Anne knows what it feels like to face loneliness as a single person. She felt a keen calling to marriage and family life, and had to wrestle with losing hope that she’d ever meet the right person. Here, she talks about an insight from her faith that got her through.
To the girl who feels alone, left behind, and despairing: I know your pain.
To the girl who longs for a husband, a boyfriend, a companion: I’ve been there.
I’ve felt that hole in your chest, that void, that frustration, that loneliness. And it does get better.
There were moments in my dating life — often after yet another break-up — when my heart and my insides crumbled, and I felt like I was broken and in a million pieces. I was tempted to give up, to succumb. I felt so hopeless — and it all felt pointless. My heart loved too hard and broke too easily.
As my friends got married and started having children, I felt not only left out and left behind but also irrelevant. What did I have to contribute to conversations about wedding registries and breastfeeding?
And the worst thing of all was that I started to feel like I couldn’t fully celebrate the joy others were finding in their own relationships. It just hurt too much.
I often asked myself, How could I live a fulfilling life if all I ever wanted was to have a husband and a family?
Providentially, my job as a Catholic high school teacher surrounded me with 1,600 joyful, loving souls. At all-school Mass one day, surrounded by that multitude of students and immersed in a world of love, I found my answer. In the Mass — that meal by which we remember and join Jesus’ self-sacrificing love — I found a source of strength and fulfillment.
As I looked upon the cross, I understood God telling me, “You are enough.” Jesus lived and died and rose from the dead for us as we are, not for us as we want to be. That kind of love certainly asks us to be open to the new things it calls forth in us, but it’s offered freely in the here-and-now with no conditions. And it changes us. It changed me. At that Mass, I understood Jesus telling me that He was enough — enough to be happy; enough to be fulfilled; enough to carry on.
In the Mass, we encounter and participate in that love, and it became a tangible source of support for my sometimes-weary soul. Being regularly touched by that type of radical love, how could I despair? How could I not trust in God’s plan? How could I not trust that He wanted happiness for me more than I even wanted it for myself?
I realized that the longings of our hearts — if they are good and true — are placed there by God, who loves us enough to die for us and be present to us still today — in nature, in prayer, in other people, and most of all in the Eucharist. At that moment at that Mass, surrounded by my students in this place of worship, I felt a sense of community and peace. I realized that with Christ’s love, I would never really be alone or left behind. I had so much love to give, God would make sure it would not go to waste. Christ would sustain me as I sought to offer my gifts to the world, even if my life didn’t look the way I wanted it to at the moment.
Our stories don’t always end in a “happily ever after,” and often we turn to despair, thinking we’re at the end and not realizing we are only mid-tale. When I learned to trust in Christ’s love — and to know that having Him is enough — it filled up my lungs and I could breathe. It gave me the strength to carry on and the hope that I would eventually find my way.