Yes, I know it’s been five months since I last updated Agony & Hope (eek!) – I appreciate your patience with my non-activity.
Unfortunately the last six months have seen some very real hardships in my personal life, which have taken their toll. As a result, I’ve let my writing take a backseat to be able to deal with this. It is ongoing, I’m afraid, so I ask for your prayers to help me get through a particularly difficult chapter of my life.
With that aside, though, I’m happy to be back! Today I want to tackle a topic that has been in my thoughts a lot lately. Helpfully, one of my readers (Harry) has made that task easier for me. He’s sent me the happy news that he’s met his bride and is to be married in a few months’ time.
Harry was one of the first to email me when I started this blog, to share his own thoughts and experiences on the difficulties of Christian dating in the 21st century. He has very kindly agreed to let me share it with all of you, too.
I wanted to discuss Harry’s story in part because I think it’s very hopeful for those of us still searching, but also because it touches on something that, more and more lately, I think is extremely important for everyone, but for those of us who are single in particular.
Having internally abandoned hopes of marriage, one night, in a moment’s loneliness, I set up a profile on one of these (audible wince) online dating sites. I really had no expectation of finding Mrs. Right on one of these sites – they seem to be filled with a large number of broken and peculiar people.
After a series of lukewarm responses I got a virtual wink from a beautiful girl named Caitlin whose profile I hadn’t even noticed. She had the warmest eyes and both sounded and looked angelic. I dropped her a message, we spoke, and a few months later I found myself kneeling in the rain asking her to be mine. Not long from now, I will have the great privilege of calling her my wife.
I have spent a great deal of time meditating on this great and mysterious gift, and I can attribute this to nothing but the Love and generosity of God, which far exceed any merit on my part, and to the virtues of my fiancée.
Hope remains, no matter how alien it might seem at certain moments. If God is calling you to marriage, He will provide someone who is a source of blessing and who will help you on your way to salvation and sanctification.
One piece of advice I would give is this: commit to doing God’s Will, whatever that may look like. It is an easy spiritual delusion to say to God that we want to do whatever He calls us to do, provided our calling happens to be an attractive member of the opposite sex. This is not submission to the Will of God.
We each say several times a day ‘Thy Will be done’. Do we really mean this, or do we actually mean ‘my will be done in such a way as to enable me to imagine that it is divinely sanctioned?’
Now, this might come across as trite Christian advice. You might be thinking, ‘yeah, yeah, trust in God. What else is new?’ But I encourage you to look a little deeper, particularly to really stop and think about Harry’s question, and how it may apply in your own life:
We each say several times a day ‘Thy Will be done’. Do we really mean this, or do we actually mean ‘my will be done in such a way as to enable me to imagine that it is divinely sanctioned?’
You might actually be praying in this way without even realising you’re doing it. I was! I only realised quite recently that for years and years, my prayer to God to find me a husband wasn’t really sincere.
Well, the request was certainly sincere, but the prayer wasn’t. When I think back to the prayers of my adolescence and early-adulthood, the image that comes to mind is of me standing beside God, eyes shut tight, with my hand clapped over His mouth, shouting my requests at Him incessantly. There was no dialogue, because I wouldn’t allow it. I had no conscious idea this is what I was doing, but when I came to be aware of it, I realised that a part of me had understood this on some level all along.
This kind of prayer was, paradoxically, actually preventing me from achieving my desired end, and the only way to recognise and overcome roadblocks like this is to earnestly and sincerely pray to discover God’s will, and to accept it.
This came home to me again very recently. I was speaking to a priest, bemoaning that I was still single, while friends of mine who cared far less about getting married than I ever did are already married or engaged. He said something in response which completely threw me: “maybe you want it too much”.
Want it too much? But marriage is an objective good – how can anyone want it too much? And yet, the truth behind his words pierced my heart.
It’s funny; at any other time, I could have heard those same words, and I would have had a ready answer. They’d have made no impact on me. I’ve discovered that sometimes God allows you to hear the same thing again and again, but you only truly hear it when you’re ready to. I understood in that moment that I had allowed the idea of getting married to get in the way of my relationship with God. I had made an idol of it, in a way – something I’ve previously told others not to do – though in a different way.
For so many years I’d asked God why He allowed others to get married and not me, especially others who had not set their hearts on marriage as I had. This always seemed deeply unfair to me, and I couldn’t understand how a truly just, truly wise and loving God could fail to appreciate this.
When the priest uttered these few words, however, I saw that God was probably keeping marriage from me for this very reason. After all, God knows us better than we know ourselves. Perhaps getting married at a younger age would have formed a wedge between God and me, because I still had not truly submitted to His will. I thought I had, but I realised I had been keeping some part of my will to myself. I was refusing to give Him absolutely everything – even if this meant accepting I might remain single to my dying day. Perhaps God is asking a greater sacrifice of me than others in this way. Whatever the reason, coming to this realisation freed me from the slavery that comes with imposing our will over God’s, however unconsciously done, and allowed me to grow in faith, love and maturity.
I believe I received this insight because I have been praying earnestly to understand and to accept God’s will no matter what.
This does not need to be discouraging or disheartening. In fact – I’ve shared Harry’s story to give you hope; to show you how necessary, and also how enriching, it is to submit entirely to the path God has laid out for you. His path tends to be different to what you expect, but it is always better than the path you would choose for yourself. God knows and loves you better than you, remember.
I’ll leave you with these final, hopeful words from Harry:
Trust in God. He will never disappoint you, and will not give a stone to his bread-starved children. May He bless you as richly as He has blessed me. God loves you and desires your salvation. Trust that He will accomplish what He has promised, and that He has stored up for you joys beyond your conception.
9 thoughts on “The Magic of Finding Your Spouse”
I just love this so much. “He knows us better than we know ourselves.” This is so true and if we truly let it sink it, it changes everything.
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Hmm…maybe you’re thinking too much. Your peers who got married probably didn’t think very deeply about what they were doing. They weren’t thinking “is this the person God wants for me.” They were thinking “I find this person attractive.”
Does God even have a will when it comes to this stuff? Does He give anything more than general directions? To me God is somewhere off in the distance. He was the first mover. Read the Bible and pray for guidance. That’s about all there is. People are free to do what they want to do.
CHRISTIAN FREEDOM- physically hand written by me.
THE TRUTH WAS SUPPLIED BY GOD.
IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD, AND THE WORD WAS WITH GOD, AND THE WORD WAS GOD. HE WAS IN THE BEGINNING WITH GOD. ALL THINGS CAME INTO BEING THROUGH HIM; and apart from HIM NOTHING CAME INTO BEING THAT HAS COME INTO BEING. IN HIM WAS LIFE ; and the life was the light of men. AND THE LIGHT SHINES IN THE DARKNESS ; and the darkness did not comprehend it. John Ch 1, Verses 1 -5.
TRUTH IS GODS GRACE AND HIS WILL.
Veritatis Splendor, sections 32, 33, 34 as authored by Pope John Paul II (J.P, II),this being a theological treatise on the aspect ratio’s that define the constitutional being of the finite and infinite chords of freedom, as applies to modern man as viewed by Christ’s church. In her wisdom the church has deemed finite and infinite freedom’s are in fact diametric and strangely paradoxical poles, of which finite freedom is considered a perversion to the formulation of recognised conscience, and quite rightly has led to what JP II called, “ a crisis of truth for the modern world” , and as Archbishop Fulton Sheen would have called it a revolutionary departure from traditional values.
As to the question, “Does Christianity limit freedom”? One could hold the conviction that Christianity certainly is aware of the limits of freedoms goods.
The Judeo – Christian religions within Western culture, and belief in God specifically, have been the key to functional and stable Western societies, that have been based on reasoned truth and faith in a God that has delivered universal human values, that are core to peaceful existence between neighbours, that is based on the freedom of the individual within those societies, to freely pursue the virtues ; to use Professor Iain Benson sentiments, it is the theological virtue of LOVE that perfects love of neighbour, that delivers true freedom- we experience this as peace.
So what constitutes freedom in the finite sense? Well it considers itself the “infinite source of those values that the secular / atheistic mind comprises as representative of the absolute in known truths that define freedom, devoid of the metaphysical portion. Here the individualistic organ of conscience, being the origin to what is considered to be good and evil, and subsequently the only platform available in the formation of moral judgements. But as JP II espouses, the problem now is that once man’s access to those absolute indelible truth’s that are embedded in his God given nature ( conscience and consciousness) are denied or spurned, all his’ left’ with is a veneer of the authentic and the sincere, and a peace that is denied its objective, potential. His judgement is a freedom whose full reality has been subjectively DENIED. John Paul II conclusion is that finite freedom has subjectified morality (reality) turning it on end. The conscience is now only relativistic to the individual whim, and in effect is denied routed reasoned potential in the primordial limit that is God. This leaves a resultant that is indifferent to the universality of the understanding of true human nature and value.
The idea of infinite freedom as considered by JP II , is a limited freedom, whose truths are realised through objective faith and reasoning of a greater truth that is accessed through union with the eternal limit himself, God. Genuine freedom and PEACE can only be realised through the all knowing infinite source of truth that is in conformance with our intended nature , as is known by God.
Briefly- furthermore, freedom is essential if there is to be choice to choose what is morally right.
Absolute freedom can only be brought / bought to being if man has the freedom to use his innate intelligence to truly recognise that freedom is wedded to morality, and this is the expression of what John Paul II called “ GENUINE” freedom, and this can only be conceived through man’s ability to pursue divine likeness through dialogue with God.
If you like, limited (finite) freedom restricts man’s access to universal choice. In short (summation)morality cannot be divorced from freedom . We need freedom of choice to appraise our failings, so as to arrive at the universal good. In the words of John Henry Newman, “ the objective conscience has a divine duty, to pursue revelation “.
As to humankind being free, this is a complex question. In one sense (selfishness) people are free to do what ever they want ( infinite freedom without limit on reason), you could consider this the ultimate freedom, but are they truly free of the yoke of burden? If the answer is in the negative, the yoke of burden has placed a limitation on this freedom, thus it could be considered a restriction, therefore denatured and finite . True infinite freedom is anchored in faith and reason (context- love, see catechism content on virtues, ie Jesus), that by choice pursues universal good in union with the divine. This effectively, by the nature of the very goodness sought , relieves man from the burden of evil, that results from bad decisions. Yes this is a restriction, but it is within truthful infinite freedom that man realises (finds)his true nature lies in the nature of God- this could be thought of as the calculus of freedom that seeks the divine for eternity.
In conclusion, I am (one is) of the belief that Saint John Paul II has given us the penultimate definition of the infinite as is Christ’s endowment of will, “ You will know the truth, and the truth will set you FREE”(Jn 8:32).
._. we free to choose freedom?
You might find this article by Aron Renn, AKA as The Masculinist interesting.
Can you keep a secret? Don’t be fooled by the opposite sex, it really is all about the figures,😊.
Oh , I had no idea that the whole dating scene is in fact a global phenomena. That being the case , I think what is called for, is a relationship levy/ tax – we need to lobby the WTO to reinstate a desirable tariff regime , so as to protect our home grow interests ( brand). Whoever said competition was desirable or even a good thing – what the world needs more of, is the monopolisation of relationships- go marriage you good thing,😊…..
“Maybe you want it too much.”
Perhaps this is true, but it isn’t very helpful and I certainly don’t find it that profound. You can’t stop yourself wanting something. Advice like this is up there with ‘you need to be more confident’, like there’s a dial somewhere in your soul which you just adjust up and down according to what you want to feel.
I think there’s something more helpful in the comment above, ‘Your peers who got married probably didn’t think very deeply about what they were doing. They weren’t thinking “is this the person God wants for me.” They were thinking “I find this person attractive.”’
I have been musing deeply over these issues for the past few months. I don’t know how much of it will be relevant to you and your own life, but I hope it might provoke some further reflection on your part and perhaps be of some help.
I think the problem particularly sensitive souls have is that they tend to be feel the sensation of having a hole in their hearts that can’t be filled; they’re acutely aware of their incompleteness, even if they can’t quite pinpoint what’s going on. Above all, they’re after a kind of union, or a kind of fusion or melding at a very deep level. This is quite distinct from lust but easily confused by most people, and might perhaps manifest as lust in some cases.
Looking for another person to scratch this particularly deep-seated itch seems like the most obvious solution, and I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad solution either. After all, God said it is not good that man should be alone, which I believe applies to everyone forever. We seek union and community, and have an irrepressible urge to find love and create new life, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s not quite the same thing, but telling someone they’re making an idol out of marriage (possible in some cases) can be a bit like telling a drowning man that he’s making an idol out of oxygen. Perhaps love and sex aren’t essential to life on an individual level, but on a meta level the survival of the human race does in fact depend on these things.
The problem is that we know on an intellectual level (but probably not on an emotional level) that no created being can actually fill this hole. The only being who can do so is God. As St Augustine said ‘you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you’. Consequently, any attempt to find completeness with anyone other than God is doomed to failure. With the particularly sensitive soul who tries to do this, the results are potentially disastrous. It seems to drive others away, as perhaps they understand at an instinctive level that they can’t perform in this role. I can also understand at some level why God might try and prevent this, by frustrating this person’s plans, saving them from perdition and instead trying to put their feet firmly on the road to salvation. I think in my case at least, the searing loneliness that has resulted has prompted very deep reflection and personal change.
But I also think this leaves the sensitive soul in a trap when they happen to have an overly pious, woefully limited and utterly joyless view of God and heaven. To use a ridiculous (but not completely inaccurate or irrelevant) example, tell a Christian, even a devout one, that their ultimate goal is union with God for all eternity, and they might secretly wonder how spending a trillion years stuck with a scowling old man with a big grey beard in disembodied, platonic, sexless boredom is going to bring them any happiness at all. (Interestingly, most Christians’ picture of God seems to resemble Zeus, and their view of the afterlife seems to be Hellenistic rather than Christian).
So where does this leave them? In a mad scramble to find a lover who really satisfies them in this life, before they have to go off and spend all eternity with the scowling old man with the big grey beard. Or contemplating God’s perfection by gazing on the beatific vision, which as good as it might be, still seems awfully unsatisfying compared to spending just one night wrapped in a lover’s embrace. If they miss the boat in this life, chances are they’ll feel alone for all eternity. Additionally, it’s said that God loves everyone, in which case how special can this love actually be? What they really want is someone who loves them exclusively, with whom they share something that nobody else has, something that is distinctly theirs.
Returning to St Augustine’s quote ‘you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you’: I wonder how many Christians mindlessly parrot this quote and pay lip service to the idea, but haven’t actually internalised it on a deeper level? I often feel like a good many professing Christians have an understanding of how following the commandments and doing good works leads to a better life here, but they follow Christ out of a sense of joyless obedience. They’re quite happy to accept the idea of God as a wise and benevolent ruler, but unable to picture God as their ideal lover, who they glimpse every time they see a beautiful man or woman or when they’re having a great time laughing and playing with their friends. To them, God’s love is a kind of intellectual abstraction rather than a lived experience. Consequently, the thought of spending all eternity in union with God is not very appealing.
I also wonder if this leads people to have an outwardly respectful but ultimately dishonest relationship with God. I think in my case it did; I remember at one point praying the psalms, praising God’s generosity and magnificence (etc.), and eventually just getting fed up and saying ‘Lord, we both know that I don’t really believe any of this – I’m lonely and angry and disappointed with life and every word coming out of my mouth feels like a lie. And no, I don’t want Thy will to be done if it involves me ending up alone and miserable – friends don’t do that to each other!’. Maybe not the most Christian-sounding sentiment, but God is big enough to deal with it and knows what you’re thinking anyway. It also clears the way for a relationship based on honesty I suppose.
Singleness and loneliness are, in my view, legitimate forms of suffering and a special kind of poverty. Sure, you may have enough money in the bank and food in the pantry, but there is still a need that is going unfulfilled and which society by and large does not view as a meaningful form of poverty. The single person does also seem to deal with a peculiar and often unrecognised form of humiliation on a daily basis:
‘What’s wrong with her?’
‘Why isn’t she married? No man wants her I guess’
‘She probably wasted her 20s riding the carousel (if you know what I mean) and now can’t find a husband!’
‘Sorry, all our rooms are doubles, we don’t have any single bed rooms’
‘I guess he’s the type of guy who can’t attract a woman – not much of a man, I suppose’
‘He’s probably gay – why doesn’t he just admit it and come out of the closet?’
‘Do you have a +1 you want to bring to the wedding? No? Maybe you could just bring a friend instead?’
I think loneliness can be transformative and bear fruit, even though it seems pointless. I don’t think this blog would have started or this conversation would have been initiated if you had been happily married in your early 20s, Anna. In this sense I think that this form of suffering can be a vehicle to help others and also come to a better understanding of God. At least I hope so.
Anyway, I realise this comment is probably longer than the original post so will stop here. Hope it helps.
You know, if I were a clergyman, I would’ve said something to the effect of “If you think being single is bad, read these stories about divorced people.” After observing the troubles of acquaintances, I think to myself “I can go home and not think about custody battles, court dates, etc.” Instead of paying for a guardian ad litem, I can buy myself a rare coin or go relax at a Waldorf Astoria.
Instead of thinking about the ideal husband from some novel, think about broken marriages. Think about a husband who goes bonkers one day and starts wearing women’s clothes. This stuff really happens.
Sean1868: yes, you are correct, things can be worse.
But I also think it’s a problem when we use failure as the benchmark.
Perhaps part of the magic , could also involve, being prepared to receive, lots n
lots, n lots, n lots , n lots ,n lots n lots of………. STREETS HEART ICE-CREAMS.
And for serious magic may I suggest Black Magic Chocolates by Rowntree.
And for caffeine induced magic the Italian chocolates BACI ARE A TREAT N A HALF.
And for magic of a more organic nature, it’s hard to pass up a good JAZZ apple.
And just like all good magic the contents disappear as surprisingly as they appeared. ‘Oh’, such is the appetite for, and nature of magic.