Jeanne d’Arc by Louis Maurice Boutet de Monvel 1896 – William Creswell
One of my favorite saints quotes is one from Saint Joan of Arc: “I’m not afraid. I was born to do this.” Like many young girls, I spent my adolescence admiring Saint Joan of Arc. When I heard her story, I was in awe of what it must have been like to hear God speaking to her through Saints Michael, Margaret, and Catherine. I pondered how amazing it would be to have a special mission from God. I had heard priests talk about prayer, and how it was important to not only speak to God, but also to listen to Him. As a young girl, I tried to listen to God, to hear what mission He had for me, but I didn’t know how. I tried very hard to listen, not just speak, but I didn’t hear anything.
When it was time for me to graduate high school, I desperately needed to know what God wanted of me. I had to decide what to study in college, and my stomach was in knots because I had no idea which path to take. I felt drawn to the religious life, and I knew that nuns worked in a variety of professions. However, I had no idea which one of those professions was right for me. As I researched every major most universities had to offer and carefully considered almost all of them, I begged God to give me some sort of direction. As I continued to learn about different majors and professions, the only one that gave me a sense of fulfillment was teaching. When I pictured myself in other lines of work, I simply didn’t feel right. Something was continually drawing me back to being a teacher, and this greatly confused me. I was such a meek, timid person. I would never be able to have control over a group of fifteen or twenty children in my charge. But the draw to the profession of teaching simply would not cease. I remember specifically saying to God one day, “You really want me to be a teacher? It can’t be. It just can’t!” But then I remembered Saint Joan and how unbelievable it was that an illiterate girl of seventeen singlehandedly led an army successfully into battle, defeated the enemy, and saved an entire country. A few months before graduating high school, I declared my major in elementary and special education, and I felt very at peace about that.
For the first three years of college, I felt completely fulfilled as I successfully completed my coursework and student teaching hours, all while intending to one day pursue the religious life. However, about two years before I was to graduate college with a masters degree in elementary and special education, there was something about my complete sense of fulfillment that seemed to change. The idea of a celibate life did not feel fulfilling anymore. I still wanted to be a teacher, but instead of feeling called to be a nun, I suddenly wanted more than anything to be married. There was a void in my heart – a longing that was aching to be filled. I prayed to God to place the man He intended for me in my life. And three years later, after a relatively long period of intensely feeling called to the religious life, I was married and expecting a child. If anyone had told me several years prior that this was where I would be, I would have laughed.
But, as they say, the best way to make God laugh is to tell Him your plans.
My first child was born on the feast day of Saint Joan of Arc. After much prayer and reflection, I left teaching to stay home with my child. For a long time, I felt confused. I had been so certain that God was calling me to be a teacher and to the religious life. But at the same time, I felt He had led me to the life I was now living as a wife and mother. I felt conflicted, as if I had made a mistake somewhere along the way. It could not be both ways. Was my mission over? What did God really want?
During Lent the year my second child was born, I listened to a Catholic speaker who gave a talk about listening to God’s call. He said, “God just wants us to be available. He wants us to be open to what He asks of us. We accomplish one task, and then we ask Him what He wants us to do next. In all things, we just have to be ready and willing to answer God’s call.” After I heard this, I finally understood everything. My mission wasn’t over. It was just different. During the time I felt called to be celibate, perhaps God’s mission required me to be unmarried, to love Him and many of His children – my students – with an undivided heart. Once that task was accomplished, His mission for me was to create a home and family where just a few of His children learned to love, serve, and have faith in Him; a home where husband and wife brought the love of Christ to each other in their self sacrificing love for one another.
Shortly after the birth of my second child, I felt a void again. Although I felt fulfilled in my role as wife and mother, I also longed for some sort of work outside my home and family. After much prayer and research, I began to work with a non profit organization which helps women living in poverty market their craft items and earn meaningful, livable income for themselves and their families. I feel completely fulfilled now as a wife, mother, and owner of a small fair trade business which helps provide employment for poverty stricken artisans around the world. I also keep my hand in teaching by volunteering as a Sunday school teacher, which allows me to do something I love while sharing my faith with others.
Someone asked me years ago, “How can you know what God is calling you to do?” I didn’t know the answer then, but I think I do now. The answer is that we cannot ever know for sure what God wants of us at any given time. No human being can ever be completely certain that he or she knows what the Almighty knows. But we can learn to let Him lead us, and the way He leads each person is different. Each person must learn how to listen to Him. For myself, I’ve learned to listen to the longings. I’ve learned to recognize the voids in my heart, as well as the feeling of satisfaction when the voids are filled. I felt those voids when I searched for my husband, and I felt them be filled when we were finally married. I’ve learned to recognize the feeling of being “on fire,” the feeling of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit blossoming in me when I do the work of God. I felt on fire when I was a teacher, and now I feel on fire as I raise my children while also reaching out to help artisans who live in poverty.
Right now I’m a wife, a mother, a Sunday school teacher, and a small business owner. There are no longings right now, no voids waiting to be filled. For now, this is the mission. One day the mission may be different, or it may stay the same. I am grateful to God for leading me this far. And if, in the future, He calls me to something new, with His help, I’ll answer.