catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 9, Num 16 :: 2010.09.10 — 2010.09.23


But nuns can't get married!

I’ve always said that I’d make a lousy nun. After all, I happen to appreciate men a lot, and I don’t think I could handle being surrounded by mostly women most of the time. Furthermore, I don’t belong to a religious tradition in which one can become a nun. But there are certain things about monastic life that speak to me: the rhythm of daily prayer and the sense that your whole life, from breakfast to spring cleaning to feast days, is part of living out your faith. And so I’ve done the next best thing to becoming a nun: join a monastery. Even if it’s an open monastery with much more freedom than traditional monasteries, it’s still a monastery. And even if I’m not a nun, getting married has many consequences and challenges for the monastic life that I have chosen.

And I’m now getting married. So what have been the consequences? The biggest has probably been the feeling of conflicting loyalties. The community has been a huge part of my life these last four years, and I’ve willingly invested a lot of time and energy getting to know other members and doing my best to be an active part of it. And now, all of a sudden, there’s someone else in my life to whom I’ve given a claim on my time and energy; he draws me away from the community, potentially permanently.

This drawing away is actually healthy, because my place in the community is shifting from being completely about my relationship to the community to being about our relationship to the community. It is healthy for me to take a step back from my being part of the community so that my fiancé and I can figure out the us part — the us as a married couple, but also the us in relationship to the community. And it’s not certain how things will go, and there’s so much that can go wrong. For instance, how do I talk about the community with my fiancé? It’s great to be able to talk to him about the challenges of life in community, but do I do a disservice to him or to them by talking about certain things? Or how do I deal with having give up some of the ground I’ve gained towards becoming a part of the community so that I can make room for my spouse to get to know the community, and vice versa? It feels like there are a lot of questions, a lot of uncertainty, and in the midst of this uncertainty it is easy to make assumptions that aren’t healthy. And I realize that I can get impatient with everything, wondering when everybody else will catch up to where I think I already am, with things nicely figured out.

To help remind myself of how ridiculous it is to think that I have everything nicely figured out, I just have to consider the idea of introducing two “best friends” to each other.  (Recognizing that the last time many of us called anyone our “best friend” was in high school probably doesn’t hurt the analogy any). Imagine introducing your two best friends to each other and expecting that they’d instantly be crazy about each other, and in exactly the same way that you’re crazy about both of them. Although that could happen, I’d be worried about how healthy the relationships are if it actually did. Healthy relationships take time to develop and often require working through tension in order to come out stronger on the other side.

My getting married within the community involves rather intense relationships among 10-plus people, and all of us are broken and sinful. It’d be unhealthy if there weren’t some tension and challenges as we work towards healthy relationships with each other. But sometimes the challenges and messiness are overwhelming enough that I wonder whether it’s worth the effort. But then I think about why I’m doing it and I am reminded of a commitment that I’d like to include in my marriage vows: a promise to encourage my spouse to develop the gifts that God has given him. Captured in that is the hope that together we can help each other become more fully the people that God would have us be. And the hope extends also to the community: that together we can do things, both work and celebration, so that we more fully embody our calling as Christians here and now.

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