her all about it. Each time I felt flutters. Each time I was disappointed. Now, I have a long list of ex boyfriends and my highest hopes are that I will be the patron saint of break-ups. Because I've been through a lot of them. I'm like the Girl who Cried Husband.
Miscarriage and break-ups aren't the same. They really can't be compared and I'm not trying to say my sister and I have suffered equally because we definitely haven't. But they are both the death of a dream. I'm not sure if guys think about their future children and what your life would be like, but I know girls do. One of the hardest parts of a break-up is letting go of the future you would have had with that person, the security you felt for an instant, even if you let your imagination get away with you and you'd planned your monogrammed towels.
The season of singleness has become one of the most common crosses I see young women and men struggling to carry these days. I've read a thousand articles on "waiting," and discernment, but it all comes down to one cross: loneliness.
But loneliness, let me tell you, is not a cross held exclusively by the single. And intimacy is not guaranteed in marriage. Love is patient, kind, endures all things, hopes all things, believes all things and love is the antidote to loneliness, they key to intimacy. Love never fails. (1 Cor 13)
Let chastity be your crown. St. Jose Maria Escriva encourages us to let chastity be the crown of triumph. And Jesus Himself reminds us that in this world we will have toruble. WE will have trouble and feel alone no matter what; out of love for Christ we choose the chaste single life because we know it is what we ought to do. The chaste single life is not comforting, so don't look for comfort. Await conviction that what you're doing is right. Sometimes, you're called to simply be an angel of hope for others. You're asked to carry a torch that shows even in seeming loneliness, you find joy. I once heard this vocation called the generous single life. In giving your life to many, you are able to model the universal mission of the Church. I wouldn't change my last 7 years as a youth minister for anything. Consider the great joy of missionary life. You are able to take care of many, many people without feeling guilty about abandoning duties to your spouse and children. Your free time - though I know you probably don't have much - is a gift to the Church, your family and yourself.
Store up your treasure in heaven. Comparing someone's wedding photo to your 7am selfie is not fair or God's will. Some married couples, and families, also serve as missionaries in the world. How do they do this? Because they know that the foundation of who we are is with God. In heaven, we are neither married nor given in marriage.
Truth is, even those with a significant other are probably just as happy as we are. They might have the ease and comfort of having a date or someone to watch TV with. But they also have the discomfort and challenge that it is to be married. No vocation is free from pain or loneliness; no matter what someone's state of life, holiness is relative. Jealousy will not help you get married; it will only help you rush discernment to get what you want, when you want it. Try to see those who have everything you want as someone you can pray for. They aren't the enemy; jealousy is. Both you and your Idol have the same opportunities to choose grace, or choose pain, on your path to sainthood.
In my decade of singleness, I watched my sisters marry and helped raise their children. I prayed through the best years of "fertility," trying not to let that time bomb tick. I felt the sting, dread and terrible sadness of countless break-ups. But I continually think back to the story of my sister's marriages and love only gave them strength to survive the duties that love required. Marriage is a lot of give and take, highs and lows. You survive because of love. You go through storms because of the sin of the people you love.
And so it is with you.
We become convinced that something is here, the timing is right, because we get confused with God's timing and our "sensations." There's more to peace and a romance that fits than our desire for it. But how do we get to a place where we aren't always singing Wouldn't it be nice if we were older? You know the more we seem to talk about it... it only makes it hard to live without it.
There is, and should be, a bigger dream in your life than marriage. Your happily ever after is Christ, and His desires for you. What he's called you to now is just as adventurous, sacrificial and God-glorifying as marriage. How is that wish to see Him and serve Him coming true every day? What are the graces he's showered on you in the last week? It may not be someone to flatter you or give you attention, but He is courting your heart. Don't miss the dozen roses he's leaving at your door every night, and the mercies he pours on your heart every morning.
Hope, o my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end. (St. Teresa of Avila, Excl. 15:3)