Loving well isn’t something that can be done in a hurry. It can begin with a decision and a desire; but living it out takes time.
The 5 Love Languages is a book by Gary Chapman exploring the notion that each of us is different in the ways we prefer to receive love. If you really want to touch someone’s heart, the best way to do it is in their preferred love language. When we learn to express our love in the ways that are most appreciated by the one we love, it builds stronger and deeper relationships.
Chapman identifies the five love languages as —
Words of Affirmation – Expressing your love and support verbally
Acts of Service – Doing helpful things that express your love
Receiving Gifts – Giving your partner gifts that express the love in your heart
Quality Time – Spending meaningful time together to express your love
Physical Touch – Showing love by physical contact
While learning about these love languages will be a valuable lesson, my point in this Valentine’s Day devotional is not to push the “Quality Time” love language above the other four. It is to point out that the best of loves are the ones held longest.
Our verse today will be familiar to many —
LOVE IS PATIENT.
Both in the graphic image that accompanies todays devotional and in the scripture that is found in the bible, the verse continues. The verse in the image even has an ellipsis as its final element as an indication that the verse continues on beyond what has been written. Actually, love is much like that.
It “continues on” beyond what has been written or said. In a living love, there is always more. Love is never done giving.
And so, the Apostle Paul wisely begins his renowned description of love’s characteristics with a pronouncement that love is patient.
The most common application of this aspect of love is that of being patient with your partner in love; be that your spouse, your friend, or a family member. This is often the focus of messages expounding on this trait in wedding sermons, an encouragement to be patient when your new spouse makes the mistakes they will certainly make and causes the offenses and pain that will inevitably occur. We don’t ever love perfectly. And since love itself demands vulnerability and trust, the pain we feel deepest comes from those we love most.
But the treasure of patience in love is found at deeper depths than this.
Patience allows the character of love to form more fully. Patience gives time for love to ripen. Love, like fruit, needs time to ripen. Love takes time. As Paul lists the character of the fruit of the Spirit, he begins with love in the first position. Of all the things the Holy Spirit wants to work in us, love is the foremost. It is the key to all the others, for without love we cannot have joy, peace or any of the other elements Paul identifies.
Because love is patient, it allows time for the one we love to grow; even as they allow time for us to grow. Love’s patience is expressed in the tenderness and care of shared experiences, shared hopes and dreams, shared sacrifices. All of these affect the process and the progress of love’s development. Like seasonings added to a stew slowly cooking all day over a low flame, they change the taste of the meal. You can get a hint of what the final product will become by tasting a sample early in the cooking process. But the fullness of the seasoning’s flavors take time to develop, to permeate deeply and infuse themselves.
At the risk of offending some, I’ll use an example from distilling. Whiskies and brandies are aged in barrels, often for 12 years or more. The process breaks down harsh flavors and develops a smoother and more mellow taste. But it may surprise you to learn that whiskey, when it is first distilled, is nearly clear and tasteless. It is the process of aging in the barrels that allows for the color to deepen and the flavors to develop. The liquid and the barrel interact, each having an effect on the other. In the end, both are improved and made suitable for purposes they could not fulfill without the other. But it takes time. In fact, it takes years. The parallels abound.
The deepest character of love is best expressed in the covenant of marriage. Marriage is the most potent covenant with another person the Lord has given us to embrace on this earth. Because marriage touches our heart in its deepest places, it has the power to bring untold joy, happiness, peace, contentment, companionship, intimacy and love to us. No other human relationship impacts us as deeply as the marriage relationship. The nature of the covenantal commitment that initiates a marriage is intended to insert patience into the process and allow for the character of the love to mellow and age.
Though the emotion of love is sweet and enjoyable, emotions are fleeting. They are here one moment, and gone the next. Anyone who has been married longer than a week and a half knows the feeling of “being in love” comes and goes. But love is far more than an emotion. In fact, true love is NOT a feeling, but I’d submit to you that it’s a deliberate decision to express the character of Christ in the ways you will deal with one another day after day after day.
Marriage is about happiness, about companionship, about oneness and sexual intimacy, but ultimately – and you may find this hard to believe right now — it’s about God.
The Bible tells us that “God is LOVE.” God created marriage to give us a LIVING PICTURE of Christ’s love for the church. That’s why the Bible says, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church,” and “Wives submit to your husbands as the church submits to Christ.”
Marriage, ultimately, is a quest to learn how to experience and express TRUE LOVE in the closest of all human relationships. At its core, it’s DEEPLY SPIRITUAL. Without Christ as the center of a marriage, we will fail in being able to express the deepest character of love; because expressing the best aspects of love require God’s character to be expressed through us. LOVE is not about what you feel at any given moment. Love is about how you decide to treat one another, no matter how you feel at that moment.
Marriage is not easy because it takes TRUE LOVE to make it work, and true love is so much more than a feeling;
True love is a choice to do (or not do) specific things that put your spouse above yourself. It takes true love to become a truly great love – er. Developing that love takes time.
Thankfully, the character of love draws us deeper into the relationship. The joys of love hold us in the relationship even as it works on our character. In a good relationship we are matured, seasoned if you will. Covenant holds while love molds. Christ, the unseen third cord around which the other two are wound adds strength, flexibility and tenacity. Christ’s character, expressed in the love of a believing spouse, is molded in us from within because of our faith and from without because of our spouse’s love.
Today I pray that you will celebrate the PATIENCE of love. Relish the impact that covenant has on developing character. Appreciate the work that patience does on your most precious loves. And appreciate most of all that the love of God expressed in Christ is patient with you as you grow in Him. He knows all your love is — and will be — capable of. And He leads you deeper and deeper into the love relationship whose character will have the greatest impact on who you are and who you will become – HIS. Love is never done giving.
True love is a choice to do (or not do) specific things that put the one you love above yourself. True love is what brought Christ to the cross. True love is what raised Christ from the grave. True love is the foundation of His offer of salvation to to you. He offers, and He waits for you to see His love. He waits for you to return His love. He calls you into the one love relationship that will affect every other. He invites, and He waits for your answer. Love is never done giving.
LOVE IS PATIENT.