Another reader sent me a link to a commentary by TV personality Mike Rowe, which has been making the rounds, but which is worth quoting ...
I had drinks last night with a woman I know. Let’s call her Claire. Claire just turned 42. She’s cute, smart, and successful. She’s frustrated though, because she can’t find a man. I listened all evening about how difficult her search has been. About how all the “good ones” were taken. About how her other friends had found their soul-mates, and how it wasn’t fair that she had not.
“Look at me,” she said. “I take care of myself. I’ve put myself out there. Why is this so hard?”
“How about that guy at the end of the bar,” I said. “He keeps looking at you.”
“Not my type.”
“Really? How do you know?”
“I just know.”
“Have you tried a dating site?” I asked.
“Are you kidding? I would never date someone I met online!”
“Alright. How about a change of scene? Your company has offices all over – maybe try living in another city?”
“What? Leave San Francisco? Never!”
“How about the other side of town? You know, mix it up a little. Visit different places. New museums, new bars, new theaters…?”
She looked at me like I had two heads. “Why the hell would I do that?”
Here’s the thing ... Claire doesn’t really want a man. She wants the “right” man. She wants a soul-mate. Specifically, a soul-mate from her zip code. She assembled this guy in her mind years ago, and now, dammit, she’s tired of waiting!!
I didn’t tell her this, because Claire has the capacity for sudden violence. But it’s true. She complains about being alone, even though her rules have more or less guaranteed she’ll stay that way. She has built a wall between herself and her goal. A wall made of conditions and expectations.
Many of my devout Catholic friends have done exactly the same thing. They're looking for a soul mate within their own zip code (so to speak) - and worse than that, within their own extended, highly specified nine-digit zip code. They think that they must marry a devout Catholic mate. Now, granted, religion is a crucial part of a family, and disagreements on matters of faith can be fatal, but having said that, if you're only going wading in the devout Catholic pool, you'll find there's hardly enough water to swim in.
After all, guys, if you meet a woman who loves you and she's not a devout Catholic to begin with, she'll be drawn to your faith, as it's the center of who you are as a devout Catholic man.
But more importantly, marriage is about character. Find a mate with a good character. Because (duh!) religion is also primarily about character - or at least it's supposed to be. Rebirth in Christ is meant to reform our characters - eternally.
What this means is that people who are Good without being self-consciously Christian get their Goodness from Christ without knowing it. Christ is the source of all Goodness, and all Goodness comes from Christ. Period. Don't fret about that. To do so speaks of your insecurity, not God's.
And then there's the odd corollary - that most religious people are far from Good. And sometimes a serious "devout" streak is the sign of some serious psychological issues, or at least some very bizarre character flaws.
My friend Sean Dailey observes ...
All the reeeeally devout Catholic women here, married or single, peddle Juice Plus and think that gluten is the spawn of Satan.
This gets to the fact that God's story is always bigger than our story. There are a lot of "anonymous Christians" our there, whether that fact suits our expectations or not.
Let me illustrate this with a true story.
One of my actresses is an agnostic. She's also very politically liberal and an out-of-the-closet Lesbian. She would, therefore, be a kind of horror to many of my Devout Catholic friends.
When she was a teen (and before she started dating only women), she got pregnant - and this was back in the day when this was a rare thing. The baby's father never publicly acknowledged his son, and never provided financial assistance to his upbringing, and my actress never pressed him for it. For years, this man lived in the same town as my actress and their boy, and even became a pillar of his Protestant church a few blocks down the road - all the while, remaining entirely out of his son's life.
When the boy was 18 or so, his unknown father's mother was dying. Her death bed request was that this man acknowledge his son. So he did, and suddenly re-appeared in the life of my actress.
Now, in all this time, what had my actress been doing? Had she spent her days bad mouthing this absentee sperm donor, as she certainly must have been tempted to do? Had she expressed her anger and loneliness by poisoning the well, and ruining this boy's image of his missing father? And then, when the man showed up, a kind of Christian hypocrite on her doorstep, 18 years late and thousands of dollars short, did she throw something at him and show him the door?
No, she did none of these things. She told her son that this was his biological father, and that if he wanted to try to build a relationship with him, that was his prerogative, and she would not get in the way.
Now, dear readers, what is this an example of if not of holiness? This agnostic Lesbian made an 18 year sacrifice out of love, and I know of very very few self-styled Christians who would even have attempted to do the same.
I've been a Catholic for 14 years, and I've never done anything that good.
The grace of God is active in this world in ways that we keep denying, in ways that we can't comprehend, in ways that we deliberately narrow down and truncate.
Yes, as Catholics, we have the sacraments, we have the fullness of Truth, we have the Church - but we are still sinners, still isolated individuals, still hungry for giving love and receiving love: and that's the human condition.
Don't limit God's grace. Find Goodness where you can - and it's all over the place. Find Truth and Beauty while you're at it, even in the places where you'd least expect it.
Throw away the Juice Plus and the gluten free pasta and venture out of your own zip code.
When Mother Teresa and her nuns would help a dying person on the streets of Calcutta, they would not stop to ask his or her religion. They would simply love that person.
Start doing the same, and this dreadful ice will begin to thaw.