We can be attracted to lots of people. This is normal, and to some extent, is the same as how the aroma of a bacon sandwich is attractive, especially if we are fasting. It seems to hint that it can satisfy all our needs and desires at once. But the reason I am fasting is for more and deeper reasons than a bacon sandwich can fulfill. It just seems at that moment that this one need is more important than the others. But when I am in my own mind, I know that I am fasting to focus on God, to add strength to my prayers, to gain self-control etc.
And these are also important goals that giving way to the desire to eat will subvert and undermine. At the time, eating a bacon sandwich can be an overwhelming desire and causes many Christians to abandon their efforts. But having in mind why we are doing things helps us to keep balance and persevere.
Choosing A Life Partner | Criteria
Likewise, we might want a job and know that we need a job. But if we have worked hard to gain qualifications, then we will not easily or wisely choose a job just because it is offered to us. If I had qualifications in psychology, with post-graduate degrees, I would not accept a position as a Trainee Ward Assistant in a Mental Hospital just because I needed a job, and just because the right one, or a suitable one, had not yet come along. I would rationally create a list of what was required for me to take a job, and I would consider the position of Ward Assistant against each of the important criteria I had set.
Some criteria would be more important than others. But I would not devalue my qualifications and experience just to accept the job because there was a subsidized canteen, or I would be given a free uniform, or even because the person offering me the job seemed really nice. More is at stake, my life would be at stake, and I really need to have a level of rationality about such a choice.
Just because I do need a job, and know that I need a job, and everyone else seems to be getting a fantastic job, doesn’t mean that I should take any job that is offered. Choosing A Life Partner | Father Peter Farrington
Choosing A Life Partner | Control
We cannot have less rationality and self-reflection when dealing with close relationships. Just because the bacon sandwich smells attractive doesn’t mean I should eat it. There are other choices I have to make, which are more important. There are a time and circumstances for a bacon sandwich, but it is not now and not today. If I abandon the fast because of an overwhelming desire for self-indulgence, then I cannot be who I am or become who I am becoming. I find myself stuck in this place where I cannot control myself and allow real needs, but lesser needs, to dominate me and control me so that I become a slave to them and bound by them. I am more than this in Christ, and I desire to be more than this in Christ.
Choosing A Life Partner | Resenting
Just because I do need a job, and know that I need a job, and everyone else seems to be getting a fantastic job, doesn’t mean that I should take any job that is offered. I need to know what sort of job I really need to help me fulfill all my potential, and the fact that someone pleasant offers me a job would not be enough to make it sensible to take a job if all the other criteria were wrong. I might even lie awake at night thinking that I had better take any job as a Trainee Ward Assistant in a Mental Hospital because I just need a job. But that would be a poor decision from any perspective. I would not find even short-term job satisfaction.
My qualifications would not find scope for being used. I would find myself resenting the choices I had made, resenting the people I had to serve among, resenting the person who offered me the job in the first place, and I would find that the qualifications I had put so much effort into gaining were slowly lost to me, as I found it harder and harder to put what I had learned into any practice.
Choosing A Life Partner | Personhood
In just the same way, the fact that we are attracted to someone is no measure of anything. Lots of people are pleasant, and lots of people look attractive. We are made at one level to notice such things. But when we considering something more serious, then lots of other things have to come into focus. My growth into personhood is worth more than a bacon sandwich, even if I am hungry. All the work I have put into my life already is worth more than any job, an unsuitable job, just because I see others getting employment.
I am convinced of this, that we need to be preparing ourselves through becoming the person that God created us to be before we enter into a deep relationship with another that seems to present itself as the answer to all our dreams and desires. Choosing A Life Partner | Father Peter Farrington
Choosing A Life Partner | The Needs
What do we do, in spiritual terms, and outside of all these analogies? We recognize that there is more to life than the need we have for a deep relationship with another, even though this is a real need and one to be taken seriously. But if we make a mistake in the choices around this need, just because it is very real and insistent and can seem overwhelming, then it can prevent us from ever becoming the person we are called to be. And it is the person we are called to be who is the person who is properly able to enter into deep relationships with other persons.
Choosing A Life Partner | Preparation
Slipping back into the analogy. If I want to be a Doctor, I have to work hard at the preparation required to be a Doctor. I can’t short cut it. It will take years of study at university, and then more years of post-graduate study. I have to spend endless nights revising and learning, and I have to take exams and show that I have made practical progress in my studies. Just because I want to be a Doctor, even with all my heart and ambition, doesn’t mean I can avoid the years of effort.
Because the years of effort are what make me a Doctor. Putting on a white coat and hanging a stethoscope around my neck doesn’t make me a Doctor. Even printing out a Certificate and hanging it on my wall doesn’t make me a Doctor. It doesn’t matter how much I want to be a Doctor; to be and become a Doctor requires that I follow a particular process.
I am convinced of this, that we need to be preparing ourselves through becoming the person that God created us to be before we enter into a deep relationship with another that seems to present itself as the answer to all our dreams and desires. And this preparation in personhood allows us to become that person who is already mature, already able to make wise choices, is already sustained by the deepest relationship of all with God, and so is able to enter into deep relationships with others without compromise and without finding ourselves bound by needs and emotional drives.
This does not mean at all these needs are not real, but that as in all these analogies, to simply satisfy a need is not always or often the best choice, if it means that we are subverting other equally necessary and more important choices and considerations.
Choosing A Life Partner | Fulfilled Life
It can never be a good idea for a serious Christian person to consider a deep relationship with someone who has little in common with the Christian spiritual life, and this is beyond even ordinary morality. It is understood entirely why this might seem an option, but it is never the right option or a good option. In this season of our lives, we experience a sort of Lenten time, but Lent is a time for preparation. In Lent, we certainly feel real hunger, an overwhelming hunger at times, but we are keeping the Fast for a reason, and if we understand the reason, then we look for fruitfulness beyond the satisfaction of our immediate need.
It is the same at this time in our lives. We are preserving ourselves but for a reason, and we need to understand this reason. It is not a legal requirement, as if God will punish us. It is not a social reason, as if our family and friends will disown us. It is not an emotional reason, as if the needs and emotions we have a wrong or sinful. But it is because now, right now, there is other work we all and you should be doing. This is the work of becoming the person you are intended and created to be.
And this is as much a process as becoming a Doctor or gaining a degree, and it is a necessary process if we wish to truly live a fulfilled life in the divine grace and energy of God, and in a union, true and deep union with others.
By: Father Peter Farrington | A priest of St Mary and Saint Cyril Coptic Orthodox Church in Liverpool. United Kingdom ~ Diocese of the Midlands.
Delivered to you by COPTICNN™ | Coptic News Network on 2020-11-16 from Liverpool, England
Columnists: COPTICNN™ award-winning columnists are a fundamental pillar of our coverage. They range in their interests from orthodoxy, faith, politics, to world affairs, to business, to the arts, to the way we live. No matter the issue, they are always in the middle of our Christian discourse. They are trusted by our readers and followed by many Coptic Orthodox Christians worldwide. Influential, provocative, and engaging, our columnists provide insights and analysis that can’t be found elsewhere, making them a prime destination for WORLD readers.