Looking back on my life I can truly say, God has been very patient with me and also very gracious toward me. But it took me quite some time to be able to see and understand that.
I was fortunate, while growing up, to have good parents who both had a strong Catholic faith. And they loved each other. They didn’t just say the words, they actually showed how much they loved each other. And they took their wedding vows seriously. They stayed together for better or for worse. My parents’ example made me desire that same kind of love for myself.
I grew up believing that finding the kind of love my parents shared was what life was all about. I thought that life could only be meaningful if one found that kind of love, and that without it, life, however valuable, would be missing something.
Whether it came from a sermon in church or from something someone may have said on television, the idea that the ‘right woman’ was out there waiting for me had roots that went very deep.
As it says in Proverbs 19:14, “Home and possessions are an inheritance from parents, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.”
Being Influenced By the World
Let’s face it, no matter how close we stay to the church, once we leave home the possibility of being impressed with society is very possible. One of the things that made a big impression on me was rock music. The very suggestive lyrics coupled with enticing musical sounds can be very influential.
Another influence on me was alcohol. As a young man this meant going to bars to socialize.
When you mix all three of those together, rock music, bars, and booze, it’s easy to end up on a road that does not lead to finding God’s plan for love and happiness.
There nothing inherently wrong with any of those things in and of themselves. But when they are combined and become one’s sole outlet for social activity, they usually lead to isolation rather than fulfillment.
As it says in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Trying to have it both ways
As I look back at my younger years, I see that I had one foot in the church and one foot in the world. The main result of that was going to confession a lot, but never really growing spiritually. I was limiting myself by not truly trusting in God to provide.
As it says in Luke 9:62 “. . . No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.”
By putting myself in a position where I was constantly in the company of people, places and things that did not glorify God, I found it almost impossible to find any fulfillment as one of God’s children. There was actually a time when I thought that I would not have to sacrifice anything to the Lord on my part. I thought if I simply waited and was patient, the right woman would come along sooner or later.
But there are lots of times when life does not work out the way you think it will. One can wait forever for snow to fall in Miami and never see it. If you want the snow, you have to go where it is most likely to be found. If I wanted God’s direction in my life, I had to first learn that I needed to trust in Him and follow His path, rather than pursue the world’s idea of a social life, to find happiness.
We are told in Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely; In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.”
Getting what you paid for
Eventually, if you invest in something long enough, it is bound to pay some kind of dividend. And if what you invest in is ‘of the world’ and not of God, then the world’s ways will be what you end up with.
That is pretty much how it went with me. Because of my selfish interests and desires, I was living the way I wanted and hoping to end up the way God wanted. I wanted the things of this world that pleased me, while hoping to find God’s gifts without doing anything to pursue them. I thought I could just sit by and let Him to do all the work.
It says in James 1:22, “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.”
During my years of more or less passively looking for love, I was always meeting the ‘wrong’ woman and thinking she was the ‘right’ one, simply because she was ‘someone.’ A lot of this can be the result of still having some growing up to do. It could also be the result of that old saying ‘birds of a feather flock together.’
I was spending most of my time, or at least an equal amount of time with rock music and in bars, instead of with God’s word. I was content to hang out where the main thing to do was get and stay drunk. So I should not have been surprised to find that others who do the same are the ones I ended up meeting. Had I totally dedicated my mind and heart to God and allowed Him to guide my thoughts and my direction, there is no doubt that my path would have been very different indeed.
I know God did not will any unfortunate thing to happen to me. And I know, too, that if I choose to do something, God will allow me to reap what I have sown.
It says in Galatians 6:7 “Make no mistake: God is not mocked, for a person will reap only what he sows.”
Finding a better way
After year after year of nothing that might resemble any kind of ‘fruitful’ harvest, I should not have been surprised to find myself asking God for help instead of thanking Him for blessings. Fortunately, God does help if He is asked to.
It says in Isaiah 41:10 “Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”
There comes a time in a life when traveling down the broad road and taking the easy way breaks down and becomes disappointing. It is at times like these that the Holy Spirit, in His mercy and kindness, comes along and simply asks if you’ve had enough. And if the answer is yes, then the good news is that God will accept that yes for an answer and actually do something about it.
My Brother’s Advice
It says in Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”
One of the ways that God did this for me was by showing me that my way was just not working anymore, and that continuing to try and make things work that way was futile. I finally came to realize that some advice my brother had given me was really good advice.
My brother, an ordained Deacon in the Catholic Church, told me once that in my search for someone to be happy with, I would be wise to remember that sharing a common Catholic faith was very important.
All of the relationships I’d had, however, were with women who did not share my faith or who put no importance on practicing their own. I started to realize that having God involved is not optional; it is mandatory for true happiness.
This led to my being open to change, which helped to turn confession from just being the removal of guilt into a real transformative experience.
As we say in recovery, ‘I got sick and tired of being sick and tired.’ A person looking for love in all the wrong places will never find true love, just the wrong places. There were many times when I questioned if God was even listening to my prayers to find true love in this world and live happily ever after like my parents did.
But God was listening. God was listening more than I had even dared to think. Instead of simply just sending anybody into my life, He sent Himself instead. For you see, I did not need a spouse, I needed a Savior to show me that I was loved and to teach me how to love in return.
It says in Philippians 4:6-7, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Finding True Love
Saint Augustine of Hippo says in The Confessions, “You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
I have found this to be absolutely true. Many times in my life I wondered if or when the right woman would come along. I got fearful that I was growing older and my time to find someone was running out. And many times I became discouraged that God was not listening and thought maybe He doesn’t even care. But I finally discovered that if we find God we find contentment and fulfillment.
I never got married and I have no children. In all likelihood I’ll never know what it is like to have a wife and kids or be a husband or a father. I have not experienced what it is like to go from being just myself to being ‘us’.
But if we find God in our hearts and see him as our source of life, as well as our final destiny, then the ‘us’ becomes God and me together. And that union is one that completely fulfills the heart in many different ways.
Growing closer to God has helped me to find an identity and purpose in my life. Seeking God’s will has helped to show me how all of my old ways were foolish and unproductive.
Finding myself in Jesus
I now realize that trying to be a good husband or father as an active alcoholic would not have been easy. I have seen too many alcoholics who have gotten divorced or were not good parents precisely because they were going through some of the same things that I was struggling with. While I am sympathetic towards their struggles, I am very thankful that I never had to go through those experiences or suffer those consequences myself.
But I am most thankful for what did happen to me. I found myself by surrendering myself to God and trusting in Him for life’s fulfillment. God did hear my prayers after all; He did help me find the love of a lifetime, by finding myself in Him.
Proverbs 8:17 “Those who love me I also love, and those who seek me find me.”
Amen to that.