“Kindness is my only guiding star. In its light, I sail a straight route, and I have my motto written on my sail: ‘To live in love.’” —St. Thérèse of Lisieux‘Live in Love’ in This Day That You Are Given| National Catholic Register
Yesterday, a dear friend’s husband passed from this life. On Christmas Eve, just over a month ago, my best friend’s husband died suddenly. Just four months ago my dad passed away. The fragility of life has my attention. There are seasons in life where we ponder success, education, retirement accounts, vacations, health — there’s always something that preoccupies the largest portion of our attention.
But … what if choosing love preoccupied the largest portion of our attention? At the end of life, what else matters?
My dear friend whose husband passed away yesterday made a very conscious decision a few years ago that has always stuck with me. We used to work together at a small country parish. She was the DRE and I was in charge of marriage prep. It was the best team of people to work with, under the leadership of an amazing pastor. Our staff meeting every week was like a retreat and things were going so well! One day she announced that God was calling her to leave the best job anyone could ever have, to spend more time with her husband. They had been married many decades but she felt a sense of urgency to enjoy life with him, spend time with their kids and eventually grandchildren.
Over the next few years I saw the joy that she had in dedicating herself to her family and her community, but her priority was always her husband. Everyone who knew this beautiful couple knew of their dedication, admiration, respect and love for each other. You could see it in their eyes even if they weren’t standing right next to each other. You could tell that they were a couple because you would catch them looking lovingly at each other from across the room.
Last month, he became sick, and she went to visit him every day. Even though he was no longer conscious, she would go and sit with him. Right before he lost consciousness, he gave her one last look of love and she knew it might be the last time in this life.
How am I choosing to love today? If I am married, do I give my spouse that look of love that reflects God’s lavish love for us? At the end of each day I must ask myself, “Was I open to the little things, the little ways that God is calling me to love?” On our last day at the end of this life there’s nothing else that matters.
At this season of life, where we have five kids 12 and under, a non-profit to run, school, piano, sports, medical appointments and commitments that constantly pull us in all different directions, it’s desperately important that we come to a screeching stop every morning and say, “God, how are you calling me to love today?” and then you choose love. Every. Single. Day.
It’s not easy and it takes tenacious commitment to live this kind of conscious love year after year, but it starts with a single moment, in the little way that God calls you to pause and ask him to reveal himself to you one moment at a time. Does a friend need food after a loss? Does your child (or grandchild) need 10 undivided minutes of your time? Does your spouse need your kindness? In that moment, how is God calling you to love today?
You have only one spouse and one life to give and yesterday is gone. There’s absolutely zero certainty of tomorrow. How are you choosing to love today?
If you are newly married, don’t sweat the small things and don’t spend all your time planning for the future — live in the day and love in the day that you’re given. If you’ve been married for seven or eight years and things are tough and money’s tight, don’t spend all your time stressing and saving and wishing away the present — live in the day and love in the day you’re given. If your kids are grown and gone or you have grandkids, don’t spend all of your time doing all the things you never got to do when you were busy with kids — spend time with your spouse, kids and grandkids, because you or they could be somewhere else tomorrow.
Today I choose to live and to love moment by moment and not to take tomorrow for granted. God’s only desire for us is that one day we will be able to come home to him, and on that day love will be repaid by Love himself. Until that day may we each be tangible witnesses of his love in our world. May we look at each other with that loving gaze that lets everyone know that God is in us, loving us and loving others through us.
Join Witness to Love for a couples’ novena in honor of #NationalMarriageWeek. Each day, we’ll pray for a different intention and commend our prayers to the intercession of powerful married saints so that we might learn how to love. Find more information here and additional resources for couples and parishes here.