When I was in my thirties and stuck in prolonged singleness, I was desperately afraid that God had called me to the single life. This was compounded by the feedback and responses I would receive from well-meaning people I would speak to about my grief and suffering regarding my desire to be married. The typical, yet painful, reply was, “Maybe you need to accept that God has no one for you,” or “God may have called you to be single.”
I could never bear these words when they were said to me. These answers sent me tail spinning into a downward spiral of despair, further than I already was given my current relationship status.
Would God leave me single when I really wanted to be married? Was this something God did to people regardless of their heart’s desires? These were the questions that I consistently wrestled with for many of my single years.
At that time, I lacked the theological knowledge about God and marriage that is fundamental to understanding the truth about one’s vocation.
As I grew in my knowledge of God and how much he loves marriage, my faith increased as well. I was able to trust that he would provide a spouse for me and I would indeed marry. I cannot say that the process was painless, as prolonged singleness is anything but easy.
I have studied this issue of marriage and vocation as both a single and a married woman. I can also look at the issue from a different perspective now that I have a spouse, as getting married reinforced my viewpoint that God really can do anything (Luke 1:37).
A Universal Calling
In Genesis, “The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.’” (Genesis 2:18 NABRE) God created humans in a primordial state of marriage. God could have chosen anyway to form man and woman, but he did so within the context of a marriage, specifically pointing out that it was not good, well, best, for them to be alone.
There were many reasons for this, as God loves marriage. I am not going to go into them here. I encourage you to read my three-part blog series, “God Loves Marriage: How Come?” to learn about all the reasons marriage is so significant and the importance it holds in our being made the image and likeness of God.
When God created man in Genesis, he set out a pattern for human nature. Specifically, food was created for man to eat, work was created for man to do, and marriage was created. Man was designed with marriage as part of his nature, as it reflects the image of God and marriage was constructed by God to help meet man’s relationship needs. (Genesis 1 & 2)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) confirms what the scriptures make plain. In §1603 of the CCC, a clear calling to marriage is established as universal:
“…God himself is the author of marriage. The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator.” (Emphasis added)
We are all designed with a vocation to marriage. It is a calling that was placed into us by God from the very beginning.
Jesus Speaks on Singleness
In Matthew 19:10-12, Jesus discusses the three reasons a person does not marry: either they are born not capable of marriage, they are made not capable of marriage by others, or they forsake marriage for the kingdom of heaven. I discussed this scripture passage in detail in the blog post, “Prolonged Singleness: Are You Stuck in the Single State?”
Unless one is called to forsake the great good of marriage for the kingdom of heaven, he or she can be confident that marriage is their God-given vocation:
“From the very beginning of the Church there have been men and women who have renounced the great good of marriage to follow the Lamb wherever he goes, to be intent on the things of the Lord, to seek to please him, and to go out to meet the Bridegroom who is coming. Christ himself has invited certain persons to follow him in this way of life, of which he remains the model.” (CCC §1618) (Emphasis added)
In Matthew 19:10-12, the first and second category of singleness described by Jesus results from living in a fallen world. Prolonged Singleness is a part of this (see blog post, “Prolonged Singleness: Are You Stuck in the Single State?”) The people in the third category, however, are forsaking the calling of marriage that was written into their nature to follow Christ for the building up of the kingdom of God here on earth. These men and women have a vocation to the religious life and live out a “marriage” relationship in a different, but a similarly sanctifying, way.
What’s in A Word
The word “vocation” comes from the Latin word “vocare” which means “to call.” This is very hopeful! As the CCC states in §1603, “The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator.” Thus, one is called to marriage by God via their very nature.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:24, St. Paul points out God’s promise and ability regarding our calling: “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it.” (NABRE) In Romans 11:29, St. Paul stresses again, “For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.” (NABRE) What God fashioned you with from the very beginning does not get revoked – your vocation nor your talents. He wants to help you live it out!
If you have not discerned a religious vocation, e.g., that Jesus Christ is inviting you to forsake the great good of marriage and follow him for the kingdom of heaven, then your vocation (calling) is marriage.
I encourage you to prayerfully read Matthew 19:10-12. Are you stuck in prolonged singleness? I was. Others can make a person single (society, childhood wounds, past relationships, etc.) and then we can contribute to it by continuing in our responsive actions. The good news is that God will help the person who seeks him to overcome!
By Julieanne M. Bartlett All Rights Reserved Copyright 2021