Waiting for Dating Part 4- Discerning Other Vocations

photo credit: lefthandrotation via photopin cc

photo credit: lefthandrotation via photopin cc

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.

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7 responses to “Waiting for Dating Part 4- Discerning Other Vocations

  1. Thank you for your insight on the discernment process! However, I feel as though you have overlooked one vocation-that of a single lay person. While I understand that this may not be a vocation that you feel particularly called to, I would really appreciate hearing your take on the validity of a call to single life.

    • Kathy,
      I am sorry if it doesn’t seem mentioned. This is what I was talking about when I was discussing being a missionary or my concerns at one point that I couldn’t imagine having kids. Being a single person and not a religious is also a valid call. Sometimes this is the best option when God is calling a person to do something time consuming (such as missionary work) that would take away from family life.
      At a point in time where I placed more value on charity work than family life, I would tell my mom, asking her about how it would work out being a married person with these kinds of priorities. “Oh no,” she told me. “When you are married, your first priority is your spouse, then your kids, THEN your job. Your job does not take priority over your family’s needs.” For the person who feels God is calling them to make a large sacrifice of time and energy doing works for Him in the world or sacrificial time in prayer, go to a spiritual confessor and discern well. St. Rose of Lima is one such who thought she was called to sisterhood, but out of obedience to authority above her she instead joined a tertiary order and devoted her life to prayer in the home.

      • While I agree that missionary work needs a great deal of time and energy, this doesn’t mean that a life as a missionary must be lived only by single people. There are several missionary families that live in other countries and partake in missionary work together. A family unit can work together to do mission work and provide others with a model for how families can be missionaries together. In fact I believe there would be many benefits to being a missionary in a missionary family. These benefits could include always having family nearby for support and to help you grow in your faith. With all due respect, I don’t believe it is correct to say that missionaries must be single to answer God’s call to serve people in this way. You can be called to be both married and a missionary.

        • Sharon, I don’t think I implied that missionaries must be single. I just said that sometimes this is the best option and it should be discerned well with the help of a spiritual director.

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