Editor’s Note: Current Missioner in Bolivia, Maggie Van Roekel recalls a moment where beauty shone through the side of relationship that requires patience.

The three of us walked back to the house in silence. There had been an argument on the soccer field. Unkind words and raised voices had been thrown. Heads down, we quietly shuffled down the sidewalk. As we arrived at the gate, we stopped suddenly.

There was a “wait”, and then an “I’m sorry”.

In that moment, frustration and anger melted into hugs. The love that was always present, just momentarily shrouded by the pain of a disagreement, was once again visible.

My relationships with the boys have been some of the most important ones to me during my time thus far on mission. I get to see them just about every morning at Atendi and spend a few hours with them each week during afternoons at their home. Through the time we get to spend together, we’ve gotten to know each other well. The love and kinship I feel for the boys gives me great joy.

As in all relationships of love, some days are full of the highest highs, some days are filled with the lowest lows, and even more days fall somewhere in between. Most days we play soccer for hours, we belly-laugh through inside-jokes, we chat about our favorite things. But not always. Some days we walk home silently, we lose our patience, we get annoyed by the insignificant things, we shed tears through the painful and challenging realities of life.

Choosing love through the difficult moments can be even more important than choosing love through the smooth ones. Choosing love through the challenging times helps our relationships to mature and grow. Choosing love through the difficult moments helps us unfold the mystery of the abounding love that Christ has for each of us.

Some days love feels flowing and abundant, some days love is more challenging. But that’s the beautiful reality of the plant, isn’t it? Each individual bloom doesn’t last forever. It eventually becomes brown around the edges. The petals wilt. But if the plant continues to receive water, light, and care, the dying flower falls to make way for new growth, new blooms.  

If we continue to put the time, effort, and care into our relationships, we learn that love isn’t just the full, beautiful flower. It’s finding the beauty in the brown bits, the fallen petals. Love is seeking hope that if we continue to allow patience and compassion to guide us through the difficult days, tomorrow we may once again share in the fullest of blooms.

Reflection Question: Is there someone in your life that Christ is inviting you to practice patience and compassion with this Advent?