“When I lived in Harlem for a hot second…” my friend began. It was our monthly health care small group, and we were sharing our stories of patients who had really affected us and our careers.
“You lived in New York City!?” another member asked, incredulous. “That’s so cool! When’d you live there?”
“After grad school. I went to school in Boston.”
“That’s awesome! Why New York?” he asked.
She blushed a little and said, “Well, it was for a boy.” She chuckled to herself while the rest of us women in the group nodded silently to ourselves, and she continued her story.
As she spoke, I was distracted thinking about all the things in life I had done “for a boy.”
- I pretended to like construction when I was dating a civil engineer, but I actually can’t stand it.
- I got really into coffee when my latest crush mentioned he liked it, and my level of coffee snobbery off the charts now.
- I started to learn how various sports work because of various boys, and now I actually liked most of them (except baseball. I can’t do baseball. I’ve really tried, but it bores me to tears, even when I’m in the stadium).
- I started watching “The Office” when my college boyfriend professed how much he was into it, and it’s one of my favorite shows.
- I willingly read a book about finances because this boy I met at a wedding thought it was amazing and I thought he was cute. I hated reading it and it was one of the worst written books I’ve ever tolerated, but I’ve actually put a lot of it into practice.
- I even now live where I live because of an ex! I used to think my city was a dump until I dated him long distance and realized while visiting him and some friends it was pretty awesome. After we broke up, I still had a favorable impression of the city and moved here.
I listen to a lot of country music (which I also got into because of a boy). Trent Harmon has a song out called “There’s A Girl” which describes all the crazy things boys do for girls, and I just can’t help but think of all the crazy things I’ve done for a boy. I’ve done a lot of things for boys, but yet I don’t have that same level of enthusiasm for the ultimate boy: Jesus.
What’s been holding me back? I think it’s human nature to be a little reluctant to give ourselves to Christ because our human relationships are broken and we superimpose that brokenness onto Jesus. It’s odd that my dating disappointments have affected my relationship with Jesus more than its affected my hopes for dating in the future. Somehow, I’m more insecure about Jesus leading my life than some bum. I can easily picture following a guy (I’m guilty of doing it as soon as I think he’s cute!), but when it comes to following Jesus, I refuse. It makes no logical sense! Jesus always loves me. The love I’ve received from dating interests and exes has been much more temporary and fickle. What’s been holding me back!?
It was with great providence that I came upon the autobiographical spiritual book He Leadth Me by Fr. Walter Ciszek. Ciszek was an American Jesuit priest who served in Poland and Russia during the Cold War. Shortly after being ordained, Ciszek was sent to Albertyn in eastern Poland in 1938. World War II broke out in 1939, and many people began fleeing to Russia. He left with two other priests for the Soviet Union in 1940 under the false name Władymyr Łypynski. Lypynski worked in Chusovoy, a logging town the Ural Mountains, for about a year where he and his fellow priests discreetly ministered to the workers.
In 1941, he was arrested for espionage. Ciszek was accused of being a Vatican spy and was sent to the terrifying Lubyanka prison in Moscow. The prison was in an old hotel and operated by the KGB. He was left in solitary confinement for nearly 5 years, forced to sign a false confession, and was released to serve the remainder of his sentence (15 years!) at a labor camp in Siberia. Yet, he worked to the best of his abilities at the camp, trusted the Lord had a plan for his life, and continued his daily devotions to God largely in secret. I can barely do that, and I’m paid, fed well, and sleep in a cozy apartment!
How did Ciszek do it!?
He simply gave every moment of his life to God. As he repeated in various ways throughout the memoir, “no moment can be wasted, no opportunity missed, since each has a purpose in man’s life, each has a purpose in God’s plan.”
Some days, it’s hard for me to believe that. How is the time I spent in relationships and dating other guys NOT wasted time? How are the things I got into for them NOT wasted interested? How is all that energy I put into these various boys NOT wasted effort? How is all that for “good” when it’s seeming useless and very disappointing?
I’ve been trying to wrap my head around these questions as yet another dating disappointment has happened lately. I really let myself become hopeful this time around, and I don’t usually allow myself to do that. Between my ugly cries as I was pulled over on the side of a city street, I kept asking God, “What’s the point?” (Let’s be honest. My real dialogue had quite a few more F-bombs…)
My friend once told me as I was ugly crying about my uncertain future travel nursing that you know you haven’t really prayed about something until you need to pull over because you’re crying so hard. That sort of crying hasn’t happened in a good two years. I’m usually stubborn and drive through my tears.
A little over two years ago, I allowed myself to pull over on Highway 17 in California. It was mid-December. I was coming back to my temporary home in San Jose from a day trip in Santa Cruz, and I was freaking out about the future. I was about to leave my travel nursing adventures behind to start a new life in Milwaukee in the dead of winter for a job that paid less than what I was making at a hospital ranked much lower than my current place of employment. Realistically, my decision made no sense, and my very rational self was having a very difficult time trusting that this irrational decision was the best option. It was the option that Jesus had made very clear was the best choice, but it made no sense.
Two years later, I realize it made perfect sense. I love my family too much to live a plane ride away. I didn’t like working every other weekend, and every third on my schedule is much better. My job in the ER is so much more satisfying, and I work the most gorgeous hours of 9am to 7pm, which could never exist on the floor. Ultimately, both going to and leaving California was one of the most courageous things I’ve ever done, and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it.
That night, bawling on the side of the road, I let Jesus into that deep desire that I usually either pretend I don’t have or try to fix on my own. I let Jesus into the spot in my heart that really wants to be married. I’m so ready to let a boy into my heart that it aches, but I rarely let Jesus into that very same spot.
I don’t quite have an answer to my question of “what’s the point” for all this disappointment, but I have an open spot in my heart that didn’t exist before. There’s a letting go that wasn’t there before, and I know from past experience that Jesus honors that place that I open up for Him.
In opening up to Him, I realized I’ve been believing a lie. I’ve believed the lie that I need to wait for the perfect situation to follow Jesus. I don’t need to be the perfect wife with two adorable children and a sweet husband to one day wake up and declare, “I’m perfectly ready to follow Jesus.” Nope. That’s how I should wake up every day. I keep falling into a pit of false thinking that I cannot be holy until I fulfill God’s will for my vocation, which I wholeheartedly believe to be marriage and motherhood.
As the cliché goes, “It’s not the destination; it’s the journey.” I won’t magically become holy in marriage if I’m not holy in my single life. I won’t magically become happy in marriage if I’m not happy in my single life. I won’t magically become a world-class chef with a great taste in home decor who has infinite patience and love for her husband and children if I’m not learning those skills now!
Ironically, it took a pair of celebrity memoirs for this point to really sink in. I just finished Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick and The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines. Both found fame fairly quickly despite being in their respective fields for about a decade.
Kendrick had started as a child actor on Broadway and suddenly found fame after filming Up in the Air. Despite the glamour of the award circuits and interviews, she was near broke with a paycheck from Twilight of all things paying her bills. As she wrote, “I felt like a fraud! I was being flown around, staying in hotels I could never afford and putting on clothes that someone else picked out. When I went home, I dragged a suitcase full of those items I didn’t own across my tar-stained carpet and dumped it out at the foot of my Ikea bed.” Fame suddenly didn’t make her happy. She continues to write how she felt increasingly anxious, not less anxious.
The Gaines had been flipping houses and building properties for about a decade when HGTV found them after Joanna posted a blog called “Living with Kids.” A higher up at HGTV saw it, loved her taste, liked the fact that she and her husband were a design team, and sent a TV crew out to test run what a show would be. They were also near broke, but HGTV loved them, and well, can you blame them? But Joanna and Chip write in their memoir how they had found joy prior to fame, found work-life balance with their kids before fame, how they had a solid relationship before fame. Fame didn’t make them happy; it just helped pay some of the bills.
So, too, I need to stop believing the lie that I need to find a guy to be happy. I want to stop bending over backwards to watch a show a guy likes or like a sport he likes or try to make myself into something I’m not because ultimately, that boy is not going to make me happy. Only Jesus will.
I want to start doing the little things every day that I know will make my Boy happy. Whether it’s washing the dishes for my roommate or smiling at my patients when I actually want to snap at them or sitting down to study for my graduate school classes (and really study, so not go on Facebook ever other minute or watch Fixer Upper in the background).
So, as Walter Ciszek wrote,
“My task this day, as always, was to yield without hesitation and without questioning the wisdom of his will, to accept it in all reverence without trying to make it conform to my will or understand it fully with my limited human wisdom, to abandon myself once again in complete trust and confidence to the mysterious workings of his grace and his wisdom.”
– Walter Ciszek, He Leadth Me
I don’t know how long this season of singleness will last, but it’s not going anywhere. Regardless of if I’m single, married, have children, or am always chlidless, my job will always be the same: to please my Savior by my very being. Today and every day, my only task is to abandon myself to the providence of God and trust that whatever frustrations, joys, disappointments, or whatever happens during the day is nothing He cannot handle.