I read a book yesterday about Catholic saints. I’ve been digging the writing of Jesuit priest James Martin since someone posted one of his articles on Facebook, and right before this cold grabbed ahold of me, I went to the library and took out a few of his books.
What surprised me the most about reading his award-winning memoir, My Life With The Saints, was how nice it was to read about people building lives around following God that aren’t centered on raising a family. I love children; small people rock. But as someone to whom God has said “no” to that, there aren’t many role models for what to do with this season of life. Yesterday it occurred to me I have more in common with Catholic priests and nuns than I do with some of my friends. That’s kind of hilarious.
I know this might sound sad, but it isn’t. It’s satisfying in a way (even though that’s not precisely the word I’m looking for). It feels good, like walking into a room full of people who get some aspect of your life in a way you thought no one else did, who offer examples of interesting ways to move forward.
Of course, there are differences. Priests and nuns choose to live without spouses or biological families. I am blessed to have a husband. (If you’ve read my first book you know I’d never make it as a nun!) But I really related to the similarities of building a life outside the socially expected parameters, and having to answer lots of questions about how and why. And in these stories I saw the coolest thing: JOY. Real enjoyment and delight at getting to live a unique and different sort of life. It was like a deep breath of fresh air after years of quick, careful breathing.
I feel like this is what God has been leading me to over the past few years as Steve and I have learned that we would not have children. I’ve sensed Him saying to me, again and again, “Yes Trish, it’s true: you don’t get to do some of the things most other people do. But you get to do a lot of things most people don’t get to.” It’s true.
It’s weird to like your life when other people look at it with pity. Although perhaps what I’ve seen is not pity at all, but simply the thing we do as we look for common connections between us: we assess what’s the same, what’s different, what we’d like to emulate, and what we’re glad we don’t have to wrestle with. It’s part of being human.
I’m grateful for this vivid reminder that part of being human is that we each have a plan to live out, and even those that look much alike (I’ll confess I’ve dumped most nuns and priests into the “similar” category, much as we tend to dump singles or parents) inside we’re each carrying around such different dreams and expectations, looking at life through such different lenses…we’re all vastly different.
It brings me back to the quote I shared yesterday from Jordan Seng: ““Being a child of God means we get to make a life, rather than just have a life.” I’m grateful for how Father Martin’s memoir convicted me of how varied, interesting, and inspiring these lives can be.