Like a crystal chandelier sent crashing to the ground below, God’s original plan for us was shattered by the Fall. Banished from paradise, man and woman suddenly endured hardships that sprung forth from their sin. Woman would toil in childbearing. Man would have to work the land. Both will return to dust at the end of their days. In Genesis, we read that, among these other aches and adversities, woman’s “urge shall be for [her] husband” (v. 3:16). While this may not seem to be a suffering, this “urge” does indeed have the power to lead women into agony.
We all desire love. We seek a love that will fill us, complete us, make us perfectly whole and eternally happy. Sometimes, though, this searching becomes a blind and desperate grasping for that which does not exist, for, all too often, we seek the totality of love in men. Single women may be tempted to twist and turn and tire themselves in the quest for a spouse, thinking that a gold band will satisfy their deepest longing. Married women may be tempted to futilely mine the depths of their husbands, believing that somewhere within him is the antidote to their incompleteness. Such pursuits will only lead to barren land, blank walls and empty wells. Man — mortal, tarnished by sin and incapable of perfect love — cannot fulfill another. A man alone cannot satisfy the chasm in your soul that yearns for Love himself.
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In John 4, we encounter the Samaritan woman, who had spent her years dragging herself from man to man and her days trudging from hostile town to inadequate well. She found herself filled with the wounds of a loveless past and water that never slaked her thirst. Still, though, she cast herself at men and cast her bucket down the well. One day, Jesus steps into her weary existence and tears down the lies that have been built up like fortresses around her aching heart. He tells her, I can fill you. I can give you all that you seek. Come to me. The woman leaves her water jar behind and becomes a vessel herself — at long last filled with that which will not leave her feeling hollow.
In the Samaritan woman, we find the solution to our often disordered “urge” for men: our King. In “Three to Get Married,” Fulton Sheen writes, “The human heart was made for the Sacred Heart of Love, and no one but God can satisfy it. The heart is right in wanting the infinite; the heart is wrong in trying to make its finite companion the substitution for the infinite.” While holy men certainly can love us (and love us well), they cannot give us what they do not themselves have. They can only lead us to that perfect fount of infinite love. They cannot be the fount. As women — single or married — we must constantly redirect this “urge” for men toward the true King of our hearts. We must allow him to love us, to fill us, to make us whole. And we must love him above all others in return.
Of course, we are not meant to cease the search for our vocation or, if married, walk away from our vocation. Rather, we must place our relationship with Christ first and allow that to enrich, enliven and purify our human relationships. Fulton Sheen asserts that, through the vocation of marriage, “the dream of the bride and groom for eternal happiness really comes true, not in themselves alone, but through themselves.” Filled with God’s perfect love, we cannot help but love others — including ourselves — better.
How does one practically implement this in her life? Firstly, by prioritizing prayer and the sacraments. In order to grow your relationship with Christ, you must sit with him, converse with him, go to him and ask him to be filled with his abundant grace. You can also incorporate prayer and the sacraments into your dates, thereby inviting Christ into the center of your courtship or marriage. Pray a Rosary as you stroll hand-in-hand beside a lake. Adore Christ in the Blessed Sacrament before dining downtown. Make confession and coffee a Friday morning tradition. Secondly, turn to the Lord for love and affirmation. He alone can heal your wounds, lighten your burdens, and assure you of your true worth and dignity as his beloved daughter. Your husband will certainly regard you as beautiful, precious and worthy; but remember that he can only do so because of him who is the source of love. And he — God almighty — wants to tell you every second of every day just how lovely and loved you are. And finally, look to our Mother who understands in the deepest way what it means to be filled by him.
In the same way that man and woman come together in holy matrimony, God and man — immortality and mortality — came together and were wed through the utterance of Mary’s profound words, “May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). With that complete gift of herself, the Word was conceived within her. At that moment, when the young virgin reversed the grasping of Eve by humbly receiving, the Divine took up residence in her womb. In his encyclical Mulieris Dignitatem, Pope John Paul II wrote that when, after the Annunciation, Mary says, “The Mighty One has done great things for me,” she speaks not only of her son, but also of the revelation of her own being “just as God wanted her to be, a person for her own sake, who discovers herself by means of a sincere gift of self.” Thus, Mary is fulfilled by Christ within her.
We were made for love. We were not made to simply be content with a shadow of perfect love. No, God made us for relationship with himself, who is perfect love. That is our direction, our purpose, the answer to our thirst. We will be fulfilled only when we say “yes” to his desire to court us, cherish us and love us with a love that no one else can and that we cannot even fathom.