“The only part I didn’t really like was when she said that before she was a Christian she didn’t know what love was.”
After a recent talk at school, a few students were voicing their thoughts about the talk. The speaker had made a bold claim, one I hadn’t really thought about too deeply before my students offered their critique. Another student agreed and said he thought the speaker was being dramatic.
“Is it possible,” I questioned, “that being a Christian profoundly changes how she loved?”
“No,” said one student.
“Yes,” said another.
The one who said no came closer and continued with this question. The more I teach and the more I know about people, the more I realize that questions help answer better than arguments. Questions help clarify where exactly the person is, how much they know, and how much they have thought about the idea in the first place. So I posed another question, uncertain as I did so where exactly I was headed or what the next question would be.
“Is there anything different between how Hitler loves and Mother Teresa?”
Continue reading “For the Love”
Last week, fifteen years ago, my sister entered a Carmelite cloister.
At the beginning of the school day, I sat for a couple minutes, looking at my calendar announcing March 19th and remembering what had transpired other years on the Solemnity of St. Joseph. Fifteen years ago, we embraced, believing it might be the final time here on earth. Five years ago, we embraced as she moved north to establish a new monastery. And every year in between, I have recalled with tenderly fond pain the life we have been called to enter into as the family of religious.
I spoke about my sister’s vocation with my sophomores at great length this year. While I didn’t intend to spend so much time on it, they asked question after question and I found myself desiring to share this story with them. They were particularly struck by the great physical sacrifice that is found in the life of a cloistered nun. While I have been able to embrace my sister since her entrance, each time is a gift and never expected or something I can claim as my due. I explained that it is because my sister loves us that it is a sacrifice for her to not embrace us or be present for some of the big moments of life.
“But you didn’t choose that life. Why do you have to make that sacrifice when God didn’t call you to be a cloistered sister?”
Perhaps without knowing it, they stumbled upon the question that must be answered for each family member of a religious brother or sister. Why must I make this sacrifice when I’m not the one with the call?
Continue reading “Fifteen Years of Learning to Let Go”
In the movie Sweet Home Alabama, there is one line that has always stood out to me. The main characters Jake and Melanie are talking about their past and present, the ways life has changed from when they were high school sweethearts to their current situation of estranged spouses. Melanie expresses her confusion about loving her life in New York and yet returning home to find that her hometown fits, too. Jake then says, “You can have roots and wings, Mel.”
So often my own heart is caught in that same clashing of different longings. I want to fly away and yet I want to be home, grounded and steady. One moment I’m desiring to be a missionary in a far-away land and the next I want to stay in my cozy bedroom, reading and considering life. One day, I’m wanting to buy a home and make it my own oasis. The next day, I am wanting to be detached of all earthly possessions, living simply and being prepared to fly off to wherever whenever.
Roots and wings–the desire to be secure and the desire to be free–mark the desires of the human heart. We want to be home, but not confined. We want to be free to wander and yet not be lost. All of it, flying or remaining, hinges on the longing we have for happiness and contentment.
Not that I complain of want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want.
I am not quite like St. Paul yet, able to find contentment in whatever situation I find myself in. Perhaps my students would even be surprised with the restlessness that is within my heart. I am slow to act, yes, making changes at a glacial speed. And yet…change is what I often long for and deeply desire. What is the solution? Continue reading “Roots and Wings”
My sister asked her if she ever had me as a teacher. She couldn’t remember what class I even taught her, but she knew that she had. My pride was wounded a bit at the idea that the hours upon hours I spent teaching weren’t memorable. The question wasn’t what was the favorite thing I taught her, simply what class did I teach.
What she did remember was that at the end of the semester, I wrote every senior a card. It was the only year I ever did that. Apparently, that spoke louder than the arguments for God’s existence, Church teachings, and problem of evil discussions. Continue reading “What They Remember”
It was definitely a first world problem. Still at school when I wanted to be at home, I was printing off tests for the following day. The lovely printer (that a couple years ago I found incredible because it could print double-sided, staple, and three-hole punch documents) was now testing my patience.
The printer would spit out a few copies, stop, and then flash a message saying that it had a paper jam. I opened the main compartment, pulled out three pieces of paper in various stages of the printing process, and forcefully closed the panel. Then I opened a lower paper tray and pulled out another piece of crumpled paper. The printer resumed its job.
For a couple copies at least. Then the process repeated itself. I was tired and wanted to be at home, not fixing paper jam after paper jam on a printer. Generally, I consider myself to be a fairly patient person. But this was testing my resolve. I needed just a few more copies before the job was completed, and I didn’t want to spend my time throwing away crumpled pieces of paper.
So, Lord, what can you be teaching me in this?
Sadly, I must assure you that this is not my go-to question. I’m not walking around, constantly seeing the Lord’s hand in everything. But every now and then, the Lord will remind me that He is present and will shine through in the midst of some mundane activity. Like changing a light bulb or fixing a paper jam. Continue reading “Paper Jams and Patience”