I never expected or planned that I would live a single life. When I bought my home over a dozen years ago I thought that this house would become a home, with a wife and children.
It was a hard decision to make alone. I agonized over buying a house since I feared making the wrong decision.
When I finally found two houses that interested me, my real estate agent asked me in the midst of my indecision, “What would make the decision easier?”
I looked out the car window as we sat in front of one of the houses. “A wife. A wife would make the decision easier, because then I wouldn’t be deciding on my own what house we want to make a home.”
He mustered the best reply he could. “Well, that’s one reason you have me to help you.”
He was a good agent, but he wasn’t my soul mate. He wasn’t a companion I had chosen to share my life with. Buying a house by myself made me feel more terribly alone than I ever had in my life.
I was grateful for my job, grateful to have a house–finally–but it was an empty house. How I planned and dreamed! I made sure the house had three rooms. Enough for kids. The basement was going to be a perfect play room for the children when they came, just like my house growing up. The backyard looked like a park. I would build a sandbox and hang a hammock between the massive trunks of the soaring white pine trees that lined my yard. How I loved them, the tallest trees in my neighborhood–so tall that a hawk nested among their branches. I dreamed of rocking my children to sleep on a summer’s afternoon. I could see us, swinging in the hammock, looking up into the trees for a glimpse of our hawk. I would tell them stories, while they were soothed to sleep by the sound of the wind whispering through the needles that danced far above us.
I slowly made the house my home. I picked colors for rooms, always mindful of my bachelor state. “For now, I want my house to feel like it’s a den,” I told my friends. Leather chairs, deep dark browns, reds and mahogany, dark stained oak.
No feminine touches here.
Not yet, anyway.
“One day, soon,” I always hoped.
I used to write letters to my wife. On cotton stationery. I imagined giving them all to my wife on our wedding night, wrapped in a silken bow. “These are my gift to you,” I would have said to her, on my knees.
Writing to her kept the dream of her alive in my mind. When I was feeling particularly lonely I would write to her, saying things like, “I know one day we will meet. But will I know, in that first moment, that here, on this day, I’ve met the woman I one day will wed? What joy there will be when look back on the paths that led us to each other! We will be happy when we both realize we’re in love, and you will choose me, and I will choose you, over all others.”
I would pray for my wife, that she would be happy, that she would grow in love for God. I would pray that God would help me to be a man worthy of her love. Despite my attractions to men, I believed with all my heart that God’s plans would somehow bring a woman into my life who would cause me to say, like Adam said of Eve, “here at last is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh!”
That day never came.
I burned those letters long ago.
There are no children’s voices greeting me when I arrive home, nor, I realize, will there ever be. I have my trusty hound who greets me with tail wagging, but like Adam surveying all of the animals in Eden, my dog isn’t a suitable companion to me.
Solomon said ages ago, “two are better than one. If the one falls, the other will help the fallen one. But woe to the solitary person! If that one should fall, there is no other to help. So also, if two sleep together, they keep each other warm. How can one alone keep warm?”
So what is a man to do who’s chosen the single life out of obedience to God? Who feels lonely, and who longs for a companion to keep his bed warm?
I must say to God, “thank you for loneliness.”
This may seem like madness to some, but this is the only way to true peace and contentment I have found that works. This can only be done by an act of the will, aided by the grace of God.
I hate the loneliness I so often feel, especially during the holidays. I don’t particularly like Christmas, to be honest. I’d just as soon hibernate for a few weeks and wake up in the following year,with no change in my schedule, than go through the Octave of Christmas as a single man.
I could numb the ache, and fill the coldness of my bed easily enough with another lonely soul, and have some pleasures while I’m at it to help me get through the holidays. Or I could say in 2015 that I’ve had enough loneliness, turn my back on my rational mind and my faith, and try to believe the lie that all that matters is whether I’m happy in the way I’d like to be happy. It wouldn’t be hard to find a man to share my life with, if I decided that my loneliness is the worst thing that could happen to me in my life.
That’s not the path for me, however.
I don’t have many choices over what life has brought me, but I do have a choice in how I will respond.
My brother recently reminded me of St. Paul’s words to the Thessalonians in his first epistle to them. “In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”
That’s a hard saying, and it makes me irritated sometimes, if I’m honest. Give thanks to God during the holidays, when all I want to do is stay in bed until I’m back to work? Give thanks to God when I come home to an empty house? I can’t seem to do that, but I realize I need to try.
So often in my life I’ve shook my fist at God and said to Him that He doesn’t know what He’s about. Why did he allow me to be attracted to men? Why didn’t he take that away from me in all of those countless nights of crying out to him? Why is my lot in life the single life? That’s enough to make a man turn his back on God.
And I did.
For a time.
I still sometimes want to shake my fist at God. I still get angry with him, but that time away from God showed me how little I know about my own well being and happiness. One of the greatest gifts God can give to His children is experiencing some misery in this life. The loneliness and pain I’ve experienced is the only thing that could ever make me long for heaven. Thanks to loneliness and the heartbreak of broken hopes, there’s nothing here that I know will bring me the joy or fulfillment or happiness that I really want.
I have loneliness to thank for that. Because of loneliness, pain, heartbreak and depressing days in bed, I think of heaven every single day of my life. And every day of my life I desire to go home.
This earth–it’s just a house. It’s no home for us. We’re pilgrims, wayfarers in a poor man’s inn. But even for all that, it’s not so bad. We have friends, beauty and love. And music, and beer, and yes, even dogs to help keep us warm at night, until we finally reach that far distant country, where joy, infinite joy, will be ours.
That moment when we go home, where we enter finally into the great promise of eternal life, Pope Benedict XVI called, “the supreme moment of satisfaction, in which totality embraces us and we embrace totality.” Our true home, he says, “would be like plunging into the ocean of infinite love, a moment in which time—the before and after—no longer exists. We can only attempt to grasp the idea that such a moment is life in the full sense, a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy.”
I see now why the dark days of depression I feel during the holidays are such a gift to me. For without them–without that loneliness that grips my heart like a vice–why would I desire heaven as much as I do? Oh, how I long for that day! Every unmet longing in my life points to that desire in me to plunge into the ocean of infinite love, where we can love others and be loved by them, finally and completely. With no impediments. No selfishness, no fears. No need for approval. No doubts, no insecurities. No envy or regret, or suspicion or lack of trust. Nothing, but love. Not love as an emotion, but Love, as a person, flowing in and through us. We will overflow with the infinite love of God for us, a love with the currents of the eternal and boundless love of the Father for the Son and the Son for the Father, bringing joy in its wake. The tides of that love never recede. There is always more, it is never ending and boundless, and like an ocean swallowing a drop of rain, all of our pain in this life will be as nothing. We will be glad for it, for it was the path that led us home.