Life is school. This bothers me, I don't like school, but life is a school; a school of love. We are here to learn how to love and we finish our training with death. There are no repeats if we don't get it right first time, if we don't do as well as we ought to have done. At the moment of death, the stark reality of the depth of our love will be made known, and that is the 'grade' we will have for eternity. There is no increasing this grade after our bodies have been separated from our souls.
This school throws challenges our way and all we are asked to do is respond with love and in responding with love, learn even more about love and how to love. Some challenges are part of everyone's curriculum and discipline; the boring everyday work of growing in virtue, the discipline of regular prayer, the 'duties of state' we must undertake and do well and do with goodness in our hearts.
Some challenges are more random and we may wish never to experience them, but they will happen. Sometimes they are life changing 'accidents', like being caught up in earthquakes, floods or severe illness. God doesn't coldly sit on His heavenly throne and say: hmm today I'll send an earthquake and see how my little ones react. Earthquakes happen, floods happen, illness happens. The fabric of the universe is broken and the cause of that brokenness is our first disobedience and every sin, even minor ones are capable of ripping that interconnected, beautifully weaved, delicate beyond measure fabric to shreds. It is only God's mercy that prevents this from happening. But the earthquakes and floods don't mean God as stopped being merciful or somehow forgot to be merciful to prevent them happening. They are part of our school of love.
Most things we learn at school aren't the things on the curriculum or things carefully incorporated into the timetable. And this is how it is in the school of love. Random things come our way and the challenge is to respond by putting God first and responding with love. We cannot plan for them.
Some challenges are part of our vocation. A vocation is a known path to the Kingdom of God, and there are really only three; priesthood, consecrated religious life and marriage. God gives us a path to follow, and that path becomes our means of sanctification and everything that happens subsequently is part of that vocation. Many of the 'lessons' on this course are interior struggles. Many of the 'lessons' seem nearly cruel, or would be cruel if you didn't respond to them with love. For some, the vocation never gets off the ground, it is never 'consummated' on earth, but the rebellion against it and the battling with the enemy who hates it are what brings us to God.
I was married to a man who should have been a priest, though he never made it through seminary. But the priesthood was his vocation, God doesn't make mistakes [that men enter the priesthood who shouldn't is not of His doing]. It doesn't mean our marriage was invalid, it doesn't lessen the vocation of marriage, it doesn't mean our marriage wasn't fruitful in love and loving witness to God (even if it was childless). But as we grew in our faith (returning to the older rite of Mass had a massive impact), he remembered his vocation and he became more and more wounded. He saw how the enemy had constantly put horrendous things in his way (most of which he submitted to, including sexual abuse in seminary) so that his vocation eventually became an impossibility (before he met me he'd procured an abortion for someone and that is automatic disqualification from the priesthood). But the vocation was still there, and the longing in his heart grew, and he just handed it over to God as the strain on his body became too much. My husband had taken on probably the most difficult classes in the school; the class of failure and disappointment. This class leads to God, it cannot fail but lead to God, if you respond with love. He died beautifully.
I'm not sure whether I too am on that path of failure and disappointment. I'm not sure where I am, or why things are as they are for me. I don't even know what my classes are in the school of love though I do feel like many of the classes I am attending are not ones I should be at. I don't think I'll ever be more than a mediocre pupil in this school but I am a fighter and there are some things that I know I must fight for even if I lose.