I came across the following quote by St. Josemaria Escriva the other day:
“Love is not content with a routine fulfillment of duty. Love is incompatible with boredom or apathy. To love means to renew our dedication every day, with loving deeds of service.”
St. Josemaria Escriva
Friends of God, no. 31
Nice sentiment, right? A good reminder. A helpful nudge in the right direction.
But how many of us actually experience love in this way? How many of us are prone to get so bogged down in the mundane details of everyday life that we forget what real love really looks like?
For some of us, most days are a mad dash to keep up with kiddos’ and spouses schedules, to shorten the ever-lengthening to-do list, and limp through the work day until our heads hit the pillow for a moment of respite.
For others of us, our days consist of constant glances at the clock, counting the hours until we can punch out so we can turn off our phones, order take out and plunk ourselves down for some quality Netflix time.
We’re all guilty of it.
Just get through the day.
Yes, you try to be patient, you try to be kind, you try to keep a level tone with your five year old who is arguing with you about putting on pants, you try not to roll your eyes at your spouse when they forget to put gas in the car yet again, you try not scream profanities at the slow driver moseying along in the passing lane, you try to keep your opinions about your boss to yourself even though he or she is wrongity-wrong-wrong-wrong, you try not to avoid the phone calls from your sweet grandpa who is just checking up on you (even though you somehow never get to the phone on time)…
You try to show love in your daily routine, but you’re busy and things need to get done and sometimes it’s not real, and sometimes it’s forced, and sometimes you just do it out of a sense of duty.
But that’s the thing. Love shouldn’t be about duty. It shouldn’t be about boredom and apathy. Love requires time and commitment and it should be new and exciting and joyous. But how? Most of the time, “love” just feels like another thing we have to “do”.
Yesterday morning, when I woke up, the first words out of my mouth were, “Lord, I don’t know how I’m going to get through this day. I really need your help.” My body ached all over, my head was pounding, I was more exhausted than I had been in a long time, my face was puffy from all the feelings of the previous day, and I knew the kids were going to be cranky and sleep-deprived from having had a sleep-over the night before. I just couldn’t do it. It was raining – again – and there were music lessons and chores and I couldn’t even comprehend all the coaxing and arguing that would ensue during the day.
I looked at the clock at 8:30 and thought, “If I can just get through the next eight and half hours, then I can go home and plunk myself in front of a good movie…”
And then, oddly enough, something shifted.
“You guys! After your music lessons, if I can get my Smart Board working, you can watch a movie in my classroom… on the big screen… in the bean bag chairs.”
Their faces lit up.
When I got to my classroom, my computer was on the opposite side of the room from where it was supposed to be (because… summer cleaning) in a tangled mess of wires that I knew not where to put. My first thought was, “Nevermind. Too much work. They’ll just have to get over it.” But again, there was this prompting of, “Just try.”
So, I tried. Ten minutes later, I had the Smart Board up and running. They were thrilled.
Afterwards, we baked brownies.
I built them a fort.
We created a side-walk chalk town in the driveway.
We played a day-long game of tag.
We joked and laughed and made fart noises and I chased them around the house and the yard because oddly enough I was always “it”.
My back was killing me, the dull ache in the back of my head was still there, I was functioning on 8 cups of coffee, and to be perfectly honest, I was counting down the hours until I was off of work (because… exhaustion), but we had one of the best days we had had all summer.
And I think it’s because I did the things I did out of love. Not out of a sense of duty or guilt. I didn’t do it out of routine. I did it because I wanted to bless them…. to make their day better… and that made all the difference. Because I renewed my dedication to them in loving deeds of service.
And then I stumbled upon the St. Josemaria Escriva quote. And I’m not exactly certain, but I’m pretty sure, that was God’s way of winking at me.
So, even when you think you can’t show that real, self-sacrificial love, you can. It just takes a little extra push (or a massively huge extra push depending on the day you’re having…) but I guarantee, it makes all the difference. For you and for them.