When working with students, one has the opportunity to hear a variety of wonderful, hilarious, insightful, ridiculous and memorable comments. At any given moment, you may find yourself listening to profound sentiments, deep existential questions, impossible scenarios, or unrelated off topic stories… there is never a dull moment. To burst out laughing in the middle of class, to stand dumbfounded by a comment, to be impressed by a thoughtful question, to be challenged, to be amazed. This is what students can do! What a gift it is to spend time with these hopeful, determined, bright and beautiful young people.
As part of my job, I give presentations to a variety of students from grade 6-8 on chastity education ( see previous blog post for more information). In the grade 8 presentation, we speak about dating. It is the goal to have students thinking about dating; it’s purpose, negative/positive motivation for dating, setting boundaries, qualities of a dating partner etc. At one point we ask the students make up a dating list. They must brainstorm the top 10 qualities of a dating partner. Now, some of the lists state that: he/she “must cook well” or ” has to have good hair” or “find my jokes funny” or ” like cats”. So, after getting a few of those down, I try to encourage some deeper reflection! Those authentic, genuine qualities that they desire in their boyfriend/girlfriend. I would definitely say the top qualities are the following:
- Fun to be around
Each time I do this activity with students, I’m so impressed by their maturity and ability to consider imperative qualities/behaviours of a dating partner. After some thoughtful consideration, most young guys and girls are able to list off 7-10 solid qualities they desire. They know how they want to be treated, because deep down they all yearn for this kind of attention, behavior and respect. Ultimately, these qualities are rooted in love. When a person loves another, they are going to do their best to remain honest, respectful, faithful, loving/caring and fun to be around.
As humans, we desire to be loved. We want to love and receive love. It’s simple. We might deny this, avoid this, embrace this, or exaggerate this, but it is true. Now, this desire for love manifests itself in the 5 qualities I’ve already outlined. Within each of these qualities we find an ultimate good. You would be hard pressed to find someone who thinks this list is bogus. These are good things. These are loving behaviors.
When we speak of goodness and love, we can look to the source of these things: God. In 1 John 4:16 we read, “… So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him”. Therefore, all ways of giving and receiving, understanding and contemplating love should ultimately lead us to God.
If God is love, and we desire to love (as we’ve seen in our qualities), then we really are abiding in God. As a result, God comes to abide and dwell within us. So, when listing their qualities of a dating partner, these students are actually identifying the ultimate good and loving qualities of a God who is love.For God is honest. God is respectful. God is faithful. God is caring. God is fun to be around. These students have a desire for a girlfriend/boyfriend who is honest, respectful, faithful, caring and fun to be around, because these qualities are who GOD IS. Their hearts are naturally directed to qualities of love: God. It’s incredible!
Now, this is not just the grade 8 students who do this. Each one of us, when we desire these qualities in another person, are ultimately seeking God’s love. We want these things because they are good and they are what God wants to give to us. Naturally, our hearts are oriented to God, and we realize who God is through the good qualities of one another. If we look to scriptures and become saturated in the Tradition of the Church, we will see that God is truly love. Through creation, speaking to the prophets, revealing himself to mankind, sending his Son to redeem the world, giving us his Holy Spirit, pouring out his Body and Blood in the Eucharist, building up the Church… the list goes on and on!
Here is a beautiful excerpt from the Catechism of the Catholic Church to eloquently summarize the power and magnitude of this God, who is love.
“But St John goes even further when he affirms that ‘ God is love’. God’s very being is love. By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange” (#221).
I’m thankful to those grade 8 students, who in completing this activity, have helped me to contemplate the deeper motives of our hearts. The desire to love another, is ultimately rooted in the desire for God’s love. To be loved by God, and to love him in return.