Last time we discussed the question that singles face: to search or not to search? Do we order our lives around finding a spouse, submerging ourselves in "target-rich environments" where the largest populations of eligible singles congregate? Or do we go about our business, doing God's will as best we know, trusting that He will provide that spouse in His time?
Our conclusion was that, just as Eve's presence in Adam's life was a gift from God, so the right spouse in our lives is a gift from God. John Paul II, in the Theology of the Body, says that Adam lived in "original solitude" until he received the gift of communion with Eve. He couldn't hasten her arrival. He had to wait on God.
And so, whether we search or not is no longer the important question. The question is whether or not we pray. Do we invite God into our search for a spouse? Do we trust Him and His timetable, or do we try to "force His hand' by setting our own goals and deadlines?
I've seen people order their whole lives around meeting eligible singles, and still never receive the gift of the right spouse. I've seen others receive that gift when they were just seeking to do God's will, making no effort whatsoever to meet single people. (My favorite example is Joan Andrews Bell, who was imprisoned for unplugging an abortion suction machine. She met her husband while she was in solitary confinement in a Florida prison. He read about her plight in the newspaper and decided to visit her in prison.)
So this leads many singles to the obvious question: "What about me? I pray, I try to do the right thing. And yet, I haven't received that gift. Does God love me less?"
It's a good question. What about us – those who seek but don't find, those who can't marry because of a physical or emotional problem, a homosexual orientation, or a previous valid marriage?
It's very tempting to get angry with God. "You made us to go through life in pairs, and then you put me in this situation where I can't. What are you doing to me? If you really loved me, you'd give me the gift of a partner."The next temptation is to go outside His plan to find that partner. Some settle for a spouse they know is not someone God intends them to be with. Others don't marry, but live in sexual relationships outside of marriage. All tell themselves "Surely God doesn't intend me to be alone the rest of my life."
But none of them find real peace, or real fulfillment.
I'm single. I've encountered this head-on. I know the fears, and I know the temptations.
But, through it all, I've learned something else. I've found that when we get so obsessed with wanting that one gift at all costs, we lose out on the other, beautiful gifts He wants to give us.
No, I'm not just talking about "But look – you have a good job, a nice home, blah, blah, blah." We know all that. It doesn't help. It's like a baby crying because he's hungry, while some smiling adult tries to distract him with a toy. The kid keeps crying. He needs food, not a stuffed bear.
We need companionship. We need intimacy. We need deep abiding love.
I've found that God has a special place in His heart for the unmarried. And I've found that, when we really turn our desire for a partner over to Him, He blesses that in a deep and profound way. He actually becomes that partner. He makes His presence known to us. He pours His love into us and fills us with His peace.
Please note, this profound experience of God is not generally the result of a casual prayer or a single encounter. We don't just march into our local Blessed Sacrament Chapel and announce, "Okay, God, my desire for a spouse is Yours. You can fill me with Your love now." It is the fruit of many, many hours in His Presence, of bringing our fears before Him, of wrestling with those fears, and of finally saying, "Okay. I'm scared to death of being alone for the rest of my life. I desperately want a partner. But I trust you. Thy will be done."
And meaning it.
No two people experience God the same way. He loves each of us uniquely and individually, and He speaks to our hearts in unique and individual ways. Some experience a long and abiding sense of His presence. Others – including some of His greatest saints -- experience His love briefly and powerfully, followed by long periods of dryness. Regardless, we can rest assured that He loves us, and is preparing our hearts for union with Him.
When we follow God and place our trust in Him, He blesses us – beyond our wildest expectations.