It happened Monday, and I never expected it to. Those words, out of my mouth.
My family is a strange one. My parents divorced almost a year ago after 40+ years of marriage. My sister is the Wonder Woman of a family that has three stepkids and also two people with special needs. Her life is busy and FULL. She and I have our parents and two aunts that will need care as the years progress.
Some of my Protestant friends assumed upon my becoming Orthodox Christian, I would soon become a nun. Truth told, I know that for me, to leave the world and my sister to care for the entirety of our family by herself seems one of the most grievous evils I could commit. So being monastic has not been a thought in my head. Plus, black is not THAT slimming!
At a women's retreat, Bishop Basil made a statement that scandalized me. "There are only two ways of life that are blessed by the Church. They are marriage and monasticism. I don't mean to say that you cannot be single and be a Christian; it is just much harder." He went on give examples of why that's true, and they had a lot to do with accountability and the natural selfishness that is built in to every singleton's existence. We don't HAVE to do ANYTHING. I've lived alone for years. Even though I don't love it, there is something fantastic about being able to go home and shut the door when you are done for the day. I joke that unscheduled naps and unlimited bubble baths are the compensations of the loveless spinster schoolmarm--but it's true.
But I have always missed having a home. By this, I always thought I meant having a family. With my parent's divorce, my first thought was, "I have no family." And it's true.
An abbess of an Orthodox women's monastery led our last women's retreat. I had never spent any time with a nun before. My idea of nuns are from the Sound of Music. I often suspect that becoming a novice would be a great way to meet a handsome baron; so you see how ill-informed I am. I was relieved to find that I really liked this abbess. She also had come straight from two weeks at the bedside of an ailing family member. I found that connection to her family heartening.
It was only after the retreat that I realized that I live in a manner more isolated and devoid of 'home' than even monastics.
Eastern Christianity is a much less individualistic approach to faith than the one I grew up in. It's said that when one priest was asked if Jesus was his personal Savior, he said, "No, I like to share Him." We believe that each person is made in God's image and we are to look for the health of our own souls, as well as those around us. "Blessed is he who regards everyone as God after God," Evagrius of Pontus says. In his excellent book "Short Trip to the Edge," Scott Cairns embodies the strength of this sentiment in the Church with these words: "Ourselves, alone is finally a very undesirable circumstance, perhaps even a quintessentially satanic circumstance."
I woke up Saturday morning to the news that one of my friends had been tonsured a monk earlier that day. I've never had a friend become monastic before, the other monks in my life were monks when I met them. Although we message often, it was unexpected to myself and others close to him that live in town.
I was dismayed and amused at the irony that the first feeling that ripped through me at the news was the EXACT same jealousy that attends my selfish thoughts when a friend gets engaged; "I am alone." He had found rest and happiness; he had found home.
Which leads me back to Monday. In chatting with a dear friend who comes from a more individualistic model of faith, she asked me THE question that all singletons must finally answer, or answer daily, as the case may be: "If you knew that you never were going to get married, would you be content? Could you let God be enough?"
And that's when I knew; and the answer flowed out of me like water. The answer I never thought I'd give. If I knew I would never be married, I would probably would look into becoming a nun. In the end, the question is neither single nor married. The answer to all questions is home.
Home in Him. Home with each other. Whatever that looks like.
I hope I find it someday.