The Trouble with the “Meant to Be” Mindset
Picture this: a sixteen year old girl watching the holiday classic Serendipity for the first time. John Cusack and Kate Beckinsdale are soulmates, meant to be, kept apart by circumstance. They reunite years after one fated meeting. They’re meant to be together from then on out.
Fate brought them together, and my romantic heart ate that up. I knew what my goal was: To find the one I was meant to be with.
Thus began a hollow, disappointing quest towards a (spoiler alert) happy ending.
The problem with romantic comedies
I love romantic comedies. I love the way that they all follow the same structure and I never have to worry or agonize over the two main characters ending up together. Because whether it happens in the last hour or the last minute of the movie, they always do. No obstacle can keep them from their purpose in life: to find one another and be together.
Aside from a lot of popular opinions that romantic comedies put unrealistic expectations of love into our heads, the bigger issue is that identity doesn’t truly exist in the realm of these films.
The characters presumably have jobs, hobbies, friends, homes—but the only time we ever see those are in service of furthering the story-line of the romance. It sets up the notion that the idea of “purpose,” “fate,” or “meant to be” is an end goal. That destination relies very little on the journey, so long as it gets you where you need to be.
This messed me up for a long time. I began to look at every opportunity in life as a stepping stone to the next, all eventually leading me to the man I was meant to be with. I treated my own life as the “before” preamble of a romantic comedy, before our heroine meets the man of her dreams and finally lives happily ever after.
God’s call is alive, not finite
It’s only in the last year or so that I’ve begun to understand that God’s call to us is not singular or finite, but broad and changing. God calls us to fulfill many purposes, each along our journey towards our eventual end goal of an eternity with Him. But unlike a romantic comedy, our journeys are pretty important.
As I’ve been mulling over this idea that maybe we’re led not just down one path towards one goal by the Lord, but in fact are called to many divine checkpoints on our roads to salvation, I found this quote:
“May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be,” Saint Teresa of Ávila once wrote.
Her writing really rocked my world. Thanks to this rom com lifestyle, I have always associated the phrase “meant to be” with accomplishment, achievement, or completion. Not something that could change, or that was fluid.
But St. Teresa is onto something so much bigger. May we trust that, in this moment, we are listening to the Lord and in tune enough with God our father to know that for now, we are exactly where we’re meant to be.
Her prayer for her brothers and sisters in Christ was that we could be malleable in the hands of our Creator, meant to be where we are each day. Is that here, somewhere else, doing something new—it doesn’t matter! All that matters is that for this moment, we’re listening enough to be right where God’s asking us to be.
And that is enough.
What does ‘meant to be’ look like?
God does want us to continue moving forward and improving. We aren’t a stagnant people. God breathed life into us for a reason, to continue growing and not withering.
But if you’re anything like me, which I’m safely assuming most humans are in this case, knowing that God has a plan doesn’t mean that we have any idea what it is. One of my greatest struggles in my faith journey is one I’m sure a lot of you can relate to: which thoughts are from the Lord and which are just manifests of my own desires?
Here’s the prayer I always use to discern if I am where God wants me to be:
Lord, if I’m in the wrong place, flood me with anxiety and provide a clear and present exit. But if you called me to be right where I am, give me peace.
There’s not been a moment where our faithful God hasn’t answered this prayer.
This is not a scavenger hunt
When you view life as a singular journey to an earthly goal, it’s easy to feel like you’re putting together a puzzle. You may wonder if God gave you half the pieces and no picture. Not only do you not know what it is supposed to look like, but you’re also not sure you have the tools to accomplish it.
We have to shift our focus to realize that our journeys are filled with many “meant to be” moments. There are many times God calls us to act, be, or respond. This mindset shift can change those feelings of blindness and confusion.
I firmly believe that the Lord doesn’t want to be a mysterious player in our lives. He doesn’t dole out clues one at a time like a scavenger hunt just to annoy us. He wants us to know that the end goal is Heaven. The path to get there is by choosing to listen daily.
Our journey to heaven is not one big yes to achieve one big goal, like I’d been living for so long. It’s a daily yes to a daily moment to be a beacon of Christ’s light. That will lead us to the only place we’re ever truly “meant to be.”
Erin is a Catholic writer living on the windy plains of Kansas. She loves reading, dark chocolate, sunflowers, and learning to cook.