I knew when I was five that I wanted to be a writer. So I read as much as I could; I started writing short stories; I asked for a typewriter for Christmas (and got one–thanks Mom and Dad!); I studied creative writing for 4 years and professional writing for 2; and now I am a professional writer at a large credit union. I knew what I wanted to be, and I did everything I could to attain that goal.
I won’t lie to you–I rock the single life. I love the freedom to come and go as I please. I love that all my time is my own right now and so is my budget. No one eats my leftovers or moves my keys. And I have a lot of free time to read and pray and sleep; time I’ve watched close friends joyfully and willingly give up in service of their growing families.
But sometimes, it gets lonely. I have a heart that longs to grow closer to God by pairing with another heart; and even during the greatest triumphs of being single, that doesn’t change what my heart was designed to do. Just like writing, I’ve also known I wanted to be married and a mother since I was a little girl, too. And I’ve tried to learned the things I thought would make a good wife and mother; and it gets frustrating to not see the “fruits” of that labor.
And this past week was one of those weeks where it just nagged at me. I did what I always do and I complained to my three closest friends: each married, each with a ~4 month old baby, and two with older kids as well. And my friend Ashley said to me:
I think what we need in life is to understand our call to virtue. More than our call to vocation.
Leslie pointed out all the things we can learn from one another’s journeys that we couldn’t learn if we were traveling the same path. And you already know that Jen and her husband challenged me to “burn the ships.”
It was the graciousness of these three friends and some subsequent prayer that led me to the realization I’m asking the wrong question.
My entire life I’ve been asking the question what am I supposed to be, when the question I need to start with is who I am supposed to be. Who is God asking me to be?
It’s counter intuitive to the rest of our lives. We start asking kids when they’re really young what do you want to be when you grow up? And maybe the question we need to start asking is who. To help them learn that if they live upright and virtuous lives by their hearts–the lives of people whose primary goal is to be caring and compassionate; not rich and successful–everything else will fall into place.
I answered my own “What do you want to be” with Wife. Mother. And I thought I’d done a good job figuring out what it takes to be the Best Wife Ever™. I have been learning to cook; I know about finances and retirement funds and I have spent a lot of time around kids. I’m a good listener; I give good advice; I’m present at the right times. Check. Check. Check. #WifeMaterial
Only, not. While this pragmatic approach to learning fueled my career as a writer, the more time I have spent with my married friends, the more I have realized that wife and mother are not what they are; but who.
They are kind. They are patient. They are flexible. They are people who prioritize others first; who seek Christ in all things; who challenge others to do the same. These are women who embody the persona of the wife in Proverbs 31. And it’s got nothing to do with what types of stains they know how to get out or what show they’re going to binge watch next.
All of the practical nuances of vocation are born of a heart with a sense of identity so engrained in virtue that it simply wouldn’t make sense for their paths to go any other way.
More than that, these qualities and virtues that make them the great wives and mothers they are are also the qualities that help them excel at their jobs, in their parishes, and as my close friends. When we are who God asks us to be, He will provide the what we need to be doing.
Where does this leave me? Instead of making this blanket statement that my vocation is to marriage, as I have been for years, I’m going to accept that God is calling me to be a specific person. A woman who strives to live in virtue and selflessness. Who seeks not so much to be consoled as to console, nor be understood as to understand. I am going to make sure that everything in my world lives in service to the call of virtue; and trust that wherever the path ahead leads me, that’s the what I have been prepared for. And not knowing what that will be is not going to be nearly as daunting or discouraging, with the confidence that I’ll be taking it on as exactly the person I was created to be.