Photo Courtesy Sean Davis
My husband and I were married on the feast of Saint Clare of Assisi. I remember standing in the back of the church getting ready to walk down the aisle. As the bridal attendants arranged my dress and the organist struck the dramatic opening chord of Canon in D, I remembered the words of Saint Clare, “Go forth in peace, for you have followed the good road. Go forth without fear, for He who created you has always protected you, has made you holy, and loves you as a mother. Blessed be You, my God, for having created me.” What I remember most about that moment is that the peace in my heart was absolutely complete.
There was a time in my life when I did not experience such complete peace in my heart. I was twenty years old and a senior in college, studying to be a teacher. I wanted to be a nun and dedicate my life to serving God by teaching His children and helping them reach their full potential. Marriage wasn’t for me, not in the least. It would only detract from my life goals. I was sure if I were married, I wouldn’t have adequate time to attend to my prayer life, my work, and my mission to serve God by being a teacher. I didn’t want to have children of my own – I simply wanted to embrace my students as my own children without any distractions or other obligations. I was quite sure of my vocation, and I felt relatively at peace.
But that was the problem. I never felt more than relatively at peace. Although I was so sure I was called to the religious life, I still had a yearning for the companionship of marriage. Even though I wanted to be a nun, I still carried an emptiness inside of me, an emptiness that would be filled with my other “half” whom I had not yet found. As I wrestled with my inner conflict, I sought the advice of a good friend who told me, “When you are doing what God calls you to do, you will experience an undeniable peace. It may last for a moment, or it may last a very long time, but it will be an undeniable peace.” Since I was not yet experiencing this undeniable peace about being a nun, I realized it was time to explore the possibility that I was called to the married life.
I took a leap of faith to join a dating website for single Catholics. Though my first courtship ended in painful heartbreak, I learned through the experience that there was indeed an emptiness in me that was waiting to be filled with a man whom God would place in my life at the right time. And so I began to pray for my husband, even though I didn’t know who he was. I asked God to keep him safe, to keep him from sin, to bless him, and to bring us together when the time was right. Although I waited very patiently, there were times when the longing in my heart was very difficult to bear. One night, when the emptiness in me was particularly deep, I cried out to the Blessed Mother, imploring her to take care of my husband, to keep him under her mantle, and to let him know that I already loved him, even though I didn’t know who he was. As I prayed, a feeling of calm came over me and the turmoil in my soul suddenly relented. I felt an assurance that my husband was indeed out there, and we would come into each other’s lives at the right time.
I still remember the day late in the month of June, very near to the feast of Saint John the Baptist, when I received an email on the dating website from a man who lived three states away. I responded to him, and we communicated on and off for the better part of a year. During that time, we learned about each other. We prayed together. We shared our goals, our dreams, our faith, and our philosophies about marriage. What stood out to me in every letter from him was his selflessness and his genuine love for God. Every one of his letters revealed more and more to me that this man encompassed everything I hoped to find in a spouse. Though I felt great hope in what I had found in him, I still took care to guard my heart, since I didn’t yet know how our lives would intertwine once we spent time together in person, or if my feelings for him would be requited. When we finally met in person and began to spend more time in each other’s company, we soon discovered that our lives together held great promise. We were similar enough to be compatible, but different enough to help each other grow. We wanted the same things in life, and we were able to work through our differences and reach decisions that were best for both of us. Most of all, we realized that in addition to sharing the same faith, hopes, and dreams, we loved each other very much. We reached a point where we knew just one thing: no matter what the future held, we did not want to be without each other. About a year after we met in person the first time, he asked me to marry him, and I said yes. And after an engagement of about seven months, we were married on the feast of Saint Clare of Assisi. On that day, I can say for certain, the peace in my soul was completely undeniable.
After several years of marriage, I have discovered that a distinct aspect of the undeniable peace is that it doesn’t entail complete, undeniable happiness at all times. Many aspects of marriage are wonderful and bring great joy, but other aspects of marriage bring great challenge. The giving of oneself completely to another requires sacrifice. Therefore, like any other vocation, marriage is not inherently easy. I understand now more than ever what it means when they say that love is a choice. There are times when I don’t “feel” it. There are times when the feelings we know as romance and affection simply aren’t there. It is at those times that I must choose to love my husband…make a decision to love my husband. And there are times when I know I am not lovable. My husband has seen me at my very best, but he’s also seen me at my very worst. At the times when I am at my very worst, he chooses to love me anyway. And when life becomes exhausting, when work obligations, chores, and caring for the children seem to consume every bit of energy each of us has, we must make a decision to put our relationship first. We must choose to make time for each other to nurture our marriage and keep it strong. But through the times of joy as well as the times of difficulty, the undeniable peace remains.
As the years go by, through good times and bad, it becomes ever more clear to me that my husband truly completes me and I truly complete him. That our personalities are a perfect balance and we bring out the best in each other. That his love and support, along with his talents and life experiences will help me achieve the goals I set for myself as a twenty-year-old studeacnt teacher, goals I may not have been able to reach without him. That I have become a better person because of him. That the gifts of our children encompass the best parts of both of us…it takes my breath away to see what God has brought into the world through our love for each other….
As the life my husband and I have together continues to unfold, I carry within me a grateful heart. I am grateful that God has led me to my vocation through an undeniable peace. I am grateful for the life He has given me, for the opportunity to be the eyes and hands of Christ in the world. I am grateful for each new day, when I can rise and lift my heart to heaven saying, “Blessed be You, my God, for having created me.”