In the spirit of Advent, coming quickly upon us, I find myself thinking today about the way the Lord prepares us for things in His Holy Omniscience. Because of the fall, our hearts are closed to this preparation much of the time, but one's lack of faithfulness does not cause that lack in the Lord. For, though we be of little faith, He is ever faithful.
Growing up, I very seriously studied ballet for 13 years--half of my life at my present age. I went to classes, workshops, boarding school--the whole shabang. In all those years, my mental toughness was constantly tested, constantly needing fortification. Why, you ask? Because that stereotype about crazy ballet teachers is not unfounded. Many are crazy. Most are a little bit mean. Some are ruthless. But for the love of the art, ballerinas learn to deal with it. They do some crazy things to themselves, and stretch themselves--physically and mentally--beyond capacity. And they learn to tell themselves something:
"At least Ms. Ballet Teacher cares."
The thinking behind this is that if Ms. Ballet Teacher didn't care about you, and didn't care that you were getting better and better in your technique or artistry, she wouldn't bother to criticize you or give you correction, albeit humiliating and cruel in many cases. This mentality helps the ballerina cope with the suffering of public criticism because it is seen as a form of love. And indeed, it was. Some might call it "tough love."
We Catholics know what this is about. And we find value in it, just as ballerinas do. The value, we know, is that, having endured such criticism, and used it to become closer to Him, our performance will be pleasing in the sight of God. Having borne the cross in faith, the Lord makes available His eternal reward.
I can't help comparing God's love of me to that of those crazy ballet teachers. Now, no metaphor is perfect, and I'm not saying God is crazy or mean like a ballet teacher. What I'm saying is that at least God cares enough about my salvation to allow an affliction so painful, and then by His Grace, to guide me through it. Perhaps in those many years of fortifying my mental toughness, He was preparing me to face this crisis.
Is not advent a time of preparation? Does it not involve some pain? The pain that is purification? Is it not a time of measured penance? Is it not the time of tough-love before the reward? Isn't this the place from which we get the lyrics of O Holy Night*?
Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.
We live in a time of preparation, of pining and purification, wherein the crosses we bear are the "tough love" that prepares us for the coming of Christ. Should not my own pain be used for this purpose?
Lord, help me to unite the cross You gave me to Your own. Help me to appreciate your Love in whatever form it comes--though it causes me temporal pain. Help me to realize, in every moment, that You have allowed this for my salvation, and that You are with me, Emanuel. Help me to make this a holy Advent.
*Incidentally, these boys singing are the most beautiful things, aren't they? :)