I’m Glad Love Is Patient, But Could You Please Hurry Up and Change?

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud.

1 Corinthians 13:

I recently read a fascinating book by James Gleick. It's called Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything (Pantheon, 1999). Gleick shows how our lives have been sped up by technology and the cultural shifts it has spawned. "We have reached the epoch of the nanosecond," notes the author, "This is the heyday of speed." Gleick adds, "We humans have chosen speed and we thrive on it—more than we generally admit. Our ability to work fast and play fast gives us power. It thrills us." He supplies an illustration that I found particularly telling and ironic: "[One doesn't buy] deep-blue denim jeans with their dye stiff as tin, resigned to wearing them for a year before achieving a faded 'look.' One buys them prewashed, prefaded, and maybe prepatched at the knees or seat. Who can wait for nature to take its course?" Actually, the most recent pair of jeans purchased by one of my teenaged children did not even have patches. It featured several unpatched holes!

Gleick is right, I think. Most of us would agree that our lives are governed to a great extent by a need for speed. But there is a substantial downside to this obsession. For one thing, it makes us quite impatient. We want what we want, and we want it NOW! If we send an email to a subordinate on the weekend, we expect a prompt response by iPhone or Blackberry. If we're forced to wait in line in a store, we grind our teeth with frustration. And if people in our lives don't act as we'd like them to act, we want change . . . immediately.

Love, on the contrary, is patient. That's the first quality of love mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13. In fact, the Greek verb translated in verse 4 as "is patient" is makrothumeo. It is built with the word makros, which means "long" in distant or time. Patience is the ability to wait, often for a long time, for what you want. It assumes a sense of peace in waiting, the very thing that often departs when we're forced to wait for someone.

I had the opportunity to practice love as patience just a few days ago. One of my colleagues at work was moving very slowly on a project that I felt needed swift attention. At first I felt angry, gripped by a feeling of impatience. But, by God's grace, I did not shoot out a stern email. Rather, I took a few moments to think and pray. (That's never a bad plan!) I began to see things from my colleague's point of view. I was even able to see the wisdom of her slow, steady approach. When we are patient with the people in our lives out of love, not only is God pleased with us, but sometimes we also have the opportunity to grow to be more like Christ.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Do you find it natural or unnatural to be patient? When do you struggle most with impatience with people? Are there any people in your life whom you need to love by extending patience today?

PRAYER: Lord, as I reflect on the call to love through patience, I am reminded of your love for your people. Time and again you were patient with Israel, forgiving their sin and bearing with their slowness to obey you.

And then there's your patience with me. In so many ways—and I'm sure I haven't thought of a tenth of them—you have shown me patience. You have kept working in me when I slide back in to sin. You have stayed in relationship with me when I have doubted you. You have persisted in guiding me when I have resisted your will. How I thank and praise you for being so patient with me!

Help me, dear Lord, to be like you in this way. May I love the people in my life by extending patience to them. In my relationships at work and at home, with my friends and my brothers and sisters at church, in all of my relationships, may I love people by bearing with them, even for a long time.

All praise be to you, God of patience! Amen.