Once upon a time (yes, its story time with Amanda) my wonderful and brilliant mother told me about a gingerbread man. She told me that one of her friends read something in a book (this story is one of those that a friend of a friend of a friend told) about writing down what you want in a man and that her man was like a gingerbread man. She cut out a piece of paper and wrote down the things she wanted in a man and the cut out paper looked a bit like a gingerbread man. Some things she wrote down in permanent marker, some in pen and some in pencil – after all, some things change. However, she was limited by the space on the paper so she had to be choosy about what was truly important in her future mate.
I once read the same advice in a book called “Date or Soul Mate” by Dr. Neil Clark Warren (the founder of eHarmony.com). In the book, he provides a long list of qualities that we might look for in a mate and he instructs readers to have 10 “must-haves” and 10 “can’t stands”. Believe you me, making this list isn’t easy. I could easily pick a hundred things that are “must haves” and even more “can’t stands”, but there is value in limiting your lists to 10 because it forces you to figure out what is really important AND teaches us to leave the rest to God. The items that don’t make our lists then, must be left to the grace of God – He either puts them in our future mate or gives us the grace to love them anyway.
About a year ago my mom was at a garage sale and she found these cute little gingerbread man and woman, and of course, she bought them. My brother has a cute gingerbread girl who wears a little skirt and has a heart above her head (how fitting that is now!) and mine has a dapper little blue bow-tie and a blue heart above his head. Mine hangs at the door to my room and always reminds me of what is important. I’ve taken a few post-it notes to my gingerbread man (I feel as though I should name him…), but only one thing has been written in sharpie: CATHOLIC. To me, every other quality I desire in a man flows from his faith, flows from the Love of God that is alive in his heart.
So what do we do with these cute little gingerbread men (or women)?
We bring them to God. We ask Him to bless them, to show us what is important, what He wants for us to find in a partner. Do you know what He does with those prayers of ours? He answers them. Perhaps you won’t leave the church or the chapel, gingerbread person in hand, and run into the man or woman of your dreams because that’s not the way He answers. He answers first with Himself. He is the perfect answer to our heart’s desires. Remember when I was talking about how easy it is to list a hundred characteristics/habits as “must-haves”? Jesus, in all His glory, has each of those hundred things I desire, which is why He must, and should always remain, the first love of our lives. He is the perfect gingerbread man. He has all of our “must-haves”, even if we don’t narrow the list down! When we allow Him to be the answer to our “gingerbread” prayers, anyone else is the icing on a heavenly delicious gingerbread cookie! (Anyone else hungry for Christmas cookies right about now?) He hears our prayers, but He longs for us to be satisfied with Him completely before He blesses us with another love. His love should never compete with another so we have to learn how to let His love be our everything before He can show us that there is even more to His glory!
A few years ago a good friend of mine came back from studying abroad in Rome with this prayer on a tattered piece of paper. The first time I read it (and the font was about this big) I think my heart said, “WOW! That is intense and hard to pray”, but the glory and the hope it contains is unmatched by any other prayers I’ve ever found. Its commonly attributed to St. Anthony of Padua and it is called “God’s Plan For Your Mate”
Everyone longs to give completely to someone; to have a deep soul relationship with another; to be loved thoroughly and exclusively. But God, to a Christian says, “no, not until you are satisfied and fulfilled and content with living loved by me alone. I love you, child and until you discover that only in Me is your satisfaction to be found, you will not be capable of the human-perfect relationship that I have planned for you. You will never be united with another unless you are united with Me, exclusive of any other desires or longings. I want you to stop planning, stop wishing, and allow Me to bring it to you. Just keep watching Me, expecting the greatest things; keep experiencing the satisfaction, knowing that I AM. Keep learning and listening to to the things that I tell you…you must wait.
Don’t be anxious. Don’t worry. Don’t look at the things you think you want. You just keep looking off and away up to Me or you’ll miss what I want to show you.
And then, when you’re ready, I’ll surprise you with love far more wonderful than any would ever dream. You see, not until you are ready and the one I have prepared for you is ready will you find each other. I am working even at this moment to have you both ready at the same time. Until you are both satisfied exclusively with Me and the life I have prepared for you, you won’t be able to experience the love that exemplifies your relationship with Me…and this is perfect.
And dear one, I want you to have this most wonderful love. I want you to see in the flesh a picture of your relationship with Me, and to enjoy materially and concretely the everlasting union of beauty and perfection and love that I offer you with Myself. I love you utterly. I am God Almighty. Believe and be satisfied.”AMEN.