As school draws near and I find myself mentally preparing for a new year, I feel a growing excitement. It is mixed, however, with the knowledge that once this roller-coaster starts, it will not truly end until May. So I am saying a sad goodbye to sleeping in, staying up late, and not repeating myself fifteen times.
A few days ago, as melancholics are apt to do, I was reflecting on death. Particularly on my death. And how I don’t know when it will happen. It could be seventy years or this week. I have hopes and dreams about getting married and having a family, but those may never be fulfilled. Perhaps, I mused, perhaps I haven’t met the man I will marry because there isn’t one. Perhaps I don’t get married. Perhaps there is not much life left for me.
Interestingly enough, these weren’t particularly sad thoughts. In fact, they were oddly exhilarating. What if this is the life that God is offering to me? What if I grew up, went to college, taught for five years, and then died? There are several saints who didn’t end up in a formal vocation, but rather spent their short time pursuing the ultimate call of seeking union with God now and in eternity. (For example, Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, Bl. Chiara Badano, St. Dominic Savio, St. Maria Goretti, and Bl. Imelda Lambertini, to name a few.) Age or circumstance did not stop them from dedicating their lives to Jesus. Why should that be my excuse?
Pondering my mortality made me question: if I died soon, what would I have to offer Jesus?
I’ve always thought that my life and path to holiness would include marriage and raising a family. But that is my plan and God’s plans are not always (or quite rarely) the same. It would be sad to face the Lord at my particular judgement and say, “I kept waiting for a husband, Lord. That was when I was going to be the saint you wanted.”
Instead, this is my life: I (attempt to) teach high school students about the Lord and His Church. I have sisters and a brother, nephews and a niece. I have parents and extended family. I have friends and acquaintances. I have this little blog. I live in a community of young women. What else do I need in order to make sanctity a priority and a reality?
As the days continue to pass and the time draws near for me to daily spend hours with teenagers, I am drawn to consider it in light of this new realization. Perhaps this classroom is where the Lord wants to make me a saint. I’ve never dwelt on “leaving a mark on the world,” but maybe teaching is one of the central things I will offer to the Lord. When viewed in that perspective, it seems crucial to pursue this with the vigor and the passion that I would put into a marriage and a family. Teaching isn’t the biggest desire in my heart, but it is where the Lord has me right now. Opening my heart to love my students and co-workers just might be good preparation for loving my spouse and children, if the Lord has that in His plan. (And if He doesn’t, then it is good preparation for Heaven. Actually, either way it is.)
Yesterday, I spoke about Christian witness to the incoming seniors at a little retreat my department runs. Granted, I only had them for fourteen minutes, but I enjoyed seeing their faces and I wanted to simply love them. In the midst of the school year, though, that desire to love is quick to fade as the complaints, frustrations, and attitude rolls in. The excitement I have at the beginning of the year is quick to be buried beneath the stress and demands of my job.
I want this year to be the absolute best year so far. In the midst of difficulty, I want to love them: genuinely, wholly, just as they are. I want to witness to the joy of the Christian life in the daily and ordinary. I want to enter into this missionary field as I never have before. I want to delve into prayer and battle for them spiritually. I want to encounter Christ in them, hidden but present.
I desire all of these things because this is where the Lord is calling me. This is all of the plan that He has revealed to me and, for all I know, this may be the end of the plan, too. Should the Lord offer me the gift of death, I would want to give Him something more than, “I was going to….”
Right now, right here is my vocation. In this present moment, sanctity can be sought after. Now is the only time I can encounter the Lord.
Either we learn to find the Lord in the ordinary everyday life or else we shall never find him. (St. Josemaria Escriva)