Time to grow up

You know how sometimes you’re having a complete meltdown over something that seems absolutely critical to your future health, happiness, and overall well-being? There you are, staring out the living room window at the cold, dreary rain, thinking dark thoughts about the future without whatever it is and wondering how you will ever survive. You’re in the depths of despair, and you glower in black fury at your roommates when they walk innocently by and wish you “good morning.” Nothing interests you. Food loses its flavor. Life — what meaning does it hold now that That Thing is about to be taken from you?

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So I was having one of those days on Sunday. And I’m both relieved and embarrassed to admit that the answer to my woes was incredibly simple. It went something like this: Grow up.

I’m realizing with increasing regularity that I spend a whole lot of time thinking about how the events and people in my life affect me. Those that affect me most get the most attention. Those that affect me less can sit and simmer on the back burner, if I give them even that much thought. Why worry about other people’s lives, seems to be my semi-conscious mantra, when I have my own to worry about?

But when someone else’s life has a noticeable impact on mine, theI stand up and take notice.

This weekend a blip in someone else’s plans threw my own plans into a tailspin, and instead of reacting in genuine concern for that person, I had a fit because I wanted things to go my way. Granted, this other person would probably like for things to go my way, too. I’m not being completely selfish. But it wasn’t until the blip in their plans unsettled mine that I took this person’s long-standing intention to prayer with real fervor. Heretofore I’ve been comfortable with the more passive, “Please bless so-and-so in such-and-such situation.” But now my own dearest wishes were on the line, and my prayers were much more focused.

As a result, I’ve been taking a much deeper look at all my intentions and realizing how selfish I am…yes, even in prayer. It’s easy to say, “I’ll pray for you,” and it’s even pretty easy to tack names on to my daily rosary or Mass. But to really carry the people I care about to Our Lord and present all their needs to him and beg him to look on them in love and satisfy their deepest needs–needs that have nothing to do with me? I won’t say that’s hard, but it’s hard to remember. It’s hard to pull my selfish head out of my own goings-on long enough to focus on The Other.

It’s just so dratted easy to be selfish. And quite frankly, it’s childish. The child can center the whole universe on her own measly wants and needs, but the adult is supposed to know better. Not just outwardly — it’s one thing to volunteer at the homeless shelter, give your seat to old ladies on the metro, or let the person with two items get ahead of you in line at the grocery store. Those are good things, but they’re also external and therefore easier to see. What goes on inside is just as important.

Real Christian charity isn’t just an outside thing. It should be all-pervasive, all inclusive, and deeply selfless. I should have genuine concern for the people in my life in everything, not just the areas that impact me directly. So I was grateful, albeit a bit embarrassed, when a wise person listened to my tearful tale and chuckled and said, “You’ll be fine. But you should be worried about that other person.”

Ah, perspective. It’s still not all about me. Maybe some day I’ll learn that lesson for keeps.

– Mabel

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Anonymous guest post on living in the gap

This post was sent in response to our profiles request, but the writer has asked to remain anonymous. Some great thoughts on how we’re not alone during this time of singleness — and we can (and should) be using it to grow in selflessness. –Mabel

 

But you are not alone in this / and you are not alone in this / as brothers we will stand and we’ll hold your hand / Hold your hand  – “Timshel” by Mumford and Sons

My life as a single person comes with many struggles, but I am not alone. Emmanuel, God with us!

I don’t know if I expected this time of singleness, but I do know that I am grateful for this time. This time of singleness has really allowed me to grow in my relationships with others, and ultimately with God. 

In high school and college, friendships were easier to cultivate. I loved others very similar to myself. It helped that we lived close to each other and communication did not require a lot of thought. During those years, I was single and so were a majority of my friends. I am still close with many of my high school and college friends, but we are removed enough from college that not all of our life experiences are as common. And, that is a good thing. I have needed this time to grow more deeply with those who hold my hand from afar.  

The place I chose to live after college is neither close to home or college, but I have been blessed with new friendships. These friends have been very instrumental in my transition into adulthood. 

Married, single, old, and new friends alike have given me time, faith, beautiful conversation, and forgiveness. All of which have made me keenly aware of the selfishness that I so easily fall victim to living a single life. That selfishness is isolating, but they keep me close in the midst of all of their struggles and mine. These friendships have contributed largely to my fulfillment because they are all gifts from God, and have brought me closer to Him. 

 

Looking back, forging ahead…

This blog turned three yesterday. 

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What started in December 2010 as a combination of venting, catharsis, and some vague hopes of maybe writing a book someday has gradually become something more important, at least to me. It’s become an opportunity to journey with so many other people living the same state in life and trying to figure out why they’re here — “stuck,” as we so often feel, in the gap and not sure what God wants out of our lives.

I’ve been gratified, humbled, and often inspired over the years by hundreds of conversations with friends and acquaintances, both in person and online, about this life in the gap and what we’re called to do with it. Even if this silly little blog serves no other purpose in the vast scheme of things, it has been an invaluable aid to me in my own journey, and a source of real consolation in the darker times, when the road ahead rolls on with no apparent direction. 

Someone recently told me that “life in the gap” isn’t something Christians should celebrate. The argument went, basically, that those of us who are still single well into our twenties and even thirties are products of a culture that prolongs adolescence, elevates career, and encourages us to push off our vocation as long as possible. It was odd to hear this argument against the very concept of my blog (and, actually, the very relevance of my day-to-day life, if you think too hard about it) expressed so directly. For it was exactly this unspoken attitude I started the blog to fight back against. 

Here’s a little quiz for my readers:

Raise your hand if you’re a Catholic (or Christian) single adult who has decided, “Vocation will be nice…in about ten years. For now I’m going to go at it alone and work my job and go to parties and just enjoy being single.” 

Okay, so a few of you probably did raise your hands. Most people who feel this way also probably don’t get a whole lot of consolation or help from my blog (but maybe I’m wrong?), though I do hope you’ll continue to read it and draw something from it anyway.

Now raise your hand if you’re a Catholic (or Christian) young adult who has been waiting for a year — or two, three, four, five, ten, fifteen years — to meet someone you feel called to marry, or for a vocational call, or for anything at all to remind you that God hasn’t retired into the heavens and forgotten all about you and your life. Raise your hand if you’ve ever cried yourself to sleep trying to figure out what the hell you’re doing wrong, because the years drag wearily on and you’re not sure that your life isn’t a complete waste of space. 

Anyone?

If that rings true for you, know that I started this blog in December 2010 for you.

We’re not called to live a prolonged adolescence, and the point of Life in the Gap has never been to encourage the selfish, undisciplined, live-for-the-moment lifestyles touted in sitcoms and tabloids and held up as the model for our generation. Instead, the blog was meant to start a dialogue about the ways in which we can be fully active, faithful, mature, and generous adults even as we work and pray to discern the “big-‘V’ Vocation” God has in store for us. How do I turn my career into a prayer, since this seems to be where God wants me right now? How do I love my neighbors, build community, and die to myself as a single young adult? How do I take possession of my own life and turn it into a song of praise, even while I feel so often stuck in a sort of limbo?

Those are the questions Life in the Gap continues to explore.

Reading the December profiles that have come in so far, I’ve been moved and touched by people’s stories about using this time to the fullest, to grow closer to God, and to wait with patience. I can’t wait to see more of them. And I look forward to diving deeper into these issues in 2014, confident that God does have a role for each of us in His plan, and that he always gives us the present moment to begin to listen to His voice and do as He asks, even in the smallest things.

–Mabel