It’s a great thing to rely on God and to pray; and here comes somebody saying, “I want to start a family, but I don’t know how to do it, or where to find the right person,” and so on.
Several of you have written to me about such problems, problems with your children, with yourselves—that the years are passing and you’re still not married, and so on. Indeed, the years and time are passing, but do we know what it means that time passes? God knows time; time is how God wants it to be; time is good!
“But,” you say, “I’m already thirty-five!”
Well, perhaps God wants you to start a family at thirty-eight?
“But I’m already forty!”
Well, perhaps God wants you to start a family later, or, perhaps, He has a different plan for you, which is nevertheless magnificent. I don’t know what it is to be able to reveal it to you.
Can I tell you something simple? Pray to God for Him to reveal it to you. Pray for Him to enlighten you!
Once one such person came to me and said, “I want to start a family. What should I do? Help!”
“How can I help with this; what do you have in mind?”
“For you to tell me what to do…”
No, please, don’t do anything—first just calm down. You have stress, and when you have stress, you can’t start a healthy family, because when you are under stress, panic and uncertainty will seize you, and even if you find the right person, this stress and fear will make you question yourself: “Will she want me? Will a relationship develop between us? Won’t we break up? Won’t she toss me away, like last time? Won’t she reject me? What if she suddenly doesn’t like me?”
It’s stress, my child. You cannot create a healthy family if you’re going to start with such stress. What are we talking about for so long? Trust in God! Love God! Believe in God!
“I love Him,” he says, “but…”
Okay, but if you loved Him, would you really be in such panic? You love God and you’re panicking? Look, if I take your hand and squeeze it, you’ll feel warmth and say, “Ah, I feel confidence and calmness—someone is holding my hand!” It means people touch you, and you calm down, but God touches you, and where is your peace? Where? Therefore, come on, first let’s calm down.
Do you know why you need to relax? To clearly see that there’s no more stress inside of you, for panic to disappear, for peace to come, because for these questions—of meeting someone and starting a family—the will of God is clearly reflected in calm and peaceful souls. Your soul should be quiet and calm so the will of God can reverberate in it. If panic and confusion seize you, the will of God cannot be reflected. You make some frantic movement, you distort your image and create a false view of yourself in the eyes of the person with whom you’re going to get acquainted, because some anxiety and uncertainty comes from you.
Above all, leave everything up to God. Someone said one remarkable thing: “Do you know when these questions will be resolved? When you stop dwelling on them.” I really like that. When you stop having stress from something, then it will all be settled; but if you’re stressed, it can’t be settled. Stress doesn’t help, but conversely, it creates a very unpleasant and difficult climate for settling our problems. Relax and forget your problem! Live your life!
“But,” he says, “life has no meaning for me!”
What are you talking about? Your life has no meaning? That is, your life has no meaning because you don’t have a family? Are these actually serious words? Here’s the first lesson you should grasp first, before creating a family—life is beautiful not because of a family, but because Christ exists. Our beloved Christ is so rich in gifts that He gives us a family; but even if you haven’t started a family, life in Him is wonderful.
We wound God, we offend God, and we commit sin, saying, “If I don’t ever have a family, my life will be a failure and will lose all meaning!” This is incorrect.
First, life is beautiful because the Lord exists, our Christ exists. Once someone went to Elder Paisios and said, “Father, I’m in trouble; things are bad for me!
“Why, my child?”
“I’m forty, and I’m not yet married!”
“Okay, well don’t worry!” Elder Paisios said. “I’m already seventy and I’m also not yet married!”
He laughed as he said that. That is, don’t look at it that way. The question isn’t in age, and not that your turn has come and something should happen now, but that you try to develop your inner world.
I heard about this from Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol in one of his talks; I don’t know if he heard it himself, but he did personally know Elder Paisios.
It’s a good thing to be reconciled with God, because your question will thus be settled.
“But tell me something practical to do! To go, to see, to do!”
Look, I won’t forbid you; I didn’t tell you to lock yourself up alone at home and wait for everything to resolve itself, or for the gift of family to fall from Heaven, and for the love of your life to come down from Heaven. It can happen. If you have such holiness and boldness, then it will be. Fr. Epiphanios (Theodoropoulos) says, “If we had enough living faith in Christ, real living faith and love, then we would say, ‘Lord, I’m going to confess and then commune, and pray, and I’ll walk out of my house and the first person I meet will be the one I will start a family with.’”
Can I tell you something? Don’t do this; don’t do it, because you might get disappointed and disappoint others. I mean for you not to do it, but if some holy person does it, he will have success. Do you know why? If Christ saw that your heart was surrendered to Him, that you trusted Him completely, do you know what He would say? “This, My creation lives for Me, lives by Me, and awaits everything from Me. He completely believes in Me, and now he is going to meet the love of his life. I will not disappoint him, because if I disappoint him, his faith will be shaken, and he will say, ‘Where is my God? So what, Lord, you don’t exist?’”
This is my obedience to Christ. St. John Climacus calls this obedience “sleep walking.” In other words—“Lord, I entrust myself to Thee, and I walk the path of this life with closed eyes; I sleep and I go. I walk, that is, I act, I am active, but at the same time I am sleeping—that is, I quiet down, I sleep peacefully, I walk, and I sleep.”
It’s very interesting; it means that I entrust myself to God. If you will do this and feel it as inner trust, then there is no chance that the Lord will not immediately solve your problem.
God therefore delays, that through danger, searching, mistakes, setbacks, torments, and rejection which we endure or bring, He wants to teach us other lessons, before we get married—lessons of life, humility, patience, and faith. Otherwise, how will you endure life? You will become a useless father, a glib mother, if you act so quickly. You are stressed, you will carry yourself in this stress, and why would you undertake to start a family—to lead others to stress?
There are children who tell their parents when they are fighting: “So what, you got acquainted in the dark? You got married in the dark?”
As some of them say, “Did they gave you a diploma in the dark, or what?”
Well, this is wrong, but why do children say it? Why? Because they understand that something here doesn’t add up, something is wrong, and they see it—they see such nervousness, grumbling, fights, disagreements, anger, whims, and capriciousness. Is that marriage? What kind of relationship is that? What were they thinking about when they met?
I like how one of my friends put it: “Father, I’m not going to pretend to be a good person. As soon as I meet a girl, on the second or third date I’m going to tell her about my weaknesses; I will say that I am egotistical, that I’m nervous, that I can explode with anger.”
“Come on, my child, calm down!” I said to him.
“No, I want to say that I’m not going to deceive someone else. I want to tell her the truth, that I will work on myself and try to correct myself, but to make myself into someone I’m not, I will not do.”
Well, as a spirit, as an ethos, as a way of thinking, I like it: “Of course, it might look like unreliability on my part, but I at least want to show her that I am not acting with her. I will not try to convince her of something that’s not true. I want to tell her how I really am. I’m not wearing any mask of hypocrisy, to make myself out to be some big shot, to hide something; no, I am a simple, real, open person; I trust in God and godly people. Sure, it’s a risk, but I say it anyways. I will tell her everything, and when I reveal to her my mistakes and infirmities, then I will be humbled, and she will be touched by this and love me even more, because I’m not making myself out to be anything, but telling her who I really am.”
In this way we lay a good, humble, genuine, down to earth beginning in our life, and Christ serves as our prototype. Although, it would be good if when someone is planning to start a family he had some kind of restraint, because some people, in the name of sincerity, start to tell everything about their lives, and the other person is stung by it, disappointed, and horrified. You should clarify this with your spiritual father.
There are a few things we hide, not out of cunning or malice, but out delicateness and discretion. Do you understand? It could hurt the other person. You don’t need to always pick at the mistakes that happened in the past and which you have already confessed.
“What should I do then?” this person asked me.
I told him the same thing at first:
“Pray! It would be good if you prayed. Above all, she is coming—do you understand?”
“Your love! Do you hear her footsteps? Listen! Do you hear the footsteps?”
“What are you talking about, father? What footsteps?”
“I’m telling you! If you’re over twenty, then the person you want to start a family with, whom God has prepared for you to meet in some moment—listen to what I’m saying!—that person already exists, and is out there somewhere.”
You ask, “Why are you telling me this?”
I’m saying it so you would feel awe, affection, and joy. I pray to God for your paths to cross, for you to meet. You and her, existing somewhere out there. And you should also say in your prayers: “Lord, we, probably, are walking parallel paths—perhaps we are near one another. The person whom Thou, in Thy wisdom, goodness, and loving plan have prepared for me, exists somewhere. Lord, this girl whom Thou hast prepared for me and who exists somewhere, protect her! Preserve her, and prepare her for me, for our meeting, and grant her the gift of Thy Holy Spirit; give her Thy blessing and love, protect her from all temptations, trials, and physical and spiritual danger.”
Now do you know what to do? Pray for her—familiar and unknown X, whom, however, the Lord knows. On the other hand, there is a known X—it is our Christ… It is a question of days, months, years, when the Lord will place this person in your path.
Just think: You’re talking to Christ, and in that moment Christ already knows the name of the girl who you will marry! He knows her name, and on the day of the wedding everyone will festively hear it: “The servant of God Nicholas is crowned to the handmaiden of God Elena!”
God already know this Elena, who we will hear about then. And you say, “O, my Lord, who is she? I don’t know how this meeting will happen; I don’t know what to do—after all, it’s not human—it’s a mystery.” As it says in the Wedding service, God accomplishes this combination and union between a husband and wife, this meeting. How can two strangers, not knowing one another, suddenly connect, get to know one another and become so attached, become so close to one another, love one another so strongly, and share everything with one another?
I have no family and never will, however I experience awe before it, just as you experience awe when a person becomes a monk and dedicates himself to God. That is, it’s all marriage (monasticism and marriage).
And something else. Someone said to me, “When are we going to hear, ‘Rejoice, O Isaiah?’” That is, when I am I getting married? Well, how could you not hear it? And he heard it—they sing it at the ordination of a deacon and a priest. You will hear it only once, when you get married, but a priest hears it twice: “Rejoice, O Isaiah, the Virgin is with child, and shall bear a son Emmanuel, both God and Man, and Orient is His Name, whom magnifying we call the Virgin blessed.”
Look with awe upon this event, which is coming. If you look at marriage this way, while it has yet to happen—but for God it has happened—then God, of course, will help you. This is what I had in mind.
Well, my brother and all who are anxious for their children over these questions, then you will act otherwise, if you will look upon it as a sacrament. Sacraments are connected with God, and not with your intellect, abilities, pedagogical skills, art, and technique, gimmicks, or your books where you read how to work on yourself, how to act, how to communicate with people—none of this, but it’s a mystery, and it is experienced in the Church, near God.
Unfortunately, the majority of young people today experience these wonderful things outside of God. It’s our drama, the drama of modern man: Families are destroyed, unable even to create something together.
So what are we to do then? If a family isn’t functioning as it should, then nothing good will come out of it—a sick family, with problematic and run-down children who react to everything, resisting, breaking, smashing, rebelling, and liking nothing in this life, and setting cars on fire.
Someone said to me, “And they do well!” I answered internally: “Well, yes, of course they do well!” What do I mean? And what else could they do? What else, when parents, the relations between them, their feelings, love, child, and pregnancy were not sealed by God’s grace, and everything happened with them like animals in nature? The only difference is that cute animals are blessed by God, because they follow their instincts, as God created them. And you? You, man? You will do what you want, whatever comes to mind, what you like? No, you will not. The water you drink out of the faucet is not blessed, but you give it to a priest, he blesses it, and it becomes Holy Water. It is Holy Water—water, blessed by the hand of the priest, the hand of the unworthy priest, and through his hand the Lord invisibly stretches forth His hand and blesses the water.
Only in the Church do bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, while at home they are just bread and wine—bread which molds, and you throw it to the pigeons or bury it in the garden. But in the Church, bread and wine are experienced as a Sacrament; they are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. Therefore, any biological or psychological function of man needs precisely that—to be sealed by Christ, to be planted in the Church, where it will be consecrated and become blessed.
Of course, here we are speaking about your personal relationships, about the most sacred and most important events of your life, that is, about your profession, education, and marriage. These are very important questions in life, therefore you answer them in adulthood; but you want to answer these very important questions yourself and say, “I will think it all over myself, I will decide! This is what I think, this is what I have decided!”
But, unfortunately, your criteria are totally worldly, human, biological, psychological, emotional—in general, not Divine. They are not Divine, my child! Few have the strength to put a limit on their instincts and passions and say not “what I like,” “what suits me,” but “Lord, this is what I think, but Thou, Lord, how doth Thou look upon it? Because I can be blind.” When emotions and love are not leavened with the love of Christ, they are only human and blind, and therefore you don’t see clearly.
Yes, this impulse and desire are necessary, to lay a beginning, but we need reason to look at several things logically. And where can this happen? In the Church. How else can you get enlightenment? By yourself? Not praying, not confessing, and not communing? Therefore, I gave one man practical advice: “Every day, read the Akathist to the Most Holy Theotokos. Are you doing this?”
“I don’t manage; I don’t think I have enough time.”
“Okay, if you don’t have enough time, then don’t do it. But if you don’t have enough time to do it, then I understand that your problem doesn’t really bother you.”
“How could I not be bothered, father? I want to find her and start a family!”
If it bothered you, you wouldn’t leave it up to chance. You should be at least a little tense. The Israelites passed through the Red Sea on dry land, because it was a miracle, but you must sweat a little, do something, bring something. How? By your prayer, by which you show your strong desire. You show it in prayer to the Most Holy Theotokos and to our Lord, and you say, “Most Holy Theotokos, give me the love of thy Son and send me the person who would love me and who I would love, that we might spend the remainder of our lives together and that our whole family would love the Lord God, thy Son,” and the Most Holy Theotokos will give it to you.
You say, “Do I really have to do it every day?”
Yes, you are not serious; you don’t look seriously upon the spiritual life, and that which you’re seeking doesn’t bother you, because if it bothered you, you would, not just once a day, but constantly, read the akathist.
You say, “If I knew it would work, then I would do it!”
Do you see? This is where your big problem is. Do you recognize it? Now you’ve peered into the very root of the problem—you don’t believe. We don’t believe in the power of God, the power of prayer, in the Lord, and therefore we don’t pray, therefore we don’t hope in prayer. I tell you otherwise: The Lord therefore does not listen to these unbelieving, cold, formal prayers. What does He say? “Leave him, leave him for a while, let him ‘bake,’ let him cry out from the heart.”
The Lord does not torment you; He wants you to mature. To mature means to begin to look seriously upon your relationship with God, with people, and to understand that these important questions are not answered outside of the Church, because, unfortunately, after divorce everyone runs to the Church. When your children lose their way, you say, “Father, save my child!”
When something happens at home: “Father, take these names and commemorate them! Our family is falling apart!”
But why? Are we really going to pick up the pieces all the time? The light of Christ exists not to illuminate some of the debris, but whole diamonds, shining with paradisiacal light and Divine beauty. The Church does not exist only for failed, tormented, and suffering spouses.
Those of you who have passed through danger—you who are drawn to the Church, who have found the path, even through sickness and suffering: bravo! You deserve praise. And who else is standing at the beginning—may the mistakes and failures of others make you think.
The truth is that it’s impossible without Christ to survive these events and not soon feel the stench of corruption, death, and decay. It’s difficult, I think, it’s impossible for people to have a strong bond without Christ—when it’s built just on money, or favors, and so on; but when a tempest arises in someone’s relationship, who doesn’t then exclaim, “O, my Lord, save me!”?
Those who love Christ without coercion, out of gratitude, out of love, because their hearts are thus attuned, are worthy of admiration. Blessed are those who in a maelstrom of problems—at least then—turn to God and find their path.
I pray to God that you all might find this path and meet the love of your life on it, and that you might walk hand-in-hand with them, and not that one be pulled here, and another there, but that you were both pulled to the East, that is, to Christ! I always pray to God, that you would experience miracles in your life, such as those we have spoken about, like the very greatest miracle—the feeling of God’s presence and love in our hearts and lives!