‘Well – how can I put it? When I wash a young man, carving my name in the world, well, then I liked my women red-haired and fiery.’
‘And then I grew a little older and for preference I looked for a woman with blonde hair and the glint of the world in her eye.’
‘But then I grew a little older again and I came to see the point of dark women of a sultry nature.’
He paused. Rincewind waited. ‘And?’ he said. ‘Then what? What is it that you look for in a woman now?’
Cohen turned one rheumy blue eye on him. ‘Patience,’ he said.
- Pratchett, Terry. The Light Fantastic (p. 118). Random House UK.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
– Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a ESV)
In honor of Valentine’s Day this coming week, I decided to share a couple of my favorite quotes on love. The first one is from a book I just recently read called The Light Fantastic which is a comedy of sorts. The particular quote above is a discussion about love between Rincewind, a failed wizard and Cohen, an 87 year old Barbarian who is considering getting married to a young woman. Yet even this bizarre character, with no thought of God whatsoever, but only through experience in looking in all the wrong places for love, comes at last to the wisdom that the Apostle Paul preaches about love. It begins with patience.
Patience may well be the foundation of relationships. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” which is just a reminder that we are all different people, with different ideas, opinions, feelings, values, etc. We are all different. It also says that we are shaped or ‘sharpened’, indeed made better, by the friction that comes from being in relationship with one another. In fact, friction is typically the strongest and hottest between two objects that are mostly alike. Don’t believe me? Take two pieces of sandpaper and try to rub the rough edges together. You will experience friction because those sides are very nearly the same. Now flip it over and rub the rough side of one against the smooth back of the other. There is much less friction because the two touching sides are too different – there are less places of connection. Now pick up a milk jug and try to rub the sandpaper against it. The most friction is found between places of similarity – where people value the same things, they just have different ideas about how those values should look. Patience is what holds us up in the midst of this friction. It is the wring around the wrestling mat when we are really going at one another and the safety net below us when we are caught off guard or misstep. It covers over the entire space of our relationship so that even when we cannot look at one another, we recognize we are still in relationship, still shaping one another.
Ephesians tells me that I am to love my wife the same way Christ loves the church, implying the way He loves me. That means having patience in the midst of friction. Having patience does not mean always giving in or giving up. It does not mean always pushing your way forward either. It means standing in the midst of that friction and being shaped in that relationship. Jesus has demonstrated this incredibly in the years he has spent with me. No matter how much I have prayed, begged, bargained, or threatened, He has never backed down or compromised His expectations of me and of our relationship. His nature, his principles have never changed, and I know never will. Yet, in the face of the friction of my sinful life, my failings and shortcomings, he has not become so offended to turn around and leave. Every moment He spends with me, He chooses patience. It is because He chooses that patience that I experience change in my life.
When one particular means of grace in my life does not get me turned in His direction, He reaches in and finds another. Having patience does not mean inflexibly doing the same thing over and over again until you get your way. You don’t need a relationship to obsessively do an act repeatedly. That kind of inflexibility shows that the person does not matter, and that cannot be called love. Our All-powerful God could win every one of our hearts simply by snapping his fingers, or by thinking or speaking it… yet He does not do this. He chooses to come to each one of us and win our hearts in a personal and meaningful way. If we are so inflexible that our own ideas become more meaningful than the people we are trying to love – we have missed the mark.
Love begins with patience. Without patience, there is no love. Love encompasses many other things as well, and these other particulars may change in type and degree depending on the particular type of relationship that is being expressed, but all forms of love begin with patience. Where does it end? It doesn’t.