“The future is in your hearts and in your hands. God is entrusting to you the task, at once difficult and uplifting, of working with Him in the building of the civilization of love.”
-Saint John Paul II
“So…I really want to extend my dating fast.” Those words had been floating around in my head for a few days, and as much as it terrified me to think they were true, it was a fact—I was absolutely loving my freedom, my time of rest, and most importantly, my time with God. It was highly unexpected, and although I still had a few months to go, I really was hoping it wouldn’t end.
And then my spiritual director, in all his wisdom, said no (at least for the time being). Insert, eye roll emoji.
With that reality, the fact that I was in love with my single life hit me as something I hadn’t really experienced before. I discovered that I didn't mind my own company, that I didn't necessarily have to have someone around all the time. Instead, I was discovering what it meant to be detached - not from others - but from wanting others around me just for my sake rather than for theirs. This kind of detachment was really new for me, and it felt incredible.
Authentic detachment, I found, has nothing to do with selfishness. And it's not about being alone or without loves; it simply means that we love those that God sends to us for His sake and not for our own. It's not about loving in order to get something in return. Instead, it's about loving as Jesus loved, without self-interest. " . . . Even as I have loved you, that you also love one another" (John 13:34).
One thing I noticed when I recognized my joy in this new place in life was the beauty of personal freedom and lack of worry. I didn’t have to wonder if someone was going to call or text, I wasn’t obsessed with the idea of my next date, and I wasn’t attached to any outcome. And, y’all, it was an amazing feeling.
But, then, I got to spend some time really delving into what that meant, and I realized that our lives should be this way regardless of whether we are dating or are not. This is where true freedom lies—in being really content and at ease wherever God has us. It is about embracing the relationships He sends us and not those we seek out for our own gain. We shouldn’t be concerned with what others think of us and how they will respond to us; we shouldn’t worry about what comes next in our lives and prepare for every little possibility; and we shouldn’t be so focused on what we don’t have that we overlook the gratitude of all we do have.
At the present moment, I wasn’t worried that God would all of a sudden call me to the religious life, or whether I would ever get married or be a mother; in fact, I didn’t even really think about it. Rather, I was free to take each day as it came and allow God to use me in the moment. I could be an instrument with no attachments—I could speak at events, volunteer, and allow God to pull me in whatever direction I was presently called. I was at His disposal.
Although I deeply regret not being able to experience this at a younger age, “the teacher appears when the student is ready”, and I cannot deprive others of lessons I can share simply because I wish I could have avoided the mistakes and pain myself. Indeed, if I had to suffer for my own poor choices in order to save someone else from doing so, I would call it a win.
I started to notice in my interactions with others that I was less concerned with gaining something from another than actually just being a sister and friend. I could become friends with guys without worrying about it going somewhere (and by simply being honest from the beginning, I was able to form deep friendships with no intention on either side). Yes, learning to love men as my brothers was beautifully transforming; and I found myself loving them simply for their existence and not what they could do for me.
I began to recognize more what “harmless” flirtation can do to another and how that can affect those around you. I was careful to not be too friendly, and I was cautious in my motives behind my conversations. I also noticed the impact that social media can have on relationships, and how careless communication can be dangerous and hurtful to individuals.
While I knew my joy at this time was entrenched in His love, I also knew that it was simply a new feeling and experience. To be completely unattached to the world and all it had to offer was something I wouldn’t trade for, well, the world.
Although I knew that my spiritual director wouldn’t allow me to avoid pursuing the path of marriage forever, and that come January, I would be released from my dating fast, I was amazed by the grace of God in my life at the current moment. And given the opportunity, I would obey whatever God called me to next as I stepped out into the deep, trusting His continual promises.
“Why, then, do you wander wide, poor child of earth, in your search after goods for body and soul? Love the One Good, in whom all good things are, and it is enough. For what do you love, O my flesh? What do you desire, O my soul? There it is, there it is: whatever you love, whatever you desire.”
– St. Anselm
Betsey Sawyer is an attorney and adjunct professor in Mississippi, and works for Women of Grace as the Mission Advancement Coordinator. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Photo courtesy of Eliza Kennard Photography)