So it was with amazement a few years ago that I met and promptly fell for Claude.* Claude was everything that I thought I wanted in a man – tall, strong, gentle, a good father, hard worker, animal lover, cowboy. He also came with a trainload of baggage. Serious baggage, the sort of baggage that made friends and family wonder if I had taken leave of my senses when we became involved.
One of the things I loved about Claude was that we never fought. We had disagreements, some of which were pretty serious, but we were always able to speak calmly and work them out. I loved his children, and they loved me. I thought that God had finally sent me my soul-mate, and that we would live together, if not always easily, then at least happily.
But then Claude’s ex-wife finished serving her prison sentence for the negligent homicide of their youngest son (see above reference to Serious Baggage), and suddenly – he wasn’t in love with me any more. He stood in my living room and looked me in the eye while he broke my heart.
What happened? Didn’t we value the same things? Have the same tastes, like the same music, watch the same movies, talk for hours about things both meaningless and meaningful? Wasn’t he my soul mate? What happened to
"happily ever after"???
I’ve long since stopped crying over him, and can’t think of a single circumstance under which I’d ever take him back, but the soul mate question lingered. Then my dear friend Caitlin** told me to read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. There was a particular conversation she told me to pay attention to, and it is from this conversation that the following quote comes:
Your problem is you don’t understand what that word means. People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave. And thank God for it.†
That paragraph describes what Claude did for me (which no one around me understood at the time). I’m a better version of myself for having loved him.
What a liberating concept! Yes, Claude was my soul mate. No, we were never meant to last forever. Be glad that it happened, not sorry that it ended.
I still struggle with being single. I have to frequently remind myself of 1 Corinthians 7:34 - "An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband."
I have to remind myself that what I want more than anything else is to stand in front of my God and hear Him say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." If it means that I die childless and never having been married, then so be it.
And then last night I watched "The Buccaneers," based on Edith Wharton’s novel. At the end, the governess says to her friend, "I have lived without love for forty years. I shall probably manage to live another forty under the same terms."
Romantic love is great for them as has it. For the rest of us, there must be a reason. We may not ever know that reason, but perhaps we will be blessed enough to have a soul mate for a while, to teach us about ourselves.
*Not his real name. I chose it because with the American pronunciation, it sounds like "clod," which is a pretty accurate description in retrospect.
**Not her real name, either. See the intro post.
† Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love, p. 149. Oh, and Richard-from-Austin, if you ever read this blog, I’d love to buy you a cup of coffee!