In Chinese, my name means God's Precious Love. I have always wondered how my parents knew that love would be such a great theme in my life and to my heart.
Struggling to love unlovable people, struggling with my own unlovable-ness, struggling to live out the love I felt but so seldom knew how to express.
Love is the theme of 1 Corinthians 13, that famous passage which I memorized once at a evangelistic children's camp and ever after associated with hearts cut out of coloured paper and fingers sticky with glue. For those of you deprived of such memories, you likely remember this passage as a sort of last warning to nervous grooms and veiled brides.
This passage needs to stop being seen merely as a text for innumerable wedding sermons, and applied to every relationship we hold in our life. Love, as Christ called us to, is the great theme of Christianity. Every relationship in our life is an opportunity to grow in and show this love.
If we take 1 Corinthians 13 as the standard, how many of our relationships pass the test?
I was sobered to realize that often even my strongest, closest relationships failed several points.
Love is patient and kind.
As a Sunday School teacher and violin teacher, with more opportunities to work with children and understand them better, I ironically still struggle with impatience and unkindness. When we are more knowledgeable, more skilled, (or, more accurately, think we are); when we are in a position of authority, running a program, or the like--it's so easy to get impatient. Brushing questions off brusquely. Being unnecessarily harsh, even if for a legitimate reason. Assuming you know best. Sometimes I don't even realize I'm being impatient or unloving till after it's all over.
Perhaps you face this, not so much with kids, but with other people who arouse similar emotions in you--the elderly; people who are mentally or socially challenged; young people who are immature in your eyes; people who think and assess differently from you.
Love does not envy or boast.
We've all had that one glamorous, talented, or poised friend which we struggle not to be jealous of, in one aspect or another (or alas, maybe all.) So good at sports. So good with people. So skilled in serving--gorgeous and photogenic--popular and well-loved--well-dressed--well-rounded.
Or perhaps, you are the glamorous, talented, poised friend. Perhaps you've gotten used to the admiration of your friends and unconsciously start to see them as humble fans to keep your ego floating.
It is not arrogant or rude.
Humility is not the pleasant, watery self-discount-thing we like to think it is (' ah, you flatter me..') but a state of the heart. Being humble means knowing how to accept criticism as well as praise.
I find this a major conviction for me as a daughter. If we cannot respect our parents at home, we are not humble, no matter how many times we use the phrase 'Aw, I'm really not that good' in our conversations. God intends this to be our basic training ground for true humility.
Regardless of who is right and who is wrong, arrogance and rudeness is never justifiable--in both parents and children, but especially children. I am learning that, way too slowly.
Recently on reading Jane Austen's Persuasion, one phrase struck me. Anne Elliot, the gentle and sensible heroine, had an overbearing and conceited father who scolded her for 'degrading' the family by her interactions with socially inferior people (think the uncool group, for those who aren't familiar with Austen.)
If anything, this was the sort of scenario in which speaking out against one's parents could be best justified. However, I found Anne's response--or lack of one--significant; 'Anne could have said much, and did long to say a little...but her sense of personal respect to her father prevented her.'
Unlike the stereotypical Victorian heroine who was passive and silent only because it was expected of her, reflected well on her, or because she was told it was the right thing to do, Anne's passivity arose from genuine love and respect for her father. She understood and cared for him--without condoning his views or compromising herself, (she still continues to see those inelegant people, by the way)--understanding that simply arguing with him was not going to change his mind, but rather undermine their relationship unnecessarily.
Respecting our parents is unrelated to whether we agree with them or not, just as (which is easier for us to grasp) loving is.
It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful...
Ironically, in my closest and strongest relationships, I'm ashamed to say that this seemingly basic requirement is the very one I fail most in. We take our nearest and dearest for granted.
I'm sorry, numberless cutesy cartoons on Best Friend vs Good Friend; I do not agree with the popular belief that one should treat your best friends like dirt to prove how close they are. For the longest time I felt this strongly but could not express why till I read The Four Loves and C. S. Lewis so aptly summed it up : Affection takes liberties, but taking liberties is not affection.
(Thank you, for the millionth time and counting, C.S. Lewis. I can't wait to meet you in heaven.)
It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Honesty in friendship is key, at least all those Pins and Twitter quotes tell you so.
What exactly that means in practical application, they just don't get around to telling you.
To me, a very obvious aspect is that uncomfortable feeling you get when you're thinking something and you don't dare to say it because you know things are going to get serious if you do. Sounds familiar? Maybe you've done something which you wish you hadn't. Maybe they did something you wish they hadn't. Regardless, when you have to hide something to keep your friendship going, you need to be very careful. Too often, you're failing your responsibility to rebuke your friend when they need it. Or failing the trust they put in you.
Love values honesty above the hurt it might bring. It is strong enough to run the gauntlet. It is not blinded, to treat evil as less than what it is.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Hope. I never thought of this as an important aspect of love before, but on second thought, it is. Endurance of any sort is not possible without hope of some sort. Love which does not expect or hope for improvement is not real love either.
Love never ends.
a quiet voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
all images from Pinterest unless otherwise specified. thanks, Pinterest!