The weekend before Ash Wednesday, I attended my Catholic community’s spring retreat. The theme was “Meant for Lent,” so we spent a majority of our time talking about different ways to go on a journey with Jesus during Lent. During one of our first small-group discussions, we went around the circle and shared our plans for Lent. One of the group members didn’t want to share. When we asked him why, he said that suffering in silence, where only Jesus could see his pain, was more noble than telling people he was suffering.
Biblically, this viewpoint is valid (see Matthew 6:16-18,) and I did debate whether or not I should blog about my dating fast. However, I found that my experiences just spilled out of me, whether or not I wanted them to, and that this sharing kept me honest with myself and with others. And that, I think, is the key: being honest and holding yourself accountable. When you put your experiences on the Internet for the whole world to see, there will be people asking you about it. One of the greatest surprises and joys that God has given me during this dating fast is the positive feedback I’ve gotten on my posts from several non-Catholic and even non-Christian friends. I thought that having “Catholic” and “God” as my two most common tags would scare most people away, but people whom I thought wanted nothing to do with religion have come up to me saying, “I really like your blog!” It’s amazing what the word of God can do.
So do I feel guilty about sharing my dating fast? No, and not just because of the positive reception I’ve gotten.
I don’t know about anyone else, but it’s very easy for me to make excuses for why I’m not accomplishing my goals if I shut myself in a box and not tell anyone about them. The race to get to Heaven is the longest and hardest race you will ever have to run. There will be times when you feel like giving up; I’ve had many of those moments over the course of this dating fast. However, I have always been able to find my cheer squad of holy women and men to egg me on. God doesn’t expect us to grow in faith all by ourselves. Someone else has had to teach us the Good News at one point, whether we were 0 or 100. In order for that faith to stick with us and guide us, we need a support system of people to whom we can vent, whose shoulder we can cry on, with whom we can rejoice, and who love us enough to give us a reality check when need be.
Tonight, God gave me a serious reality check, and He chose to use a human mouth to give it to me. I had arrived at the chapel very early before Mass and was sitting in the office with a friend — let’s call her A. Another friend came in, and the three of us started talking about the women’s retreat this coming weekend. The other girl began to talk about her discernment of a romantic relationship, and A was reminding her that it was not on her schedule, but on God’s schedule, that this relationship would blossom or not. I was totally absorbed by A’s words. Trusting God with my love life has been such a struggle for me throughout my dating fast and throughout the past few years.
After the other girl left, A and I continued our conversation. Though A had only come into my life this semester, within 10 minutes, I was bawling as I opened up to her about how hard loving Jesus over anyone else was. She just talked to me, assuring me that even though I sin daily and run away from Jesus, He never abandons me and never loves me less, but MORE. It turned out she was struggling with many of the same issues I was. It was so comforting to know that I wasn’t alone, and that I think is why I felt compelled to blog about this dating fast; I want anyone reading this who is struggling with letting Jesus take the wheel in their love life to know that they are not alone, that God loves them unconditionally and though the road to Heaven is treacherous at times, there is forgiveness, healing and joy waiting at the end of it.
I think of Saints Perpetua and Felicity, the North African noblewoman and her slave who were martyred in the 3rd century. There’s a reason we remember them together; they depended on each other. They couldn’t have fulfilled God’s will for them without one another’s support. They stood side by side as sisters in Christ, even as the wild beasts in the arena tore at their flesh and the swords of the soldiers finally ended them. As women of God, we need to stick together. We need to hold each other accountable. We need to cheer each other on, pick each other up when we fall and trust that there will be others to pick us up when we fall.
So to A, and you at home reading this post, thank you for cheering me on in this journey to Heaven. Know that I am praying for you and cheering you on as well.
A plus tard!
Who’s on your personal cheer squad? Tell me in the comments below!