This goes out to the teenager or young adult with the all-or-nothing level of passion. The one with the capacity to care for and give to others beyond limits. The one who is apt to becoming so enamored with individuals that (s)he could think of or talk to or about them all day. The one with a vivid memory of what matters to those (s)he cares about. The one with such a heightened awareness of the goodness, beauty, and sense of the potential of his or her loved ones.
I know you. I get you. Because I am you. And I have been since I was twelve years old.
I know how you ache to intimately know and be known. I know how your level of devotion can probably withstand the test of time. I know all the love you have to offer, and how much it hurts when it is undesired and/or unreturned. And I know how probably at this point in your life, you are fervently praying for and preparing your heart for your future spouse.
But I want to challenge you now to consider— or perhaps reconsider— some ideas that have personally changed my life.
First and foremost, your relationship status is in no ways a reflection of how lovable you are.
Rather, it is an indication of how you are called to love at this point in time. You are of no less value than those who have that "partner in crime" to hold hands and spend meaningful time with. Although you may not see anyone eagerly waiting to catch up with you after class, you may be surprised to find that someone is.
You do not need to seek validation from others because you are already loved beyond reason by the source of all love. That abundance of ardor you so often exude toward individuals in their beauty and goodness can find its home in the Lord's embrace. He is eagerly waiting to give His love (exclusively to you) even more than you are longing to give yours, and so long as you continue to let your heart rest in His arms, He will never let it go.
While the strength of our comprehension of this truth may waver throughout our lives, we must trust in His faithfulness. I personally find comfort in these words:
"I am already promised to the Lord of the Universe. He is more splendid than the sun and the stars, and He has said He will never leave me!” -Saint Agnes
"Yet, if you devote your heart to Him... surely you will forget your troubles, recalling them only as waters gone by." -Job 11:13, 16
Secondly, during this time, you have been granted the chance to grow in understanding of your personal identity and purpose.
This period presents an abundance of opportunity. Opportunity to reflect on and strive towards self-improvement, not to prove yourself to or please any particular person, but to progress towards your ultimate destination. Opportunity to discover your identity solely through the eyes of Christ.
An opportunity to reflect on this question: is marriage truly the way in which I can best love others?
This can be a difficult idea to consider. With sappy lyrics, Valentine's Day, and romance films, shows, and novels, our modern society has depicted romantic love as more than appealing. But I challenge you to be open to this question that I personally resisted for much of my life: did God put the desire for marriage on my heart, or did the world? This is an important step for each of us to take because of several other truths, contained in these verses, which I think explain the often-forgotten purposes of marriage and of life:
1. "The world and all that it is in it belong to the LORD, the earth and all who live
No one— not even my spouse— was created to be mine. We are all God's, and in eternal life, we will fully discover the joy of belonging to Him.
The purpose of marriage is to assure this belonging. In marriage, you take accountability to sustain and foster your spouse's and your children's journeys toward eternal union with Christ, just as your spouse takes this accountability for you.
For the purpose of true love is not to elevate each other's self-esteem, it is to elevate each other to a higher standard. It is not to find happiness through another person, but rather to help one another to rejoice throughout every situation. For the focus of Marriage is not to become a happy ending itself, but to journey towards the pursuit of this happy ending.
2. "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." -Colossians 3:1-4
We were created for eternity—not for what comes before it. Once we are immersed in the presence of God, the circumstances of our journeys toward that end will no longer matter to us. It will not matter whether or not we were esteemed by others. It will not matter whether or not our marriages were "happy". Despite however many merits we have gained, we will show up empty-handed, for the only merits that will leave a lasting impact will be the ones that we did in little acts of selfless love.
Yet we will find contentment beyond the extent that we could ever find in romantic love. And how great is this belonging we are referring to?
Many who have had near-death experiences have described vividly profound encounters with Jesus during their unconsciousness, which share striking parallels. Nearly all of these stories involve what is described in these quotes compiled in a book called Imagine Heaven:
"There are no words to express His divine presence." -Gary Wood
“From that loneliest moment of my existence I had leaped into the most perfect belonging I had ever known. The Light of Jesus had entered my life and filled it completely, and the idea of being separated from Him was more than I could bear.” -George Ritchie
"What I saw was too beautiful for words." -Dutch patient in a book called Consciousness Beyond Life
Thus, we must focus on serving the needs of those surrounding us, willing the good for these individuals because of who they are— our brothers and sisters in Christ— rather than because of who we would like them to be for us.
We make this easier when, while we still have the opportunity, we challenge ourselves to love as if we are not called to marriage.
Personally, I have found that assuming that I have a future spouse has been my downfall. Because it soon turns into a guessing game. I get so caught up with speculating over what he might be like, that I find myself looking to those currently in my life to fill in the blanks. Before long, I've become so preoccupied with loving a certain person in my life as if he were already my future husband, that there is a great discrepancy between the consideration I give him and the regard I give everyone else. Moreover, I begin to feel resentful towards the lack of devotion reciprocated, in spite of the fact that he does not owe me anything.
If you identify with these tendencies as well, imagine the liberation of replacing that "potential future spouse" view of others with a platonically charitable one! Suddenly, we are free to more deeply know one another as friends. We are free to care for others with no strings attached. We are free, to with all our hearts, love God foremost, while loving all whom we encounter for His sake.
And if/when you do find your future spouse? It is much more possible that you will already know him or her so intimately and love him/her so genuinely that you two will be dear friends far long before you even begin to expect anything beyond that. You will neither be bound by desires nor idealistic illusions, but by your shared fellowship as children of God.
So my dear fellow single, I challenge you. Rather than focusing on preparing your heart for your future spouse, focus on preparing your heart for your Lord and loving everyone you encounter for His sake. Use this period of singleness to explore other vocations you may not have considered up to this point. And through it all, love like you