We just got back from the annual family beach week.
The one we said we wouldn’t go on again, but you know, they invited us, and… beach.
It was really nice.
Honestly though, I remembered why we probably shouldn’t have gone.
It’s like Christmas- lots of togetherness. Lots of food. Lots of alcohol.
And lots of children, including at least one that was young enough to be ours.
As fun as it was, I was basically in a perpetual state of trying super hard not to cry. Between the high sugar diet, the booze, and the continual reminders that my life does not fit the norm, my eyes didn’t stand a chance.
When we got home this weekend and went to mass at our home parish, I remembered a conversation that happened in my 8th grade religion class about vocations.
Our textbook said that there are 3 primary vocations to which we could be called- marriage, religious life, and being single.
Then the teacher (or was it a priest?) said to the class that there is some debate as to whether the single life is actually a vocation. Does God actually call people to that, or is it just something that sort of happens when other things don’t?
What about my single friends who don’t want to be single? The ones for whom being single is a real struggle, a real suffering, a real cross?
Does God call them to this cross? If being single is a suffering, can it also be a vocation?
Is it the same, then, as a childless marriage? Could God really be calling us (and others) to live in this cross as a vocation, whether it be permanent or only for a time?
I don’t know if anyone truly discerns and desires singleness in the same way that people discern and desire the priesthood, religious life, or even marriage. At least, I don’t think I’ve met people like that. I think it’s more like infertility- you have other hopes and dreams, and you desperately want God to show you what he wants for you so you can move on and leave this confusing limbo of un-belonging.
You want a purpose, you want a plan, you want to know that he has not forgotten you.
But maybe, maybe this IS his plan, as much as it hurts. That wouldn’t be without precedent.
I mean, even Jesus asked his Father to change his plan and take away the cross if it were at all possible.
And maybe this feeling that your life is missing the mark will never leave. Maybe the goal of this vocation is to continually pray for the grace to accept your blindness, and to trust your guide, even though it seems like he’s only standing still.
When it looks like there’s no hope- maybe we’re right, in the human sense. There is no cure, there will be no material change. No baby. No spouse. It’s happening—we’re going to be crucified. And it feels completely senseless and useless and stupid and horrible.
And maybe that’s how Jesus felt in the garden when he said that.
But we do have hope, right? But it’s a delicate thing. I don’t think Jesus would have cheered up that night if you were like, “Don’t worry Jesus, you’re going to rise in three days,” because that would have glossed over all the awful suffering he was going through. No, I think we can tell in the gospels that what really pulled him through in that moment was obedience to his Father and knowledge that this was truly the only way to save his beloved.
And that’s what pulls us through too, isn’t it? Obedience maybe, and trusting that this is the only way, and the hope that one day there will also be a resurrection for us, and he will open our eyes and show us that it all did matter, in some way.
“But not my will, but yours be done.”