They were nearly in the palm of my hands. Not all of them (that would be a miracle) but many of them. For what seemed like the first time in the entire semester, this class seemed interested in what I had to say. Gone were the faces etched with boredom. They were replaced with genuine eye contact and interest. I hadn’t intended to launch into the discussion for an earlier class, but I had and it had gone well. Now I was facing a more difficult to please class and the transition I used before wasn’t clear. I considered not even broaching the subject with them, but just continuing on with the class and ending early.
When I finally began to speak on it, it went better than expected. I remember thinking at one time, “Lord, this is going great. They are listening and the story is flowing well.” This was the best they had listened all year. I was thrilled.
It struck me later as very interesting that what they listened to the best was what was most personal to me. I’ve been talking to them about faith and reason for the past few days. This particular class day I had reviewed the introduction to Lumen Fidei and we had explored what faith is and what faith isn’t according to the encyclical. I love theology. But to them it is just another book, at times, that must be read and regurgitated.
I began to tell them that having faith doesn’t mean that it will all be easy. Yet regardless of the trials, faith is worth it and God desires to be in relationship with us. Then I told them more in depth about my older sisters who are religious sisters. I didn’t try to white wash any difficulties or try to evoke pity in them. Rather, I told them about how it was difficult for me to watch my sisters choose to leave me because they were following God. My intention wasn’t to highlight any strictness of the orders. I wanted them to see that I understand sacrifice, being angry with God, and feeling like what is being asked of me is just too much.
This second class seemed to grasp it most fully. A couple seemed near to tears but just about everyone was alert and listening. I think it helped them realize my humanity. Do I love the Lord? Yes! But even with this love and this desire to love, I still find myself balking at the sacrifices that are to be made. While I often paint this as a past sacrifice, it is still an ongoing sacrifice. I do not always think of the sacrifices but there are moments when the emotions are sharpened, the scab reopened, and the ache felt again.
Perhaps today they forgot everything that I said yesterday. What I hope remains somewhere within them is the knowledge that life will be filled with sacrifices. Will I choose to make them with Christ or without Him? A life of Christian sacrifice is not easy. Yet I do not think a life running from Him would be easy, either. Life will arrive and demand things and people of us that we are not prepared to surrender. Faith is knowing that Someone else cries with you and that Someone desires you infinitely more than you desired your lost love.
That is what makes life bearable.