The Rolling Stones have it right: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you might find you get what you need.” When I’m feeling frustrated and dissatisfied with the way things turned out, there are few things better to help me shrug it off then listening to this song loudly and on repeat. It helps to remind me that God may not always (or sometimes it seems like ever) give me what I want, but that He always knows exactly what I need.
When it comes to dating, do I know what I want? For the most part, I think I do. Or at least I have an idea of what is negotiable (how many kids? Where would we live?) versus nonnegotiable (are you an Orthodox Christian who is truly invested in the Church? Do you want to have kids?). I am beginning to learn that no one person can be everything that I need in my life, and that some of the things that I need have to come from within me or from the support of other people (including, of course, the Church) in my life. I no longer believe that there is one specific person that is right for me, but rather that there are many people who could be right for me, if we meet at the right time for both of us. So, if through prayers and the grace of God, the “right” person walked into my life right now, would it be the right time? Would I be ready?
They say that we dislike in others the characteristics that we dislike in ourselves (hence why we pick at the splinter in our brother’s eye while ignoring the moat in our own). Instead of working on our own faults and loving our brother, we attack their faults (which are often so similar to our own) and get worse ourselves. We become the elders asking Christ to stone the adulterous woman (John 8:1-11). This is frequently true with many of the wonderful guys I am blessed to call my friends: I love them a lot, but their immaturity can drive me crazy! Of course, many women will tell you that boys never grow up, but I think that I despise their childishness because I so often feel in the same place myself: awkward, scared, uncertain, unprepared. My friend Stephanie always used to say that people spent too much time looking for the right person instead of being the right person. I wouldn’t want to date someone who was awkward and scared, so if I am all of those things, who would want to date me? I wouldn’t. I guess then, that the answer is no: I’m not quite ready yet.
But being patient is hard! So how will I know when I’m ready? People often tell me that “I’ll just know,” but I’m not so sure that I buy into that. Being in your early 20s is such a strange period of transition. Treading water between the just-out-of-college-where-I-had-no-real-responsibilities stage and the I-have-to-actually-start-being-an-adult-but-what-does-“adult”-actually-mean stage, we look for something steady to hold on to, to give us boundaries. The same way we need to develop our core muscles to be strong athletes, we also need to develop a strong core character to develop our spiritual prowess, to make important decisions, and to grow into who we are meant to be. We then learn to accept ourselves as being created in God’s image and to strive to grow in our faith. If the ultimate goal of our relationships is to develop our own “mini-Trinity” with God through the divine mystery of marriage, it serves to reason that we need to prepare for our pending relationships the same way we prepare for other sacraments: through prayer, fasting, obedience to the doctrines of the Church, and through nurturing our relationship with God. That is how we prepare ourselves for a healthy relationship with another person. Then we can reject the Aristophean notion of searching the world for our “other half,” and learn that, with the grace of God, we can be complete unto ourselves and recognize that a relationship with another person is simply another means of developing our relationship with Christ.
So when will I be ready? I have no idea. It could be tomorrow, it could be next month, or it could even be years from now. I am still working on being someone that I would want to date. For now, I might not always get what I want, but at least I know that if I try, God will give me exactly what I need.