Recently, I was speaking with a friend about our vocations. She, a recently married women, married later in life to a healthy man and now pregnant with their first child. And me, a married woman of five years to a chronically ill man, with no children. There could have been a focus on differences between us throughout the conversations and feelings of being misunderstood because we were in “different phases in life.” However, this wasn’t the case. Instead, we chose to focus on the similarities in our situations and to be grateful for where the Lord had us in our individual lives.
These similarities do exist. You may have to go digging for them.
One of the similarities that we discussed was that we were both women, chosen daughters of God to live out His will in this world, at this time. There is so much here to digest with another sister. Why is it a struggle for me to discuss this more often with women? It brings me to tears just letting this sink in – this should be the most important thing to my heart, this is the reason I exist – however, it’s a struggle to allow this to be enough most days.
This is our reality: to know, to love, to serve God.
Another topic of conversation was our vocations. We both had experience in Christian/Catholic circles, in various ministries, formation and also the professional world. We’ve been talked with, preached at and prayed for at different times over the years regarding the topic of vocation.
So much so that for me, this had become quite the glorified ‘false’ idol.
When I was single, I longed for this moment when God would present me with my vocation. I anticipated it at every turn and contemplated it at night falling asleep. When? Who? How? It was as though I began to desire the vocation itself more than God Himself. If I’m honest, I began to think once I “arrive” at my vocation, then…THEN…I will experience my true self, true joy and true completion.
This did not happen. In fact, it was the opposite because I had this hope and expectation that it would be so amazing that my disappointments were felt even more intensely. Marriage was not the end for me.
Then came the expectation and hope for children, for a complete family. Ok, Lord, if marriage isn’t my true joy and completion, then having children and becoming a mother will be! I thought that this would at least come into fruition. I may have been mistaken about my vocation of marriage, so it must be my vocation as a mother. This is how your will is going to play out in my life and this is where I will arrive at my vocation.
Maybe I was wrong the whole time. Just maybe I didn’t have a clue how this whole vocation thing worked. Maybe I was receiving mixed messages, or perceived certain formative teachings to be truth for everyone. “The order of vocation of marriage for a Catholic woman is: courtship, marriage, multiple healthy pregnancies and babies. The end.” The breakdown of this premonition slowly transitioned from a teaching I learned and believed, to the case for most women I knew, to “why not me, what’s wrong with me?”, to “I deserve this too!”, to interiorly grasping or forcing, to anger and resentment at my husband and at God, then myself.
This idol of the vocation of marriage and motherhood that I’ve created within has now fallen off the pedestal of my heart.
I was so exhausted from holding it there on top for several years, forcing it to be true for me. Because it’s not, nor it may never be. Visually placing this image in my mind is helpful for my heart and head to move towards acceptance of my reality, of the will God has for my reality.
He steps into to gently say, “My will is beyond what you could ever imagine. Why do you trust in false idols, instead of trusting in Me? I came to break you free from false idols. I came that you might have Life, and have it in Me.”
Through prayer, I quickly realized that this idol of vocation didn’t just fall off the pedestal in my heart, the Lord pushed it off. Just as He overturned the tables in the temple: “They came to Jerusalem, and on entering the temple area he began to drive out those selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves…then he taught them saying, “Is it not written: ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples’?” – Mark 15:11, 17
Those people had a false sense of security by selling their goods in a place of worship, just as I had found a false sense of security in my vocation. I realized that His heart and will for me was to be with Him, in all things. And to make Him my idol.
Because when I experienced Him on that pedestal, that is where I experience TRUE joy and TRUE completion because it doesn’t matter what my vocation is, or how many children I have or if my husband is healthy or not, or any of the concerns of my heart. With Him, and only Him alone, is where I know I am truly loved AS I AM. And my heart can accept this truth.
I choose Him and only Him, because I choose to trust Him. And if I truly trust Him, then I have to trust what He brings into my life and what He doesn’t. I have to trust Him over myself. I have to trust that if the answer is ‘no’ or ‘not yet,’ there is a reason for that and He may be protecting me from something I do not know about. Admitting that my vocation was a false idol in my heart was the first step to acceptance. Because now, I do not want it there, I give the Lord permission to knock it off the pedestal every day.
My prayer for you is that you can experience freedom and acceptance in your lives over false idols, that you have the grace to admit what those idols are, and be open to what the reality of God’s will is for you!