News And Views
School of Agape
Throwing Away “The List”
by Anthony Rennekamp
I’d been seeing Sara for a little more than a month when I asked her where she saw our relationship going. She responded by telling me that she hadn’t discerned whether or not she had a vocation to religious life, and that while she was certainly attracted to me – which made me feel pretty pleased – she wanted to make sure she wasn’t being called to religious life. I would have to wait for almost two months for Sara to go on a discernment retreat. I was less than pleased, but I told her that I wasn’t going anywhere.
Inside, I was thinking to myself, “How am I going to keep from going crazy waiting for this girl?” Luckily, I’d been well-trained in the manly art of waiting. In fact, I’d been waiting for her my whole life; I just didn’t know it yet.
I knew from a pretty early age that I would probably get married. My parents always taught me that God was calling me to give myself to Him in one of three ways: As a priest, as a natural husband and father, or a single man. All three callings were to love and in all three callings I would have to give 100% of myself and hold nothing back.
One day when I was little and “helping” my dad work on a motorcycle in the garage, I asked him, “Daddy, what’s it like to be married?” I was probably in first or second grade and I had a crush on a third-grader. He told me this: “Well, you have to be really good at sharing. You share everything!” I didn’t like sharing all that much, but the way Dad said those words… I thought, “Wow, marriage is something special.”
As I grew older that attraction to marriage grew. I didn’t date in high school, but I did come to the conviction that I wanted to wait to have sex until marriage. Luckily, my parents also taught me how to wait. They taught me the practical skills required for waiting by making me wait for nearly everything: toys, food, opening presents, younger siblings. They also taught me how to wait to have sex until marriage. If I was called to marriage, I would wait to have sex until I could use its language authentically in a till-death commitment.
These lessons in waiting continued when I got to college. I joined a fraternity of men who were committed to striving for authentic Catholic masculinity. Some of these men were called to marriage, some to the priesthood, and some of them were attracted to men. But they all wanted to find their calling and give 100% of themselves to their vocation. I also started to really learn about the vocation of marriage in a more precise way and found it extremely attractive.
So, when I finally started to date, I dated with the intention of finding a spouse.
Fast-forward several years: I had met Sara (you can read that story here) but we hadn’t started “officially dating.” She said something to me one evening that really convicted me. She said that it seemed that some guys treated dates like a job interview. They had a mental list of attributes of their “ideal woman” and seemed to spend more time checking boxes off that list than actually getting to know the woman in front of them. I was totally guilty of this. Yes, I had been faithfully waiting for my future spouse for years, but in that time I had also “constructed” my own idea of a wife in my head: “She has to be able to sing. She must be serious about her faith. She can’t have an annoying voice. She wants kids. She’s a little bit sassy, but not too much.”
Sara said that while it’s true that we all have preferences, and that we all make little lists about the person we want to marry, we don’t fall in love with a list but with a person. “I don’t want you to love blue eyes. I want you to love my blue eyes. I don’t want you to love blonde hair. I want you to love my hair, my voice.” That stuck with me.
Sara made me wait. I know now that I wasn’t just waiting for a list of adjectives. I was waiting for her – Sara Rose Suchy.