What are the signs that God might be calling me to marriage?
Marriage could be called a ‘natural’ vocation. God, who is love, has created us in his own image and likeness, and planted in our hearts a longing to love and be loved. And it is perfectly natural that as men and women we should want this love to be fulfilled in marriage – a love that is without reservation, faithful, lifelong, and open to new life. When this marriage is between two Christians it is transformed into a sacrament, and the natural and God-given call to marriage becomes something far, far deeper – a joyful and costly call to follow Christ and to give one’s life in love, in the context of marriage and family.
Not everyone wants to get married, and not everyone who hopes to marry does actually get married. But if someone freely chooses to get married it does not usually need a lot of explaining. The reasons are straightforward: a desire for love and family and children that grows out of who we are as human beings, as men and women. For Christians who are discerning marriage there will be deeper vocational questions: listening to Christ, learning from Christ what it means to truly love another, reflecting on the particular ways you hope to give your life in love and service. Christian marriage is a sacrament, a vocation, and if you choose to be married it will be a sign of your love for Christ as much as your love for another person. Marriage is not easier to live than other vocations, but it is easier to explain. If you long to be married, and there are no other big pulls in your life, then you should be at peace about seeking in a husband or wife.
Here are some signs that might show you are called to be married. As with any signs, they need to be interpreted carefully, and understood in the context of your whole life and all that is happening to you. This is not a checklist of essential requirements, it is simply an indication of some of the ways that God might be guiding you in your life. The overall pattern and the deepest pulls will show you which direction is right for you.
A desire to be married – Perhaps you have always wanted to be married. The desire was there when you were a child, and it has never left you. Or as you have grown older, and thought more about your vocation and the future, you realise that above all else you would love to be married. You imagine yourself as a husband or a wife and it brings you peace and joy. You long to love someone and to be loved by them, and to make that love the centre of your life and vocation.
A desire to have children – Quite simply, you would love to have a family, to have children of your own. Despite all the difficulties and sacrifices of raising children, the desire is there deep in your heart. You can imagine yourself being a father or mother, taking on that role in different ways, relating to your children in all their different stages of life. When you think of yourself as a parent, even if there is some trepidation, it comes with a sense of peace and excitement. But you also have to remember that children are a gift to a couple, and there is no guarantee that you will have children even if you get married. What matters is that you are open to this gift: open in your heart before you get married, and open to new life in your sexual union after you get married.
An admiration for husbands or wives, fathers or mothers that you know – You admire others who are married. Not necessarily everyone, but there are some husbands or wives, fathers or mothers, that have made a real impression on you. They seem happy and fulfilled, fully alive, despite the struggles. They seem to have discovered a love that you wish you had, and a way of living their Christian faith that inspires you. They seem to be living a life that is worthwhile. You can see yourself being happy in their shoes.
Other people encourage you towards marriage – When you talk with people you trust, people who know you well, it seems perfectly natural to them that you might get married. They encourage you, and say that you would be a good husband or wife, a good father or mother. They think you could be happy in this life; and there are no warning bells ringing for them suggesting that you should do something else instead. Other people are not infallible – but they might have a good sense of what is right for you.
You meet someone you want to marry – Often the call to marriage is not a ‘theory’, an abstract desire, it is a concrete person! Perhaps you don’t have a strong desire to get married, and there isn’t a general longing for children, but you meet someone and fall in love and everything changes. The abstract idea of marriage suddenly becomes real. You love someone and through the strength of that love realise that you want to be with them for the rest of your life, to share your life with them completely, and to have children with them. The love of a real person helps you to discern your Christian vocation. Love in itself, love alone, despite what many think, is not a good enough reason to get married. There are many other factors that need weighing up, not least whether a couple have the same understanding of marriage, and whether they are really suitable for each other. But meeting the right person can sometimes be the catalyst that helps you to understand what your deepest desire is and what God is calling you to.
There are no other big pulls in your life – On its own, of course, the absence of another vocation is not a reason to get married. But if there are no signs of a vocation to the priesthood or the consecrated life then this sets us free, as it were, to look into marriage and to believe that it might be the right vocation for us.
This article is taken from the CTS booklet ‘How to Discover your Vocation’ by Fr Stephen Wang