Okay, don't laugh at me, but...I used to have nightmares about being married. This was looooong before I knew Andrew, mainly when I was little and then maybe in high school? I can't remember. At any rate, in the dream, it would always turn out that I would find out that I was married to someone and I felt trapped. I knew I was stuck married to that person for life, and there was no out.
Needless to say, once I met the man who I actually married, being "stuck" with him for life wasn't a scary thing. It was reassuring. I wanted to be "stuck" with him. ;-)
But that doesn't mean that I never have moments of doubt. It doesn't mean that in the midst of an argument that I never think, "Why am I married to this person?!" It does mean that, even in those moments, I remind myself, "I chose Andrew, and I will continue to choose him." Now thankfully, the vast, vast majority of the time I am just so incredibly grateful for the gift of Andrew in my life. But I think that every married person has those fleeting moments (or maybe even not so fleeting) when you wonder, "What am I doing here? Was this the right choice?" I'd imagine the priests and religious have those moments, too.
Likewise, there are moments in marriage where you don't feel "in love." There are times when you aren't flooded with those gushy feelings. In fact, I'd say that there are alot of times when you don't "feel" in love with the other person. It just feels dry. And, I'd imagine that this experience isn't unique to marriage. I'd imagine it's pretty common in priesthood and religious life, too.
I'm here to tell you that that doubt and dryness, is normal. It's not a sign that you made the wrong choice. It's not a sign that you should back out. It's a sign that you're on the right track.
Some of you may have hear of St. John of the Cross and his "dark night of the soul," the idea being that there are times in the spiritual life when God removes all spiritual consolation in order for your love for Him to grow deeper. The same thing happens in a vocation. Sometimes, you need to do the right thing without the good "feelings" and that absence of consolation enables your love to grow deeper. It's easy to do the right thing when you want to do the right thing, and when it feels good to do the right thing. What real love is made of is doing the right and good thing when it doesn't feel good. That's when true love begins - when you choose to love.
There's this myth in society today that if you no longer "feel love" for someone else, it means that you are unhappy and your marriage is a failure and you should just divorce. I couldn't disagree more. Because if you don't obsess about those "feelings" and let them bog you down...that particular stage will pass. In place of those feelings, and in place of that dryness, much deeper feelings will come. The love that follows will be far greater and more joy-filled - even in the midst of struggle.
But you have to persist beyond the hard points. You have to commit to not quitting.
That's why the commitment itself is so incredibly important. When you make that commitment, God floods you with grace. But the only way to fully experience the benefits - of marriage, religious life, or priesthood - is to commit to it for the long haul. The only way for it to really "work" and bring you joy, is if you commit to it no matter what. Once the wedding/ordination/final vows is over, you have to know that there will be no "out."
But that is where true freedom begins. Only once you surrender the false freedom of choice will you find the true freedom that comes with vowing yourself to something or someone.
(We had a little sicky in our house, and had to tag-team it to Mass. Want to see what me and the other little girl wore on Suday? Just a tiny glimpse? You can also get a glimpse of the exterior of our parish behind us...)
Please continue to pray for vocations with us!
O God, Father of all Mercies,
Provider of a bountiful Harvest,
Provider of a bountiful Harvest,
send Your Graces upon those
You have called to gather the fruits of Your labor;
preserve and strengthen them in their lifelong service of you.
Open the hearts of Your children
that they may discern Your Holy Will;
inspire in them a love and desire to surrender themselves
to serving others in the name of Your son, Jesus Christ.
Teach all Your faithful to follow their respective paths in life
guided by Your Divine Word and Truth.
Through the intercession of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary,
all the Angels, and Saints, humbly hear our prayers
and grant Your Church's needs, through Christ, our Lord. Amen. (source)