Sight, Sound and Beyond

Archive for February, 2016

My True Love

2000px-Heart_corazón.svgSo I a couple months ago, I was practicing with my band, which consists of a few parishioners from my parish.  Two of my bandmates are members of the Knights of Columbus, and one of them mentioned that the knights would like for us to play at their Valentine’s Day Diner.

“I can do it!” I said in excitement, “I never have plans on Valentine’s Day!”  Despite my happy disposition, I was admitting to what seemed to be an unfortunate truth.  I have never that special kind of love. Well, I have had many but all of them were unrequited loves.

I was a late bloomer in life and didn’t go out on my first date until I was nearly 23 years old. Were my parents strict about dating?  Heck no! That’s seriously how long it took me to get a date.  In high school, I had many crushes but because of my unpopularity, I was shy around the opposite sex.  In college, I had many interests but many of the guys on campus were either taken or gay.

I have never had a steady boyfriend.  I came close a few times, but it never worked out the way I hoped it would.  So as you can see, I have never earned the title as being a man’s girlfriend or sweetheart.  When it comes to that kind of love, my life has been a series of disappointments and it started at a fairly young age.  When I was about eleven years old, I had my first broken heart when my childhood friend of many years rejected my idea of us marrying in the future because of my poor vision.  Yes, I know I was just a kid and he was just a kid as well, but those words pierced my heart because I was rejected based on something that I could not help.  Being born with both a hearing and visual impairment just happened to me.  It was not something I chose.  It simply just is and I prefer to be defined by my choices, not by my circumstances.

I always thought that unrequited love would get easier with age, but I have learned that is not always the case. I can remember one instance that wasn’t all that long ago in which the pain of unrequited love was almost unbearable. In fact it was so painful that the emotional hurt and stress caused me to experience physical pain in my chest. At one point I thought that the pain would lead to a heart attack.  I kept praying to God to help heal both the physical and emotional pain go away.  It took months and many nights of crying before I began heal.  I remember pleading with Him: “Lord, please do not allow me to ever fall in love ever again, unless the guy actually wants to be in a relationship with me.”

Then a light went off in my head. God wants to be in a relationship with each one of us. God loves each of us so much, but do we all respond to His call to be in a relationship with Him?  Only one who loves us so much would come down into our existence, suffer and die so that we could live in eternal love with Him.  I can recall what a Franciscan Friar once told me on my 34th birthday: “Jennifer, always remember that Jesus loves you.  He died for you.”

During that time that I was dealing with the chest pain, which was clearly due to a broken heart, I had a very powerful dream one night that was the source of great healing that began to take place in my life.  I was standing outside my home when I suddenly saw Jesus, Himself standing before me. He stood tall, clothed in red garments that had gold trim and I, like a little child, ran to Him and He scooped me up in His arms and held me close to His heart.  My eyes filled with tears as I held my arms around Him, my chin resting on His shoulder.  I felt so small and yet so precious to Him and as He held me I noticed how high off the ground I was. It was a very beautiful and emotional encounter, and the interesting part is that no words were spoken. No words were spoken at all, and yet I knew He truly loved me.  I also felt a deep sense of understanding from Him for He knew all too well the pain of unrequited love.  He knew what it was like to have His love handed back to Him.  He knew what the sting of humiliation felt like.  Our pains became united because we both understood each others suffering.

From that experience on, I have focused less on trying to win the heart of a man, but rather to focus on the heart of He who already gave me His heart in His death and resurrection.  He is the one who still continues to love me despite my faults and mistakes, and He has not forsaken me.  I want so much to please Him not because I want Him to love me but because He already does love me.  He loved me then, He loves me now and He will love me in the future.

Why must I concern myself with finding the love of my life when I already have a Great Love in my life already?  Yes, finding love in this life is a good thing, but it is not needed for survival.  Without my Lord, I am dead.  He is the reason I exist and He is the source of everything I have for He is the ultimate gift giver.  He gave me my music, my birds, my friends, my parents, my family, etc.

Therefore, I do not make it my life goal to find a guy and get married.  If it happens, it happens, but if doesn’t that is fine too.  Being single is not the worst thing that can happen to a person and it doesn’t make a person less lovable than someone who is married or in a romantic relationship.  Unfortunately, it took me a long time to realize this.

People have asked me: “Why don’t you have a boyfriend?” or “Why aren’t you married yet?”  I answer them by saying: “I don’t need a man because I have the Lord.” They give a little laugh and a smile, but I am actually being serious.  All my life, I wanted a love that’s eternal and I have had it this entire time. I am sorry it took me so long to figure it out.

A Misfit in the Catholic Church

VaticanFlagI always knew I was different and it wasn’t my physical disabilities that made me different from other people.  I acted much different and liked different things.  I was different in how I viewed and understood the world around me.  I was a rebel, but not in a way that you think.  I was not a trouble maker, but a truth seeker.  Despite having two impaired senses, I sought to see and understand the world as it truly was and not how it appeared to be.  Unfortunately, I saw a lot of things that did not please me.  People liked to copy each other and rejected living like their true selves.  We are all different and unrepeatable and yet I saw people trying to make themselves repeatable and trying to fit some kind of a mold or set of standards that stemmed from the ideas of media and pop culture.  If the majority of people were going left, I would go right and if they stepped forward, I stepped back.  As much as I tried to be like the majority, it never felt right.  To conform to the ways of others felt very unnatural to me and as much as I tried to fit in, I could never manage to do it.

As a child, I was classified as being weird and I had hardly any friends.  I spent much of my high school career studying and when I look back, I wish I had not taken my studies so seriously and had a little more fun.  My social life was on the verge of extinction.  My idea of having a good time on a Friday night was doing trigonometry.  I had a hunger for knowledge and loved to think.  I often retreated in my own little world, which was fun because not only did I know all the people there, but I was very well-liked.

At 34, I still feel like an outsider looking in, but even more so as a Roman Catholic.  Why is this?  Well, it seems that my Catholic contemporaries are light years ahead of me.  They are either married or in religious life. I still have no clue what my calling is.  My mother says that the single life is a vocation.  Well, I don’t feel like it is because it is not talked about much.  The church seems to celebrate the married and religious states of life.  I can count the number of never married, single lay Catholics that I know on one hand. When I am in church, most of the female attendees are married and those who are single are widows, so they were married and became single by circumstance.  I really don’t know many single lay woman above the age of 30 in my parish.

My whole family is Catholic, but everyone in my family above the age of 30 are married and most of them have children.  In fact most of them have two children. That seems to be the magic number in my family.  Even my parents are each one of two children.  When I am around my family, I feel like I am a leftover on Noah’s Ark.  I am the only single person excluding my young cousins, nieces and nephew, who are all under the age of 18. It is really difficult to fit in a family where everyone is grouped into pairs. I even have TWO female birds that are best buddies.  Honestly, I wasn’t planning on having two birds though.  I thought I would stop at one, but Sunny flew into my life unexpectedly and became part of my family.

Since I made my confirmation, my father has been telling me to enter the convent and become a nun. Whenever I mention that there is a chance that I could get married, he would tell me that the convent is for me.  Most parents want their children to be married. My mother doesn’t put any pressure on me to do anything, but I will confess, I often feel pressure from my father to become a nun.  I feel guilty that I don’t feel drawn to the religious life, and I honestly don’t understand why I don’t feel any sort of connection to it. It would make perfect sense for me to become a nun or a sister right?  I love God, I am active in the church and I am unmarried. There’s my loophole, I should just make my move right?  Honestly, something is holding me back.  Like in my school days, to go that route doesn’t feel natural to me. It might feel right in the future but not right now.  Right now, becoming a nun or a sister, would be going against my own will.  But what about God’s will? Aren’t I supposed to conform my will to the will of God?  This is the part that always gets me.  If in fact our Lord wants for me to become a nun or sister, I don’t want to rebel against Him and His plan for me?  People have even told me that our Lord could be speaking through my father, but somehow, I highly doubt that God was speaking through my father when he said: “If you become a nun, then I will go to heaven.”

One of the anxieties I experience as a single lay Catholic is the idea of a “missed vocation”.  Did I miss my calling?  Did God give me an invitation to follow Him down a certain path that would lead me to my vocation and did I not accept that invitation?  Did I miss an opportunity that God provided for me that would ultimately help me decide between married or religious life?  I imagine finding my vocation to be like catching a train.  I am racing down the train platform to catch it and find that I have missed it.  Now I must wait for the next train to come to lead me to my destination, but will there be a next train or was that the last train altogether?  Did I totally miss my vocation completely? Am I doomed to live out the rest of my Catholic life trying to catch that train that may never arrive again?  That thought makes me feel as useless as an appendix and I don’t even have an appendix!  It ruptured in 1996, which was a complete blessing, but that is another story.  Anyway, I can only hope that I get a second chance to get on that train.  I want so badly to have a purpose.  In my school days, I wanted to fit in with my peers, now I seem to struggle with fitting in the Catholic Church.  I can’t help but think that my vocation is uniquely my own and being a single lay person will allow me to follow that unique path wherever it may take me.  Is it silly to think that?

Besides sharing music, I really want to focus primarily on learning more about my faith and strengthening my relationship with God.  Unfortunately, I never had the privilege of attending a Catholic school so I am trying to catch up on my Catholic education. There is so much I do not know, but I am learning a lot. A friend of mine likened me to being a recent convert to the Catholic faith because of my enthusiasm and hunger to learn more about my faith.  I often call myself a Born Again Catholic. Yes, I am a cradle catholic but it wasn’t until I was 29 years old, coming out of a deep depression that I spiritually began to shift.  I became more involved in my parish and when I was almost 32 years old, my father and I participated in the Charismatic Renewal together.  It was here that my faith was completely renewed and set on fire.  From that point on, I became more interested in learning more about God and how to strengthen my relationship with Him.  Let’s just hope that if I don’t find my spiritual vocation before I leave this earth, our Lord won’t say something like this to me: “Dude!  I can’t believe you didn’t figure it out!”  If He were to say that to me, I think I would have to say something like: “Lord, you know how clueless I am.  Surely you already know that I would never figure it out.”

Despite not knowing for certain what my actual spiritual vocation is, I can, in the meantime, try to live my life focusing on the universal calling: the call to holiness. We are all called to holiness regardless of if you live the single, married or religious life. I hope that each day I live, I live according to God’s will. It isn’t easy you know. I always find myself stumbling a lot. I am far from perfect and need major graces from our Lord to enable me to live intended. Because He loves me so much and died for me, I want no more than to please Him. I have faith that in His own given time, He will reveal His plan for me.

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