The path of the single life can be, for many, a hard road to take. For many, singleness lasts only as short a time as their call to married or religious life comes to pass. For others it can be a longer road, a path they take for the majority, if not all, of their life. But, inevitably, we all have to journey along this path of the single life – for we all, at one stage or another, lived as single people.
Robert Tilley’s article in The Call: Catholic Vocations 2016 published by The Catholic Weekly, addresses a very real, raw, and honest account of what the single life is like for many. Tilley raises some very important points: Is this life really lonely? Do we lack a place of belonging? Is the single life a “dark path” along which we “walk side by side with (Jesus)”?
These questions point to the very realities that a lot of us experience in the single life; however, I am not sold on the idea that this is the type of single life we are meant to live, for those of us who have discerned a life of singlehood or who have found themselves in this state, for whatever reason. Alongside the struggle, I believe there is also hope.
If we truly believe that God made us for a purpose which only we can fulfil and if we believe God loves us, then He must have our best intentions in mind, right?
Jeremiah the prophet says: “I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans to give you a hope and a future.” (Jer. 29:11) If this is God’s plan for us – a future filled with hope – then how can we doubt the goodness of God in our present state of life (single, married, religious)? For if God loves us so much, and we have discerned that our path to holiness in this moment is in and through living the single life, then surely, it must be good, and true and beautiful. Obviously this won’t be how we see or experience the single life every moment of every day, but isn’t this the case with most things in life?
First and foremost, who we are – our identity – can never be defined by our relationship to, or lack of, a spouse. Who we are – as children of God – is a truth that will always remain whether or not we are married, have a religious vocation or pursue the single life. Our identity must always come from Christ – the one who made us.
Whether the single life is a transitory stage on our path to marriage or religious life, or whether it is path of perpetuity, it is a state of life that we experience for a reason.
Whatever our circumstances are, in this present moment, it is because God has a purpose for this reality here and now.
And yes, it is hard at times, and there is suffering in this state of life, just as there is suffering, albeit different, in every state of life. But there is also beauty amidst the suffering – which comes with doing our best to live in the present moment, without projecting or worrying about the future or dwelling on the past.
What is important, and this applies to everyone no matter their state of life, is to accept the here and now, to find meaning in our present circumstances, to lift them up to God and walk along the path which He has placed us. God never gives us more than we can handle, and he always offers us grace at every stage of our lives. Our outlook on the single life needs to be one of hope – because God gives us this experience for a purpose, and He will never let us down. He always remains faithful to His promises.
The only way we can deeply know and experience who God is, and thus who we are in relation to God, is with an ever deepening relationship with Him. Fr Epeli Qimaqima addressed this in his article in the same lift-out of The Catholic Weekly: knowing and experiencing that we are loved intimately and unconditionally by God is the first step in knowing who we are and understanding our present circumstances.
Only from this place of certainty can we then, properly, accept where we find ourselves in our current state of life and be open to discern what God’s purposes are for our lives. Thus, we can determine the best way to live our lives and look forward, with hope, to the joys of the life to come.
We are all called to be saints! Whether we are to live as spouses in marriage, consecrated in religious life or as single lay people – God walks with us – as Tilley pointed out, on this our own unique path to eternal life with our Beloved Creator.
We are never alone on this path of hope.