Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 1 Corinthians 13:4 (NIV)
“Home is where the Air Force sends us.”
Many of you know that my family moved around a lot when I was growing up. The military set us up with a new life situation every few years – new town, new house, new school, new friends, new church, new sports teams, new doctors, new dentists – you get the point. People who have lived in the same community for much of their life usually get that look on their face when I relay this to them. It’s usually an expression of empathy – you poor thing, having to uproot and start over so many times. Since I didn’t know any differently, I don’t really think I was traumatized by any of this. I just expected to be in a place for a while, and then I’d be in a new place, seeing new things and making new friends. It was my norm. And frankly, I was just along for the ride. I didn’t have many responsibilities in these moves, and I didn’t have any input into the decision making. I don’t think any of this really phased me.
The responsibilities on my parents during these regular life adjustments – I’m sure that’s a slightly different story. It’s only as an adult that I can start to appreciate all the things they had to do to get us packed up from one life and settled into another before the next school year started. I remember some parts of their system – as you can imagine, they got quite good at it. They would always look for a good church first, followed by a good school. They would get a house on base if they could, and if not, then something off base that made sense for our space and location needs. They would pack the important things first. Then the professional packers would come and put everything else in boxes, and the movers would load the truck. Then we’d race the truck to the end of the line so we could avoid having them unload everything into storage and wait several weeks until they could deliver it. Door-to-door: that was the strategy.
But even having a good system and refining the pattern every few years, you know things didn’t always go according to plan. Truck drivers would decide to unload our household goods into storage, even if we beat the truck to the destination. Boxes would be lost on every move. Even the door-to-door ones. How does that even happen? And without fail, something would break in transit, no matter how well it was packed. We learned to plan for things to go wrong and adjust accordingly. And we didn’t get too attached to our stuff.
Why do I tell you this? Let me tell you about my Mom.
I can’t recall ever hearing my Mom complain about any of this. She accepted it as it was. Dad always tried to get assignments that would keep us as close to extended family as we could, but she never talked about finding new schools, houses, churches and friends at any location as being a hardship. Dad was doing what he needed to do, and we were going to do what we needed to do.
Not only did she accept things with patience, but she has been kind to everyone I’ve ever seen her interact with. Even people who didn’t deserve it. I’m sure she’s come across people who have gotten sideways with her, but she always seems to wait a beat before responding, and it’s always with a sort of kindness and grace that should be made an example.
Paul described love in I Corinthians 13:4 using these words: patience and kindness. They are the first two in a string of positive and negative attributes used to help us understand what love is and is not. It’s in a letter written to the church at Corinth to explain how to live rightly in a culture that we would not be able to relate to if we saw it here today. The church was shining in a very dark environment, but they still were having to learn the basics so they could stand apart spiritually and morally from a culture that was still influencing and pervasive.
Can you imagine the contrast? By this time, Paul had spent some considerable time with the Corinthian church, helping it to grow. He had written a couple of letters to them to solidify his teaching and encouragement, both of which have been lost to history. They would not have the New Testament as we know it today to teach them the fundamentals and the norms we experience that have been solidified into our culture by Christians through centuries of our history. As a hub on a major trade route, the Corinthians probably have Jewish influence in the city, but it’s not necessarily a pillar of their heritage to know God and live by His commandments in the Old Testament. So they’re getting this stuff new. Imagine what happens when the truths that Paul writes about living in love start to sink into their hearts and start showing in their lives. Against the darkness around them, this is a bright light!
Paul writes this passage in I Cor. 13 to define and describe what love looks like and what love does. After he gives its essential nature in the first three verses, he then just starts to describe it. He gives us two adjectives, patient and kind, followed by eight actions it does not do and then four things it does in verses four through seven. Why lead with two descriptors? They’re easy to spot, I think. It takes a while for a person to establish a track record of what they do and don’t do, so you can decide whether or not you want to have a friendship with them. But you can tell something about them immediately if they are patient and kind – you can probably tell this in your first conversation with them.
If you and I have love in our hearts, perhaps the first things that people will notice about us are patience and kindness. Love does that for us. We don’t have to manufacture it. It’s evidence of God in us, His character being embedded in ours. Our love should contrast us with the world around us. That’s not to say that people can’t love each other if they don’t know God. But when we have the sort of patience and kindness that comes from having a growing personal relationship with God, it looks different, because it’s not a product of our own effort, but of letting Him work and shine through us.
This is the kind of love that I saw in Mom. The love she has for me, shown through the patience and kindness that only God can give, drew me to Him. Let that love shine through you this week, so others can see it and be drawn to Him.
Given that this past Sunday was Mother’s Day, and the topic this week was on patience and kindness, I clearly lucked out by drawing this week’s blog assignment. Happy Mother’s Day to my Mom and Moms everywhere!
Kevin Dow loves being a project manager and photographer, and has been using his gifts to support Hope for about four years now on the Production Team and leading small groups. You can follow him @firstcreationphoto.