This morning, my daughter, Bethany, posted this on her Facebook page:
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." -1 Corinthians 13:4-7
While I see other people's kids post things that make me cringe, I can't tell you how much I love the fact that she posted this. After all, this passage, written by the apostle Paul, says it all, doesn't it?
Love is patient. As parents, when hasn't this phrase been tested and proven to be true? When Bethany was a toddler, she was sitting on the potty and I was in a hurry to leave the house so we wouldn't be late for an appointment. Growing frustrated with her for holding us up, she looked up at me, with such sincerity on her face, and said, "But Mommy, love is patient and kind." I was immediately put in my place. Kids have a way of doing that, don't they?
Love is kind. How often are we unkind to the people we love? Perhaps today is a good day to ask for forgiveness for that.
Love does not envy. Does envy cloud your ability to truly love? There were times I was jealous of my sister, Tina's, success. She is an amazing artist and designer, and has always been admired and respected. Her talent knows no bounds. Growing up, I knew my talents would never compare to hers. I envied her. Envy blocks love. Now, with some maturity and hindsight, I no longer envy her. I recognize my own talents and I respect her hard work.
Love does not boast. Hmm. I find myself boasting about my wonderful husband quite a bit. Is that wrong? What exactly did Paul mean when he wrote those words? Perhaps, although my interpretation could be wrong, it's okay for me to boast about my husband provided I'm not doing it to 'rub it in' to someone else who doesn't have a relationship like I have. That would not be at all loving.
Love is not proud. Pride goeth before the fall. Have you ever known someone who bragged (boasted) a lot about their wonderful marriage, only to later discover their spouse was having an affair? Ouch. Quite honestly, I am proud of the marriage Bill and I have, mostly because it's grounded in commitment. We have had, and continue to have, our share of small, and sometimes quite large, problems. But we don't let the problems define our relationship. Commitment is what defines it. Yes, I'm proud of the hard work we've put into it, but not a haughty 'we're better than you' kind of way. There is nothing better about us. If you could see inside the past 20 years of our marriage, you'd probably feel a whole lot better about your own ... or even your lack of a marriage, if you're single. Wow ... we really went through a lot of crap!
Love does not dishonor others. Harmless flirtations with other people dishonor our spouses. Plain and simple. I know of a man who never says any woman, other than his wife, is pretty or beautiful or, God forbid, sexy. He feels it would dishonor his wife to do so, and I love that about him.
Love is not self-seeking. Did any of you see the Teleflora commercial during the Superbowl? I didn't see it, but our minister mentioned it on Sunday. Apparently, the message it portrayed was something like, "Guys, buy roses for your sweetheart so you can reap the rewards, if you know what I mean." This commercial, along with society's messages in general, cheapen sex ... and love. You don't give so you can receive. That, my friends, is self-seeking.
Love is not easily angered. Guilty as charged on this one. I tend to get angry quickly, and in so doing, I'm not being at all loving. It's something I have to keep working on.
Love keeps no record of wrongs. My husband, Bill, is the greatest teacher of this part of Paul's passage. He truly keeps no record of wrongs. Not just with me, either (and let me tell you, the list for me is quite long). Even with his first wife -- if you were to hear him speak of her, it is with such love. Bill lives a life of forgiveness. He doesn't just talk the talk. He truly walks the walk. I'm learning from him, and becoming a better person as a result.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Human nature, or at least our fallen human nature, tends to lead us into the paths of delighting in evil, doesn't it? We love to see comeuppance, don't we? A husband leaves a friend of ours to marry a friend of hers and then his new wife leaves him. Oh yeah! We do a little happy dance with our friend ... oops. Maybe that's not what Paul had in mind here, but it's what convicts me personally. What about rejoicing with the truth? I think this part of the verse deals with the larger picture. Sometimes, within the church, compromise is not the loving option. Truth, according to Scripture, is truth. While taking a stand against evil might not seem like the loving or 'tolerant' thing to do, the fact is, if a church is based on the Bible, it would be hypocritical not to take a stand. We all have to base our lives on the truths we believe and then, act accordingly. It's all part of love, or tough love, as some would call it.
Love always protects. As a wife, it's my duty (and privilege) to always protect my husband's integrity. And it's his responsibility to do the same. For me, that includes not criticizing or making fun of each other, under the guise of "I was just kidding." It can hurtful, and when we do it, we're not protecting each other. This is another area where I fail miserably.
Love always trusts. When you've been 'burned,' as so many of us have been, it's difficult to trust. I have a friend whose husband cheated on her, repeatedly. After they divorced and she remarried, she had a lot of issues with trusting her new husband. I kept reminding her that husband #2 was not husband #1 and it was unfair of her to project her mistrust of #1 onto him. Years later, I'm happy to say they are a loving couple and she was able to let go of her trust issues. Love always trusts ... it just takes awhile to get that through our heads, and hearts!
Love always hopes. This is perhaps the easiest of admonitions. Someone inside each of us is the indomitable spirit of hope. When life is at its darkest, there is hope. When the damage to a marriage seems irreparable, there is hope. When the feeling of love is lost amidst a bunch of life's garbage, there is hope. When a child becomes a prodigal, there is hope. When a sibling turns away from the family, there is hope. When a parent is an addict, there is hope. There is always hope. Remember that.
Love always perseveres. Love. Despite circumstances, love is always there. You may not feel it, but it's there. It perseveres. It rises above. It sustains us.
Today, on a day set aside for love, remember -- it's not all about hearts and roses, sex and chocolate, cards and promises. Love is so much more than all of that. And whether you have a sweetheart or not, today is for you. Love transcends traditions. It transcends Hallmark and FTD. It's universal. And it's eternal.
Happy Valentine's Day.
I love you,