My 4-year-old old niece, who is without a doubt the most hilarious child I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, spent the night at my house last week. In the morning, she pointed out to me that half of my bed was made, but the other half wasn’t. Never one to miss a teachable moment, I told her that I sleep alone, because I’m not married, which led to the following conversation:
Her: When are you going to get married, anyway?
Me: I don’t know. I guess when I find someone I want to marry. Who do you think I should marry?
Me: Really? Who’s Bob?
Her: I was just kidding. There is no Bob.
The last line struck me as funny, because those of us who are single but still open to marriage frequently have moments when we realize, or at least suspect, that perhaps “there is no Bob.” Not in the sense that there are no good men or women in the world — we all know that isn’t true — but that the right combination of faith, character, and compatibility that would comprise our own “Bob” may not show up in our lifetime.
I do a lot of work with single Catholics and I find that most of our questions and struggles parallel the questions and struggles of the rest of the world. And so it is with the elusive “Bob.” I frequently hear single Catholics talk about how they believe that “God has someone for me.” They are unshakable in their confidence that God loves them (so far so good), and that hence He will give them what they want, which in this case is a spouse.
Of course, God doesn’t necessarily work that way. It’s not that He doesn’t love us — of course He does, far more than we could ever possibly imagine. But He’s also working within the confines of human nature and the free will He bestowed on us. When huge numbers of these people He created are behaving badly, that shrinks the pool of suitable “Bobs” from which to select a spouse for us. Of course, He could build one of us a custom “Bob” out of clay, like He did with Adam, but He doesn’t tend to work that way these days.
This doesn’t just apply to singles. Doesn’t everybody have a “Bob” — something we really want and that deep down we believe God would give to us if he really, really loved us? Maybe it’s a job, or a raise, or a development in a relationship, or an opportunity. It could be anything that, in some way, we’re “relying” on God to accomplish. Perhaps we’re subtly using it as a “gauge” of His love for us.
Which leads us to the central question: What if there is no Bob?
What if God doesn’t have that “one thing” in store for you? What if He has a different plan for your life, or at least that one aspect of it? What if, despite your fervent efforts and prayers, the story doesn’t end the way you want it to? Is He still God? Is He still the Lord of your life? Do you still love Him? Trust Him?
It’s questions — and situations — like this that test our faith and show us what it means to really trust in God. Trusting Him doesn’t mean “I trust that You will arrange things in such a way that everything turns out the way I want them to.” Really trusting God means, “I trust You to be there, and to take care of me, no matter how things turn out.” It means facing the “valley of darkness” — a future that we can’t see, but He can. And knowing that He will be at our side, no matter what that future holds. And that, with Him, good will come out of whatever we face.
God isn’t “the Guy Who protects us from any difficulty.” He’s “the Guy Who is at our side through every difficulty.” He writes straight with crooked lines. He takes difficult situations and, with our trust and cooperation, builds something beautiful out of them — something we often couldn’t possibly have imagined and which make our puny “Bobs” pale in comparison.
I know — you can’t imagine life without your Bob, whatever that is. And perhaps Bob will show up. But perhaps He won’t. And perhaps it’s true that life without Bob could be very, very difficult for a time. Of course, it also may be true that life with Bob could be a nightmare and that God is protecting us from that particular Bob that we think we want.
But either way, isn’t it more comforting to know that, no matter what happens, God is with you and He loves you and cares for you and He will never, ever abandon you?
That’s the reality and in the end it’s far better than any Bob I can imagine.