Wow! You would think God would ease us into these qualifications of love, but no, He starts off with quite a doozy. The term "suffer long" is where we get our word "longsuffering, as in patient. Hmm, that's not a favorite word of ours, is it? As a whole, we are an impatient people. We want things done our way on our schedule. We have no desire to wait in line, wait in traffic or submit our plans to the unexpected or undesirable.
I used to think I was a fairly patient person until I read the full definition of the word. It means "bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain, etc., with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger or the like; quietly and steadily diligent." Yeah, that's not me at all.
Bearing provocation - While I don't like conflict, I must warn you if you push the wrong buttons, I will snap. And it's not pretty!
Bearing annoyance - Grrr, I hate annoyances. They drive me crazy and make me want to scream. Buzzing flies, dripping faucets, interruptions in my workflow. Yep, it's enough to make my red hair stand on end.
Bearing misfortune - No, I don't think so. Who in their right mind would want misfortune?
Bearing delay - Um, no. I like things done on my timetable. If I say we're eating at 5:30, I mean 5:30, not 5:45. When I say I need my prayer answered right now, I expect an immediate response.
Bearing hardship - That's goes right along with misfortune. No thank you. I would prefer everything sail along smoothly.
Bearing pain - Did I mention how much my back hurts? Oh, and my ribs are killing me today. And last week, I had a killer headache.
With fortitude and calm - Oh boy! I'm really in trouble now. I just told you those things frustrate me. Calm? Yeah, not so much.
Without complaint, anger or the like - Are you serious? When things go wrong and we're hurting, isn't it only natural complain or get angry? Ah, yes, but of what nature are we speaking?
Love is patient. God is patient. We are to be like God; therefore, we should be patient. So, what does this look like in real life? I'll use a page from my own life, but you should know, this is what I should do and not typically what I do.
I get up in the morning at 6:00. Immediately, the pain in my low back causes my breath to catch. Instead of complaining or moaning, I rise from my bed and thank the Lord for the ability to do so, for while it may hurt to walk, at least I can. As I work on fixing breakfast, I hear a disturbance from the other room. The dog has gotten sick and thrown up all over the couch and the rug. After taking a moment to comfort and soothe the poor thing, I grab a rag and clean up the mess. Meanwhile, my breakfast burns, leaving the smell of charred pancakes and smoke in the air. Without frustration toward the dog for the distraction or myself for forgetting about the pancakes, I throw out the "burnt offering" and start again, thanking God that I have enough food to do so.
As the day progresses, countless interruptions come my way. An unplanned visit. An unexpected request. An urgent need. The friend who really needs to talk. All while I try to go about my work of writing for the Lord. I take each interruption in stride and praise the Lord that He is able to use me to help so many people in so many ways. Jason arrives home in the afternoon, and I look forward to the time we can spend together, but then he informs me there's been a schedule change, and he has to go back to work after dinner. Instead of pouting, I make every effort to enjoy the time we have together and to make dinner a pleasant experience. As I fall into bed, I look back at the day and focus on what was good and lovely and fall asleep in peace and contentment.
That is what it would look like if my love was patient as it should be. My love for God would keep me humble and thankful in every situation. My love for others would help me to see each interruption as an opportunity to be a blessing rather than a distraction from the "real work" I'm supposed to be doing. My love for Barnabas and Jason would remind me that my time with them is precious, and I should make the most of it instead of lamenting what can't be. Calm. Without complaint. Bearing it all by the grace of God. That's what real love looks like. Well, that's part of it. Join me tomorrow as we talk more about love. Perhaps that discussion will be a little less convicting, but I doubt it. I hope you'll join me anyway.