In 1 Corinthians 13:4 the first thing that Paul says about love is that “Love is patient.” Paul had just been explaining to the Christian community in the Greek city of Corinth that there was nothing more important than love. After making that statement, he then gave a list describing what the symptoms of love were, so that you’d be able to recognize the beast when you saw it. The first clue that you’re dealing with love is when you notice patience, a word that sometimes is described as “long suffering.” It means being able to put up with something that given your druthers, you would try to avoid or change: the old joke being that those whom doctors treat are called patients because of all the time they spend in the waiting room.
I have three daughters, all adopted out of foster care. My youngest was born addicted to crack cocaine. Additionally, she had been prenatally exposed to methamphetamine, tobacco, and alcohol. When she arrived in our home, five days after she had been born, she was still going through withdrawal and suffered uncontrollable tremors. One possible consequence of that drug exposure is that she now suffers from severe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: ADHD for short. When she was young, she regularly misbehaved and frequently got into things. She has trouble thinking ahead about the possible repercussions of any of her actions. If the mood strikes her, she does it. “I have scissors, the cat has hair. What can I do about that? Hmm.” So over the years she has required a lot more time and effort and work to raise and discipline.
But she is still alive. How come? Because we love her. And we are obviously “patient” with her. From the moment she came into our home, we sought out all the best therapy for her: we found all the developmental services that are offered. She had physical therapists, speech therapists, and went to special preschool, and special kindergarten, then repeated in regular kindergarten.
The point, of course, is that love is willing to stick with a person, to wait however long is necessary, to do whatever needs to be done in order to solve the problem, for however long it might take. Why is that? Because the person is the object of my affections, and because that person and his or her welfare is vital to me. This gives us some insight into God’s relationship with us.
Do you collect your paycheck at the end of every day of work? No, you get it at the end of the week, or the end of every two weeks, or maybe at the end of the month. Do you say “to heck with it” because you don’t get paid at the end of every day? No, you happily wait; you’re patient, because that paycheck is worth the wait, worth the process.
How long you are willing to wait for something, how much trouble you’re willing to put up with, is dependent upon how important it is to you.