By Debbie Herbeck
This post is a response to a particular segment of Joey’s recent blog post entitled Women > Men:
“How many women in parish life look around and see either a visible absence of strong men and, if they are single women devoted to their faith, very few men they would be interested in marrying?”
I cannot claim to know how to “fix this problem” from a sociological or anthropological perspective, but after 30 years of marriage and as many years working in women’s ministry, I humbly offer my advise to young Catholic women.
Personally speaking, when I was in my late twenties and ready as a serious disciple to begin dating, I was anxious and fearful about two things. First of all, was there really a great guy out there who loved Jesus above all else? The first concern reflected the reality of what I saw around me—some great Catholic guys who were busy discerning the priesthood and unavailable, and some strong Catholic men who didn’t seem to be in any hurry to take the plunge. (This phenomenon of why so many men are waiting so long to marry, is worthy of a different blog post by Joey).
The second question I wrestled with was more about me: “Could there really be a great guy out there who loved Jesus above all else, who could ever love me?” This had more to do with my own insecurities, past baggage and a host of lies about my worthiness.
Either way, if you are a woman who can relate to my struggle many years ago, I want to tell you to take heart and put your whole trust in the Lord. This isn’t just a theoretical, abstract encouragement or “put a Scripture passage on your fridge and all your dreams will come true” promise. My admonition to deep trust in the Lord’s ways and His provision is a result of watching Him provide for me, and countless other women.
In God’s time, despite my fears, I dated and married a man after God’s own heart, who has loved me no matter what, and together through our vocation we have raised a family and served the mission of the Church. It is wonderful that God has gifted me with a faith-filled husband and wonderful children, but what is even more remarkable is that no amount of fretting, scheming, or positive thinking made it happen. And as I acknowledge it as a gift of pure love, it helps me to grow in trust and love for the Giver of all good gifts.
If you are thinking that you are the exception to the countless promises in Scripture like: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart,” (Psalm 37:4) or “Fear not, little flock, it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32), take a moment now and identify the source of that lie, and why you would be the only person in the world that God doesn’t love enough to fulfill your deepest desires.
Like Peter who looked over his shoulder at the beloved disciple John and wondered about the Lord’s plan for him (John 21:21), or Martha who complained about her sister Mary’s inactivity, or the disciples who balked at the woman’s extravagant waste of costly ointment, we tend to look at what everyone else is doing (or not doing) in order to validate our own lives and make us feel better. Even if we as women could identify all the reasons why men aren’t stepping up to the plate in this area, the fundamental thing Jesus wants to tell us is, “Never mind, follow Me, sit at My feet, give yourself to Me freely.”
Or we tend to look at our own inadequacies and think, “if only I was more_______(fill in the blank here), a strong Catholic man would love me…” Both mindsets are a prideful trap that turn us inward—away from gazing on the Lord—and steal our joy and sink our hope.
As women we need to stop piling up reasons why today we can’t be content and joyful, and begin to view every moment as a precious opportunity to grow in love.
I have no doubt that God will provide for you, beyond your wildest dreams, and I am committed to proclaiming that truth to all the women I know—young and old, until the Kingdom comes. Women of God, keep your eyes on the prize and your hope firmly fixed on the only One who will never disappoint. Rebuke discouragement, fatigue, hopelessness, and worthlessness. Be about your Father’s business with faithfulness, determination, and boundless love. Fight the fear that God is not the kind of God who really wants to be good to His children.
What’s a girl to do about “the visible absence of strong men in the Church today”? Be a faithful, strong witness to the beauty of Christ’s love. There is nothing more alluring than a radiant Bride.