I shared an early morning coffee and beautiful conversation with a dear friend of mine the other day. Among the topics that arose during our conversation was vocational discernment. We shared a desire for married life and raising a family, but we have also both have considered religious life. Different aspects of religious life appealed to us, in both the ‘yes’es and ‘no’s that come with taking up any vocation. There was a desire for the time that is set aside and devoted to prayer. I am drawn in by the freedom that religious women have to give themselves so fully to so many people. To leave and go to all corners of the world. Freedom to give one’s life so fully that they may even actually give their own life.
It suddenly occurred to me – why do the things that attract me to religoius life have to be separate from the life I would lead as a wife and mother? I fully acknowledge that there are significant differences between religous life and the life one may lead as a lay person. I am not trying to equate the two by any means. But why can’t I devote time with my spouse or family to prayer more than just weekly Mass? Why can’t God’s call to me lead me to all corners of the world with my family? I don’t know how God’s plan for me will unfold, though I am quite certain it includes marriage and a family. These questions have caused me to step back and ponder through my image of family. How much am I letting my desires and assumptions for family be guided by more ‘traditional’ views of American family life? How much am I focusing on my family as domestic church and how I want to set an example of Christian living to my children and as a family together to the rest of the world?
My desire is to live my life with all my various roles in such a way that I am following God’s will to the best of my ability. What might that look like? I used to think that if I married and had children I would have to stay put. Buy a house. Have a steady stay-put job. But….why? If i want to live as a Christian and example that for and encourage it in my children, why can’t I do work that takes me all over the world? Why can’t I take my children and spouse with me? I knew someone in college whose father is a United Methodist minister and has been arrested on multiple occasions for protesting and civil disobedience. She spoke of him with such pride saying how inspired she was by him and his example. I would love to be the same for my own family.
I know that there are a lot of things to consider with children. I can’t be careless with my life or theirs. But I can be courageous and I can encourage them to be as well. Would being intentional with prayer as a family, the kind of work my spouse and I do, or who and what I expose my children to be a difficult venture? I imagine so. But living as a disciple of Jesus is difficult. It requires commitment, intentionality and courage. It will be difficult, but lifegiving.
Discipleship is not meant to be lived out alone but in community. The family is supposed to be a domestic church. I want to live and grow in my own domestic church, my own Christian community that is my family. It’s been very important to me to find a partner who shares and values these desires. We and our children can live and grow in our love for Christ together. As our own church and with the wider global church and anyone we encounter, we can devote time to prayer. We can go where God calls us. We can find the courage to take risks if we need to. Having a family doesn’t mean listening to some parts of God call. I (and we) will have to find how as a family we can respond to that call together.