I recently did an evening on discernment at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee which about 40 young adult attended. I mentioned briefly that fidelity was a virtue that we can use to give ourselves a self-check on our desires. That when we think we’ve landed on the thing that we are called to be we might want to ask ourselves if this is “all about us” and what present commitments we might have to maintain before we head off to take on this new venture, or even if we should.
A young person in the audience asked a great question: “What if you’re married and you’ve discovered that you want to head career wise in a new direction but your partner doesn’t support your decision? “
Wow! It gave me pause to just think about that possibility and also provided me with my moment of grace for the day. When I decided to start to pursue some new options my wife, Marion was so supportive. She was afraid to be sure because BustedHalo® and the Paulists were so generous to us over the past 9 years, that indeed that made any decisions very difficult. But Marion knew that I was called to minister to young people. She would watch me come alive on retreat or when I’d be through with a spiritual directee or when I’d preach a reconciliation service. She knew that this was what made me feel most alive and that “most alive” person was the man she fell in love with.
Talk about someone who knows about what it means to be committed to someone else. Fortunately for me, Marion was also able to re-capture some of her desires in her new job teaching deaf children again after years of teaching special ed.
But what if you are not in the same boat? What if your partner thinks that you are not called to your vocation or to an avocation? I think there are two schools of thought here:
1) Perhaps you are not called to what you think and this person who knows you intimately can see that better than you can? Perhaps they are providing a wake up call and that this calling is only about your selfish needs? Maybe you failed to take into account how your actions would impact your partner? All this is good fodder for reflection.
Or 2) Maybe your spouse doesn’t have your best interest at heart? Maybe they never did! Maybe they don’t understand what it means to be committed to someone else and they have only their interests at heart? Maybe they don’t want someone who is fully alive because it makes them look bad or “less than”. Perhaps they don’t want to share the spotlight?
Regardless, in both cases an examination of commitment comes into play and advent is the perfect time to re-examine our commitments. God re-commits to humanity at Christmas by giving us Jesus. God indeed chooses to give His very self to us in the person of Jesus, who in turn, experiences all of our humanity, including death. But many times we forget about what a great commitment that is. We get caught up with our own feelings of how cute the Christ child is in the manger but we often forget that the wood of the manger also comes along with the wood of the cross.
What evidence has my partner giving me that they are indeed committed to who I am becoming? Do they want what’s best not just for me, but for US as a couple? What do i have to compromise to maintain a healthier marriage relationship and yet retain an individual identity as well?
To not make that commitment, or to not take it seriously is to not understand the sacrament of marriage and may even be grounds for Annulment, depending on the case.
For those of us who do understand marriage and who live it, each day….
May this Advent be a time where you rejoice not only in your commitment to one another but also in God’s commitment to all of us.