I really believe that everything happens for a reason. I find myself repeating that line over and over in my conversations, especially with my students. But sometimes it’s so difficult to actually heed my own advice.
I can’t say that I love the fact that I have Lyme disease, but it has forced me to grow in so many ways. If it had not been for Lyme, I might not be a runner right now, something that I love so much.
Upon graduating from college, my goal was to move to the Jersey shore. Things didn’t work out initially and I had to work in Connecticut for five years, but I had amazing experiences at my job there and I had the opportunity to meet some awesome students and coworkers.
Two years ago, I met a man who I really thought I was meant to be with and when he suddenly ended the relationship, I was lost and confused. I felt especially lonely since I was living in a new state. But looking back, I think that he was the reason why I had the courage to take the leap of faith that required me to pack up my life and move to New Jersey. If I had been in a relationship with someone in Connecticut, I may have second guessed myself. Or if I had been single, I may have simply been to afraid to move somewhere where I didn’t know a single soul, leaving behind my job, apartment, friends, and family.
I could go on and on with examples of other times when, looking back, I can see God’s work, but the most recent occasion happened last night.
Since moving to New Jersey, I have been hoping to meet some like-minded, Catholic friends. I don’t want to be picky when it comes to friends, and I have met great people at work, but I want someone who really gets me and understands why I am the way that I am.
I was so fortunate to have attended Franciscan University, where everyone is Catholic and it is so easy to find people who will push you to be a better person. Out in the real world, things aren’t quite that simple. I want a friend who I can talk to about my faith without them thinking I’m too hardcore, or some sort of Jesus freak.
So about a month ago, I was reading the church bulletin, hoping to find something geared toward people in my age group. I saw a little blurb asking for young adults in their 20s and 30s to try to start a CORE team for Theology on Tap. I immediately sent an email when I got home to say that I was interested.
We ended up meeting at a place in Belmar a few weeks ago, but the turnout was not great. There were 5 of us, and only 2 of us were actually from the parish.
We had a nice time, but I was not looking too optimistic about this group, considering that there was only one person who was actually from my church and in my age group. So we met again the following week and this time, there were only 4 of us. It wasn’t looking very promising at that point.
In trying to think of possible future activities, we decided to go to a place near St. Rose for dinner at 6pm and then walk over to adoration (my church has Eucharistic adoration from 7-8pm on Monday evenings).
Last night, to my surprise, there were 8 of us at dinner! I was so excited that it was more than just the four of us. I ordered my typical water without ice and then I heard the girl across from me, Gabby, order the same thing. I know it seems totally random, but most people think it’s strange when I order water without ice. When someone asked us why we don’t like ice, we immediately responded with the exact same sentence at the same time about how it makes the water too cold.
Then I was talking about my previous day’s 11.5 mile run and I found out that Gabby also runs and that she’s done a half marathon before. I was really excited, thinking that maybe this was finally someone who I could get along with well.
I had a great time at dinner just talking with everyone and getting to know everybody’s back story.
Then we walked over to church for adoration. A few people had to leave due to prior commitments. During adoration, I usually pray the whole time, read a book, or do something else that really requires my full thought. I started off that way, praying about the things on my mind, but then I just felt like being still and trying to listen to God, knowing that He has a plan for me.
I didn’t feel particularly inspired, but I left church feeling happy that I had left time to be with God on my busy Monday.
As we were walking outside, I saw Gabby approaching us in running clothes. She was trying to get back in time for benediction, but she had just missed it. She asked if I wanted to go for a run since she was headed to the boardwalk. At first, I didn’t really want to since I had eaten a BLT and fries for dinner and I never run that close to eating. But how could I turn down the offer to finally have someone to run with?
So I drove her to my apartment and changed into my running gear, and then we went for a short jog on the boardwalk. I couldn’t believe how many things we had in common. My birthday is July 20th and hers is July 16th of the same year. She’s also left-handed. Obviously those are pretty insignificant things, but I felt like we could have talked for hours. We talked about relationships and the struggle that it is to find a guy who is actually committed in his Catholic faith. How it’s easy to find nice guys, but that nice isn’t good enough.
I sometimes feel like I’m too picky when it comes to guys, but I don’t just want a nice guy. There are plenty of those around. I want a nice guy who loves God and who loves his Catholic faith. And being Catholic alone isn’t really good enough. If a guy simply goes through the motions of attending Mass, that’s still not really what I yearn for. I want someone who is passionate in his love for the Lord, someone who makes his faith a priority.
Yet while I want someone who is passionate, I also want someone with other interests, someone who likes to do things outside of church as well. I have looked at guys on Catholic Match before, trying to see if there was anyone who I was interested enough in to actually pay for the subscription, but I don’t love the idea of paying to find a relationship. And many of the guys who I’ve been on the site are one of two options:
Option 1: They’re Catholic in name only, mainly on the site to meet nice women, but they aren’t passionate about their faith.
Option 1: They’re passionately Catholic, but they seem to lack social skills and they don’t share common interests with me. It seems that all they do is related to church.
And this is why I sometimes feel too picky. Yes, I want a Catholic guy, but despite my love for my faith, I have many other interests. I don’t want to spend the entirety of my weekends in church. I love running, kayaking, hiking, going to the beach, mini-golfing, and just being outside in general. I want someone who can share those interests. Is it impossible to find someone who shares these feelings?
Looking back on my relationship with my ex, I really thought that we were headed for marriage. We had talked about engagements and future plans. I was confident in us. But I see now how I was still settling. Yes, he was Catholic, but he refused to say grace aloud at a restaurant because he didn’t want people to look at us. He didn’t want to go to Mass on holy days. He went to church with me every Sunday, but he didn’t mind missing Mass here or there. He was always complaining about the homilies.
He didn’t really like going to do outdoor activities as much as I did and was very happy to watch TV or movies instead — something that I only really do on a rainy day when I have no other plans. He loved going out to watch movies at the theater, while I would rather spend my money going to a nice dinner and watching a movie at home.
He had no desire to travel — something that I am so passionate about. Yet I was okay with that. I thought that our relationship was worth sacrificing travel for. And it wasn’t even his refusal to go on mission trips with me…he wouldn’t even go on a day trip to another city. I had accepted the fact that I would probably just continue to volunteer overseas alone, while he stayed home to coach football. Football was his passion and although I learned a lot about it, I really don’t care at all about the sport. He was a great guy, but he was probably right when he eventually decided that we weren’t right for each other.
Maybe it could have worked out just fine. But I am still hoping that God has something even better in store for me. Maybe, once I meet the right person, I won’t have to sacrifice some of my passions. I know that any solid relationship requires some sacrifice and compromise, but it’s tough to decide how much is acceptable. It’s difficult to know if I’m giving up too much of myself in order to be in a certain relationship.
Gabby has the exact same feelings as me, and similar situations with dating. If it wasn’t a work night, I am sure that we could have just talked for hours. And she said something that really resonated with me, about listening to the desires of my heart. If there is something that I really seek in a man, that is something that I shouldn’t give up on.
I know that if I had to choose the perfect person for me, he would love God above everything else, but also enjoy being outside and staying active, and be eager to travel with me. I don’t want to have to compromise on any of those three things. If I did compromise and find myself in a marriage with someone who didn’t fit those criteria, I think I would be always curious if I could have found a better person if I had waited it out. And that is what would lead me to a divorce.
Do we necessarily need to enjoy all of the same outdoor activities? No, but some should overlap. I’m not expecting or even seeking a guy to accompany me in marathon training. But I hope I can find one who will cheer me on at the finish line. I don’t need a guy who loves kayaking, but maybe instead he enjoys hiking. He has to enjoy some of the activities that I enjoy. Does he need to jump on a plane for 14 hours to go trekking with gorillas in Rwanda? No. But going on a drive to the Baltimore Aquarium, or flying out to see the Grand Canyon would be awesome. And he would need to be supportive of the mission trips that I go on, not upset with me for leaving for a week or two.
So Gabby and I chatted about jobs, relationships, dating, our faith, and friends over our 2.3 mile run. She told me how she loves going kayaking and stand up paddle boarding on a river that is close to where her sister lives. She also enjoys running and the beach. Although I don’t drink, she assured me that I will enjoy going out with her to experience the Belmar night life with her and some of her other Catholic friends.
I drove her back to my car, we exchanged numbers, and I left feeling so excited about the way the night had played out.
A few hours before, I had come home from work, went to the beach, and I was actually feeling a bit frustrated knowing that I would have to leave the beach early to shower and go out to dinner. But I am so happy that I went.
I have no idea what will come with this young adult group or this friendship, but I am absolutely thrilled to find out.
I couldn’t even fall asleep last night because I was just in awe of the way God works. My relationship ended in February and I took time to work on myself. During Lent, I had been going to adoration every Monday and Stations of the Cross every Friday. I went to Mass every Sunday and I went to confession twice. I was reading my devotional daily and trying to pray more than I had been in the recent past.
I also worked on restoring my health, through hot yoga and running. I needed to be alone during the past few months to get to where I am right now. And maybe He now knows that I’m ready for more, whatever comes from all of this.
They always say that things happen when we’re least expecting them and I think last night was a perfect example of that. I went to dinner expecting there to be four of us, maybe five max. But everything fell perfectly into place.
I wish that I was better at waiting patiently and trusting in Him, but I get so impatient when I feel so alone. I need to remember that He truly has the best plans for me, even if they don’t happen as quickly as I think they should. Waiting is key.
And the idea of waiting reminds me of a blog that I wrote on February 11th, about The Difficulty of Waiting. At the time, I was just frustrated that I had to wait to see how life would unfold, but now, in June, I am starting to see the fruits of that message in my devotional about waiting. It had said this:
“Your path is difficult. There is no work in life so hard as waiting, and yet I say wait. Wait until I show you My Will. Proof it is of My Love and of My certainty of your true discipleship, that I give you hard tasks.
Again, I say wait. All motion is more easy than calm waiting. So many of My followers have marred their work and hindered their progress of My Kingdom by activity.
Wait. I will not overtry your spiritual strength…
All your toil in rowing and all your activity could no have accomplished the journey so soon. Oh, wait and trust. Wait, and be not afraid.”
Four months later, and maybe the waiting has finally paid off. I am eager to see what unfolds next.
God is so good and I am feeling incredibly blessed.