Waiting for "Happily Ever After"
By: Camille Carloss
Waiting is the worst. For me “patience” is one of those cringey words, trumped by few others, save vulnerability, change, and humility. But patience is definitely up there. I’m learning everyday to grow in patience while working as a nanny for two young children, but I have a current struggle with patience in waiting to get married. In my case, Dylan and I have been dating for a little over 2 years (this time around). Some friends would say 6 years… Basically, it’s been a long time coming and I’m just ready for happily ever after!
Waiting for our wedding reminds me of the need (and struggle) for patience. Patience is a common struggle and varies from tiny impatiences, like waiting for all to be at the dinner table and for grace before beginning a meal. There is one impatience that tends to be big in the Catholic sphere: impatience concerning vocation and discernment. Now as I wait… and wait, and wait… to get married, I also recall my own experience of discernment. I’ve felt the agony of patience concerning vocations in general and God’s timing- never wanted, but always the best.
If you’re a Catholic, vocation can seem monumentous and stressful. "How do I know?" "Why won’t God light that bush on fire and just tell me already!?" "Why is God waiting so long and why am I so stressed?" I painstakingly discerned (impatiently and stressfully) for years. Discernment is one of the biggest areas where patience in waiting is necessary, but the ability to wait well is a practice that everyone needs because life includes a lot of waiting. Here are a few suggestions of how to handle the struggle and blessing of waiting:
1) Embrace the mystery.
Like many things with God, there’s a mystery in the future. And in a time where mystery and wonder is often lost, we would do well to contemplate instead of complain. I think mystery and wonder- both incredibly important for the soul’s elevation- are much harder to find today. With rampant promiscuity and flaunting of bodies, the mystery and wonder of sexual love and the human body is fleeting and hard to find. The common practice of Mass into the vernacular, increase in casual dress, and lack of reverence decrease the wonder of the mystery in the mass. Emphasis on scientific proof of everything decreases want and trust of mystery, while manipulation of conception and human life decreases sense of wonder of the gift of creation. We live in a time where mystery is hardly noticed. Lack of wonder of mystery increase the temptation to search for false gods, which will always disappoint. G.K. Chesterton put it so plainly: “We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.” Maybe, you’ll wonder at the marvelous new iPhone… for about five minutes, then you’ll want something else. There is a reason we get disappointed by things of this earth. As C.S. Lewis (ma boi) said, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” We were made for eternity! How immense, wonderful, and incomprehensible eternity is! Waiting reminds us that we are created to wait and that we are waiting for the greatest gift of all- eternal life.
2) Work on trust-
Trusting God’s timing is difficult, especially when our concupiscence always pushes in the direction of wanting to control our lives. But it didn’t work for Adam and Eve and it’s not going to work for us… (The previous blog post touched on this subject, so I will try not to be too long winded, but check it out if you struggle with fear and trust.) I used to struggle much more with control. I wanted to plan and control my life and I am still learning to trust the Lord better. But literally every time I intentionally ask the Lord to plan my day, He does! (His timing is often different than what I would have planned, but always better). For example, the timing of our engagement and wedding was completely planned by the Lord. My original desire was to be engaged last October. Instead of getting engaged, we evaluated our relationship and decided that we needed to grow more. When we finally got engaged it came at the perfect time.. We got engaged on Divine Mercy Sunday- in such a special way and very much guided and timed by the Lord. Because of the change in timing, we are getting married nearly a year later than what I originally thought. This is difficult, because I struggled so long with discernment, and I want to finally live my vocation! (I feel like St. Therese in her movie biography. Poor little Therese, who is too young to enter the convent, exclaiming, “But I can’t deny His love any longer!” I feel the same! The Lord has guided us so providentially until now, that I’m just ready to accept the Lord’s will, finally!) But because of this change in timing, we are able to pursue our dreams of international adventures- Dyl of going to study in Rome, and myself of going to live in Spain. And while I often wish Dylan would quit school and marry me now instead, I know that this is such a valuable time of personal growth before marriage and the responsibilities of a family.
3) Sanctify your patience
I always get excited when I see 2 Peter 3:13-15a is the reading for morning prayer. “What we await are new heavens and a new earth where, according to his promise, the justice of God will reside. So, beloved, while waiting for this, make every effort to be found without stain or defilement, and at peace in his sight. Consider that our Lord’s patience is directed toward salvation.” How beautiful!! The Lord’s patience is for a purpose- for my salvation! I forget this so easily; thankfully, the reading is a recurring one. (In fact, I was searching for the Bible verse and the day after I wrote the first draft, this was the reading for morning prayer! Providence and God’s timing are real, y’all.)
And then there are those three little words of advice you hate to hear… “offer it up.”
You know those times when you are in pain or having a difficult time and your Catholic friend says “Offer it up”? And, instead of prayers, you would prefer to offer up a roundhouse kick in their face. Because you know that “offering it up” is a thing, but you’re in pain and you don’t really want to think about anything else. But, I’m going to be that friend and tell you to offer it up anyway. Offer up this wait that seems agonizing. Your experience is real and waiting can be really painful sometimes! And people really need your prayers. I usually try to offer up my respective (tiny) sufferings to something related. For instance, if I am struggling with patience to get married, I might offer this up for those having a difficult time in their marriage. Or if I’m having baby fever, I’ll offer it up maybe for those who are having difficulty conceiving and who are in much more pain than I am. Our little sufferings matter and even the littlest sufferings can be offered with Christ’s passion for the salvation of souls.
Happily Ever After… for real.
Back to what I promised in the title… happily ever after! Which is marriage… right? Nope. This is something that I know in my head, but that a conglomeration of Disney movies, young adult novels, and daydreaming sometimes make me forget. I think what makes patience difficult is the idea of marriage as an end- the happily ever after. The ending of all Disney movies and rom-coms. Our culture is so imbued with this idea that I think it becomes subconscious, and ever-more dangerous. Marriage isn’t happily ever after and it’s not the end. Marriage is really the beginning- a new mission, new vocation- with new joys, yes, but also new struggles. So, marriage isn’t happily ever after, BUT what is even more beautiful is that marriage can and (hopefully) will lead to happily ever after. Fulton Sheen comments on this desire for eternity beautifully: “Marriage is a vocation to put God in every detail of love. In this way, the dream of the bride and groom for eternal happiness really comes true, not in themselves alone, but through themselves. Now they love each other not as they dreamed they would, but as God dreamed they would” (Three to Get Married, 33). As Catholics, we have something greater than our fallen and troubled human love. We have real forever. Not with a human, who will always leave us wanting, but with our creator, redeemer, with Love Himself. This is the goal. This is the real end. This is the real happily ever after.