So I read a blog wherein a woman states that her husband is not her soul mate, but that is cool because soul mates don’t exist. This was shortly after reading an article about Mercy Academy’s anti-fairy tale campaign. At first glance, I can totally get on board with these ideas. I don’t like Disney. I think self-reliance is a great personality characteristic. The trash isn’t going to take itself out after all, now is it?
Before I get too deep into this: whatever I write here is not going do justice to the thoughts floating in my head that a smarter person than I could properly illuminate. (I need to also say that the thoughts aren’t mine, I hope, but those of ancient and modern theologians and apologists.)
There were a number of articles on the Mercy Academy ad campaign and I tried to read most of them, to make sure that I was giving them a fair shake. I imagine the MSM will take this “progressive woman” idea and run with it, just like many of Pope Francis’ statements that have also been taken out of context. The idea of “being a princess” is not something I want to instill in my daughter, when and if I have one. Not because being a “princess” is a bad thing, but because the idea has been made into some kind of cardboard archetype of femininity. It seems to detract from personhood, as though there is nothing else to being a woman than being some “pink version” of feminine, so you can see how this anti-princess attitude might be appealing to a modern woman like myself. After all, “Our message is you are not a princess, you are more.” is exactly correct!
The blog focused on self-reliance as well, from a different but equally important perspective. One of my favorite take aways from the blog was: “My marriage is not based on a set of choices over which I had no control. It is based on a daily choice to love this man…” This statement is entirely true. As is the idea that the point of life is to grow closer to God, not marry a “hott” youth minister who has a million WWJD bracelets. But in this instance the blog left me which the feeling that the “soul mate” has been made into another type of bankrupt archetype, just like “princess.”
The conclusion I came to after reading both, which happened to jump in front of my face on the same day, is that there is an unabashedly American undercurrent of independence emanating from these writings. Independence isn’t a bad thing, after all God himself is the meaning of independent, that is existing of and from himself. We humans are made in the image of God; however, an easily missed reality is that before the beginning of time “was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.” (John 1: 1-2). Before we were made in the image of God, the revealed image of God was relationship of Father to Son manifesting itself in Holy Spirit. This gives a much deeper understanding to: “And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:27). Man (humankind) is created in two versions: male and female. We are each independently of each other: human, yet each oriented towards one that compliments us.
The woman writing the blog was right to say that our life’s goal is to become more like Christ, and certainly predestination doesn’t mean that God chooses our path. It also doesn’t mean that, as the Deists believe, God watches but does not intervene. Rather, God is always actively seeking us. He doesn’t choose our path and we may not always pick his first option for our lives, but if we turn to seek him, we find that first he was seeking us. I can promise you that my husband was my choice. And just like she said, he was a choice I made when I had other choices. But when I chose him, it was because I was orienting myself toward God. I was open to the path he was placing before me. After marrying my husband I concluded that he was NO coincidence based on my fortuitous choice, but he was placed there to compliment me by a God that had always been seeking me, although I had not always been so open to his advances. He doesn’t complete me, although we compliment each other greatly. Nuns and priests are saving themselves for the true Spouse who completes. But his presence in my life is a work of mercy that continually orients me toward God; one that I would argue was necessarily chosen by a God who is a Father who also knows each child’s particular needs.
This in no way means that the single life, monastic living, priesthood or nunship are bad things, on the contrary! These choices, of saving spousehood for Christ alone, are just that: an engagement in anticipation of the reality of marriage, which is the supper of the Lamb that exists in heaven and Liturgy. Because the religious life saves itself for the Spouse of spouses, it could be easily argued that “celibate” marriage is more real than mine! I am hungry for a renewal of the understanding that marriage is the center of the Church. A plentitude of vocations is a manifestation of the health of the Church’s teaching on marriage. We certainly cannot have plentiful vocations apart from marriages in which life is plentiful, physically and spiritually.
So you can see that although Mercy Academy is totally right to say that we are more than princesses, we aren’t more than princesses in a way that removes our need for salvation. And while that salvation cannot come from an earthly spouse, we must be open to the paths that God places in front of us, because he is in fact always calling us closer to him. Whether our vocation is marriage or the religious life, we cannot do it ourselves precisely because who we are is the image of God, which is family. Focusing on our own self-reliance is a dreaded slippery slope.
After all, Adam and Eve didn’t eat the fruit to be like God, they were already made in his image! Adam and Eve ate the fruit to be like God, independent OF God, but that path leads to death because it denies the very image of God in which we were created! The image of God is life giving, whether as a Father, a Son on the Cross or the seven Holy Spirits of God, every part of God is relationship.
Stay tuned. I want to get around to why the idea of “soul mate” and “princess” are such a large part of our culture and many other Christian cultures…