Sunday, June 16, 2013

Anything but Marriage? (Not Alone Series: Discernment)

Not Alone Series: Discernment
Late to the game, as usual. But I get there, so that counts, right? I missed the "Getting to Know You" portion of this all, so I'll be quick.

I'm Liesl. No longer 16 going on 17. You can read all about me, if you wish. I also like chocolate, sarcasm, and chocolate covered sarcasm. In that order.

Oh, and you should probably know that I really dislike being single - more than when all the chocolate is gone - and I'm also really really terrible at being single, so of course, I love to write about it.


Discernment. Way to start us off with a light and easy topic... I'll try to keep it as hot and heavy as possible.

(Although I really think that I'm the last person in the entire world who should be writing about any kind of discernment. If there's one thing I've learned from my spiritual life the past two years, it's that I am completely terrible at discerning God's will. Like fail-tacular. I will pray about something a lot for a long time, do the whole "Thy will be done!" thing, sense that my prayer and certain signs are leading me in a certain direction, jump in wholeheartedly because I'm following God's will, y'all!, and then...

To be fair, I haven't completely given up on the latest excursions into God's will-land... but all of that is a not-yet-completed-story for a yet-to-be-determined time.)

Did I just go off on a tangent? That tends to happen. Ever so sorry.

So, discerning my vocation. I suppose it really all started a few years ago, when I began to meet regularly with my spiritual director.

There's one thing you need to know. My spiritual director loves vocations... especially religious vocations. Are you a man? He will ask you every day of your life if you've thought about being a priest. Are you a lady? He may not ask you every day of your life, but he will ask... a lot.

And that was the first time I encountered the "Liesl, have you ever thought about being a nun?" question.

I laughed. Really really hard.

Me?! A nun?! Are you serious?!

When I realized he was serious, I got a little bit defensive.

But I've always wanted to get married and be a mother. Always.

His response: Yea, I always wanted to get married, and see where that got me? It's not a sacrifice if you give up something you don't want.

That's when I pulled out the big guns.

What, so I'm not good enough for a man? I haven't found a guy yet so I should just give up on marriage and run for the religious life?

He assured me that's not what he meant, but he let it go. For then.

After I left that spiritual direction session, I couldn't help but thinking about what he said, and laughing some more. I mean, I'm pretty sure that if I were a nun, I'd be like Maria...

Oh, I'm supposed to be at morning prayer right now? Whoops...
I also have confidence in rain, that spring will come again, and in my complete inability to heel click.
Along with impatience, laziness, sarcasm, mimicking British accents, et al, etc, la dee dah!
You get the idea?

I later told a couple of my very Catholic friends that my priest had dared to suggest that I think about the religious life. I asked them, Me as a nun?! Can you see that at all?

They all said, "Well, yea..."

That shut me up right quick.

After a little bit of thought and a lot of singing The Sound of Music in my head, I realized that I had always assumed that I would get married because that's what I wanted, but I had never really discerned what God wanted for me. I realized that whatever God was calling me to do would make me as happy as I could possibly be here on earth. Why would He call me to something that wouldn't bring me the happiness He created me for?

So I decided I was going to be open to it, whatever "it" was. I kind of informed my spiritual director that I wasn't going to actively pursue any particular vocation for a bit, but I was going to open my heart to be open to any vocation - marriage, single life, or religious life - and let my prayer be that God would place the desire in my heart for what He wanted for me. And for many months, my prayer wholeheartedly became, Thy will be done.

During this time, I met lots of people. Guys. Gals. Married people. Single people. Priests. And nuns. We had some nuns come by our Newman Center every couple of weeks to go to lunch, lead discussions, and just generally hang out. They were young. They were hip. And they were joyful.

I mean, they smiled ALL THE TIME! If they weren't smiling, it was because they were laughing! Which was also a lot! I quickly realized that I enjoyed being around them because they were so happy!

It also didn't take me long to realize that I felt no inclination towards their life. I loved their joy, but I didn't see their joy as someday being my joy. I prayed about it a lot, and asked God to please place a desire for their joy in my heart, if that's where He wanted me to go. But that desire never came, and it still hasn't.

Wuv! Twue wuv!
My prayer during this time especially drew me closer to God, but it also drew me closer to that desire for a husband and children.

Have I had any profound visions of my wedding day during my prayer? No, but God knows that would just be waaaaay too easy for me (right, God? I mean, I could take easy right now...).

Have I met that special man who will someday wait for me at the altar? I don't really know, but if we have met, we definitely haven't fully realized that we've been placed in each others' lives for the very specific purpose of marriage.

Since that time when I was really-super-duper-whatever-you-want-God! open to any vocation, I've had a few moments of very clear consolation towards marriage. You know, no fireworks or neon signs (boy, would that be nice...), but deep senses of peace that could only be from God. And, well, confirmation from my spiritual director, of course.

Like that time where I went on a 5 day silent retreat that was... well, let's just say, quite an experience for me... and my spiritual director and I agreed that we still haven't figured out what God wants for me but we could definitely cross "cloistered nun" off the list.

Or like another time when I very casually mentioned to my spiritual director that I didn't really feel any calling to the religious life, and his response surprised me quite a bit. His words:

Oh, yea, I agree... with your sense of humor, you couldn't be called to anything but marriage.

Um, thanks Father? I'm going to take that as a compliment... and as another little sign among many that I'm discerning the correct-ish vocational path.

So I continue to discern, and I continue to wait - very impatiently, because that's how I roll - and sometimes, I even continue to try to pray "Thy will be done" even when spiritual dry spells or heartbreak stand in my way. I may not be very good at placing complete trust in God, but I know deep down that He won't let me stray too far from the happiness He has planned for me.
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