The past few years of my dating life have been like a slow sunrise of light dawning to illuminate the truth of Love. Through promptings of the Holy Spirit, intercession of Saint Michael the Archangel, and subtle chiding or affirmation from my guardian angel, I’ve come to realize that the way I was living out my relationships were only taking Us away from Heaven. Recently I found myself in a situation I hadn’t really encountered anymore. Chastity. WITH A BOY. It felt very weird at first. I was not accustomed to being treated with so much respect. So much consideration. So much care for my soul. And yet, poor formation and poor choices on both my part and that of the guys I was with still permeated my consciousness. I had no frame of reference for how this purer relationship should look, feel, or be. I was chafing–am chafing–and sometimes feel uncomfortable or worry about attraction, chemistry, and intimacy. Why, if this is so authentically good, do I feel so bad? Well, I was dying. Slowly the Old Me is encountering death.
Entering into a relationship is consciously choosing a death to self. The You-Alone will cease to exist to give life to the You-With-Him. Countless times you will make little sacrifices, suffer little deaths out of love for your beloved. You may even be called to make the ultimate sacrifice of physical death. But death–physical or metaphorical–is not the end. We Catholics believe we shall live for eternity. We strive here on earth to be ready to reject Hell. The hope is Heaven, forever gazing at our ultimate Beloved and Love, God. But for us, there is the reality of Purgatory–that waystation of sorts we must navigate before entrance into His kingdom.
So too when we die in relationships do we face similar sorts of existences: We could reject the offer of union with God and condemn ourselves to Relationship Hell–painfully banished from God’s presence and love through destructive and sinful choices. We hope for the heavenly peace, a mutual beatific vision of the lovers as a sign of God’s loving union with humanity. But for many of us, there is the reality of a Relationship Purgatory–a necessary (but thankfully temporary!) process by which we become purified before we can enter into Heaven.
Purgatory, in the spiritual sense is the “place” or condition in which we who have died in God’s grace (no mortal sin, no ultimate rejection of God’s mercy) but still have pesky venial faults that need purifying and punishment. We must endure this cleansing to enter the presence of God. But it is important to know that even though we need this process, we are already in God’s friendship. We are already considered the elect.
Relationship Purgatory is the place you and your guy may have to course through before you can reach that perfect happiness that is found with life in God. Slowly but surely your soul is refined . You are enduring the struggle to reach perfection. It’s hard. It means accepting you’re not perfect, and he’s not either. But you’re both striving for something good instead of falling into something bad with no hope of return. But it is so cleansing, even if its as harsh as bathing a wound in iodine. You and your guy will wash away all of the reside left over from poor decisions and eventually come to a place where you feel purified of all the sinful thoughts. And like a soothing balm of ointment after the wound is cleaned, you will be given protection from future temptation. It’s just up to you not to pick the scab! I won’t lie–it isn’t easy.
And I get it. We want everything to come easy. When we see young women get married to Catholic Dreamboat Guys straight out of college, we wonder why it couldn’t be that easy for us. The thing is–we have no idea how hard or easy it really was. Or if they feel that it’s Heaven all of the time. Attaining Heaven is hard. But the hard things are the things most worth striving for. So continue striving. There is a Light at the end of this tunnel. Purgatory is a way station to the best destination.
I’d like to conclude by explaining the image at the top of the post. In the reboot of the TV show Doctor Who, character Amy Pond is “the girl who waited”: she first encountered The Doctor as a child and then waited and waited for his return. The quote actually has nothing to do with waiting in regard to the show. But associating the quote with the notion of waiting…to be chaste is a kindness. To go through the purifying wait for Heaven in relationships is a kindness to yourself, to your guy, and to God. And ultimately, the existence of Purgatory is a kindness–a gift of God’s mercy. We have been given the hope of Heaven instead of the fires of Hell. We just have to wait.
Have you signed up for the 100th post giveaway? Go do it! A really awesome prize awaits!