I didn’t expect to feel sadness at a wedding.
Anything near tears, I assumed, would come from the overwhelming joy of seeing a good friend get married. And while I was definitely happy, I was startled by the profound loneliness that pervaded my heart, even as I sat in a pew with beloved friends and was surrounded by many people I knew. Grateful that my friend was receiving that for which she had long prayed, I discovered a sorrow that I didn’t want to find at that time or in that place. The human heart frequently seems inconvenient, but I’ve found that leaning into that is more helpful than ignoring it.
Near the beginning of the liturgy, I heard the priest proclaim a single word in the midst of a longer prayer. He said “home” and I was immediately asking the Lord where my home was. Looking over the priest’s head, I saw the crucifix, arms stretched wide and side pierced, and within myself I heard Him say that my home was there. In His side, opened so that mercy could pour out, was my home, my refuge, the only place I belonged on either side of Heaven.
As my blog slowly moves from being thoroughly unread to something that people I know and don’t know read, I find myself hesitant to ever speak of being single. Some of my former students occasionally look at my blog as do co-workers, and it feels odd to share this particularly deep desire, even if it seems obvious or assumed or commonplace. Yet it also feels odd to share so many other parts of my heart and then withhold speaking of the vocation I feel called to, simply because God hasn’t fully answered that prayer.
I’m a melancholic and as such I am accustomed to longing. One of the most enduring longings has been for marriage and a family. It isn’t my only desire, but it is the one that seems the most fervent. This newly married friend is one I often spoke of this longing with, as we questioned when it would be fulfilled and wondered how it would happen. So I understand to a degree why this wedding also filled my heart with a bit of sadness. It was because my compatriot had what she longed for and I was still waiting, still hoping, still wondering when and if it would happen.
Yet again at this wedding I was reminded that the end goal is not marriage, even if my heart aches like it is. Because after marriage comes untold joys and struggles. So many couples jump from the bliss of marriage to the longing for a child. One longing exchanged for another in only a brief amount of time. Although I cannot stop my heart from longing and desiring, it is a thoroughly human heart after all, I can try to direct my heart to not be so immersed in ‘what comes next’ but rather focus on ‘what is now.’ If we are always consumed with some unfulfilled desire we will find ourselves continually unfulfilled, always wanting what we do not have, even if it is a great good.
Here is the most important point: find out what God wants, and when you know, try to carry it out cheerfully or at least courageously; not only that, but you must love this will of God and the obligations it entails, even if it means performing the most menial tasks in the world the rest of your life, because whatever…God chooses for us, it should be all the same to us.St. Francis de Sales
And what is now?
Currently, the Lord is calling me to love and instruct children that are not my own. He invites me to make a home with my sister as we seek to navigate forming a community around us. I’m asked to share in a parish life, perhaps in ways that will be impossible or impractical in the future. He wants me to love my family and to pour myself out for my friends. I’m called to assist in prison ministry right now. Interceding for my godchildren, writing for this blog, attempting to write a book for the families of religious, and all the million little things are what I’m asked to embrace right now.
At some point, those callings and duties will change, but for now they are what they are. And each of those little tasks is a pathway to encountering the Lord, an avenue for His grace and mercy even as I long for other things. As St. Francis de Sales says, “It should be all the same to us.” He is proposing holy indifference. Single or married, it should all be the same because each is willed for a particular time and the primary, perennial desire should be doing God’s will in the present moment.
But what about that loneliness I felt? Yes, it was real and it needed to be acknowledged. However, it provided the opportunity for a much needed reminder that my ultimate place is not at the side of a husband but rather at the Lord’s side. In fact, it is in the Lord’s side, closer than I can be to any other human person, no matter how beloved they are. Christ is my home: the only home that will never disappoint, turn away, disappear, or come up short. He is what my heart is ultimately longing for and the only One who will offer lasting fulfillment.
Someday, I hope to be at the eternal Wedding Feast of the Lamb, rejoicing forever in a place where there is no marrying or giving in marriage, but all are in perfect union with God Almighty. I want to start living that now, right where I am: single, short on patience, and a blessed with a wildly melancholic heart. Because if St. Catherine of Siena says it can be heaven all the to heaven, perhaps it can be home all the way to Home.