Editor’s note: Today, we welcome a beautiful, insightful, hope-filled gift from talented guest contributor (and newlywed!) Anamaría Scaperlanda Biddick. Please join me in thanking Anamaría for this lovely piece of writing by leaving a comment below. LMH
One of the more common misconceptions about singleness and marriage revolves around the idea that maximizing one’s chances at marriage requires work. (See for example the discussion following this earlier Altcatholicah “relationships” piece.) It’s easy for us to suppose, living in modern America, that spouse-hunting is like job-hunting: say the right things, go to the right parties, seek out the right people, live in the right part of the country, and you will find the job/person of your dreams. This is a serious mistake. “Finding a spouse”is not a task to work or worry over.
Five years ago I left Notre Dame to move home to Norman, Okla.. I went from a place full of good friends and still-kindred spirits, to a city where the majority of my high-school friends had left and a state whose Catholic population is less than 5 percent. My main friends in Norman are a family of seven, whose parents are fellow members of the ecclesial lay movement Communion and Liberation. I’d always had one or two friends my age, but most of them have left Oklahoma for D.C., Atlanta, New York, and Chicago. Yet I remained behind. Every time I thought of leaving to join my brother and sister-in-law in Milwaukee or friends in South Bend, it was clear to me that I was called to stay. Gradually, Oklahoma became more and more my home.
As best I could, I continued to follow God’s call in all that I did: to live in Oklahoma; to lead a Communion and Liberation high-school group; to teach; to be a good friend to those around me; to be a good daughter; to write for the local Catholic paper. With the exception of traveling annually to Notre Dame and once to Ave Maria (to give talks on womanhood and vocation), my life consisted of ordinary, often tedious, work. Yet—to my own surprise—I was happy. My life was full in the love I was able to give, and the certainty of Christ’s love for me.
My life was so full that I sometimes wondered how I would ever get married. I spent most of my teaching and leisure time mothering other people’s children. I rarely met good (forget interesting!) single men. Often when I did meet them, it was away from home; and they, once they discovered I was only visiting, shifted their attentions elsewhere. I thought if I did marry, the marriage would differ from friendship only in proximity and longevity, not romance.
More than once I was urged to move to D.C., New York, Chicago, Milwaukee, or South Bend; anywhere that possessed a greater population of Catholic men than Oklahoma. In other words, anywhere at all. But I was called to be in Oklahoma, and confident that if I continued to follow that call, the Lord would continue to provide for me. I did not know if this provision would include a husband, but I knew it would entail my happiness and joy. I wanted to marry, and I hoped that my eyes and my heart were open should that call come; but I couldn’t follow the desire to get married by turning away from the path the Lord had shown me.
Fourteen months ago, in Norman, I met an interesting, handsome man. Our meeting happened quite unexpectedly during my weekly coffee date with a friend from elementary school. Our first encounter was a surprise to both of us—actually, to all three of us, including our mutual friend. She immediately recognized how well-matched we were in personality, worldview, temperament, and intellect.
In the subsequent months, I discovered that he is also a man who yearns to follow God in all that he does. It very quickly became clear to both of us that we were given to each other by God to love for all our lives. Two months ago, God’s blessing consecrated our love, and now he is my husband.
It was and is a gift surpassing anything that I imagined for myself.
I share my own story not for its uniqueness, but for what it has in common with other vocational journeys. Every vocation is a gift—and, like many gifts, a vocation is often a surprise. A vocation is also, like other gifts, completely gratuitous. It is not something we can merit, make, acquire, or choose—we can only choose whether to accept or reject it.
We can prepare our hearts to receive the gift of our permanent vocation by following Mary’s example of active receptivity in our day-to-day endeavors. Through prayer, action, and the sacraments, we must cultivate lives and hearts that respond to God in small ways—by cooking dinner for a family that needs the help, walking with a friend through a difficult decision, or listening to a teenager who is confused about his life. It is only through the practice of responding to God’s call in small ways that we develop hearts that are open and eyes that see where God is leading us—which He always does through the circumstances of our lives—that we are able to receive the gift of spousal love, if it is given. Much more important, it is through saying yes to the unexpected call that, like Mary, we receive the ultimate gift the Lord gives any of us: Himself.
If you’re single and unsure of your permanent vocation, my first and foremost advice to you is not to worry about it; instead, follow God’s call through the circumstances of your life. Where is it that you see Christ clearly? Where is it that you blossom? Where is it that you are changed? For Christ’s presence is made known, in part, for the change that it enacts. Follow that, even if (especially if) it is a surprise to you.
Do not worry about your spouse. Your marriage is not yours to worry about. It is a gift that is given. Spend your energies learning to recognize where Christ is leading you and developing a heart grateful for all of his gifts. This is not necessarily a path to the married life—some of my single friends have more open, trusting hearts than I do. But it is the path to greater union with Christ—and to happiness, for our happiness lies in Christ, and spousal love is great only insofar as it points to divine love.
Anamaría Scaperlanda Biddick is a teacher in Okahoma City, Oklahoma.
Copyright 2012 Anamaría Scaperlanda Biddick