Vocations come in many shapes and sizes. A person already married clearly has a vocation to marriage, or at least has chosen to have one even if that had not previously been in the plan of life. Marriage, like Holy Orders, is a sacrament that is meant to be for life. Once married, all discussions of an individual unique vocation for the married person must include marriage as an undisputed element in that vocation.
Marriage, by seeking to live it fully in the Christian way, is a powerful means of sanctification in my life. The struggles married people have to work together, grow together, raise children together or accept that they are childless together are all elements for a vocation that will help the people involved to become saints.
I tend to be high strung and my spouse tends to be very calm. This is both an element of balance between us and a source of conflict. How we respond to those conflicts will either move us toward holiness or away from it. How we respond will determine the quality of our happiness as well. In this way our marriage is a means for helping me to become more holy.
Here is an example, I am panicking over possibly being late but he is calmly preparing to leave and it feels so slow. How do I respond? I could nag, yell, fuss and make everyone miserable in an attempt to ease my stress over the possibility of being late or I could choose to trust my husband and try to relax which will make everyone much less uptight. The second choice might make us late but odds are we will be on time, meanwhile, the more positive attitude helps me to cultivate patience, calm, and trust in my spouse. Development of these virtues is development toward holiness.
Every aspect of marriage is a means to our holiness. Every time one of us forgives an accidental hurt, we become closer to the Christian ideal. Every time one of us chooses the highest good of the other, even if that gets us in trouble, we grow closer to God.
For example, I am nearly always struggling to keep good eating habits for my long term health. My hubby wants me to be healthy so that we can spend our old age together still active with long walks and dancing. I want these things too, but when I get really stressed by deadlines or too many demands on my time, I have a tendency to fall into emotional eating.
Emotional eating leads to weight gain and never solves the issue causing the emotional stress which leads to emotional eating. How hubby reacts can either help or hurt. Hubby fears for my health. He could jump in and nag me about eating something I don’t need or he could ask me to talk about my feelings and diffuse the stress. The first option adds to my stress increasing the likelihood of more emotional eating, the second makes me feel loved and valued and relieves the emotional pressures that lead to emotional eating. No matter which choice he makes, his reasons are my health. The more difficult choice for him is to get me talking and listen while I verbally express the stress until I feel better and no longer feel the urge to fall into emotional eating. Choosing the more difficult for him and more helpful to me, my hubby chooses my highest good both in helping me to avoid emotional eating but also in the solution. He grows in holiness in this situation within our marriage.
But what if he simply urges me not to eat when the problem is stress and emotional eating? He still desires my highest good, my health, but now it is my turn. I can become angry or I can accept his concern. The first choice does no good to my health, hurts his feelings and I still go have a session of emotional eating. The second is the HARD one for me. I thank him, focus on his concern for my health, and try to find a different response to stress other than emotional eating. The second choice puts his highest good in front of me– he needs me to be healthy, he is worried and I am able love him in my actions when I find something other than emotional eating as the solution. I grow in holiness in a kind, compassionate response. Again, our marriage is a means toward greater holiness.