(Guest post): A look back at the gap

LifeintheGap is accepting (and requesting!) guest blog posts. The below is a first in what I hope will be a long succession of great insights from all sorts of people on living out the single life, whether you’re doing it now or looking back and sharing your story.

A look back at my “Twentysomethings”

A guest post by “Lurking”

I am married. I am 34 years old. I have a 2-month-old child (my first). I suppose I’m qualified to look back at my own life in-between.

Recently, the author of this blog posted a musing on our society’s new boundaries and expectations, or lack thereof, for adults in their twenties. This led to the following retrospective on my own twenties.

I turned 20 in 1998; I was attending community college part time and working full time. I had a serious girlfriend, and we planned to move in together the following year. This was the beginning of a series of serious longish-term relationships that would end in heartbreak. When I was about 26, I made a decision about one of these relationships, and proposed to my then-girlfriend. I loved her, and I was tired of the lack of structure, at least in my romantic life. This engagement did one priceless thing for me: It brought me back to my faith in a way nothing else had.

My thinking went like this: “If I’m going to make this permanent move in my life, I’m going to do it right, with the faith that has always had a small grasp on my soul.” Faith wasn’t an active part of my life at this time, but it was a part of my conscience, and I knew that it had to be a part of my marriage.

My engagement ended with my fiancée leaving me for another man four months before our wedding date. Yes, we had already sent out save the date postcards! This was devastating to me. I ended up losing my job, some of my friends, and my goals (not that I had really definite ones) were destroyed. It took me the better part of a year to put my life back together. I finished my bachelor’s degree a year later and got a better job that provided some intellectual and professional relationship challenges that served me well for the last two years of my twenties. I did not, however, have another serious relationship for about 18 months after that heartbreak.

I met my wife years later, when I was 31. I have been abundantly and undeservedly blessed ever since then; she is the best wife I could ever have hoped for. But, what could I have done differently? How did I survive those turbulent twenties when hope was very scarce and my heart felt like it died over and over again?

Looking back from the wise old thirties, I’d say the top five things I learned in this time period were:

1) Listen. This is what your friends and family–if you have a good one–are for. They really do know you, better than you know yourself in many instances. Do what they tell you when you are lost.

2) Surrender. Do it over and over again. Pray for the grace to surrender, utterly. Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, was my only source of comfort when I was in the depths of despair. I was brought to my knees and to a deep depression by my life’s circumstances, but I fight against that kind of low. You can surrender without being beaten down.

3) Travel. I know it’s hard because in your twenties, you don’t have much (or any) disposable income, but find a way. You’ll meet new people and learn more about yourself than you can ever hope to if you stay put and do only routine things.

4) Write. Express your feelings, document your days, share your perspective. I guess it doesn’t have to be writing, that’s just been my way of exercising my creativity. But be creative, now, while you have some time. File a patent, hang one of your own paintings on the wall, share your short stories with friends, submit a poem to a magazine, just do something to show yourself to the world around you. The dividends you will reap will be unexpected and make you smile; I guarantee it.

5) Walk. Keep putting one foot in the front of the other. God knows the journey you are on; you don’t.

And please pray for me, that my thirties will continue to be a decade of blessings. I also need strength and grace to change some parts of me that are still damaged and suffering from decisions I made in my twenties. No matter how old you are, we’re all still trying to walk with Christ. That’s what matters.





Knowing the gift of God

“If you only knew the gift of God.”

This came over me Sunday afternoon, when one of my roommates suggested the household take a few minutes to pray together. We’d pulled out the Christmas ornaments and were knee-deep in boxes, bubble wrap, and strands of lights, but we let it all go and sat down and laid out a lot of the things that have been going on in our minds and hearts over the past several weeks.

It’s been a difficult time for many of my friends, and we’ve all felt it in our little household. Between one friend getting into a pretty awful motorcycle accident, grandparents passing away, difficult family issues, sickness, break-ups, job situation worries, anxiety, and people being just plain old depressed, it has been tough (at times) to see God’s hand in everything.

Yet as I prayed with these wonderful women, I was overcome with the realization that even the crosses we’re being asked to carry right now are gifts. You hear and read all the time that God is close to those who suffer, that he carries us through our difficult times, that throughout the darkness he loves us, though we can’t feel it. Sometimes it can be so hard to believe.

There’s a story that John Paul II once had the door of his “pope mobile” slammed on his fingers, and one of his aides heard him whisper, “Thank you, Jesus, for loving me that much.”

This story never ceases to amaze me. It’s a beautiful reminder that sufferings are often the way God chooses to love us. Our first reaction is to pull back, to run away, to reject the unpleasantness that must come our way at times. As my spiritual director once told me, that’s human–like putting our hand on something hot, we immediately yank ourselves away. It’s a protective mechanism. We want to think of God as always warm, always quiet and smelling slightly of candle wax and incense, the place where we can always find rest. We want to receive good things from him, and when we do, we love him. It’s easy to love him then.

Being a Christian has to involve the cross, though. Christ went off to deserted places to rest and find solace with his Father, yes; but he also took the cup and drank it, took the cross and carried it … and died on it.

Sometimes we have to step back from our lists of wants and needs, we have to let go of our preconceived notions of who God is and how he ought to feature in our lives and just recognize the gift of God in even the nastiest situations. It’s the daily challenge. In good times and in bad, in the most profound moments and in the simplest, to find God.

And in the midst of your darkest times, look around to see the spots of light he gives you–whether it be a moment of peace, a beautiful song on the radio, or four beautiful women to pray with for ten minutes on a Sunday afternoon.