by Adam Burns
Nothing could have prepared us for it. The daunting feeling that had lurked in shadows over the months was looming large as the moment came to fruition. Newly married, fresh off the plane and standing in a car rental parking lot, I took in the task that lay before me. This car was no ordinary car. It was a left-hand drive, bound for the right-hand lane of the Hawaiian roads we were about to explore. Marriage prep did not prepare us for this!
Our marriage prep courses did teach us that marriage is not an instant-fix-it to all relationship problems. A ceremony and a ring do not make life or love instantly easier. That time of preparation did equip us with the tools we needed to confront our frustrations and agitations as I endeavoured to indicate with my blinkers and not my windscreen wipers while avoiding oncoming traffic!
Over my first two-and-a-half weeks of married life, I've had to remind myself that marriage doesn't magically sweep away my issues. Don't get me wrong, my honeymoon was not full of marital arguments or disagreements. However, I did realise that my hesitation towards conflict, my short fuse and my indecisiveness are all still very much real and could not be swept under the metaphorical marital carpet. I also realised that my relationship with my wife, since even before we were married, has helped me grow and heal in these areas, making me a better person.
Herein lies the "magic" of the States of Life. Whether we're called to Marriage, or Ordained or Religious Life or to the Single Life; that State of Life is not an answer in and off itself. One of the taglines we use often is "ask the question", but the question isn't pointed towards an answer, the question points to an on-going journey: the discernment process. We discern constantly, even when we've made that State of Life commitment, about who we are and who we are in relationship with God and others.
The issue is that we've become about the end-point. Our society likes to explain things to an end, we establish limits and end-points by what we can get out of any given opportunity, and we've seen the end of life-long careers in our younger generations. Even in the Church we've made vocation about deciding your State of Life, and after choosing this seemingly the discernment process ends. So the idea of a process which doesn't lead to a defined end-point can be uncomfortable. We risk diminishing the sacramental graces present in our States of Life by making them the end point of our adult-faith decision making: the faith journey is initiated through Baptism and Confirmation, but doesn't end in Ordination or Consecration or Marriage.
Over the years I've looked forward to finally finding my "discernment resting place", the point where I no longer have the question of "where am I called" hovering over my head. After my wedding day I've realised that such a resting place doesn't (and perhaps, shouldn't) exist. Marriage is my next jumping point into the world. When once the discernment journey was what drove me to pursue God in my daily life, now it is my marriage which shapes my life, enabling me to consider new opportunities and possibilities for what my life as a married Christian man will look like. That excites me to no end, it also pushes me outside of myself as I discern what options will be best for my family. Discerning marriage with my wife has pushed me to a bigger vision for my life.
As I sat in that left-hand drive car, flicking off my windscreen wipers for the hundredth time in an attempt to indicate left, trying not to grow impatient as my wife was instructing me to "stay right, stay right"; I realised that my wedding day was not a magic end-point to all my questions about faith, life and calling. What my wedding day does represent is an invitation to more, to consider further who Adam Burns is, as a Christian, as a man, and now, as a husband.