“Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you."
~ St. Augustine
So, you have discerned that you are called to married life. Now what?
Sit and wait for the Lord to place someone on your door step? After all, you have done the hard work of discernment, you were obedient to the inspirations that the Lord gave you. Now, it is time for God to act.
Only, He has not. You are still waiting. Now what?
St. Augustine teaches us to “Pray as though everything depended on God" but to “work as though everything depended on you." You have discerned being called to married life, now it is time to discern “how” and “who”.
God works with each of us in very different ways. After all, we are all His children. Every good and loving parent knows their children have different needs, different temperaments, are motivated by different means and respond differently to the challenges of life. How the Father works in the life of your best friend, or even in the life of your siblings, is very different from how He will work in yours. You have to learn to be attentive to the promptings of His Spirit and to listen to His voice guiding you and teaching you every step of the way.
Ask yourself 2 questions:
Are you ready to open your heart to really listen in prayer, to listen to His voice even if you do not initially agree with or understand the answer?
Are you ready to turn your focus from searching for the husband/wife that may be intended for you, to becoming the spouse God intends you to be?
If you answered a resounding ‘yes’ with little or no reflection, take a breath and ask yourself again. Was your ‘yes’ more about your desire to be ready, than an actual examination of your true readiness? If so, return to the starting line and do not pass ‘go’ until you do so! Being ready in desire does not equate to being ready in preparedness.
That being said, it does not necessarily mean you should not be dating. As a matter of fact, it is quite the contrary. If we are healthy, open people who sincerely desire truth (both about the world and about ourselves) we will learn from and grow with every person we encounter.
So, I ask again, is your focus in dating on becoming the spouse God intended you to be or in landing a mate best suited to ‘your’ own needs, desires, and sometimes, unfortunately, delusions? By shifting your dating focus to an open desire to grow, you are becoming the person, and husband/wife that God intended from the start. You may grow with the one you are dating into the husband and wife God intends you both to be and discern that you were, indeed, created for one another. You, or he/she, may discern it is not the right time, or that you are just not right for each other in the eyes of your heavenly Father. Either way, you are still growing toward the fullness of your intended vocation.
What price are you willing to pay for that growth?
At times we are willing to endure terribly unpleasant remedies to foster physical healing and growth. What about our souls, our hearts, our minds? Honesty and self-examination are the best medicines for personal growth toward wholeness, although they may not be pleasant either, and may not initially be the easiest “pills" to swallow. Like many medications, they may even have a bitter after taste. Like those unpleasant healing agents we get used to, you will grow accustomed to the hard-to-swallow truth about yourself and to the bitter after taste of recognizing your darkness. Just like those prescriptions that ultimately bring feelings of wellness, allowing the Light to shine in these dark places brings a healing to your soul. Now we need to ask ourselves, are you ready for honesty? Are you ready to get real with yourself and with your dates?
In dating, old wounds will be opened. Notice I did not say, ‘may’ or ‘can’. Nothing brings issues to the fore like a relationship, but, this is a good thing!
Too many people live their lives in fear of being able to trust again, of being vulnerable again, of facing down old demons. The thing is, we project that fear onto the other (ie – “will he/she be trustworthy?")
The truth of the matter is, what the person you are dating does,
it does not matter nearly as much as what ‘you’ do.
Yes, that’s right, it does not matter!
What all of us have to realize is that we need to trust ourselves in order to remain whole. If someone does leave us, hurt us or is even found to be untrustworthy, we can rely on a new confidence in ourselves and more importantly, in God’s plan for us. If we trust ourselves to respond appropriately, and to not allow ourselves to be mistreated, we will walk away if and when necessary. We will realize we are not helpless lambs in danger of being hurt again. We will also stop testing and waiting for the other to prove him/herself, which is a dangerous and tiresome dance. Shifting the responsibility of trust to ourselves changes everything, especially those old damaging self-fulfilling prophecies.
One self-proclaimed ‘little lamb’ I treated was traumatized by a dating situation in her late teens. The aftermath remained with her well into her late 20’s. Although she had gotten over her old boyfriend in terms of feelings for him, she had not fully healed from the pain of the relationship, particularly the anger she felt toward herself for allowing him to treat her as he did. Consequently, the moment she began to feel close to someone again, she literally began to have nightmares about the ex. Initially, these dreams catapulted her into great fear and anxiety. She fell into the lie that her heart was in great danger. As her feelings deepened for the man in her present, the anxiety of her past grew exponentially. For too many years, whenever a relationship began to evolve, she gave into the fears and withdrew from almost all phases of her life: dating, family, friends, etc. She literally indulged in negative, self-fulfilling prophecies that ultimately destroyed her relationships and reinforced the fear and the prophecy. Her trust in the Lord and in herself began to grow when she was able to face down those demons and realize she was worth infinitely more than what her former boyfriend had led her to believe. Now she is able to keep her past separate from her present. Hopefully, they will never meet again, at least not on that issue. I always tell my clients that anxiety is a big liar, the biggest there is. Once we stop running from it, turn, look the bully squarely in the eye and call it for what it is, we are finally free once and for all!
Think about something you once feared – driving, flying, playing a sport, going to college, etc. You overcame it and most likely, can’t even begin to relate to having such a fear any more. When I was young, I totaled my car in a terrible accident and was physically incapable of driving for more than 6 months. With so much time for that fear to build, when I was finally medically released to do so I was terrified to drive. It was only in repeatedly doing the very thing I feared, that I was finally free of it. Years later, I took a job that required an hour’s commute each way. I even drove from Pennsylvania to Indiana alone. Now, I cannot even begin to get in touch with the fear that once paralyzed me. Fear, in regard to relationships, especially the relationship with ourselves, is no different. It is what we do with these anxieties that either enslaves us to them or strengthens us to grow away from them and more toward the person God created us to be.
Too often, we become so fixated on how to attain that other person that we lose the focus of striving toward becoming the person God intended and can even lose who we are. We cannot wait for someone else to bring happiness to our lives. If we do, when they arrive we can be so desperate that they will not want to come anywhere near us. The important thing is that we want to create a life that we are proud of, at peace with and yes, happy with, even when we are by ourselves. That way, when someone does enter the picture they are the icing on our cake, so to speak, and we have a firm foundation. If we do not have the foundation to “ice", there is nothing to “stick to" and it will not last.
Now, I suggest that you commit to doing the internal work of prayer by listening and trusting in God’s plan – not yours. Turn your focus to becoming a great catch instead of focusing on ‘who’ you are going to catch!
Are you ready? Are you ready to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you what areas of darkness and brokenness you need to bring out into God’s light? Are you ready to ask Jesus, the Bridegroom, to teach you how to be the spouse He intended you to be? Are you ready to get to work to free yourself from preconceived notions formed in the past, about yourself, about others and about relationships and accept that there is so much more than you ever bargained for? Are you ready to work as though it all depended on you? Are you ready to commit yourself to prayer and to learn to depend upon your loving Father to illuminate the path He has set just for you? Are you ready?
It is time to get ready! It is time to get real! It is time to listen!
So now, get to work as though everything depends on you and pray as though everything depends on God!
Karen Rumore, LSW, MSW, is a Licensed Counselor & Certified Christian Life Coach in Pennsylvania. Karen has over 20 years of clinical experience as a psychotherapist in working with individuals, teenagers, and couples. Specializing in healing relationships, depression, anxiety, anger management, trauma, eating disorders, and other psychological issues..