“I’m getting married.”
This was what I told my parents in Oriental Mindoro (Philippines) in 2013. But I was not getting married to any man – but to Jesus. That year, I made my lifelong commitment to live single for the Lord. The journey was never easy. But I was assured that this was God’s will for me to live my life to the fullest.
My State of Life Discernment
I started my state of life discernment in 2004, two years after graduating from college. All single men and women in our community, Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon (The Joy of the Lord), are encouraged to go through this process of discerning one’s state of life.
As I went through the process, I was certain I was not for religious life, primarily, because I had been involved with Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon and Christ’s Youth in Action (CYA), which are lay groups. I realized there’s something about lay people that can influence the youth in another way than the religious can. It was clear for me that I wanted to remain lay.
It was also clear to me, then, that I was called to community life in Ligaya. If I would choose religious life or other ways to live single for the Lord, I would have to leave Ligaya. I knew I wanted to pursue my calling within this community, believing that God orchestrates our life to bring us to where we really should be.
During that time, there was no organization for women living single for the Lord for members of Ligaya. I felt it would be difficult to choose living single for the Lord, because there would be no structure to affiliate myself with and no one I could be accountable to. I thought to myself that if I chose to live single for the Lord outside of this context, it would mean, for me, not living single for the Lord, but living single for myself and for service.
And so I leaned towards married life. At that time, I had a very big crush on one young man in the community. If I would get married, he was my ideal man. But I realized I must not fix my eyes on him as I was still discerning. Choosing my state of life should not be based on the person in front of me but based on God’s personal call for me.
My Three Main Fears
One time, as I sat and meditated on the porch of a retreat house, I heard God speak to my heart, “Jhola, I am inviting you to consider living single for the Lord.” My first reaction was, “What?” I was three months into my discernment. I thought I was already open to it, but the first time I heard it in my heart, I said, “No way! I don’t think I am good enough for that!”
God showed me how I really saw that life, and I did not feel it was for me. There were three things I was afraid of. First, I felt that if I would live single for the Lord, I would be miserable and lonely. Second, I felt that there was no financial security in that life and that no one would take care of me for the rest of my life. Third, I was afraid I would not be faithful to the way of life if I would live it alone.
I presented those fears to the Lord and, as I did, I heard him say, “Jhola, I am inviting you. I am not forcing you. Whatever choice you’re going to make, I will still bless you.” I looked at my very young self and I decided, in prayer, I would not choose to live single for the Lord, and instead, be open to married life. So I ended my discernment and told Beth Melchor, my good friend and co-discerner, about my decision. And she just agreed.
At that time, I was open for growth. I was just starting my service in CYA as a full-time missionary, and I was being trained to become one of the youth leaders in Ligaya. I wanted to take time to grow first, at least in the two years that followed, and not even think about pursuing this vocation.
In those two years, many difficult challenges came and I went through some sort of depression. My grandmother, who was close to my heart, also died, and I was not able to grieve well for her death. With everything that was happening, I almost wanted to quit being in the community.
During Lent of 2006, I went to a silent retreat, and there, God dealt with my issues. He showed me what I needed to do in my life and assured me that he would guide me. After the silent retreat, I decided that I wanted to spend more time as a missionary, at least in the next five years.
That same year, I attended another retreat where we talked about living single for the Lord. One of the speakers said, “Whatever fear you have in one state of life, it’s the same fear you have to deal with in all states of life.” Those words struck me, and I realized he was right. There is no guarantee that I would be happy, secure, and faithful if I chose married life over living single for the Lord.
Toward Lifelong Commitment
In November 2006, when Beth began meeting with me and two other sisters, the first thing she said was, “Ask if the Lord is inviting you to consider living single for the Lord.” Those were almost the exact words I had heard from God two years back! Right then, I remember telling Beth about my decision but not what God spoke to my heart.
I took a few months more to discern as Beth, my other sisters, and I met once a month. On June 29, 2007, I made my initial decision to live single for the Lord.
After many meetings and discussions that had begun in 2005, Bethany Association was finally founded in 2009. (Bethany is a group of women living “single for the Lord” as active members of The Sword of the Spirit, an international, ecumenical, charismatic “community of communities.”) God addressed my concern that I would not have to leave my community (Ligaya ng Paginoon) in Sword of the Spirit in order to become a member of religious women living single for the Lord.
On February 2, 2011, I made a private vow to live single for the Lord. I invited my friends and we had a simple ceremony. Just like my initial agreement, the private vow was renewable and not yet binding.
In the same year, 2011, I was invited to attend the Bethany Association conference in Ecuador where I saw many women who were living on their own, and yet, remained faithful. I realized that if these women were able to do it without being lonely and miserable, then maybe I could also do it.
There were still more questions which God then answered for me. Through circumstances and experiences, he allowed me to grow, discern, and learn more.
Finally, on August 18, 2013, I made my lifelong commitment to Jesus, my free-will offering to him and my response to his personal love for me. It has been several years now, and I have had no regrets.
Given who I am, my gifts, and the grace God has given me, living single for the Lord is the best way I can love and serve him. _____________________________________________
This testimony by Jhola Salazar was edited by Krizelle Talladen. It was first published in Kerygma Magazine, October 2018 Issue, and in Bethany Association Life Stories blog. Reprinted with permission.
Jhola currently lives with Sherry Snyder and Jeanne Kun, both Bethany Association members, and she is a member of the Word of Life Community in Ann Arbor, Michigan USA. Jhola also serves the Word of Life community full-time.