“Discovering that only in Me is your satisfaction to be found, will you be capable of the perfect human relationship, that I have planned for you. You will never be united to another until you are united with Me. Exclusive of anyone or anything else. Exclusive of any other desires or longings. I want you to stop planning, to stop wishing, and allow Me to give you the most thrilling plan existing…one you cannot imagine. I want you to have the best. Please allow Me to bring it to you.” -Be Satisfied With Me, attributed to St. Anthony of Padua.
For anyone who has ever had the experience of "falling" in love, it’s something that cannot be replicated by any other experience. It’s romantic, it’s fun, it’s beautiful…but often, it’s inconsistent.
Rather, love, as a verb, is foundational and consistent; it isn’t fleeting, but rather, is the act of total self-giving… to will the good of the other. Indeed, St. John Paul the Great stated, “Genuine love … is demanding. But its beauty lies precisely in the demands it makes. Only those able to make demands on themselves in the name of love can then demand love from others.”
And, Saint Teresa of Calcutta stated, “Love, to be real, must empty us of self.”
Often, we have to learn this crucial lesson-to be able to truly love Him and others, we must learn to be emptied of self, in order to gain the wisdom that true love is directed not at ourselves and our experiences, but rather, it points to the other.
For most of us, waiting is quite challenging. It can be very painful to endure the cross of waiting, to unite that suffering to our Lord’s very cross. We are required to wait for many things in our lives. However, in His goodness and mercy, God gently leads us through these periods of time to prune us; indeed, everything He causes or allows is for our own good to strengthen us in holiness.
Although it can be difficult to accept, it’s crucial we remember that as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways higher than our ways, and His thoughts higher than ours (Luke 55:9). Undeniably, we cannot always understand His ways and means for doing or allowing things, and we are encouraged to pick up our very crosses when we look to Him on His.
As Christians, we believe in vocation, something we are called to, and because of, we grow in holiness. Indeed, our lives are each unique, and God knows best what our futures hold. Certainly, for each of us, our vocation is a call to holiness. This fundamental call to holiness is the foundation of our lives, regardless of our current state. Lumen Gentium provides:
The classes and duties of life are many, but holiness is one—that sanctity which is cultivated by all who are moved by the Spirit of God, and who obey the voice of the Father and worship God the Father in spirit and in truth. These people follow the poor Christ, the humble and cross-bearing Christ in order to be worthy of being sharers in His glory. Every person must walk unhesitatingly according to his own personal gifts and duties in the path of living faith, which arouses hope and works through charity.In recognizing that we each are called to something much larger than ourselves and from which only God can provide such graces, walking in a journey of faith based in love is necessary and desirable; thus, it’s something we cannot do on our own but rather is done through relationship with Him.
Quoting St. Augustine, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” As such, accepting and living our vocation to holiness is the building block to learning and embracing any other vocational call from God.
I was quite amiss in my own life when I dated before discerning my own vocation. In fact, because I wanted to be a wife and mother, I presumed that God was assured of the same. And while I was in regular attendance at mass while in college and in most of my twenties and prayed (infrequently), my lifestyle was by no means a witness for Christian living. To call myself a devout Catholic would have been a lie, and I was the first to incorrectly think I had a lot figured out. My key mistake was not making myself available to God and His will, trusting in His plan rather than my own. For many years, I got to have my cake and eat it too, but there was a cost (as there always is). I had to be humbled and stripped of many things and reformed into someone who recognized the universal desire for holiness. Ultimately, every decision we make that isn’t for the Lord is for something or someone else; and therein creates a consequence, whether we see it or not.
By God’s grace, if we amend our ways, we are spared a lifetime of looking at ourselves rather than at Him. He lovingly turns our gaze to Him by purifying our desires. Meaning, He teaches us that our ultimate desires rest in His timing and direction, rather than our own selfish (and potentially, temporary) wants. As a result, we are lessened, and He is increased.
Falling in love with Him is the greatest love story of our lives. Never is He at fault; thus, we constantly have to humble ourselves to submit and accept. He provides all the joys we could ever need, and ultimate peace only rests in His hands. He sends flowers and sunsets, and loves us greater than any human ever could. When we forget who we are and why we are, we can look to His face and remember why we were created - to be holy and to teach others the same. Indeed, in knowing, loving and serving Him, He provides us those with whom we can journey in holiness. Absolutely, we cannot truly love and serve another until we love and serve Him.
True love on a natural level is most beautifully matured once we love Him. We cannot hope to love another until we truly love Him. There is something magical about living a life with the knowledge that life is complete simply because He loves us and we love Him. No person can complete us; rather, men and women are called to sacramental unity to grow in holiness, not completion. As St. John Paul the Great said, “The task of every man is the dignity of every woman. The task of every woman is the dignity of every man.”
The “search” for a spouse isn’t about making something happen; it’s about emptying oneself to be filled with love of God and neighbor, desiring and growing in virtue, and allowing Him to guide us and provide. In the Gospel of Luke, Elizabeth says to Mary, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Absolutely, God calls us to complete trust, no matter the fears that attempt to thwart us.
We weren’t created to make decisions based in fear. We weren’t called to mediocre lives and marriages wherein we give up fundamental values and desires. Rather, we are called to trust every single day - to put one foot in front of the other knowing that any life truly worth living must be a life that is completely focused on Him. And while you wait, remember these moments-the times when you really have Him all to yourself and embrace the gift of life He wants to share with you now. The ultimate question for each of us is this: are you willing to let Him be enough?
“It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.” -St. John Paul the Great
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)