Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Failing at Love

This week I have been reading from 1 Corinthians chapter 13...the LOVE chapter. I have heard or read this passage many times before but I have never studied it in context or studied it at all, actually. As I attempted to do just that this week, I became surprisingly convicted and somewhat discouraged. This is what got me:

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

Yes, it's the lovely part that shows up on wedding invitations and greeting cards this time of year. A seemingly "feel-good" passage--it was a hard pill for me to swallow.

First of all, I studied the word patient. Some translations use the term long suffering which is way different than my idea of patience. Long suffering is like the restraint exhibited by Jesus as he was beaten, ridiculed and hung on a cross without exercising any form of retaliation. He had all the power and every right to lash back but he didn't. Restraint. That is different from being patient while your kid takes forever in the bathroom or you are waiting in line at the grocery store. It's more of a "turn the other cheek" "I don't have to have the last word" patience. Yeah, I don't have that kind of patience.

Then there are all of these other things that we're told love doesn't do: envy, boast, be proud, dishonor others, seek self, get angry, keep a record of wrongs. Problem? I do ALL of those things. A lot. I find myself doing those things all the time and as much as I don't want to--I can't help it.

I can't NOT be envious of someone who has a really nice house with more than one bathroom. As hard as I try not to, I still envy that. Self-seeking. Hmm. I get so disgusted with myself because I am constantly thinking of myself! I wonder about what others think of me, what my actions look like to the world. I try not to, but I do. I am proud of myself. There. I said it. I love to accomplish things because then I can be proud of myself and hopefully other people will be proud of me too. I try to keep it in check. I really do. I know that apart from the grace of God I can achieve nothing. I know that apart from Him I am nothing. And yet, I am proud. Do I keep a record of wrongs? Oh my. I try to forget things. I really do. I have committed so many wrongs that it is ridiculous for me to hold onto even a smidgen of resentment for wrongs committed against me. But I do. I know it's wrong, but I do.

I do, I do, I do. I do all the things love doesn't do. Therein lies my frustration. Have I ever actually really ever loved in my life? Because all of the things love is supposed to be and not supposed to be are a far cry from who I am. I'm like the total opposite of love.

Paul explains exactly how I feel in Romans Ch. 7:

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.

These scriptures do two things: #1 Make me feel better since Paul said the same thing I was thinking and #2 Point directly to the problem: my mind. Sin is the "default," if you will, that is at work in my mind.

Mind...mind...what does the Bible say about the mind? (Eph 4:22-24 and Rom 12:2) The mind needs renewal and a new attitude so that we can be transformed . Although the transformation will not come apart from grace (a whole lot of grace), I know that I have to be an active and obedient participant in the transformation process that I so desperately need and desire.

I have to pursue love. It's easy to get this pursuit mixed up with selfish pursuits. So often I am looking for the things I can dream up to do for God to make him happy with me, while neglecting the basics of what he clearly asks of me: being constantly in His Word, hiding His Word in my heart, praying without ceasing--abiding in him. Simple obedience is what will lead to a transformation of the mind and ultimately the heart.

Even in this silly writing about my ability or lack of ability to love well, I have demonstrated my point quite effectively--I am all about me. In examining this passage about love, I am completely focused on my shortcomings while I should be focused on the One who has no shortcomings. The One who never fails; HE IS LOVE. A beautiful and powerful reminder is this passage, of the magnificence of Jesus' love for a sinner--a short-suffering, proud, self-serving, envious, bad-mouthing, easily angered sinner such as I.

1 comment:

  1. Keelie...stop reading my mail!!! : ) Selah. :)