Time in Dating and Engagement

Clocks

For Everything There is a Season

In the ever-popular verse from Ecclesiastes we read, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (3:1).  In our modern world, time is the very thing that we seem to lack perpetually.  If only we had more time to exercise, to reconnect with friends, to spend with our loved ones.  Our preoccupation with busyness causes us to lose a sense of peace and even, at times, joy.  Indeed, we have become so accustomed to this cacophonous state of being that we find it difficult to pause and to reflect upon the very blessing of time.  Our being so conflicted is nowhere more prevalent than within the process of dating and engagement.

Of course, for Catholics, being in relationship with another brings to mind the concept of discernment which is often a difficult experience riddled with questions and differing opinions.  We scour through the best literature looking for concrete answers and consult those in whom we trust.  However, despite our best efforts, we bring with us our contemporary concept of time with its built in sense of restlessness. The unfortunate result is that discernment itself becomes a cog in the machine of modernity, another thing to do, a period characterized by a zealous endeavor to determine one’s vocation and to do so in haste.  In verse 12 of Ecclesiastes, we are told that “there is no happiness for a human being except in pleasure and enjoyment through life.”  Why, we may ask is this the case?  The reason is that life is “a gift from God” (3:13).  What then must we do to reclaim the proper sense of enjoyment and pleasure, particularly when dating or becoming engaged? In other words, when we are in a relationship how do we carry out the process of discernment so that we can have peace?

The poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, gives us an insight by saying, “Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves.”[1] For the person dating or engaged, “loving these questions” means allowing them to unfold in time, becoming ever clearer. The experience of being with another is one that is ever pervaded by mystery, by the reality of the unfathomable depths of the human soul.  Therefore, when we rush to figure out everything immediately, demanding quick answers from God, we fail to allow His grace to pervade our experience of time. We do not give ourselves the space for His grace to imbue our senses with expectant hope.  We lose the pleasure and enjoyment of a properly ordered life by endlessly searching to assure ourselves that we are with the “right” person or to rapidly commit to the other to take away our anxiety.  Our culture promotes this form of decision-making, particularly with respect to engagement (as a quick perusal of popular blogs and magazines will make evident).  To make the resolution to respect the process of time is markedly countercultural, yet not without reward. When we abandon haste in our relationships, we instead enter into an ordered rhythm of time and, in so doing, embrace and reclaim joy and solace in allowing God’s plan to be revealed.  Like Rilke, we love the questions “like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue,” and we “live those questions” until the day when “gradually, without noticing it,” we live our way into the answer.[2]

Cristina D’Averso

[1] Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet.

[2] Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet.

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