Wednesday, July 26, 2017

How to Love Your Neighbor - Part 4

Love is patient...

Finally! The first element of godly love. How we're to love our neighbor.

This is what I thought as I began this post. My next thought was, "Oh, no! Patience!!"

I feel so inadequate to write on patient love because I fall far short of this characteristic quite often. I was once told I was the most patient person someone knew. While I appreciated the compliment and do often exhibit patience in difficult situations, there are plenty of time I get to the end of my rope - quickly.

Patience is something I've learned a great deal about in the last couple of years. For the last 28 months, my family of 6 has been living with my in-laws. In a 3 bedroom house. That's right. You got the math right: 8 people:3 bedrooms.

It has by no means been a bad situation. My in-laws love us and my children greatly. However, there are certainly challenges. A major one being that nothing has gone according to schedule with the house we're building.

It took 7 months to get the plans finished. 8 months of wrangling with the county permit office to get our building permit. Framing, which was supposed to take 6 weeks, took 4 months. Fixing some issues while doing the plumbing and electrical ourselves has taken 6 months. This has been a LONG process.

And I have learned so much! Not the least of which is God's timing is not my timing. And, it's not about what I want when I want it.

God's timing is not our timing. Will we trust Him in the waiting? Click to Tweet

This is also true in learning to love patiently. It's not about us.

Selfishness and self-seeking pleasure is rampant in our culture. It's not unique to our culture, however, or our time in history. We wouldn't read so much about dying to self and commands to love others if selfishness hadn't always ben a human problem.

To love others well, biblically, the way that Jesus loved others, we must also follow His command to die to ourselves. To our schedules. To our comfort. And often to our own (fleshly) desires.

One example in  my life I think of quickly is my desire to spend time by myself. I am one of those odd I/E people. On every personality test I've ever taken, I've come out smack dab in the middle of being introverted and extroverted. While I love people and being around them, I love equally being alone. I need it to recharge and rejuvenate.

Imagine how much alone time I get in a house of 8 people (not to mention the interactions required for every day life, building a house, and homeschooling). It doesn't happen often. Which means when I hide away in my room, I'd like at least an hour by myself uninterrupted. Which happens even less.

I've noticed recently that when my children interrupt my alone time, I don't love them patiently.

This is not the only area I fail in patient love.

When my husband doesn't do what I'd like him to be doing, I don't love him patiently

When someone makes a negative comment about something I'm doing or not doing, I don't love them patiently.

When people do or say things that are hurtful (even minor offenses), I don't love them patiently.

God has given us so many opportunities to love others! While I embrace and by His grace love others regularly, I also fall short too often.

God gives us many opportunities to love others. How can we love them patiently? Click to Tweet

The failing on my part is not keeping my focus God and priority on spending time getting full on Him. When I soak in His presence and love, I'm enabled to love like He does.

To me that's great news! I don't have to muster up patience, bite my tongue more (although, that's usually not a bad thing), or try harder to be patient. Instead, to love patiently, I simply need to seek God and His Kingdom on a daily (often hourly) basis. I also need to trust that God is always working.

This is easy to say: God is always working. However, it's much more difficult to live this way. It means we're not in charge of changing people, fixing situations, making things happen in our own timing and our own way. Again - counter to what our culture tells us.

So how do we love patiently?

We trust that God is working in others lives so we don't feel the need to fix them or nag them into doing the right things.

We let go of how things are "supposed to be" and meet people right where they are.

We recognize the importance of being present with those in front of us (or on the other end of the line, or computer).

We listen.

We pray for them.

We take a deep breath when we need to.

We let them be who God created them to be.

This list feels incomplete (there may be more on patient love coming!), but is accurate. (Think: includes, but isn't limited to.) Love is always taking action that's in the best interest of the other person. In many cases, that means taking the time to talk, listen, and do. To get out of ourselves and our comfort zones and do something that expresses love.

Love always takes action that's in the best interest of the other person. Click to Tweet

However, loving others patiently can also means not doing for them. Letting them fail. Watching them make mistakes.

It keeps coming back to not trying to fix them. That doesn't mean we don't speak life and truth to those we love. To withhold those wouldn't be loving to them at all! But what we are not to do, is try to be the Holy Spirit for them. We do not have the power to control, change, or coerce the people we love to live godly lives.

BUT! We do know the Holy Spirit. And He is the secret to loving patiently.

He is the One who is working in those we love.

He is the One who works in us to love patiently.

He is the One who fills us with everything we need: to live this life and to love our neighbor - no matter who that is - patiently.

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