Advent is a season that reminds us about the realities of waiting, longing, hoping, and being. It’s a season where earthly time is particularly vividly interwoven with the unfolding of heavenly realities. I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately. Time and hope and trust. If I’m honest with myself, I’ve made time an idol – a fixation – and it’s been distressing. I think many women who experience infertility feel this obsession with time, too. What we feel most acutely is the dread that we are, with each passing day, running out of it. As a single woman, I experience it in a different way than a married woman longing for children might. A married woman may consume herself with a more tangible anxiety and focus, whether it’s doctor’s appointments, NFP tracking, pregnancy tests and the crushing disappointment of realizing she is not pregnant this month. Single women, especially those in their 30s and 40s with dwindling fertility each passing year, wrestle with the abstract fears of a sort of “infertility of circumstance” rather than a concrete lived experience of physical infertility. We are haunted with the passage of time, wondering if we will ever meet the right man to marry, or if we will meet him soon enough to ensure that we will still have enough time to bear children. Like many unfulfilled longings of the human heart, this often manifests in a desperate, rushed, worried attempt to grasp control, or concerns about passing up an opportunity. Our fears even may cause us to settle down with a man who is clearly not right for us, just because we want so badly to have this dream of a marriage and family before our clocks run out. It results in countless hours in dating apps, questioning if we are living in the right city to meet guys, or second guessing the dismissal of previous good but not right relationships. I have been deeply plagued with all of these struggles lately. To be honest, many days I haven’t known what to do with them or how to wrestle with them. Most importantly, I haven’t fully understood how I am to surrender them. I feel powerless to make what I want “happen.” But perhaps it’s the powerlessness – the deep and terrifying powerlessness – that is the soil of my fruitfulness.
Recently I had an experience in prayer that broke through some of these heavy anxieties. I felt Christ was speaking into the weariness that beset me as I had tried to manage, maneuver, and plan my time. In this moment, He urged me to stop trying to control time, and to simply rest. Rest? I cannot rest, I am running out of time. But what if I am not actually running out of time. I am resting in Him and making time for Him to do His necessary work in me. Then, time becomes a gift. It becomes not minutes and hours, days and weeks to calculate, schedule, and control according to my desired outcomes. It becomes a wide open space for Him to move. For Him to move. I can rest in His timing because I no longer have to do the moving. He does. That doesn’t mean I don’t have to act when the Holy Spirit invites me to make a change, or live with boldness and bravery and a heart open to taking risks. It means the plan for my life is held, and carefully guided by my Maker who desires my deepest good and salvation. I hope that includes a husband a children, but I don’t actually know what’s in store.
I recently came across a very impactful reflection from Fr. Jacques Phillipe that spoke into my anxieties about time, singleness, fertility, and longing. In this passage, Fr. Phillipe speaks about a sort of “timing of the heart.” He explains: “But there is another sort of time, experienced at certain moments of happiness or grace, though it always exists. This is God’s time, the time of the deep rhythms of grace in our lives. It is composed of a succession of moments harmoniously linked. Each of these moments is complete in itself, full, because in it we do what we have to do, in communion with God’s will. That time is communion with eternity. It is time we receive as a gift.”
When I think of my life and God’s work in it in this way, this burden of the race against time is lifted from me. The weight and responsibility of arranging my life in the perfect way to achieve my hopes is cast away. If I am simply and fully living in the present moment, His grace will thread each moment together with His larger plan for my good.
As Our Lady carried Christ in her womb for nine months, she experienced the mingling of time and eternity being borne out in her own flesh. Surely she too must have wrestled with the tension of fear and hope. Yes, the angel came to tell her of the Lord’s plan, and she courageously assented. But I can’t help but think as her body was changing, and as she experienced the human realties and hardships of pregnancy, she wondered about bearing the Christ child and what the future would hold: How is this going to work? What is this going to be like? Will everything be okay? Perhaps the passing of time also plagued her with anxieties about the future and uncertainties about God’s plan.
Yet when the angel came to deliver this mysterious news, he said “Be not afraid.” To us, Christ says the same: “Be not afraid.”
We must not be afraid of the ways the Lord asks us to trust in His work for our lives. We must boldly not only give Him our hearts but also give Him our time when things don’t make sense. Especially when things don’t make sense. For single women that might mean the pain of heartbreak, the end of a relationship, a job loss, watching our friends get married and start their families, or feeling like there are no good men to date let alone marry.
If we walk with Our Lord, surrendering to Him moment by moment, we can be ready to respond to those deep rhythms of grace in our lives. Caryll Houselander once said “none of us know when the loveliest hour of our lives is striking.” How can we be ready to receive these loveliest hours when they come to pass? Not by striving, arranging, strategizing. By abiding in His love, which includes his mysterious timing. And by believing there is not only a reason, but a tenderness to that timing.
Maria Koshute is an academic librarian in Annapolis Maryland. She enjoys contemplating the beauty and mystery in ordinary things and writing to tell about it. Her pieces have been published in Blessed is She and The Young Catholic Woman. In her spare time she enjoys cooking, hiking, reading exploring new places, and being an aunt.