"You must feel so free!" a friend said to me a couple days ago. We had stopped while in Rome to enjoy a cup of coffee, just three of us from our rather large group, and surprisingly the conversation had turned to relationships.
A couple had become newly engaged the night before in a rather romantic way and my friend was expressing the fear that this experience would give all the girls on our trip a false expectation of romance and relationships. I think he was trying to say that it had the potential to create romantic desires that would be impossible to fulfill or that a woman might try to create for herself a relationship with the wrong person, merely because she wanted to experience something so beautiful and touching in her own life.
Immediately I thought back to a blog I have recently been introduced to called Taking the Veil where I have encountered much sense and encouragement for a single's journey. Not wishing to go into detail for a young man, I extrapolated from her theory by saying that I felt most, if not all, of the young women on our trip felt that God has someone, specifically, designed for us. Our vocation is not a chance happening, not a fifty-fifty proposition or a matter of luck. Rather God, who is perfect and has a perfect will for each one of us, has a perfect plan for our lives. When our vocation is marriage: that means He has a person who is perfectly meant for us.
And when that person comes, it is then and only then that the most beautiful romance will start. Will it be as beautiful as a proposal on the steps of the Vatican at sunset the eve of the canonization of two of the greatest Popes ever? Probably not...but beautiful it will be.
With this confidence, it becomes clear that I don't have to look out for the man, because he's not going to miss me! And I don't have to chase him, because when he finds me, I will be the one pursued.
Hence, I can be friends with my seminarian friends and not worry that I am tempting them away from their vocation...or with my male friends and not worry that every single one might be the person I am supposed to marry...or with my married friends, both male and female, because their vocation is already clearly known...I can even be friends with my female friends, because this isn't a competition. I am not trying to one-up them or beat them. I don't need to be better, more beautiful or more intelligent to find a spouse...I just need to be who God is making me to be.
It is freeing to realize that the people around you are people, made in the image and likeness of God, and that I can appreciate what goes on inside of them, makes them tick, and how they love God without needing to take something from them.
On this pilgrimage I realize I was surrounded by beautiful, Godly people and that there was no pressure to be who I wasn't or self-consciously analyze myself. Why? Because I was too busy appreciating and getting to know who they were. And my friend was right...what freedom there is in this!
I had a special grace on this pilgrimage. I finally feel healed from the confusing relationship I have blogged about a few times in the past. After 18 months of confusion and distress, I have peace and a sense of gratitude. In front of the Eucharist during exposition at the Divine Mercy Shrine in Krakow I asked God one more time why He allowed me to fall so deeply in love with someone who would not be my spouse and His answer was so clear that I feel I know it with certitude: trust. There is no other way I could have learned to trust Him like He has taught me to trust Him. So with this trust I am looking to the future...and hoping in Him!