I might be the only one, but growing up when I read those little paperback saint stories, there were always saints I was convinced would be my best friends in real life, and then saints that I imagined as the really annoying girl on the playground who insisted on being perfect and graceful and drove me insane.
I’ve never been the perfect, graceful type. Words stumble out of my mouth and far too often what I mean and what I say are miles apart. Often, sarcasm spits out faster than I intend, and thorny words far too often sting my closest friends.
*Sorry, fam. I do my best. Still working, I promise!*
I’ve thought a lot about why these saints often seemed out of reach to me growing up, and I think one of the (probably many) reasons is that they seemed so out of touch with reality. Whenever I read about St. Therese and her “little way” I imagined a 5 year old floating around, showering everyone with kind glances, gentle words, and roses. Realistically, I now understand that St. Therese was far from gentle… in the little Sarah days, however, this concept was harder to grasp.
Thanks to this tiny flowery picture in my head, I always kind of disliked St. Therese. Gentle love has never been my strong suit. I’m more of a fierce love kind of person- tough love, big leaps, hard people. That’s my jam. There’s a reason that I picked the floor I worked on- hard patients, hard work, my dream.
It’s the soft, fluffy, easy stuff that gets to me. The smiling at strangers. The gentle words. The love in tiny steps.
A few weeks ago, it was St. Therese’s feast day- the little flower.
(okay, confession time- that’s the other thing that drives me crazy about her. #1- I hate roses normally. #2- “the little flower” is basically the wimpiest title I can think of for a person. I’m sorry, St. Therese. You really got jipped.)
There’s one person in my life that has taught me how fierce the little way can be, and surprise surprise, her patron saint is the little flower. Theresa has been my best friend since freshman year of nursing school. Back then, we bonded over chemistry tests and army ROTC and all of the life plans we had. We bonded even more as those plans crashed in front of us- seemingly over and over. We never wore ACUs after freshman year. We suffered far too many broken hearts – over boys, over dreams that never became reality, over bridges we had to cross, and over lives lost too soon. She taught me how to hold on tight to coffee mugs full of cheap wine while we sat on her dorm room floor and I cried my way through my first break up. More importantly, that night, she taught me to hold on tighter to love. Hold on to all of the moments we so easily forget when we replay the day as we fall asleep.
She loves more fiercely but more quietly than anyone I’ve ever known. She’s never missed a chance to buy me “feel better/I’m sorry your day sucked/the world still loves you even when you forget to love yourself/all will be well eventually” flowers, never missed a chance to send a “but how are you really” text, or show up with chocolate when I needed. She’s there in the quiet moments people forget about. The days after my best childhood friend died, when we lived in the Austrian hills, she bought me flowers and left me a note to let me know that even though she didn’t know him, she knew he was important to me and “flowers are something people do when someone dies.” I still have that note. That moment wasn’t something anyone else remembered. It was me, alone. In a quiet room. By myself. With flowers, and a note from a girl who I know will always show up for me. In the quiet. In the loneliness. In the moments that don’t get you recognition.
Don’t get me wrong, she does amazing big things too. My favorite so far was when she helped my (now) husband map out *and keep completely secret* his proposal plans and the party after. But even more than that, I love how she shows up in the little moments. Thanks to her, the little flower makes a lot more sense to me.
Sometimes little steps far overshadow the big leaps – quiet, small, often underwhelming motions allow us to conquer every second with love.
Thanks again, T, for all the ways you teach me to love gently too.
Saint Therese, help us walk your little way, and most importantly, pray for us.