After Joseph and I said “I do,” it was easy to think that our season of discernment was over. After all, we’d discerned our vocation together, made a decision, and were settling into married life. But it turned out that discernment was just getting started.
Too often, we think about discernment only on a vocational level. We ask people if they’re discerning a vocation to religious life, or if their dating relationship is leading to marriage discernment. But every time Joseph and I have made a life-impacting decision, it’s been something we’ve tried to discern with each other and with God.
But discernment is tough.
We’ve thought and prayed through job decisions, housing decisions, and other situations that have impacted us as a family. One season of discernment we recently experienced was discerning when to add another little life into our family.
Discerning littles can be tough - especially if your story includes experiences like miscarriage, infertility, or infant loss. There were seasons where we desired a little person, but infertility stood in the way. Fear of losing another sweet baby and parenting two little saints was something we worked through as well.
Here are three prayers that Joseph and I prayed while discerning our family together this year that helped unite our hearts to the heart of the Lord:
1. Lord, help us desire children in the way that you desire them for our family
God has a plan for our family. Sometimes it doesn’t always line up with our family plan, though. I never imagined that parenting a saint was part of the plan. If you’d left it up to me, infertility wouldn’t have been in the picture at all. But God allowed both of those experiences in our lives for a purpose.
When it came time to discern bringing another little person into our family, it was easy for Joseph and I to share with each other what we both desired. It was another thing altogether to discern what the Lord desired for our family. But, just like Joseph and I listened to each other’s dreams and hopes, we were reminded to turn to God and listen in prayer for his voice.
One important part of our discernment process was surrendering our plans for our family and asking God to make our hearts burn with the same desires for our family as his heart burned.
We didn’t experience an immediate wild fire of clear desire for our family, but rather witnessed the Lord slowly fan the flames of our hearts so that we could be on the same page as him.
2. Lord, unite us in this discernment
Discernment shouldn’t be something that divides you as a couple.
It’s tempting to pray that your spouse just gets on the same page as you with discernment. Maybe you’re passionate about adopting a child, but your spouse is hesitant. Praying that God would just change their minds won’t unite you as a couple, though.
Instead, what Joseph and I found incredibly unitive for our marriage was to pray that God would make of us of one heart and mind in the discernment process. We didn’t start out on the same page, but slowly, the Lord started working on both of our hearts.
We said "no" to certain opportunities for our family, and "yes" to others. But we decided together as a team, and those decisions were a lot easier thanks to grace.
3. Lord, help me abide in this season of discernment with a spirit of contentment
“Abide in me, as I abide in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me,” Christ says in John’s Gospel. I remember sitting in adoration one night, wrestling over discerning our family. Nothing seemed to be working like I had planned, and God wasn’t making himself obviously evident about what to do next.
That’s when I sat down and read through that passage in John. Christ encouraged me to abide in him. After all, apart from his grace I wouldn’t be able to do anything. But if I chose to abide in him, then my marriage would bear fruit.
First I had to realize that fruit from marriage doesn’t automatically equal babies. When Joseph and I experienced a season of secondary infertility, littles weren’t in the picture.
But that didn’t mean our marriage wasn’t fruitful.
We invested in friends, ministry opportunities, and each other.
Then, when the timing was right, this little person growing inside of me made their entrance into our lives and hearts.
There were times during our experience with infertility that it felt like it would stretch on forever - and for some couples, it does.
But regardless of your fertility, the number of littles God has blessed you with here or in Heaven, or where you’re at in the discernment process of bringing new life into your family, he invites you to abide in him.
Be content to wait at his feet, soaking up his goodness. Be receptive to loving him for who he is, not just the gifts he gives.
Because there, in that season of abiding, is where you’ll encounter a God who desires to make your marriage fruitful in the most perfect way for you as a couple and as a family.