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.”

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4 thoughts on “The Vocation of Un-Belonging

  1. Interesting thoughts. I think that it is possible that singleness may be a vocation if you actually feel called to that. I can tell you that it is not my vocation. I don’t say this lightly or in a sense of “because it’s not what I want”. I absolutely feel called to marriage. I do not know whether this lack of fulfillment in my calling is permanent or simply for a time, but I absolutely believe that if God is allowing this cross instead of my vocation, that there is a reason- however far I am from understanding it- and that there is redemption in it. I guess I feel similarly about infertility; I do not think it is necessarily God’s calling in a certain way, but in allowing it as a part of His permissive will that it becomes something of a call within a call. A call to surrender, a call to take up our cross and join Him, a call to be willing to suffer. I honestly think that part of the pain of things like singleness and infertility is that we are willing and open to living our vocations fully in a way that many in the world are not willing to do, and yet He is allowing us to be in a position where we can’t live them in the way that we would choose. And we are called to follow Him in the midst of that, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was hoping you would read and comment on this one. 🙂 I was thinking about you when I wrote this. I think you’re right- “something of a call within a call. A call to surrender, a call to take up our cross and join Him, a call to be willing to suffer.” – beautiful and spot on, I think. I really do wonder, often, if this was the case with Jesus. I mean honestly, he was fully human right? So maybe he wanted to get married and have a family, even though he knew he was being asked to do something else. Total speculation of course, but I hope to ask him that someday.

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