Your State in Life: Key to Freedom and Peace
We’re living in a time when we’ve been told we can do anything we want. Whatever you can conceive and believe, you can achieve. Now that’s not a point I would argue. Most of us are capable of much greater things than we generally attempt. Few really live up to their potential.
But of those who strive and stretch to do whatever they can do, even fewer stop to ask themselves what they should do. I may have the gifts and talents to do amazing things, but am I actually called to be doing those? Or am I called to be doing them now, at this point in my life?
I’ll never forget what my friend Kathy shared with me many years ago. Kathy was the mother of six grown children, with a devoted husband of many years. She founded the Legion of Mary chapter in the parish, visited the sick and the homebound, helped anyone who asked her, and was attentive to her kids’ needs and those of her grandchildren. She was, in my view, a living saint – someone to emulate and admire.
Kathy, as devoted as she was to everyone who needed her, every now and then would say no if her husband asked her to spend some time with him watching TV. In Kathy’s view, since her primary vocation was wife, that was like God speaking to her.
But, one might argue, Kathy was out helping people and sharing the gospel. Isn’t that what we’re called to do? Isn’t that more important than watching TV, of all things? And shouldn’t that decision be up to her, not her husband?
Well, here’s the thing: Kathy’s husband loved her. He admired her greatly and shared her happily with others. But he also saw that at times, people took advantage of her. At other times she pushed herself past her limits and would be very tired and get sick easily. That’s generally when he would step in…gently.
There’s a lesson here. We are all called to a vocation – whether it be a religious vocation or a vocation to marriage. Some, not feeling called to either, devote themselves to good works in their careers as singles. And each vocation comes with specific expectations and priorities. For each of us, God is always our first priority and we should seek to please Him above all things. Within our chosen vocations, pleasing God is expressed in submission. For a priest or the religious, God works His will through their superiors to whom they owe obedience. For the married person, their first priority is their spouse’s needs and desires. Even when children come along, the spouse remains their first priority and their children second. Now that probably comes as a shock to many, but the reality is that if the marriage is nurtured and solid, that in and of itself creates a healthy environment for the children. Naturally, most couples share the priority of loving their children so it doesn’t often come into conflict. (Of course, that may not always be the case, but that’s another blog post.)
For the unmarried person, their priorities may not always be that clear. I know I experienced that when I was single. There were so many things I wanted to do but I had nothing to reign me in. In some ways it was good and, in other ways, it was easy to get burned out and taken advantage of. There is freedom in being single perhaps, but the downside is not having the reciprocal care of a spouse or religious order. In such cases, the obligations of career and family will have an important impact, but the needs of the individual must also be considered and prioritized.
When discerning big decisions or even everyday ones, striving to live according to your state in life is critical. Many problems can be avoided by following this simple principle. But of course our roles may overlap at times and figuring out the right thing to do may not always be clear. Talking to a counselor, a coach or a spiritual director can be very helpful in clarifying your roles and priorities and can help you make better decisions in the future. Living our vocations well is the secret to growing in grace and finding lasting peace.
Art for this post on one’s state of life: Vexillum Legionis ou Estandarte Legionário pertence à Legião de Maria, [Legionnaire Banner of the Legion of Mary], photographed by PercioNeto, 11 August 2012 own work, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported; mirror of Priest extracted from Clerical Clothing, photographed by KF, 11 September 2005, PD-Worldwide; all Wikimedia Commons. Cross and wedding rings Christian marriage symbol, file copy. Logo of The Raphael Remedy used with permission.