Both Andrew and I wanted to be completely open to God’s will for our vocations, whatever that may be. This meant that both of us were discerning other options than marriage at the same time as discerning whether marriage would be a part of God’s plan in our lives.
When I was very young (2nd or 3rd grade maybe?) in a moment of religious passion one night I promised God I would become a nun. I remember the moment well, staring out the window at the moon. “Don’t let me go back on this promise, God! I just have to be a nun!” I didn’t realize then that I had to wait for God’s call, not pick my own.
Some years after that, a missionary came to my middle school to talk about what she did, and my heart became full of dreams of doing missionary work in Africa. I would tell classmates that my “boyfriend” was JC (Jesus Christ), probably partly because I was embarrassed that everyone else was starting to date but I wasn’t allowed, but also because I really did wonder if I would be called to single or religious life.
Being youth group members, Andrew and I went on various retreats in high school in which there was an “altar call” for those discerning priesthood or religious life. The retreat leaders would ask any teens who were discerning these calls to come to the front of the room to be prayed over in front of everyone. This was always a trying moment for me, and I would hope that the leaders would forget or just leave it out that year. In my mind, it shouldn’t have been so out of the ordinary to be discerning a call to religious life–everyone should have been! I did feel that I was discerning it harder than most people in the room and that there was a higher possibility that I would be called to it than most people, but I still never liked walking up. My feet would somehow carry me to the front, face burning and dizzy, and back to my seat after the blessing, hoping it would all end soon and I could blend back in unnoticed. Andrew likewise went up. Which tended to leave everyone confused. I would get lots of, “Congratulations, you’re going to be a nun!” looks, as well as a lot of, “Well why are they together if they are going to be religious?” looks.
That was never the intent though. Some people function on the mentality that if they start to even look at the possibility of becoming a religious, God will doom them to having to do the exact opposite of what they would enjoy. Or that marriage is the “normal” track, and you would feel special if you were meant to discern being a religious. Or that you can only discern one type of vocation at a time, and you can’t discern religious life if you are already in a relationship. None of these things are true. God will not doom you to anything. Discernment is for your benefit so you know what you are really drawn to. All people should discern religious life. And it is okay to look at all options at once.
My advice to you is not to be resistant to fully experiencing the movements of your heart regarding this issue. You and any person you are in a relationship with need to be able to agree that you want whatever God wants for your lives and will support each other in the mission of finding out what that is. God only wants your good. I promise you will not be miserable in your vocation. Your job is to get that other person to Heaven, not horde them to yourself.
Andrew and I discussed our discernment process openly. Sometimes it felt funny and it hurt, because it of course included the possibility that we would not be together. When I stopped going up to the altar call because I knew my call was marriage and he still went up as one discerning the priesthood, I felt awful inside. At one point when I told Andrew I had a hard time imagining being a mom, it really hurt him. But it didn’t tear us apart in the end. In fact, looking at all the possibilities and being open about it 1) meant we didn’t have secrets that could make the other person feel deceived, and 2) made us more certain of our call to be together. We just had to go through the process to know. There are no shortcuts. If I had not looked more deeply at other options, I might still be wondering. Now I don’t. And he doesn’t. We know we are called to be married because God, and he, and I have gone down that long road of discernment and growth together.
- Waiting for Dating- A Different Kind of Relationship (catholicsinglelife.wordpress.com)
- Red Flower- the Love Poem that Won My Heart (catholicsinglelife.wordpress.com)
- Waiting for Dating Part 2- One of God’s Most Precious Diamonds (catholicsinglelife.wordpress.com)
- Poems: Your Love Gives Me Strength (catholicsinglelife.wordpress.com)
- Waiting for Dating Part 3- Feelings Are Like a Gas Station (catholicsinglelife.wordpress.com)