Love…When Patience Shows Up with A Dirty Face.

Patience is a virtue…Virtue is a grace…Grace is the little girl who didn’t wash her face.

That little ditty is childish, but I remember it because of its incongruity.  The high minded elements of virtue somehow seem at odds with the picture of a little kid with a face covered by dirty smudge marks.

I‘ll be the first to admit, that Patience has not been a virtue which I’ve eagerly sought.  And to be frank, there’s precious little in my modern world which actively supports a drive to learn more about this character trait.

My world, as is your, is fueled in large degree by human impatience.  Food is nuked in the microwave to speed up the cooking process.  Dial-up service has been replaced by DSL for computers.  Cooking is something that many no longer do simply because it takes time.

But, what are we using this extra time to actually do?   Studies show that the average person spends at least 5 hours a day in leisure including approximately 2.7 hours watching images racing across a TV screen.  This was in contrast to the amount of time (1.1 hours) spent reading a book and 46 minutes per day spent on providing primary care to children between the ages of 6 – 17.  (Primary care was defined as primary activity done with children such as reading to them or taking physical care of them)

So, why is it that patience is something we struggle with so much?  Perhaps because we instinctively know that it’s hard…really hard work to develop this character trait.  It’s certainly not ingrained in our human nature.  Witness the loud wails of a newborn when mom delays a meal for a minute.

Yet, 1 Corinthians 13 starts off it’s description of Love by telling us that this is precisely what Love is.   Love is Patient! In fact you could group the first two descriptive traits about love together in a fashion.  Like two sides of the same coin…patience is the passive component of love while  kindness might be thought of as love in action.

Patience is the inner resilience which does not strike back in the face of antagonistic behavior.  It’s the unique ability within love to wait through the discomfort that is an on-going part of human interaction and support the other individual with grace and dignity even when their actions offend.

It is indeed a virtue which is developed in us through the ongoing grace of God’s work in our lives precisely through circumstances which tempt us to be impatient.  I think where the ditty goes awry is in the descriptive of grace…but perhaps not as awfully as one might first suspect.

Because it is God’s grace in our lives, despite our uncleanliness, ugliness and selfishness which most exemplifies His love and patience towards us.  In many ways, we are like ‘Grace’…the little girl with an unwashed face whom the Father loves unconditionally.  Not because she’s perfect and all cleaned up…but precisely because she isn’t.  And for that…I remain grateful.

 

Picture courtesy of Mexikids on Flickr w/Creative Commons

In Search of Thorns…

In search of thorns...

In search of thorns…

One thing is certain about thorns, they’re not hard to find!  I love roses and have tended them in my garden for many years.  Although I’ve used all sorts of gloves of varying degrees of thickness, more often than not, the thorns win.  They just seem to  have a way of finding some part of my body which is exposed even when my hands are protected by gloves.

I’ve sometimes wondered why one of the most beautiful flowers on the planet, the rose, would have a stem which could wound so dramatically.  I don’t know the answer, but according to this wiki author, the thorns on the stems of roses are there to protect the rose from being eaten by wild animals attracted by its beauty and scent.  I guess that sounds plausible…

Over the past several weeks, we’ve been talking about the power of love.  It’s awesome potential to transform life is unparalleled.   But our recent class discussion was about the issues that stand in the way of love.  We explored the dimension of the small stuff.

You know… the minor irritations, grudges, resentments and agitations which have a way of stealing the joy of life.  The stuff which we fail to notice when love is in it’s initial bloom, but somehow seems to crop up and grow bigger the longer we’re in relationship with another.

The thing about holding grudges is that we tend to regard it as an innocuous activity.  Our grudge bearing and resentment takes place under the wraps of pretensions, hyprocrisy and passive aggressive behavior patterns.  Within this actively potent fertilizer, these small  negativities grow and flourish.

And not unlike the thorns on the stem of a rose, they become protective measures by which we undergird our hearts from getting hurt.  But the trouble with this solution is this…thorns sometimes wound.  When a small child grasps a rose to smell it, the child does not intend to harm the rose.   Unfortunately, the thorn doesn’t know the difference  between the innocent grasp of a child and a hungry animal.  It will harm indiscriminantly.

This is to some degree what happens when we nurse our resentments and irriations as a means of staving off further hurt.  We may actually end up wounding the hand that was sent to embrace or miss the opportunity for growth which can only occur when we choose to harness the courage to love, regardless of the risk.

photo is courtesy of peasaps photostream on flickr.

*this blog post is from the challenge of excellence blog.  You can read more entries from this series by visiting the blog.

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Entrapped by a Millstone…The Nature of Fake Affection.

What if Everyday Were Valentines?

Entrapped by a Millstone…The Nature of Fake Affection.

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I just saw the  movie “Doubt”in which Meryl Streep plays a nun who faces a crisis of faith as she confronts the certitude she feels in her heart about an evil being perpetuated in the name of ‘love’ towards a young defenseless child.

The tension in the film revolves around the nature of a falsehood and the substitution of false affection for true love.

Over the past several weeks, our class has been exploring the journey of the “Most Excellent Way” through a passages in 1 Corinthians 12:31 to 1 Corinthians 13.

Last week, we explored exactly where this love which comes from God resides.  Are we recepients of this ‘love’  from somewhere out there or is our experience in faith the process of allowing the presence of God manifested through relationship with Jesus Christ to be revealed through us?

To aid in this process, we looked towards the world of art and discussed how some of the world’s greatest artist have spoken about their muse…the inspiration behind or perhaps better stated, within a painting, story or sculpture.  The idea of a work being inspired in some ways points towards the release and revelation of something which is apart from oneself.

In one of the last recorded prayers of Jesus for his followers before he left the earth, He prays these words:  John 17: 21-22, 23. “That they all may be one; as thou Father art in me and I in the, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou has sent me…I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou has sent me and hast love them, as thou has loved me.’

Why might Jesus most earnest plea to the Father before leaving the earth be about giving his follower His glory and making them perfect through His presence dwelling in them?  Perhaps, because he understood clearly, what we only see through a glass dimly.  The more excellent way is a revealed path, not a product created by our own self-aided design.

Jesus completed a perfect work on the cross.  The imperfections which continue to exist within it’s full revelation in our lives are there not because there were any blemishes in His sacrifice.  The imperfections are the result of hindrances of sin within our hearts through thoughts, words, actions and deeds…spoken or unuttered.

Watching the movie “Doubt” gave me  renewed insight into why Jesus says that if we lead others astray (particularly little ones) it is better for us to jump into a lake with a millstone wrapped around the neck. (Mark 9:42)  A commentary note in the NIV version of the Full Life Study Bible puts it this way; ‘One of the highest priorities for believers is to set a holy example for their children by life and teaching.  In doing so, they demonstrate a sincere love for them…To fail in this responsibility can bring eternal disaster.’

God clearly defines and demonstrates true love for us in 1 Corinthians 13 and in several other passages of the Bible.  When we miss the mark, it is as much about our choice to remain cloaked within the safety of our darkness as it is about our denial of biblical truth.

The light of God is love in its purest form and intention.  It’s a work that was completed when Jesus gave his life to redeem us and said ‘it is finished.’ That is why it can never fails.  It is also the reason that Paul can say with conviction that there will be a day in which this perfect love of God will be fully revealed  in all of Christ’s followers in an untarnished fashion .