by Amy Garro
When I was growing up, I frequently heard the phrase “radically different”.
As Catholics, as Christians, we are called to be radically different from the world. We are in the world, but not of the world. Our faith calls us to a life that is strange, foreign, even abhorrent, to mainstream society. (1)
After discerning my call to the vocation of marriage, I wasn’t worried about being radically different. Abstaining until marriage? Oh yes, I believe in that. No problem. Being open to life, not using contraception? Check. I’m on board. The fact that all of my friends were doing these things, too, made this “radically different” not so different, and therefore, not so difficult.
And then we had kids. I thought I was prepared for that. I was not. At 24 years old, our firstborn son rocked both my world and my husband’s.
We used to travel almost every weekend. Now, it’s a major event to go to the grocery store (though I haven’t forgotten anyone yet).
A great Sunday night used to be going to mass at St. John’s, then grabbing dinner and drinks at Kilroy’s. Now, a great Sunday night is watching The Jungle Book, eating chicken nuggets, and getting the children in bed by 9 pm, then staring at the TV screen in exhaustion while we soak up the little kid-free time we have.
I used to wear a size 2. After multiple back-to back pregnancies, I can’t fit into my old clothes, stretch marks cover my skin, and I’m still recovering from iron deficiency. I’ll never have my old body again.
I listen to friends talk about going on a first date with a new guy, and think to myself, I can’t even remember what that’s like. Weird.
We used to plan our activities 5 minutes before we left the door. Now, if we want to go out, we have to decide if there’s room in the monthly budget to pay for a sitter, and then find someone who’s actually available. Or we take the kids with us and spend ages packing a diaper bag, finding 6 little socks and shoes, and making sure everyone has pants on. And then forcing them to put pants on because, no, toddler boys don’t like wearing pants. Apparently. And then there’s that awkward moment when we show up with a bunch of kids to a house full of single people who don’t look sleep deprived (like we do).
Now, I often have more in common with couples in their late 30s and early 40s. It can be so hard to relate to people my own age at times, because they are in a different state of life than I am. I wasn’t expecting this when I got married. I was expecting to have similar life experiences as my friends. But getting married at 23 years and now having 3 kids under 3 years old – well, it has changed a lot of things. I learned that God wasn’t necessarily calling me to be so radically different from the world – He was calling me to be radically different from myself.
My mind used to be occupied with my career and my personal life. Now, much of my mental energy goes towards my children.
Do they know how much they are loved? Am I raising them well? Are we giving them everything that we can? What about saving for their college? How can I pass my faith onto them? What if – God forbid – they leave the Church? How can I help them on toward heaven?
These are not the things I imagined myself grappling with in just a few short years while I was enjoying college. I passed very quickly from being a student, with few responsibilities other than my classes, to being a parent, with children. My biggest worry used to be getting good grades. Now, God has entrusted me with several of His most precious creations. My biggest worry is whether or not their souls will receive eternal life, and whether or not I am doing enough to that end. In this journey, there has been more sacrifice than I have ever imagined (and I know much more is to come). It has changed my life immensely and made me a very different person.
One of the requirements for a valid marriage is an openness to children (2). As a result, I see God’s gift of children in our lives as a fulfillment of our marriage vows. My vocational calling wasn’t just marriage – it was motherhood. Whatever your vocation is – the religious life, marriage, or sacred single life – God is calling you to be radically different from yourself. Think I’m crazy? Think about it: we’re sinners, called to be like Christ, who is sinless. There is no more radical of a difference.
Embrace your vocation. He will use it to help transform you from a self-centered person to an other-centered person. I’m not trying to hold myself up as an example or claim that I have “made it” – far from it. But I do now see just how integral sacrifice is to the identity of vocation. It will hurt. It may at times seem impossible, and you may no longer recognize yourself on the other side…but this kind of radical change is a good one. God never said it would be easy, but He did say He would always be there (3).
Amy Garro is married to her wonderful husband John, and is a stay at home mom of 3 boys: Charles, John Dominic, and Augustine. She graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in Theology. She co-authored a book on teaching the faith to young children. Currently, Amy quilts in her free time and is awaiting the publishing of her new quilt book in January 2015. You can read more about her personal life here and her quilting projects here.
(1) “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. And they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me.” John 15: 18 – 21
(2) A valid Catholic marriage results from four elements: (1) the spouses are free to marry; (2) they freely exchange their consent; (3) in consenting to marry, they have the intention to marry for life, to be faithful to one another and be open to children; and (4) their consent is given in the presence of two witnesses and before a properly authorized Church minister. (source)