However, I do take issue with some of Hannah’s conclusions.
Hannah claims that “there is no biblical basis to indicate that God has one soul mate for you to find and marry.” Call me Catholic, but it’s impossible for me to swallow that when the angel Raphael told Tobias, “Do not be afraid, for she (Sara) was set apart for you before the world existed. You will save her, and she will go with you” (Tobit 6:18).
- Abraham and Sarah
- Isaac and Rebecca
- Jacob and Rachel
- Tobias and Sara
- Boaz and Ruth
- Esther and King Xerxes
- Mary and Joseph
Was Hannah’s dad suggesting that Jeremiah 29:11 can be applied exclusively to the Israelites in only one scenario? I applaud his recognition that there are different genres and senses of Scripture, but since the dawn of creation God has revealed to us that he does in fact have plans to give us hope and a future.
With Psalm 37:4, Hannah reminds us never to take Scripture out of context. It says, “Find your delight in the Lord who will give you your heart’s desire.” Her dad might have done her a favor by telling her that the second half of the verse depends on the first: “No, sweetie. That verse is not saying that your heavenly Father will give you whatever you want. He’s a better parent than that. Rather, when you delight in the Lord, the desire of your heart is the Lord, and he desperately wants to give himself to you.”
I love that her Bible scholar dad taught her not to over spiritualize her decisions. There are some choices that are pretty inconsequential or offer multiple equally good solutions.The Lord is at peace whether you choose ketchup or mustard; get off your knees and choose a condiment.
When it comes to vocation, there is no option that ruins everything. Priesthood, religious life, and marriage are all intrinsically good. Still, God has a huge interest in your vocation because that’s your road to him.
Please note: Predestination and providence are not the same. This is where my students get all tripped up. I’ll admit: it’s confusing. The way in which God involves himself in our vocational discernment is mysterious and, although it is hard to understand his weird ways, we can trust that however he intervenes is just right. He knows how our personal stories will play out and works everything together for our salvation, without violating our free will.
Hannah says that “God’s plan is for us to be made more holy, more like Christ… not marry a certain person.” But are those concepts mutually exclusive? Marriage is a journey of making one another holy and more like Christ. Isn’t it possible that God has specially prepared one person (or a limited number of people) to do just that for you, and prepared you to do that for him?
If you are called to marriage, it is very good to pray for the person you will marry and trust that the grace and blessings that are God’s response to your prayers will be mediated rightly. If you are called to priesthood/religious life, it is very good to pray for your future parish or community with that same trust.
I’m sort of a self-historian. I love gathering data that catalogues various aspects of my journey in life. This includes my baby book, a developmental analysis from when I was in preschool, a chart of how many hours of sleep I got during one month of my sophomore year in high school, and yes, prayers that I have written for my future husband. The article seemed kind of belittling to girls who are trying to seek God when they are young, before they have met their spouse. Of course we’ll look back at things we’ve written and think, “Wow, I was so immature,” but that doesn’t mean that the path is nonsense. If you have made a list of what is important to you in a spouse, I hope that it indeed helped you avoid dating “scumbags.” Mine certainly helped me. However, two important tips that have also helped me are: 1. Focus more on becoming the woman who God created you to be and less on evaluating men/spouse-hunting; 2. Be sure that the list grows up with you as you learn what ingredients are truly important for a holy marriage.
It’s possible that God is calling me to marry my boyfriend. It’s also possible that he is not. So we are praying every day that he will reveal his plan for us and give us the grace to cooperate. If, in the end, we validly confer the Sacrament of Matrimony upon one another, that Sacrament is our vocation until death parts us. That, then, is THE path that God wills us to take in order to get to heaven. The process of discernment that is so important right now will then be, more or less, a moot point.
Hannah and I agree that entering a vocation does not mean that you are “done.” Marriage means choosing to fully give yourself to God by fully giving yourself to your spouse every day. Without the grace of God, this is an impossible task. “From the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother [and be joined to his wife],and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” Love is an act of will that consists of constantly preferring the good of others to the good of oneself. That is why love is possible in the absence of warm feelings.
Perhaps there are multiple people out there who would equally help you live out the vocation of marriage, and/or one man among them is good for you but another is even better. Or perhaps God has one specific person (call him your soul mate if you want) who he wants you to marry. It has happened before. What I do know is that God has a plan for our lives and, relative to the other choices we make, vocation is a big one. It’s worth praying about it.
The point is that we were all created to be holy. God will neither make your choices for you, nor sit back wondering what you will do next. If a relationship with a particular man is helping you respond to God’s call, perhaps you should marry the fellow. Your job is to prayerfully discern God’s will and respond to him. For today, focus on knowing the Lord deeply and personally. That way, if/when he urges you to action, you will recognize his voice.
Written by: Kelly O’Brien