Welcome to our Blessed Chats series! Each month, we will dedicate an entire week of blog posts to a topic that affects many of us. These conversations often come up in our Facebook groups and in our real life friendships. We want to share a variety of perspectives on the topic at hand, so we’ve asked women to share their stories and how the teachings of the Church have guided and comforted them. In this series, we are talking about vocational discernment. We’d love for you to join the conversation!
Meet my husband at twenty, get married at twenty-one, and have our first child at twenty-two.
That was my original “discernment” plan.
However, while I had gone on a few dates with some really wonderful men throughout my college years, I was nowhere near getting married to any of them. But what God had given me was a wonderful community.
I was majoring in Catholic Studies, and many of my friends and classmates were seminarians and women discerning religious life. Being immersed in such a community made me wonder if maybe I should give God more of a chance to tug on my heart. I felt like if I was really uncertain of my vocation, I had to give religious life a fair shot.
Discerning Religious Life
During my Junior and Senior year of college, I researched various religious orders and found charisms which I thought aligned with my interests and desires and I went on two “come and see” discernment retreats. During these retreats young women have the awesome opportunity and privilege to get a glimpse of a day-in-the-life of a religious sister while also getting to know other women discerning the same call.
During my second discernment retreat I remember praying in Adoration late into the night, after everyone else had left the chapel. I was begging Jesus to just give me a sign if He wanted me to be a Sister. I truly felt like my heart was open to it… but no sign came.
The Role of Spiritual Direction in My Discernment
Throughout my years of discernment, I spoke regularly with my spiritual director. I remember at one point I was talking with him and I was really frustrated about not knowing what my “big V” Vocation was. Then, after a pause, he gently and slowly asked me a very simple question. “Has Jesus ever proposed to you?”
When he asked, I realized that the answer was no. While I had experienced many moments of intimacy with the Lord, accompanied with outpourings of grace and consolation, what I had not received was a marriage proposal. Jesus was indeed my dear Friend, but He did not romance my heart in the same way as He would if He were asking me to be His bride. Initially I was a bit saddened that He hadn’t chosen me in that way, but quickly, through my answer of my spiritual director’s question, my heart opened to a new sense of freedom.
While suddenly I had gained a greater confidence that I was not called to religious life, what followed was not a sudden boyfriend and engagement.
Over the course of the next several years I dated a few different men. One of those men even ended up becoming my husband, but not in the way you’d expect.
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Meeting My Husband… Sort Of
During my Junior year of college I had a group of tight-knit friends, and after studying abroad for a semester, I returned to find that one of my best friends’ older brothers had joined our group. I’ll admit, I was a little protective over my friends and was hesitant when they wanted to invite him to our get-togethers. Despite all of my efforts to avoid and exclude him, he eventually became my friend, too. It helped that we often ended up carpooling back to our home-state for the holidays, a drive of several hours.
Towards the end of one of those drives, my heart started pounding. The car ride home had been filled with laughter, and I had a pretty good feeling he was about to ask me out. I was nervous, but also eager to say yes.
Our first date was incredibly intentional, and I had a great time! But after a second date, I called it off and gave him the classic line, “I’d love to continue a friendship with you, but nothing more.”
I greatly enjoyed his company, but I just wasn’t sure I wanted to move from a good friendship to a romantic relationship.
Instead of what usually happens when a couple says “let’s just be friends”, after a short period where we didn’t see much of each other, our friendship actually deepened. After we ended things, each of us had put the other in the “no” box and our walls came down. We saw each other often, as we had the same close mutual friends.
In time, my friends said that it looked like I was interested in him. I chalked it up to us just knowing each other really well. But two years after our first date, my heart was again pounding in hopeful anticipation when he asked me out a second time.
Once again, our second first date did not disappoint! Nor did the ones to follow. He thoughtfully and creatively planned dates that had the butterflies in my stomach fluttering like crazy. Which might make you wonder why, after four months, I called it off. While our relationship was strong, my problem was falling into comparison and putting too much pressure on myself. Four months into our relationship I hadn’t been hit with the proverbial “ton of bricks” yet, and I just wasn’t sure we were meant to be married.
Even though there is no rule that says you have to know after four months, that pressure felt real, and I ended up breaking things off again.
Discovering What I Really Wanted
While I thought I had made the right decision in breaking things off, my feelings quickly told me otherwise. You know the feeling in the pit of your stomach when you’re homesick? He lived only two miles away from me, but I felt like he was two countries away. It was hard for me to think of anything else but being in his presence. Two weeks later we were dating again, and this time I knew just where I hoped it would lead.
Breaking up with him helped me to see what I was unable to at first. During our time apart I realized how much I desired to rely on him. I learned that although I could be self-sufficient and independent, he made me better. Not only did I feel safe and secure in his presence, but in it I was also encouraged to challenge myself to make my goals a reality.
One of the most telling things for me during our two week breakup was that I couldn’t imagine being with anybody else, and I certainly didn’t want to imagine him with anybody else. I wanted to be the one to pack his lunches, be the one he came home to at the end of the day, and for him to be the father to my future children.
Our Vocation is Love
Now today, you won’t find me packing his lunches (and he often gives me a hard time about that when I tell this story!). But you will find my daughter and I eagerly awaiting his arrival home from work, watching for him from the front yard. My wanting “nothing more than a friendship” turned into marrying the man who is more to me than I knew I needed, and has taught me how to live out the vocation that Saint Therese of Lisieux reminds us that we are all called to, no matter our state in life. Our vocation is to love.
We want to hear YOUR story. Please share in the comments below!
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