Friday, November 27, 2009

TOB for the Single Person

I said I would get to this, and I will.  I am.  It's just a little hard for me to write.  For one thing, I don't want to contemplate what Theology of the Body means for a single person.  I want to live it out as a married person.  For another thing, I don't exactly know what it means.  So far, I only have a few vague ideas.  And finally, the little light of understanding that I do have is very personal.  I don't know how to walk the line between sharing what's on my heart, but also not divulging some things that are between me and God.

TOB brings two things clearly to the forefront.  One is that we are called to live out a love that sacrifices itself for another.  Married people to their spouses.  Nuns to Christ. Priests to the Church.

The second is that this self-sacrificing love brings new life into the world.  Marriage leads to children.  Religious vocations lead to new life in Christ.

Where does that leave me?  I have been to Christopher West talks, and when the topic of singleness comes up, he doesn't pull any punches.  He acknowledges that not all single people will get married, and this may not be due to a choice of theirs.  He doesn't have much to offer, but reminds us singles that our ultimate purpose is not realized in marriage on earth, but in heaven.

But what of my purpose here on earth?  How could I be created to give myself in self-sacrificing life-giving love, and have no outlet for that? It's devastating.  Not only have I not been chosen by any man, but neither has God chosen me for religious life.  He has forgotten me, because how else could it be He created me for a purpose that will not be fulfilled?

You don't need to tell me that I still have a purpose (unless you have some specific suggestions as to what that purpose is- I'd love to hear it!)  Nor do you need to tell me that God could never forget me.  Definitely don't tell me that eventually I will be married.  Because even though I agree that you are probably right, you don't know that for sure.  My logic knows all this, but my feelings do not care about my logic.

What I have learned is this.  Self-sacrifice is not always the choice that you think it is.  If you choose to get married to a person, then you choose to give yourself to them in a self-sacrificial way.  If you choose a consecrated religious life, you choose to give your life to Christ or His Church.  If you are single by circumstance, your choice is different.  You may not have a choice about who you are specifically giving your life to, but you have a choice about whether you are going to offer your life in the moments that you have right now.  It may be a very general offering, or God may call you to a very particular ministry because you have the time and energy to focus on it right now; time and energy that you will later need to focus on your family.

The reality is, if you are single like me, you are not forgotten by God.  You are chosen for a unique purpose at this moment.  


  1. "neither has God chosen me for religious life" That is exactly how I felt! It sounds so silly to others to speak of feeling rejected/not chosen by God when one is not called to religious life, but I could not help feeling that if I were really valued God would want me to consecrate my life for holy service. Yet at the same time I did not see any particular calling. I felt very willing, but unwanted. And I didn't care if guys wanted to marry me, I wanted to be wanted by God!

    I can't really understand what you are going through, because I never really dreamed of getting married. I never go the chance to have an unfulfilled longing for a husband. I loved the idea of being single (or in religious life, but that was more of an abstract dream). But then it started to seem clear that God wanted me to consider marriage with my husband and suddenly freedom was not much of an option. Sometimes I still have a tinge of fear that my life will be all of the things I did not want. But I try to remind myself that all that matters is what I am called to today. I suppose that there may be hope in that thought for you as well. Can you handle today? Is there love in today?

    I will work on not thinking about being stuck as a SAHM to 17 hateful children if you will work on not imagining yourself childless and alone in 20 years. And if it ends up that we are both right about the future, then maybe we can make sure to be friends then and you can take half of my children? ;-)

    In all seriousness, you have good thoughts, and I don't really have anything to add other than an encouragement to not let others pressure you into focusing on the theology of the body to the extent of ignoring the theology of the soul. After all, TotB is really just one small philosophical way of approaching Christian theology, and it has its limits.

  2. I remember when I was single having people tell me that God's plans for me are mysterious or that I should make understand my intense loneliness as a gift of suffering in sharing the loneliness of Christ on the cross, yadda yadda. It would make me want to slap someone because those answers always seemed so pat and easy when they weren't the ones feeling totally adrift. I asked God the same questions you do about how he could create me with this overwhelming need and desire to become untied to another human being in the sacrament of marriage and then leave me freaking single!!! I even got rather furious with Him on occasion about it. The truth is...there -are- no pat answers. We -don't- know or understand why things are the way they are a lot of the time. Even understanding it doesn't often take away the pain of having to live it.

    Keeping you lifted up in prayer for several things the least of which is that you are given some measure of peace and contentment in your here and now.

  3. Rae- your comment made me smile; call me up about half those kids! :) You make a very good point that TOB is not the end all be all, but I have learned a lot studying it, and I really want to probe more into what it means to live it as a single person. I really do think that it applies to everyone, and even though it might not be as nice and tidy in the single box, I think it's every bit as applicable.

    Rachel- your comments really warm my heart. I can tell that you know exactly what it's like! Thanks so much for your prayers.

  4. Thanks for your openness in this painful topic. I wish I had something helpful to say about marriage, but I don't really. My only thought is that at least right now you still can live out a type of spiritual motherhood. While you might not be able to talk to your athletes about Christ Himself (I assume you're at a public school), you are still helping to guide them - even if it's telling them they can't play and they are not happy about it! I imagine you probably do other mothering that you don't even realize. Just from reading your blog, I feel like I grow a little!

  5. Actually this is one of the areas that concerns me about the Church. Its seems as though you can serve God either in marriage or religious life and single people are left wondering which one they are supposed to do, instead of feeling equipped to serve God where they are at. And what about priests/religious who feel called for a time and give many good years to service and then feel called to marriage, why is that a bad thing? I might end up writing about that question myself sometime.

  6. Yeah, I think we are all called to give sacrificially in whatever role we are given. I think often the church (broadly speaking) isn't so good at articulating what that looks like for single people, and yet Paul says that it is BETTER for people to not marry because singleness frees them up to serve more sacrificially. He also commands older women to disciple and teach younger women - and there is where I think you as a single woman can have immense influence as a spiritual mother.

    I lead a Bible Study for high school girls - I have about 10 of them. There are about 100 other volunteer leaders of small groups of kids, many of them single. The impact they have on those young adults is huge....

  7. Thanks for all the comments! The spiritual motherhood aspect is definitely one that I have been thinking about more and more, so it's good to hear some other perspectives on that.

  8. "I have learned a lot studying it, and I really want to probe more into what it means to live it as a single person. I really do think that it applies to everyone, and even though it might not be as nice and tidy in the single box, I think it's every bit as applicable."
    Okay. I misread your post and saw a lot more I-want-to-be-married angst and a lot less how-does-this-work-for-me that I see upon re-reading it. I apologize. And since I was a JPII-reading, fertility awareness studying single, I can't say that it doesn't have it's value. ;-)

    In all seriousness, this post came to mind during the lighting of the first Advent candle at last Sunday's mass. It struck me that Advent is, in some ways, the ultimate season for singles. There is something about the forced waiting that fits with the great longing for something more. I am not sure that I make any sense, but I am going to try to hash this out more fully in a post.

  9. Rae- "Advent is the ultimate season for singles." That makes complete sense. I've thought a little about this the last couple of years when Advent rolls around, and I think that you are so right. If you end up writing a post about this, then I'll be excited to read it!