So you want to get married and have children? Good for you! As a woman, you have identified one of the most meaningful goals life has to offer.
The difficult thing about reaching this goal is that you cannot force it to happen. Gone are the days of arranged marriages. It doesn’t really matter how many goats your father has for your dowry, you live in the 21st century and you have to wait patiently for Mr. Right to show up in your life.
The scariest part is wondering whether he ever will.
Why would God make us “sit around and wait” for something that is so good?
Jesus often questioned the faith of those he encountered in the Gospel. Today, he asks you and me, “Where is your faith?” When life is going according to plan, it is easy to tell Jesus we trust in him. The test comes when we are distressed, suffering, or confused.
God is good and he has a plan for your life, however ordinary and unexciting it may sometimes appear. Don’t doubt God’s goodness! Do keep in mind, however, that you have an enemy who wants you to doubt God, just as Eve doubted in the garden of Eden. If Satan can’t get you to be a worldly woman who only cares about herself, he will try the next best thing. He will tempt you to doubt that God will meet the deepest desires of your heart. Remember, this exciting, crazy, terrifying, beautiful life is a testing ground. Will you trust?
We prove we trust God by cooperating with him. There is no “sitting around” involved. An unmarried woman demonstrates her faith in Christ by preparing herself for the gift she believes God will send. This doesn’t mean buying a wedding dress after you have been dating for two weeks!
It does mean that you should use the time God has given you as an unmarried single to become the person God is calling you to be right now—a person who is more equipped to live the vocation God has in store for you in the future.
How do you make the best use of your time now?
The number one way you prepare yourself for the call God has on your life is by becoming who you are called by God to be today. To face each day with the desire to do God’s will above your own.
It is a no-brainer, but let’s face it, sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to do, because they are so ordinary, even mundane. Grow in holiness!
Remember, you cannot give what you don’t have. Whether that means being a single person, a religious sister, or a wife and mom, you have been tapped by God to help others get to heaven. Start now to get yourself in spiritual shape for this sobering and awesome responsibility. Pray. Read the Scriptures. Make use of the sacraments. Follow the commandments. Be informed. Practice virtue. Root out sin.
A note on the most important virtue of all…love. (see Colossians 3:14). Learn to love by being a loving person. St. Francis de Sales says,
“You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working, and just so, you learn to love by loving. All those who think to learn in any other way deceive themselves.”
You won’t be a good lover in the future if you don’t love those God has placed in your life today.
Reflect on who you are.
Spend time reflecting on what it means to be a woman, the dignity of your sexuality, and your own psychological health.
Expose yourself to the wisdom of the Church in documents such as Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women) and the lived experience of holy women throughout history. Where to start? Try My Sisters the Saints—it is a compelling personal testimony of Colleen Carol Campbell. She introduces her readers to several inspirational female saints who helped her on her journey throughout her single life and married life.
Realize we have all been brainwashed to some degree by our God-less culture that does not understand the meaning and purpose of the body, not to mention the act of sex. If you have never been exposed to it, the teaching of the Theology of the Body, given to us by St. Pope John Paul II in the 1980s, is rational, compassionate, scientific, and true.
There are many Catholic resources based on this teaching. You could start with Theology of the Body for Beginners: Revised Edition. Dive into the sanity, common sense, and jaw-dropping insight of the Theology of the Body!
Strive to become a healthy person. Let Jesus, the great and glorious physician, heal you of the emotional or spiritual wounds you might have. If you need to forgive someone in your life, do it now. No one is perfectly whole, but we can all work, little by little, at being as whole as we can be.
A free online course based on the Theology of the Body will help you start to understand how your family of origin may have helped or hindered your understanding of family life and how to form your own healthy family.
Become proficient in the practical duties of life.
(Again, this is what you are called to no matter what your vocation!):
Be fiscally responsible. Learn to spend money wisely, to tithe, and to budget. Financial prudence, so often overlooked by the young, can give you and your future husband the freedom to do what you think is best for your family in the future.
Learn the life skills you need to know to be a good homemaker. Learn to cook (which not only saves money, but allows you to make healthier food), to make a cozy living space in which friends and relatives love to relax and talk, to improve your methods of organization, and to nurture interests, such as gardening or computer-hacking. (You never know when it might come in handy!)
Along the same lines, a single woman should spend some time identifying and using her gifts and talents, especially through doing volunteer work. Focus on giving of yourself to others.
Teach yourself! Read (good) books of various sorts. If you have not had a classical education, consider reading some philosophy, theology, and classical literature. If you are lacking in more practical skills, learn how to change a tire, use a drill, and paint. Believe me, it is hard to learn these kinds of skills when you are nursing a baby, making dinner for a large family, or bathing a toddler! Becoming a well-rounded person means you are becoming a more interesting person. Who doesn’t want to become more interesting? Form good habits of exercise and eating healthfully!
Pray and examine your heart.
When it comes to your vocation, examine your heart and your motives, then talk to God honestly about what your heart yearns for. Don’t be afraid to ask him for what you want. It isn’t as though you are demanding something in the style of Veruca Salt. (Daddy…I want another pony.) No, when we approach God as a loving Father, he is pleased.
Don’t drag this issue to God every time you go to pray, but stay in dialogue with him about it. Let him know how you are struggling and how you are feeling. Then end with, “Thy will be done.” Ask God to give you the grace to accept anything he deems good to give— or not give— you.
And don’t feel like you always need to feel happy about the fact that you have unfulfilled desires. Find a healthy balance of asking, believing, and accepting. Married or unmarried, this issue of unfulfilled desires and grappling with God is a life-long one.
Also, as you pray about your vocation, ask God to help you to put aside preconceived notions about who might be a good spouse for you. True compatibility is key, but we need to be careful we don’t miss a potential husband because we aren’t immediately attracted to him.
Some final thoughts
Jackie Angel, in Pray, Decide, and Don’t Worry, shares a healthy perspective on living a single life to the full, while still desiring marriage, “I did not know if my call to marriage would come at age twenty-eight, or at fifty. But I knew I would rather be single and joyful in God than be miserable in a marriage I called myself to. So I waited day by day, doing the will of God and allowing him to satisfy me, heal me, comfort me. And I want every person to know it is possible to be ‘in the waiting’ while also being fully joyful and alive in the present…”
Finally, take heart. The more virtuous and healthy a person is, the more readily they can enter the marriage state when they find a suitable marriage partner. Marriage can sometimes happen fairly quickly between two people who, like good athletes or understudies in a play, are ready to enter a game or take on a role for which they have been preparing.
A time of waiting should be a time of living, fully, in the present moment. It can be a time of personal growth and a time of preparation, though it can be a troubling time as well. Cooperating daily with God, especially when you feel alone, unlovable, and confused, has a unique power to make you a stronger, holier person. It is the kind of growth that never takes place if you just sit around waiting for your life to start.
And your faithfulness says to God:
“I trust you. I know I can count on you to make me happy and fulfilled in your way and in your good time.”