Love is Patient {Reflections on Marriage}

It’s always been a thing with me, this inability to resist rushing. How many times I’ve been told my pace is too quick and my talking too fast. “Catch up!” I cry to stragglers, wanderers, and wasters of time. Waiting is for wussies. Sometimes that egg needs to my hands to brusquely grab it by the neck and smash the darn thing open; nobody’s got time for hatching delays.

So naturally I married a plodder; a go slow, think it through, never blow up, better-to-do-nothing-than-do-the-wrong-thing kind of guy. {Considering this makes it most notable that we married at all…after just eighteen months of dating.}

Some days it has felt like we have been living life in slow motion; our speech is garbled and our movement awkwardly accentuated.  Twenty-two years of a bullet made for speed being restrained to the slow frame can be frustrating.

It can also be transformative. Further proof that love changes us.

Our friends asked us what one verse has been most helpful in our marriage. Reactively I knew that my husband was answering Philippians 2:2-3. “Be of one mind” and “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves” were words on loop play in his mind. He memorized them during our engagement. I suspect this was part and parcel of his thinking it through and sticking to one good plan that could withstand the long haul.

For me, always the romantic, I’ve been drawn to the “love” verses. I recall how prior to marriage I had Paul’s love manifesto in I Corinthians 13 all pimped out in fairy tale attire. I made it sweet and sappy; patience hardly needed and Christmas kindness abounding every day.

But now, after all these years, there are just three profound and confounding words that keep me anchored in reality and hope. “Love is patient.” If it can’t be patient, it isn’t love.

This patience that Paul speaks of is different than we might at first think. Makrothumeo has this idea of something that is far off, a long distance away (makro), and that thing is our temper—that burning intense emotion that exacts revenge (thumos). It describes one who doesn’t easily break out in flames. This isn’t about passivity or not caring. It’s not about rolling over and just accepting that what will be will be. It’s also not about passively aggressing with love-suffocating silence and avoidance; giving the appearance of noble overlooking while really you’re just sharpening daggers for another day. However, it is an internal commitment to stay present and engaged all the while refusing to force things to happen—you know smashing the egg because it’s too darn hard to wait for it to hatch.

This patience is nuanced from the way we most often apply our waiting skills. It is particularly conditioned towards people—not things. It’s not like waiting for the cable repairman with detached irritation. We’re inconvenienced by a faulty T.V. Agape patience is for when we are offended by faulty people; it’s for that moment when another’s conduct turns on you and it stings and feels personal and you want to turn into a human backdraft.

It’s at that moment when patience can hold its mind on what is good and lovely and true. It holds vengeance at bay; it remains steadfast on a more beautiful truth beckoning from outside the moment of offense.

This kind of patience isn’t exactly romantic. It would make for a bad Chic Flick, but it makes for a great marriage.

I’ve thought a lot about this over the years. There’s something grounding about patience. It is safety—because forcing anything on anyone is threatening. It is acceptance—because it gives place and space for the you who you are right now to be present and embraced. It is hope untethered to time and circumstances—because the vision of the future is more beautiful and compelling than the power this moment in time holds. It is faith—the kind that is convicted and resilient in its confidence that God can makes things happen when the time is right; He knows how to hatch eggs.

And it’s no coincidence to me that God through Paul puts patience before everything else related to love. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” I Corinthians 13:4-7. Because, just look at it—without patience the oxygen is sucked out of the atmosphere where all things love-concerned grows.

No other relationship will provide so many opportunities for offense as will marriage. Patience offers us a way out from the resentful, keeping track of wrongs, offended way of life. It is an invitation into the mercy, steadfast, and longsuffering virtues of God. Patience is the Spirit saying, “Come be like Me.”

It’s also an invitation to hatch an eggsellent marriage…{Go ahead and groan. Oh I’m so sorry for that, but it had to be said.} Marriage also thrives on humor, so consider this a buy-one-get-one-free kind of deal.

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