Every month, To Reconcile All Things features a post from a young adult in or near the Diocese of Des Moines, sharing their story of faith. Through their witness to God’s movement in their lives, we hope you are able to see more clearly how God is moving in yours.
Last year when I told my friends and family I wouldn’t be dating for nine months, I received many confused reactions…
“Aren’t you 25?” (*cough*, getting older)
“Isn’t this the exact time to be dating?”
“What if you meet ‘the one’ and you are on the dating fast?”
In fact, many people told me I didn’t need to go on the fast. Nevertheless, nine months have passed and here I am to tell you that the dating fast was one of the best decisions of my life and will be one of the best gifts I will ever give to my future spouse. For me, the dating fast was a truly transformative experience that changed my heart forever.
By name it’s obvious one gives up dating while on the dating fast, but if that were the end in itself it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense. I wouldn’t want to waste my time if it were just about giving up dating for a while. The act of giving up dating, then, is only a means to a more beautiful end, rather than being an end in itself.
We all know that after an initial period of seeing one another, eventually two individuals stop dating other people. Why is this? Because we can’t give our heart to two people at one time; if we tried, our heart would be divided.
Just like in dating when we focus on one other soul, the dating fast is a time to intentionally pursue the Lord with our whole heart, without distractions or other commitments. So while we give up dating during the fast, that’s not actually the point. The point is to come to know and fall in love with Jesus in a deeper and more personal way.
Just the act of “not dating”, though, doesn’t actually help us come to know Jesus better. Imagine trying to figure out if you should give your life to someone simply by not dating anyone else – you wouldn’t get very far. Spending time with someone, getting to know them, is what helps us fall in love. We have to actively pursue a relationship with them, and in a dating fast it’s the same. It’s all about intentionality.
Sidenote: this means that if someone simply has not dated for awhile, for months or even years, it doesn’t mean they’ve been on a dating fast–it’s all about intentionality.
Intentionality in the dating fast isn’t just about what we do, but how we actively receive. In the dating fast, and in our lives in general, it’s important to note that any growth or healing that takes place isn’t something we can accomplish on our own accord. To put it simply, all transformation comes in and through God. The good news is that God is perfect in His pursuit of us, both now and during the fast. All we have to do is give the effort to open ourselves up and receive Christ and the love He so freely wishes to give.
In order to more fully receive Christ during my own dating fast, I spent a lot more time in the Adoration chapel (almost every day). I received Jesus in the Eucharist as often as I could. I prayer journaled. I started reading the Catechism and daily Mass readings. I surrounded myself with communities of people who were also striving for holiness. Essentially, I placed myself in situations and places where it was easy to see God and to come to know Him; and I was intentional about doing so. The dating fast became less about what I was (or wasn’t) doing, and more about what He was doing.
This is why the dating fast was such a gift from the Lord. When I was called to it, Jesus was saying to me that He wanted to give me time, special and intentional time to simply pursue Him. He was saying that He wanted to take away distractions, alternative commitments, and my own independent seeking to give me personal time to grow our relationship, fall in love with Him, and meet the face of God!
All I could say was, “Wow!” The creator of the universe wanted an intense, real, and personal relationship with me, and it was possible!
In order to be successful, the dating fast must be rooted in trust – trust that the Lord loves you and wants the best for you; trust that He will come into closer relationship with you and transform you during the fast, and trust that after the fast He will provide you with a vocation where He will bring you the most joy.
Nevertheless, many people are fearful that if they go on the dating fast, they might miss out on a chance with their future spouse or might be delaying entrance into their religious vocation. This is a point worth consideration and just like we must be intentional within the fast, we must be intentional in our discernment of entering into the fast. You must ask yourself why you desire to go on the fast: has God called you to it?
You should never not enter the dating fast out of fear of missing out on your vocation. If the God who loves you created you for marriage or a religious vocation and placed those desires clearly within your heart, He’s not going to not satisfy those longings. What good and loving God would give you desires He doesn’t plan to satisfy? It would go against His own identity of innate goodness and love for you!
For those who are feeling called to the vocation of marriage, it’s important to note that God is outside of time and won’t let you miss out on the opportunity to meet your spouse. Until that day, however, the time prior to entering your vocation in that way is a time of active preparation. If the purpose of marriage is to help sanctify your family and help get them to heaven to have perfect union with Jesus, then how much more prepared will you be if you are already striving to be as close as possible to Him? The dating fast doesn’t hurt our chances of finding ‘the one’, it increases them.
The holier we become, the more ready we will be to live into our vocation. Just as you wouldn’t put a high school athlete in a professional game, the Lord isn’t going to put us in a marriage before we are ready either. If He did, we would be much more likely to fail.
So what are the fruits of the dating fast, assuming you’re truly called to it? Purification of self, healing, and most importantly, growing closer to our Lord. The growth I experienced on the dating fast was immense, and below are a few of my personal takeaways:
- The dating fast helped me cleanse my eyes and see others more purely as brothers and sisters in Christ.
- Through discernment, Jesus revealed to me on the dating fast that I am called to marriage. He helped purify my views of the vocation and granted me peace surrounding my discernment like I’d never received before.
- I learned more of who I am and who God is calling me to be, and I received a more pure view of true femininity.
- Jesus called me to give more of myself over to Him, to let go of control, and to surrender and trust Him completely (a continued pursuit to say the least).
- Jesus inspired in me a greater devotion to Mary and at the end of my fast I participated in the 33 Days to Morning Glory Marian Consecration.
These are just a few of the gifts the Lord presented to me during my dating fast, and I trust that they will continue to grow and blossom throughout the rest of my life.
All in all, I sincerely believe that the dating fast changed my life and the lives of my future family members for the better. I encourage you to prayerfully discern whether you’re called to a dating fast, and if you’re able to speak to a spiritual director beforehand, all the better. If the Lord is calling you to it, you won’t regret it.
For inquiries or questions, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to support you in your journey!
Addie Magruder is the coordinator of Ut Fidem at Dowling Catholic High School. She lives in Des Moines, Iowa and belongs to Saint Francis of Assisi Parish.