I’ve been thinking about this idea of needing a man.
Single women often say things like, “Well, I’d like to find a good man, but I don’t need one. I’m fine by myself.”
Which of course makes sense. We know that the best way to doom a husband search is to be – or to appear – too “needy.”
And really, we’re keeping up with the bills, we’re taking perfectly good care of ourselves, and we aren’t looking for a man to rescue us.
But meanwhile, I hear single men say, “I’d like to be needed, but all of the single women I meet are so self-sufficient. What do they need me for?”
I believe I have found that problem. It lies in the idea of what it means to “need” a man.
Basically, the question of whether or not I “need a man” is an incomplete one. Need him for what? Need a man for my very existence? Will I starve to death without a man to buy my groceries? Will I die of loneliness or neglect?
No and no.
Do I need him to pay my bills? Will my house go into foreclosure without a co-mortgagee?
Do I need a man to make my life complete?
Now we’re getting a little closer to the heart of the issue. On one level, life on this earth is never complete; our real longing is for heaven, and those who think that desire will be quelled by marriage are usually sorely disenchanted when the honeymoon ends.
Many of us who are single live very complete lives. We have friends, families, jobs, master’s, ministries. We’re close to God and children, and overall we’re doing pretty well. So we don’t look to some unknown Knight in Shining Armor to deliver happiness on his white horse. We’re already happy, at least mostly.
But something is missing. We’re created, as Adam and Eve were, to live lives of self-donation. We give ourselves in many places in our lives, but we haven’t given ourselves, irrevocably and forever, to either another person as spouse or to God. The Church says that each of us is called to either one or the other, and that in living out that call, we find great fulfillment.
Our hearts tell us that’s probably true.
But ever since Eve ate the fruit, circumstances in the world have been getting in the way of God’s perfect plan. And so it is with vocation. Many of us may be called to a particular vocation, but unable, either temporarily or permanently, to live it out.
The vocation of marriage, after all, isn’t just a call to find the first unsuspecting chump who comes along and pledge our lives to him. It’s about joining together in the sight of God and leading each other to heaven. And in a world where there isn’t a lot of concern about Heaven or appreciation of the narrow road it takes to get there, that isn’t easy to find.
I am relatively certain that my vocation, in God’s perfect plan, is to marriage. I’ve been listening for that consecrated celibacy call, but so far the phone hasn’t rung.
So while it would take a lot of pressure off of me, I don’t need a man to pay my mortgage. And while it would be awfully nice, I don’t need a man to come home to in the evening and share the ups and downs of my day with.
But I do need a man – the right man – to fulfill my vocation. That may or may not happen, and I have to say that God Himself is stepping in nicely in the interim. He knew from all eternity that I would be single at this point in my life, and He planned accordingly. And I have offered my singleness to Him, to use for His glory for as many years as He sees fit. If and when I ever marry, it will be because He made it happen.
Carry your cross
There are, of course, crosses associated with my single life – crosses that the flippant retort of “I don’t need a man” dismiss far too easily. Those crosses will be there as long as I remain unmarried. (To be taken up, I’m sure, by new crosses if I ever enter the wedded state.)
But there is power in offering those crosses to Him, and I have no doubt that they are being put to good use in His divine plan.
In this area of life, as in all other, the foolishness of God far surpasses the wisdom of men. And it allows me to say such contradictory things as “Yes, I do need a man. I need to give myself and my life to a man as my husband if I am to fulfill the vocation given to me by God in His perfect plan. And yes, if he doesn’t come along, I’ll be fine as well, thanks to the amazing goodness of God.”
Not simple, not easy. But awesome nonetheless.