Expectations Fashioned by Love

It’s that time of year…back to school, back to a different routine than the one summer allowed. And with this season of fresh starts grows a long list of expectations. I’m a planner, and maybe you are too. But whether or not you enjoy schedules and routines, I’ll bet you have you own set of expectations about any new season of life. Here’s the thing about our expectations: they have the tendency to set us in opposition to the world, others, and God when they aren’t met.

We instinctively know this, yet the desire for the elusive security they offer prevents us from learning from our past dedication to them. When life and the behavior of others goes contrary to what we have envisioned, we are disappointed — sometimes rightly so. But even when our disappoint is justified, reasonable, where does that leave us? Expectations are of no ultimate good to us unless they are fashioned by love, by the one who is Love.

What does that look like though?

I came across a great quote the other day from St. Teresa of Calcutta:

“Be kind and merciful. Let no one ever come to you without coming away better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness.”

Kindness. Mercy. These fruits of the Spirit may keep our expectations from ruling our emotions. When our highest daily goal is to extend kindness and mercy to each life we contact, then we will have a plan for our reaction when all other plans have fallen apart. But I’m learning that authentic kindness and the extension of mercy toward others only comes from humility. Humility recognizes our own brokenness, the realization that we too are incapable of meeting expectations. Mercy is possible and abundant when we don’t see people as “other,” when we have a clear perspective that we are all equally in need of mercy.

I think another important mental shift is to see people, particularly the ones placed in our daily lives through divine providence, as our primary mission in life. Loving people — this is our number one job description. It is more challenging for some personalities than others…not because some personalities are less loving, but because they are quite aware of tasks that need to be accomplished. (Ahem. I might know a little something about this.) If we are too focused on the game plan, on how things ought to play out, then we miss the opportunity for calling an audible. Basically, we miss an opportunity to show love, extend mercy, and (as St. Teresa said) have people come away from you better and happier.

Thank goodness for the grace of a new day. Scripture reminds us, “His mercies are new every morning.” So that means that our mercy can be renewed every morning as well. It’s never too late to let go of what we thought we wanted and accept what God is placing before us in that moment. It won’t be our inclination at first, but we won’t regret showing mercy, kindness and love. And after awhile, we will find ourselves less disappointed by unmet expectations, less inconvenienced by the opportunity to “be the living expression of God’s kindness.”

 

Copyright 2018 Jessica Ptomey

The Rule of Charity in Your Domestic Church

As in life, we all need rules in our homes. Everything and everyone would decend into chaos without them. So, as parents, we discern the best rules and routines to establish in our family life. No doubt we come up with good ones that serve admirable purposes. But it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that there is one rule that should govern and give meaning to all others — the rule of charity.

Love. “For the greatest of these is love,” writes the Apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians. One of the reasons we establish rules in our households is to support the development of virtue in all its members. However, it is impossible to truly develop any other virtue without love. For as St. Paul says earlier in that same passage, though I may do any number of worthy things “but have not love, I am nothing.”

I recently came across these words of St. Vicent de Paul:

“Charity is certainly greater than any rule. Moreover, all rules must lead to charity.” (Epistle 2546)

I sat with these words for a moment, contemplating their relevance to my family’s life. Most of our rules and routines at home stem from a spirit of love. In fact, because we love our children we establish rules that will move them toward truth, goodness, and beauty. But I realize that in the middle of enforcing rules and the disciplining that comes when they are broken, I can often find myself removed from (dare I say in conflict with) the loving intentions that birthed the rules from the beginning. Continue reading “The Rule of Charity in Your Domestic Church”

Do Little Things with Great Love

therese_podcast_300px_0-2It’s St. Therese’s feast day on Saturday (Oct. 1), and her words have been on my mind and heart recently as I’ve been praying her Novena. I finished reading her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, last month; and one theme in particular has stayed with me as I go about my daily tasks: we are to do little things with great love.

We learn from this Doctor of the Church, that our path to becoming more like Jesus is really all about how we love. Moreover, it’s all about how we love in the little things. In the little encounters and duties of our daily lives we will discover whether we really have love. The presence of love will be more apparent in the quiet acts of service than in the loud displays of our faith. It is truly revealed in the hidden charities that few see, rather than the public demonstrations.

If the little activities of our days do not reveal much love, then we can see the opportunities we have to redeem. And redeem them we must. As Saint Paul says, “If I have not love, I am nothing;” and “if I have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Cor. 13:2-3). Whether we do great things or small things matters not for eternity. What matters for eternity is that we did what God called us to do with great love. Whether you make a meal today, sweep a floor, hold a door, pick up someone else’s trash, pay for someone’s meal, give someone your seat, or clean up yet another potty training accident–do it with great love. We must all get to the place where we can say with conviction of heart, along with St. Therese, “My vocation is LOVE!”