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Lord, I Am Open to Your Will. Now, Can You Give Me What I Want? Part III

September 8, 2009
Staying on the Road
We’ve been traveling on “Vocation Road,” trying to first of all make sense of the word, then to see what vocation calls each of us to do — or, more precisely, to be. The road, as in real life, has been smooth and bumpy, straight and twisting. But this activity is the drama of life! To live without facing the profound questions of one’s life is to miss the absolute surprise that each day brings. Even though our vocation journey as single persons causes us to sometimes face very difficult questions (about marriage, having a family of our own, and the very real possibility that these desires may not come to fruition in the way we wish them to), even these questions and the search for their answers become a way by which God works in our hearts. Each one of us — married, consecrated, single person — is in a kind of furnace, constantly being refined by the Lord. (See Malachi 3:2–3, “For he is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye. He will sit refining and purifying (silver), and he will purify the sons of Levi, refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD.”) Thus our weaknesses and hang-ups get tested and transformed, and our strengths increase and become ever more oriented toward love. This is part of our earthly pilgrimage, in preparation for the union we all desire, namely, to be in God’s heart for eternity.
As we’ve traveled this vocation road together, we made stops in the states of life. We also learned that being single is not itself a “state of life,” or some third way in which we fulfill our vocation to love. Instead, it is somehow a participation in the married state and the consecrated state. Being single most closely reflects the life of a consecrated person, since our gift of self is not mediated through a spouse. We live lives of poverty, in that we depend on the Lord, particularly when we feel at our weakest or most vulnerable. We are obedient to His word for our state in life (as promised in our baptismal vows) — and when it is difficult to obey, we fall back on the poverty that reminds us He is there to keep us from falling. Finally, we live chastity in continence (that is, by not engaging in a sexual relationship, but maintaining a stance of awe and wonder at the goodness of the human person). At the same time, we also closely identify with those who are married, primarily because we ourselves have that desire, and also because we come from a family. We have relatives and friends who are married and have children, and we walk alongside them on the road of their vocations in friendship and love. These experiences are our own important expressions of self-giving love within the lives of these families with whom we are associated. By participating in the family life of friends and relations, we contribute to the vitality of their lives, provide them support, and we offer our own unique form of prayer and blessing in their domestic churches.
Lest you think you are stalled in the single life, it’s important to realize that our vocation journey is always meant to keep us moving. We must always move closer to God and to others, and to live a life of fruitful self-giving. If we feel like we’re stalled, or if we’ve pulled off the road, it’s time to get started again. But how?
The answer is twofold: to stand in open readiness before the Lord, and to give ourselves as a generous offering to others. Simple, isn’t it! No, not really. But if we are serious about living our vocation to love to the full and in accord with who we are as men and women made in God’s image, all that we do as we strive to live in this way helps us to be refined in that furnace of love through which the Lord molds our hearts. You might say, “Oh, it’s a furnace alright, because my unfulfilled desires feel like being in hell!” That’s a dramatic way of phrasing things, but I know that in the reality of desire God’s refinement can feel more like punishment. We must never think of it in this way, however, because God knows the desires of our hearts, and what often feels like pain to us is His tender mercy, helping us to be men and women after His own heart.
Let’s begin by looking at our stance of open readiness, both as a way to get us back on the “Vocation Road,” and to help in living our vocations to the full right where we are. What does it mean to be “open and ready” before God? It first assumes a relationship with Him, some kind of open communication with Him — and not just on Sundays. It is necessary for all of us — and in a special way for those of us who are not married — to know Him in an intimate way, as friend and a Father. Without such a relationship there is absolutely no way for us to truly love another — family, friend, or spouse. God Himself is Love, and He is the Source of our lives and all we hold dear. St. Luke tells us that “in Him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28), and so it is only with and in Him that we can hope to give ourselves in love to another. We must recognize our utter dependence on God, and know that He desires our good and our happiness. Hope and trust in Him feed our openness.
To be ready is not simply to have one’s bags packed and the keys in the ignition. Sometimes readiness means waiting. This waiting — of the kind so many of us are engaged in now as we hope for marriage — often feels useless, hopeless, and even a waste of time. But let’s consider the most well known “waiter” of our faith: Mary, the Mother of God. Imagine young Mary — with her own hopes and dreams for the future — visited by the angel, told of her great mission, and humbly submitting to the will of God (“Be it done unto me according to your word”). She is blessed among all women, given the privilege of becoming the Tabernacle that will house the Savior! And then…she waits. Nine long months, in which she “did” nothing. And yet, a great work was being done in and to her. “Yes, but that’s Mary! She’s special! And besides, I’m not asking to give birth to God; I just want to get married!” Yes, Mary is different, and yet she is like all of us, too. She was surely frightened and confused at the angel’s words, just as any of us would be. Mary, however, submitted herself completely, trusting in what God would do for her. Can we boast of the same kind of trust and submission in our own lives?
As for Mary’s status as the Mother of God, it is true that there is only one such Mother, and none of us will ever be asked to do what she did. However, it is not true to say that we are not asked to give birth to God. On the contrary, we all — men and women alike — must become like Mary in our openness to Him, and our willingness to give birth to Him in our hearts. This means we must make a fitting home of our minds and bodies (by how we live, the purity of our thoughts and actions, and in taking care of our bodies properly). We must make a home in which Christ can dwell, and from which we can share Him with the world by our acts of generosity and love. We can’t do any of this if we are not willing to wait as Mary did and allow the Lord to act in us as He did in her. This openness and waiting has everything to do with fulfilling our vocation to love here and now, and in preparing us for the spouse God may have in mind for us.
Next time we’ll look at the other way by which we remain on our “Vocation Road” and keep from getting stalled, namely, by making a generous offering of self to others. The fuel we need to keep going on our journey is of course our relationship with God, but the love in that relationship is also fed by and increases in the love we offer to another.
Ann M. Hanincik, M.T.S.
2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 17, 2011 10:32 am

    Dear Ann,

    This is profound and beautiful. So many of us dream for a mate that “will take all our problems away”, which is not realistic. Marriage is full of suffering, as it is so exacting and it is not about getting what one wants. It is about maturity and making the sacrifice of self through love for the times of financial hardship, miscommunication and physical demands of raising children. If God has designed the entire universe, can he not also guide me to the person he wants me to be with, after waiting and growing through life’s experiences to that appointed time when I am truly ready, as God intends? Thanks for the beautiful call to courage to love and look beyond our fragile and limited expectations in life, to a radical abandonment to God, as Christ did this Holy Week.
    God bless you Ann.

  2. Lucy permalink
    September 8, 2011 1:08 pm

    This is very good… I think something like this should be at churchs every 4 months or so… I feel someone needs to reach out to us singles, especially over 50, as myself. We need more encouragement and fellowship.

    The catholic church is good, but I feel it always focuses on the standards. Can we think of those struggling with job loss and relationships. This would be something….we are needing. Like mother Theresa said, she dealt with love to people with Leoprosy. And America has its own Leprosy, which is isolation and no closeness in humans. With society that what it is setup, America is in isolation from one another. Can we start a campaigne to reach out to others in, just time, conversation, a simple gesture, smile a hug. Where have we gone…? What happened to the neighborly thing we use to do.

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