But I know that if this is my lot in life right now, it could be so much worse. And while I don't think comparing our situations to one another's is healthy, I think it is a good reality check once in a while. A lot of close friends and relatives have experienced death recently. Like, freakish, out of the blue, incomprehensible death. Which only adds to the sadness and starkness of this already harsh, harsh winter.
I have been discussing the story of Noah with my freshmen and usually this is one of those Old Testament stories that gets people confused: "why is God so angry? Why would He wipe out His creation?" These are valid questions and I don't always have the best answers to them. But this year, for the first time, my students seem to get the positive messages from this story. Noah was faithful. He was chosen to "save" creation. God protected he and his family and rewarded him for his faithfulness. God gave creation a second chance and new life.
Today is Valentine's Day (but the running Catholic joke is that it is technically the Feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius:
some of my Byzantine peeps that were missionaries to my Eastern European brethren. Holla!)
and it seems to be one of those holidays we put a lot of stock in. You either have something special to do for it or not. You are either "loved" by someone or not. It's so polarizing when we look at it this way! But I really think it shows our DEEP need and desire in all of us to be loved.
Since we have had these two snow days this week, I've been taking my prayer time in the morning (usually I have to do it in the evenings when I am working) and yesterday I really focused on the theological virtue of FAITH. When my students and I were discussing the Noah story, we tried to relate the story to our own lives. Has there ever been I time where we just had to trust and have faith? Wouldn't it be so much easier if God just spelled out His plan for us and gave us everything we needed?
I was once again amazed that the majority of students who spoke up seemed to understand what it takes many of us so long to realize: if God gave us everything, we wouldn't get to exercise our free will. We wouldn't need to have faith. And ultimately, we wouldn't truly love. Because LOVE is a choice and that's what makes it special.
That's why we all want to be loved so much. We know that it is a choice and we fight so hard to have people "choose" to love us. And some of us feel that if people haven't "chosen" us, that we aren't loved.
But alllllllll of our needs and thoughts on Love come back to God. For as it says in Scripture:
"We love because He first loved us." - 1 John 4:19
And I know that might sound so cheezy (but isn't all love a little cheezy at times?) but humans are imperfect. We mess up and distort love all the time. We will never do it perfectly. God is the one who IS love and He loves us all unconditionally. He has already chosen each and every one of us.
It has been my faith that has led me to know that I am loved. When I was 16, I was going through perhaps typical teenage issues, and it was then that I turned my life to God and my started pursuing my faith. I turned to God because I didn't know what else to do and was looking for something to fill my need. So many of us turn to other things to fill this need we feel in our lives. I don't know what prompted me to do it, but this is perhaps why I enjoy working with teenagers- they are just open at that age. They are searching and usually open to anything that will fill their aching need to feel chosen and loved. At some point, we have to go past these feelings and really learn to exercise our faith when don't "feel" it.
We all still feel this aching and need to be loved as I mentioned already. It really and truly is our faith- that belief and hope in something we don't always see or feel- that leads us to the confidence and knowledge that we are loved.
I pray for all those who are in need of the knowledge that they are loved today (and everyday!). And I'm grateful for those who have helped me realize and know that I am loved.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Oh and just because Catholics are creepy and weird- here's the skull of the actual St. Valentine. This is the real origin of St. Valentine's Day- honoring the saint who came before us, right? Right.