This post is part two of three in the series 3 Paths of Prayerful Discernment: the importance of prayerful discernment in dating and marriage, stories from 3 Catholic women.
Today I (Sara) am sharing with you the story of my discernment process in dating and marriage. I started with a strong desire to date a good Catholic boy, but God had different and beautiful plans for my life.
Why is it important to seek God’s will first in dating and marriage?
Sometimes I get so focused on what I want and what I think is good for me that my limited view can block out God’s plans for me entirely.
I tend to see the future with wishful thinking. I imagine everything exactly how I want it to be. The perfect house, the most amazing husband who helps with all the chores and always has a smile on his face, well behaved children playing quietly on the floor.
But real life hardly ever looks how I imagine it will.
It’s filled with its shares of troubles and sorrows, struggles and arguments, mixed in with all the beauty and joy. And God knows every moment of it. So I need to trust Him to provide what I need – in terms of goods, graces, and relationships – to live a real life. Not just the one I imagined. I need to seek the path He knows will lead to holiness and eternal happiness, not just path I think will make me happy.
I learned this lesson in a big way in my journey to dating and marriage.
How did you discern what model of dating relationship to pursue?
I always had a love/hate relationship with those dating checklists girls sometimes make.
On the one hand, I thought it was a cool idea to make sure your heart doesn’t run off without your head. But on the other hand, I worried that my narrow view of the “perfect husband” would prohibit me from finding the very real, humanly flawed man that God intended for me in His perfect plan.
So instead of focusing on what I wanted my future spouse to be like, I focused on who I needed to be, in order to be a daughter of God. And I reflected on what that would mean in my relationships.
Instead of focusing on what I wanted my future spouse to be like, I focused on who I needed to be. Tweet this.
I needed to be chaste. I needed to be prayerful. I needed to be compassionate, understanding, and forgiving.
And above all I needed to put God first.
To me, this meant that I absolutely needed to marry a Catholic man. Someone who would respect and support me in my beliefs and lead our future family in the faith. And since the purpose of dating is for marriage, I had my heart set on dating only good Catholic boys.
And I told God that’s the one thing I wouldn’t budge on.
He’d better find me a faithful Catholic man to fall in love with, or else I’d be single forever. I knew what I wanted and I challenged God to bend to my will.
Dear single ladies, take it from me: God laughs in the face of our pride.
He had different plans for me.
How has God revealed His will for you?
When it comes to vocations and relationships, my pastor always told me that God leads us by our heart, but we check our desires with our head.
So in my friendships, as I considered potential boyfriends and crushes and serious interest, I allowed my heart to speak first. And the first thing my heart screamed out for was sincerity.
I knew I could never marry someone who was Catholic in name but didn’t agree with or strive to live up to the Church’s teachings. Such a man could never infuse in our children the love for God I desired them to learn.
So: no insincere Catholics. That okay with you, Reason? Yep. Good to go.
And there went pretty much every Catholic I knew in my social circle at a secular college. So in order not to get too involved and attached to those friendships, I let my circle widen.
I let myself develop “no-risk” friendships with guys of different faiths… well, mostly the norm seemed to be “no specific faith.” No risk there, because not being Catholic, they’re just passing friends. Not marriage material, right?
Ha. Ha. Ha.
God leads us with our heart, but we check our desires with our head. Tweet this.
In my desire to let God lead me by my heart in my vocation, I grew in friendship and began to grow attracted to a protestant-in-name-but-really-has-no-faith-affiliation man. I’m sorry, God, what? Let’s check this attraction with reason. He’s not a practicing Catholic, so I can’t marry him, so I won’t date him. No way.
God continued to draw us closer together. And because of “reason,” I continued to resist. But I couldn’t get over the profound respect he held for me. The genuine interest he expressed in what I found important. The support he had for my faith and my beliefs.
God continued to push us together through the strongest movements of the heart.
Movements I couldn’t deny any longer.
What does your prayer life look like as regards dating?
So I called out to God in prayer. I begged Him to lead me and show me His will. I was bold and bossy and demanded signs from God, which He gave me loud and clear.
So I followed His guidance. But I did it with anger and petulance and bossiness and demands.
I cried when we started dating. I felt like I had taken the first step towards giving up my dream for a solid Catholic marriage. At the same time, I knew God had led me this far, and that His plans are always for our eternal good. So I sat God down and told God He’d better know what He was doing.
I told Him I was sticking firm to my “only marrying Catholic” rule, even though I’d violated my “only dating Catholic” one for Him. It was on His shoulders to do something about it.
And what’s more, I wasn’t going to help Him. I wasn’t going to tell my boyfriend what to do, think, or believe. I wasn’t going to try to convert Him. I was just going to do my Catholic thing and let God take care of His part if He ever wanted to see us married.
I was a feisty pray-er. I treated God with all the 19 year-old know-it-all attitude I could muster.
And despite all my petulance, God pulled through.
What role does God play in your relationships?
God held first place in my life. I prayed constantly for Him to do the same for my boyfriend. And He did, without me pushing or nagging or even knowing.
God was my boyfriend’s lead and guide. He moved his heart to see, recognize, and love the truth.
One day, my boyfriend told me he decided to join the Catholic Church. I stared at him in shock, then I hugged him and cried.
I’m glad I left his conversion up to God. I know God could do that which was beyond me. God led us through the doubt and confusion of submitting to His will against our own. He navigated the rough waters of our interfaith (if only temporarily) relationship.
And He showed me that above all, He knows what He’s doing.
Following His plan can be confusing and heartbreaking, but as long as He’s central in our lives and relationships, we have nothing to fear. His plan for my eternal redemption is better than any perfectly laid or idyllic plans I could come up with myself.
God allowed me to live my dream of marrying a good Catholic man although He led me down the path of dating a “heathen” to get there.
And I’m so grateful I did the difficult thing and let God lead me in His will. My husband is a faithful leader of our family. He supports me and inspires me to become a better person. Even though I’ve been Catholic all my life, and he’s been Catholic only a few years, he’s far surpassed me in faith and devotion. He’s my leader and my role model.
I couldn’t find a good Catholic boy to marry. So God made one for me, special order.
And He gave me better than I ever hoped for.
3 Paths of Prayerful Discernment
Read part 1: The Catholic Couple
Read part 3: A Catholic, a Methodist, and a Happy Marriage