Discernment and friends

My nearly life-long best friend and I are both discerning religious vocations. I love it, because he understands the joys/struggles of discernment as well as I do(I have thought about being a nun since I was 17 - which is when I converted to catholism against the wishes of my baptist parents, and I’m not 21.)

But it would be much, much easier if our friends could understand. They want us to date. They don’t understand why we won’t. We spend a great deal of time together, we go to mass together every Sunday (since we’re in the same college away from home) and I guess from an outsiders perspective it looks like a dating-relationship – minus the phsycial affection, of course.

Background – met my 2 best friends in 4th grade. I was 10, they were both 9. We were the 3 amigos from that point on. In junior high we remained close but in HS we sort of veered off in separate directions. My one friend “Pete” and I were (sadly) obsessed with being popular and fitting in, and my other friend “Fred” got really involved in band. We stayed friends but our social circles didn’t allow for much interaction.

After HS I left my small hometown, spent a year in Chicago, then another year in Europe working and traveling and “finding myself”. A few weeks before my 21st bday I returned to my hometown broke and started working toward my college degree. It was nice to be back but somewhat depressing. My old friends tried to seem enthusiastic as I recounted my overseas adventures, and I tried to seem interested in their usual gossip, but neither of us were good actors. I felt alone. Then out of the blue Fred called me inviting me to a party. I went, and we caught up.

We go to the same college, and Fred asked me “When was the last time you went to Mass?” I admitted it has been too long. He offered to take me if I wanted and I said sure, I went with him and it was great to be back. A long time ago Fred told me he had been thinking of being a priest – I’ve told him he would make an excellent one. Seriously, he’d be like the priests you see in the movies – handsome, kind, caring, trustworthy, faithful. He’d be perfect. I asked him if he was still discerning, and he said he is…but he’s kept pretty quiet about to our other friends.

Then I had a confession for him, that I’m still discerning as well. We both agreed its really nice to have a best friend whose also going through the process of discernment. He understands the struggle it can be, and its nice to know someone is praying for me, asking for God’s will in my life.

But like I said, our well-meaning friends don’t get it. Even when we try to explain. They keep saying “whats up with you and Fred? When are you going to hook up already? Neither of you is interested in anyone else, so don’t tell us you don’t like eachother.”

Truth is, I couldn’t date friend if I wanted too. First off, I’ve had some bad breakups, mostly due to my traveling. I’m done with the dating scene for awhile – I just want to focus on me right now! Second, I’ve dated a close friend before, and that ended in disaster. Of course I love Fred, but in a very different kind of love than I’ve ever felt for a boyfriend…like the love you have for an old, familiar friend.

My friends honestly think Fred and I belong together. They’ve told me this several times. They mention it constantly at every party or get together. I think its time we explained to them the situation, but neither of us are quite prepared for the conversation – most of our friends our non-catholic and don’t really understand the process. This is more of a small irritation than a real problem, but any advice?

“Fred and I hang out all the time; we enjoy being with each other. Truth is, though, we both think that hooking up might ruin things for us – and our friendship is more important to us than anything that would come out of hooking up. You get that, right? I mean, you agree that a friend that would last forever is better than a hook-up that would last one night, right?”

(Yeah, but what if it didn’t last just one night? What if you’re meant to be together?)

“Well, then, being ‘just friends’ for right now will make sure that we don’t do anything that drives us away from one another in the long run. We’re good where we are right now – why would we want to do anything that might jeopardize that? Why do something that could kill our relationship, if it’s in a good place right now, while we’re figuring out what each of us is meant to do in our lives?”

Sometimes friends see things we don’t see and other times we see what they don’t. As young people we are always trying to find God’s path for our lives therefore it might be a good idea to join a young people’s group that has young adults such as yourself that are discerning the call. Singles for Christ, ran through Couples for Christ is a great organization to join. Since you’ve had some bad experiences with relationships, maybe it might be a good idea to see a counsellor to help you work through some of the emotions. As the heart heals, we grow closer to God.

It seems like you have a bunch of good friends who care deeply about you. You can be honest and tell them that right now, you need to spend time being single, explore your faith and do whatever you need to do. Eventually they do come around especially when they see you are happy. Right now, you are lucky to have a good supportive friend. Cherish it but at the same time, ask God for guidance in this matter. Only God knows if your friends have a point or not. Who knows maybe both of you will be called to spend a few years as a religious before becoming a couple. I know a couple who were both discerning. He was living with some brothers, she was also discerning to join the religious. After a few years, they got married. Again, maybe one or both, will join I’m not God so I don’t have the answers. All I can suggest is that you ask God for guidance and ask him to lead your lives. Go to him collectively and enjoy the precious gift of friendship you have been given.

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