The readings from the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time yesterday activated some of my deepest desires and deepest wounds.
The LORD God said: "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him." (Gn 2: 18)
Since as far back as I can remember, I've had a longing for a partner. I had a boyfriend in kindergarten. When my mom was pregnant with my little sister that year, I became fascinated about where babies came from. I was told something about how a man has a seed that he gives to a woman, and it plants in her belly, and a baby grows. I remember one day on the playground I was on the jungle gym and I called down to my boyfriend to throw me one of his seeds. He mimed throwing me one, and I mimed catching it in my mouth and swallowing it like a pill. I told him I was pregnant. I pretended I was giving birth as I went down the slide, and then we pretended that we had a baby. How strange and simple is the imagination of children.
When my boyfriend and I broke up in first grade, I remember going to bed one night and whispering to my doll, Samantha, "It's okay, I'll find you a new father." As young as five or six years old, I had this innate sense that my baby doll should have two parents and that it was up to me to find a father for my imaginary daughter. I felt almost an urgency.In Genesis 2, God acknowledges that it is not good for us to be alone. And of course, as Christians, we believe that with Christ, we are never alone. Yet, sometimes I feel that in my singleness, and my longing, I ought to be content with just Jesus. To squelch my desires for a partner. I know rationally that God alone suffices, and yet the longing for human companionship doesn’t go away. The more I let myself feel my longing, the more I am tempted to feel shame at how needy I am.
In high school, my dad confessed to having been unfaithful to my mom throughout their marriage. My parents split up, and my dad moved out of state to pursue his interests.
“But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate." (Mk 10: 6-9)
My parents' relationship, my principle model for love, ended up not reflecting the godly ideal. Growing up in those impressionable years, their example was what I saw as normal. Being loved by my dad, being special and precious in his eyes, as well as mirroring how I believed my mom was loved and the way she behaved in their relationship, was how I saw myself as a woman. Who was I now, without his love for my mom, without his love for me? I felt my identity was incomplete, broken, and empty.
I've had only a few serious relationships spread out over the past 15 years. Since that time, and through them, though I've experienced heartbreak, I've also learned a lot. I've learned how to recognize my codependent tendencies, how to identify my genuine needs, how to have healthy boundaries, how to communicate, and how to love myself for who I am without a partner. I've felt drawn deeper into God's love for me. Though I am significantly more self-aware now than I was in high school, even just since my last relationship ended less than two years ago, my wounds are still there, and probably always will be.
Often, when my loneliness flares up, and my wounds get triggered, I distract myself within my other callings. I busy myself with friends and social settings, with youth ministry and playing music, but none of it makes up for the deep longing I still feel for a partner. While my pursuits of music and my work in youth ministry do feel like genuine aspects of my vocation, these callings, which are in themselves good, can turn into areas of temptation too. Instead of unhealthily trying to find my identity in the love of a man, I just as unhealthily look for my identity in my accomplishments. Underlying much of my busyness and activity - as much as there is a genuine desire to serve others and to share what God has given me - there is a desire to be seen and noticed. Have I done enough, achieved enough to be worthy of love? Have I improved myself enough yet to be good enough for a partner? Sometimes, I try to reconcile my longing and loneliness by trying to accept the idea that maybe I'm called to a single vocation. Then the false spirit tries to convince me that my gifts and ministry are too important for the world to have time to be a wife or mother or that I'm too broken to be a wife and a mother. I stew between feelings of shame, resentment, and impatience in my unfulfilled desires for a partner and a family, and feelings of pride and self-reliance.
Only when I give myself permission to just be, in silence and stillness, to merely let thoughts arise and pass rather than just giving in to the clamor of my inner dialogue and the voice of the false spirit or my addiction to busyness, I can begin to notice the voice of the Holy Spirit. The voice that invites me deeper lets me feel all my feelings without judgment. That quiets my soul. I begin to feel Jesus' presence with me, to remember moments where I've encountered His love in profound and personal ways. I remember the countless ways I've seen God be faithful to His promises throughout my life. I remember moments of incredible consolation and reassurance. In the song “Good Good Father," the lyrics "and I’m loved by you, it’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am" resonate so deeply for me because I do have a deep longing to place my identity in how loved I am by someone else - perhaps uniquely to me, by a father. But the deep truth, that I know fundamentally, is that someone else is God, and who I am is God’s beloved child.
"Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it." Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them. (Mk 10: 13-16)
I know that even in marriage, there are times when spouses feel lonely or unfulfilled. I know well that I am not perfect and that I couldn't ever meet all of someone else's needs, so there's no way another person could ever meet all of mine. Except for God. God alone sees all of me and delights unconditionally in me. Jesus desires me and enters into my deepest desires with me. Like my desire to be beheld the way Adam beholds Eve and says "This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gn 2: 23). My desire to be embraced. I am better able to rest in Him and to trust in His goodness when I give myself the permission to be with Him and to be beheld by Him.
I wrote a song called, “Make Me Grow” about, well, basically all of the above. You can check out an unreleased demo version of it here.