Wedding season is upon us once again. We’ve got four lined up this summer. Weddings always make me remember everything that went into our decision to get married. It was not simple and I had my share of harsh words with God. But in the end, we knew it was the path we were supposed to go down.
Ever since I was little I was always really open to becoming a nun or a sister. I had this very romantic image in my head of being in a cloister and praying all day or becoming a sister and living and working with the poor in some remote village in a far off land. I was ready for that life if God wanted it for me. This was not a hard lifestyle for me to imagine because I was not a boy-magnet in school and frankly, boys scared me. Of course I had my share of “falling in love” in high school and scribbling Mrs. So-and-so all over my notebook but I was always really nervous and intimidated to talk to boys. The idea of marrying a guy seemed a far-off reality when I could barely talk to one.
In my first few years of college I dated a few guys but I got comfortable with the idea of maybe not ever getting married. I just loved the idea of being free to help people and travel all over the world to do so. After college I really wanted to go to Honduras for a few years to work at Finca del Niño. Notre Dame has really great connections with this place so I was confident that God was putting all the right pieces in front of me for my plan to work out.
Then I met Brandon very randomly after my sophomore year. He went to The University of Texas at Austin with my best friend from high school. Right off the bat, talking with him didn’t scare me or intimidate me. We could talk forever. I think once we had a seven-hour phone conversation. As our relationship grew, I realized how much more I was learning about myself because of all the conversations we had. Instead of shy little Vanessa who was scared to share her opinions, with Brandon I was bold and confident and not scared to make my voice heard.
He was clear that he liked me from the beginning, but I was more cautious. I already had my life mapped out. Brandon was not on my map. This is when God and I had our first real heart to heart.
Ok, God, I’m open to the single life, the religious life even. Seriously, how many people can say that? And you send this great guy? I don’t want to get married. I’m scared to death of having babies. I want to go and serve in other countries. You have given me this love of working with the poor. How does that fit with marriage and a family? It would be too hard to do if I had a family. Make up your mind. I thought you were making it clear that Honduras was my path.
God was gracious and let me whine, but after many months it was clear that I should marry Brandon. Sure it would be hard to figure out how working with the poor and having a family fit together. Sure it would be hard being open to babies when I was scared of the possibility. Sure it would be hard to make a different plan, but Brandon and I being together made me more the me that God made me to be.
I acted differently with the guys that I dated before Brandon. I acted the way I thought I should act around them. I remember one guy always used to embarrass me in front of our friends by making me feel dumb if I didn’t know something he did. I never told him that he made me feel like that. I would just be upset and pretend that everything was ok. I didn’t feel like I could really be myself and I hid that from these other guys. This was immediately not the case with Brandon. If he did something that made me feel bad, he definitely heard about it immediately. I could really open up to him and not feel like I had to be something I wasn’t. I trusted him to still love me even at my angriest, whiniest, or most irrational. And he definitely saw all those sides of me before we got married.
Neither one of us is a perfect spouse. Far from it. Sometimes I can be mean and overly critical. Sometimes he can be moody and distant. But, at our best, we help make each other fully ourselves. Not the selfish-I-want-everything-my-way selves but the brave-sacrificial-purposeful selves. Neither one of us is uncomfortable being vulnerable to each other. We don’t feel the need to hold anything back and I think that’s important. We’re not looking for perfection from each other. We’re just trying to help each other find the true self that God wants us to find.
So while I had to completely change my plans after meeting Brandon and while some days I could bury him in the piles of socks he leaves around the house, when we are sitting listening to our friends exchange vows with their spouses I believe very surely that I should have married Brandon.