By Rachel Burkey
For most people, school ends around in their early twenties, but not for me. I’m an eternal student. I’m working on my second masters degree and I have no doubt I’ll go back for another. But each year as the school year wraps up, the thought of the beach, cook outs, sunscreen, swimming, and every other favorite summer memory springs to mind. I long for a time to just relax and not have to worry about cramming my brain with new information. I can sit by the pool and live by the words of Kenny Chesney: “no shoes, no shirt, no problem.”
This has always been my routine--until this year rolled around.
For years I have been dreading the ‘ancient’ age of thirty, but this year, it happened, and thankfully, I survived. However, it isn't a matter of survival, it's a matter of success and growth--not in the ways of money, fame, fortune, and power but in love. Love is the greatest vocation that we are all called to. It’s not just an act of being kind or giving someone a huge. Love is a free gift of self, no strings attached, no grudges held. It is not a just feeling, but also a conscious choice that affects your thoughts, words, and actions.
That seems simple enough in theory but in practice, it is one of the most difficult choices you make on a day-to-day basis.
I have been in a beautiful and Christ-filled relationship for eight months now. We pray together at the end of every day, we pray for one another, and attend Mass together as much as possible and when Love itself, Jesus Christ, is at the center of your relationship, you realize how much you fall short of the love that you are called to. Needless to say, on a daily basis I find myself recognizing how I failed to love him completely. I find myself constantly battling with putting my wants and desires first: Why won’t he text me back? Why won’t he help me with this? Why doesn’t he seem happy to talk to me?
What do all of these phrases have in common? me. But that isn't love.
St. Paul says in his letter to the Philippians to “look out not for your own interests, but everyone for those of others.” Not me but others. I’m not called to do it on my time, when I want, if I’m having a good day, but all of the time.
When I look at the Cross, I see a groom who every day continues to long for me and to be with me, even in my worst moments when my life becomes so self-centered. He has poured out everything He is for me, flaws and all.
That is Love itself. That is what I am called to even when that person is wrong, even when I’m tired and not in the mood, each and every day.
So summer break?? I think not! Every day is a day to learn how to love more perfectly as Christ loves us and just like school, the more you learn, the harder the lessons get. Although the lessons are hard and sometimes my failures seem constant, I have the best Teacher who is flawless, and the more time I spend with Him, the better I will understand the love I am called to. Here’s to year-round schooling!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rachel Burkey is originally from Nashville, TN, but currently resides in Cleveland, OH. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins University in German and Italian, her Master's in Education from Lipscomb University, and is currently working on her Master's in Theology at Saint Mary's Seminary in Cleveland, OH. She teaches theology at Gilmour Academy and also functions as a LifeTeen music director at several parishes within the diocese. In addition to her teaching and music ministries, she enjoys spending much of her time writing liturgical music, leading worship around the country, and speaking at retreats and other conferences.