November 20, 2020 marked the one-year anniversary of my Dad’s unexpected death following complications from a routine surgery. On the eve of this first anniversary my mind started to drift back to the forty-eight or so hours leading up to his death. Oh, how I wish I could see him just one more time! One more hug. One more I love you. I am grateful, though, he is not having to experience the realities of COVID-19 as his extroverted personality and stubborn Sicilian temper would have had a very difficult time following the social distancing rules and mask mandates.
The first year of grieving my Dad’s death has also become the year of grieving for many others, too. It has become the year of COVID, the year that racial injustices are finally being acknowledged, the year of so many hurricanes, wildfires, and a derecho. An election year and a year of teaching around our kitchen table. A year of scandal in my own Archdiocese and in other parts of our country. A year where our sense of comfort, our sense of routine, has been ripped away. A year full of insecurities and vulnerabilities. A year filled with so many varying emotions I do not know if I even have the words to describe them all.
In a year of so much heartache and so much loss, there is one thing that has remained constant. The love God has for us. Even through the brokenness, through the pain and suffering this year may have brought into our lives, God still loves us.
When a memory of my Dad fills my mind and grief consumes my entire body, God feels my heartache. When Breonna Taylor or Elijah McClain’s mothers’ hearts break from the bone-deep sorrow of missing their child, God feels their sadness. When someone’s grandfather, mother, spouse, friend, or child lies in the hospital alone, dying of COVID, God feels their pain and loneliness. When a toddler cries out for his mother, but his mother cannot be found, God feels his heartache and confusion. When we are sad or overwhelmed or just plain angry God feels it, too. Even through all the pain and suffering our world is feeling God is right there with us because God loves us so so deeply.
On this final day of this year like no other, I challenge you to the same New Year’s resolution I have set for myself. More difficult than vowing to eat better and exercise more often. Harder than reading more books and watching less Netflix or Amazon Prime. I challenge us all to love like God. This sounds so simple but loving like God means showing God’s love in the good times and the bad. Loving like God means loving through the heartache, through the brokenness, through the differing political opinions. It means loving through the insecurities and loving on the days when we feel like we have nothing left to give. Loving like God means loving through the hurt feelings and cross words we may have said or had said to us. While this may be a challenge, we can do this. We can love through the suffering and brokenness because God loved us first.
In the moments that we may fail to love like God let us ask for forgiveness and remember that one moment does not define us. Through God’s great love we continue to be formed. We can continue to challenge ourselves to love like God.
The season of Advent let us prepare our homes and our hearts for Jesus’ birth. Each week we added more light to the darkness of 2020 by lighting the next candle on our Advent wreaths. Then, in God’s greatest act of love, God gave us the source of all hope, the light of our world, Jesus.
My prayer for you on this final day of 2020 is that while this may have been a year filled with brokenness and sorrow, that you always remember how deeply you are loved by God. Even through our faults, even through our missteps, God loves us. I pray that you believe so deeply in God’s love for you that it fills your heart with peace, comfort, and joy as we welcome a new year with new opportunities to love like God.
- If you are having a difficult time naming what you are feeling, check out the Sense Making handout.
- Learn more about Learning to Love Like God from the 4th week of the Spiritual Exercises.
- Read more on Ignatian discernment wisdom here.
- Review the year with an Annual Examen. Learn more about how Becky & Chris prayerfully plan their year at their live virtual retreat, Living Intentionally: Inviting God into Planning Your Year.
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash