One great phrase (of the many) which Fr. Alexander Schmemann has left us in his legacy is that our Christian lives are our opportunity to "deal with the cards we are dealt". Will we offer them in doxology for conversion to our Lord for His blessing and sanctification or will we instead take our lives' circumstances and situations as opportunity to wish we had some other lot in life?
It is noteworthy that when one is preparing for monastic tonsure, one is asked whether or not he or she is entering the monastery because he or she despises marriage. If this is the case, tonsure is denied. One enters the monastery solely to spend a life of repentance in community with other sinners.
It is this life of "peace and repentance" to which we are all called, monastic or married. Is this not what we all pray for in our litanies? "That we may complete the remaining time of our life in peace and repentance, let us ask of the Lord...." "Lord, have mercy."
For the monk, this is worked out in the monastery.
For the married, it is worked out in the household.
(An excellent resourse is "Marriage as a path to Holiness" by Drs. David and Mary Ford at St. Tikhon's Press--presently being reprinted)
In the monastery, I assume (not being a monk!), ones brother or sister monastics pray for each other and see their sins in the mirror of the faces of the other monks.
The same is true in marriage: Are not our sins laid bare by our interactions with spouse and children? This is not, to be sure, the opportunity to say, "you lead me to sin!" but rather the time to say, "Lord, have mercy upon me a sinner for my ____________ (impatience, arrogance, ignorance, anger, malice, jealousy..."
Someone I know in another communion once said to me that he desired to be a priest, but that somehow (because of ecclesiological 'preferences' there) he 'couldn't' [ignoring, for a moment, the ecclesiological arguments for the sake of the point]. I said, well, if the Lord is calling you to be a priest, then first act like one. By this I did not mean, 'buy yourself some vestments and play church'. What I did mean was this: wake up, tend to your family, go to church, stand in the sanctuary with the parish phone directory, and pray for everyone by name. What is a priest if not an intercessor?
The same is true for all of us! Do we wish to be priests? We are so-called in the New Testament...Pray! Do we wish to be monks? Pray! Whether or not we live in a monastery cell or a 4 bedroom townhouse, the call is the same!
Are we good students of the Gospel? Let us devote ourselves to the Scriptures! Are we good teachers of the Gospel? Do we stand with our children, teaching them to pray? What is holier than this vocation?
They say 'the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence'. In reality, the grass on the other side of the fence is just grass on the other side of the fence. Peter Jon Gillquist, well-known Orthodox musician, sings, "Anyone who says the grass is always greener on the other side hasn't been there yet!" God grant us the grace to know this not simply in our minds, but in our hearts, and to give thanks for the cards we are dealt, and to play them as the best stewards we can be!