Since we are praying for our marriages each day this month, I thought it would be timely to treat y’all to some fabulous writers as they share some thoughts on marriage throughout these 31 days. Each post will focus on one of 1 Corinthians 13’s descriptors of love.
Today’s post was bravely written by Annisa Swanson, who volunteered with only two-weeks’ notice (hello, braver person than me). After you read her beautiful words on patience and kindness, go check her out at www.annisaswanson.com— and then buy her (5-star) book here!
Love is Patient, Love is Kind
Attend any wedding and you’ll likely hear 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. It is a beautiful litany of verses that describe the nature of love, unconditional love. Sadly, like Psalm 23 being read at funerals or even reciting the Pledge of Allegiance daily in elementary school, you become numb to its rich meaning.
It does crack me up however that the Apostle Paul (the bachelor*) is writing about love. But what is even more humorous is to believe that we, humans, can fully understand the nature of unconditional love. As human beings, we have conditions on everything, it is just our nature. If we honestly lived in a state of unconditional love, there would be no divorce, there would be ONE church, and there would be no war. But that is not life as we know it, not in this lifetime anyway.
Marriage is tough, no matter how spiritual you may think you are. Two humans, hardwired differently, living as one. All it takes to reveal this is to ask your spouse where you want to go for dinner. “Oh, I don’t care, anywhere.” “How about pizza?” Nah, I don’t want pizza, but anywhere is fine.” “How about….” Sound familiar? God has given us the gift of free-will in our design. It is impossible to find ONE human on this planet that is hardwired the same as you. IMPOSSIBLE! Each of us has core beliefs and values that may be similar, but exactly the same, no way.
Our core beliefs set us apart as well as draw us toward other people. Personally, I can’t stand coconut. My husband also dislikes coconut. So cool, we can be coupled. Right? Wrong. This one qualification does not a marriage make. We can agree that there should be no-coconut-anything in our home, but what about parenting? Religion? Real tree or artificial Christmas tree? THIS is hard stuff people!
I know first-hand how hard marriage is; my first marriage failed miserably. I can say miserably because we were both miserable through most of it. Sure, we had seasons where things were okay, but most of it, miserable. Looking back, I can see where we failed to line up our beliefs and needs. After having been married 21 years, I don’t even know if he liked coconut.
It is impossible to believe we as humans can understand and/or live in unconditional love. In 1 John 4:8b we read “God is love.” We’ve likely heard that a kajillion times. In my efforts to understand what kind of love God has for me and to get a sliver of understanding what unconditional love looks like, let’s layer them; one over another. If the Bible says that God is love [and it does] then we should be able to look at the verses in 1 Corinthians with God as love.
Love is patient, love is kind –-> God is patient, God is kind.
Get it? When we look at God for who He IS, we can better understand what He WANTS for us. Let’s face it, we ALL do really boneheaded things that I’m sure makes God roll His eyes, but He is patient. We may deserve a lightning bolt to the forehead occasionally, but He is kind. Lord, if we actually got what we deserve!!!! Whoa. THAT is unconditional love.
Yes, I know that is difficult to remember when your husband has left the toilet seat up [again]. Yes, I know it’s difficult to remember when your wife’s mother criticizes the way you grilled the pork chops [again]. Let’s be real here, if the husband left the toilet seat up, let’s try to be thankful he lifted it and didn’t pee on the seat!
Many times the complaint or criticism is not about the situation at hand, it’s a deeper reflection of their need for love. When mommy-in-law-dearest complains about the way you cook the pork chops, it may be the outward cry-of-her-heart that her deceased hubby used to cook them another way. She lashes out rather than falling apart.
Speaking truth-in-love with your spouse gives them a glimpse of your whole heart. However, when it’s done with attitude it becomes counterproductive. When we sense impatience and anger, we immediately put up a force field to deflect the lightning bolts. Put down the lightning bolts, lay down your armor and be real. Really patient. Really kind. Imagine taking it to God in prayer. How would He respond? Be thankful in those moments – the ugliest of moments – for God’s love, His patience and His kindness.
Life, and certainly love, is not a competition. It is not about who wins. In this lifetime, we all win and we all lose. It is about expressing honor and respect in a way that is NOT impatient and unkind. It is in some of my deepest heartbreak that I’ve learned about love. It is in some of my greatest joys that I’ve learned about defeat. We’ve chosen a partner in life, to do life. Life is messy. Life is complicated. But so is love. It’s in those complicated and messy times that we need the most patience and the most kindness. Even when we don’t deserve it, especially when we don’t deserve it.
*There are many schools of thought on Paul’s marriage status. Most scholars agree that he was not married.
Annisa Swanson lives in Northern Illinois with her incredibly supportive husband. Together, they build a life on chaos and coffee, tattoos and teamwork, life experience and life yet to be experienced.
Annisa is the author of the heartfelt and truth-spilling book, Faith, Fat and Other F-Words. She is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and The Mighty. She writes with candor and wit about real life and living with mental health issues, sexual abuse and chronic illness.