Forty Days: Loving & Listening

Each Lent, I try to do something creative that will help me to grow in my faith life. This year, I got my idea from one of the students who came to the Marist Brothers Center at Esopus for a retreat. He gave a talk about God being synonymous with love. He was striving to be more like God, and so he decided to look at the common scripture verse “Love is patient, love is kind…” in a new way. He replaced the word love with his name and dedicated to attempting to fulfill that statement each day in Lent. I loved this idea! To practically try to be more loving and more like God, with a tie to scripture? It was perfect.

So this Lent, I have been attempting to put my name into this verse that we’ve heard so many times. “Nina is patient, Nina is kind…” And yes, I made a chart!

 

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It has challenged me in ways that I didn’t expect, and pushed me beyond my previous understanding of what love is. God is funny in that way… Whenever I am working on something, it seems that extra obstacles are thrown at me. When I had “love is patient” as my focus, I was driving back to Ohio – a 12 hour drive – and there were some times when I definitely did not want to be patient. When I was practicing the sentence “It is not proud,” I finished a big project that I honestly felt proud to have accomplished… So I spent the day reflecting on the difference between positive pride and negative pride. During my three days of “not easily angered” there were definitely some situations that spiked my frustration.

Each sentence has presented its own challenges and moments of failure. But I ultimately see this as a blessing. I feel that God is acknowledging my attempts, and saying… I see you. I’ve got you. Let’s walk through this together.

Everyone’s Lenten journey will be different. We all have our own lives and purposes and ways of expressing our personal truth. Each of us has a distinct rhythm, a distinct beat. And so in my reflections, I have found that love is akin to listening. To love someone is to listen for the rhythm that guides their life, and then to listen for how your two distinct parts join together. I think this is why we are always listening for God: he gives us perspective to hear where our beat fits.

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A few days ago I walked to the river, and I considered that to love is to feel unity with whatever you are loving – to feel communion with it because that person or place or object belongs to the same world as you, and was made by the same creator. This recognition of God in all things has allowed me to recognize myself in the other, and the other in myself. And that new understanding has helped tremendously with my Lenten goals just in the few days since… Now, because I am actively working to see myself and God in the other, I am naturally more patient, more kind, and much slower to anger. I am much more inclined to listen for the distinct rhythms that guide the lives of those around me.

We all have our own beat, but together our many different parts make up the same song. I just have to open my heart in love to hear it.

Nina Lokar is in her second year as a full time volunteer at the Marist Brothers Center at Esopus in New York. She loves writing, art, all things ministry, and the Dayton Flyers!

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