Friday, December 9, 2011

Love is the Greatest

I have been slowly making my way through the book of 1 Corinthians. I wanted to be sure I fully understood and remembered what I read, instead of just reading through it quickly and not retaining any of it. This is one of those books I have avoided in the past, because, by reading through it quickly, I just end up getting bogged down and I don't remember a thing when I'm finished anyway so why bother. But I felt like God was telling me to give it another attempt, and so I began again.

1 Corinthians 13 is one of those chapters I have heard or read so many times I can nearly quote it for you. I caught myself beginning to read through it in a hurry, because, after all, I already know what it says. But I made myself slow down and read it verse by verse, line by line, word by word. And let me just say - WOW! God really showed me some things in that chapter. Here is what I learned.

1 John 4:8 says that God is love.

Love is patient and kind. God is patient and kind. Am I always patient and kind? Hmmm... Patient? Not even close. I am rarely patient with anyone. I move fast, and I expect everyone else to move at my pace. And if you don't, I get very impatient. When I am teaching my kids math, patience goes out the window. I become impatient and just want them to hurry up and "get it" so we can move on. Am I showing God's love in that area? Not a chance. How about being kind? Do I always show kindness to others? My kids? Back to that math lesson, and impatience and unkindness go hand in hand. Am I kind to people who are different from me? Those who are unkind to me? Rarely.

Love isn't jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Those four things really go together, and I find that I fail in all areas. When I see others who have things (material or spiritual) that I don't, I tend to become very jealous. Why couldn't God give ME those things? Why did He choose to waste those things on the likes of THEM? Jealousy is a great evil, let me tell you! And when that jealousy takes over, I find myself boasting, or bragging, about the things I CAN do, because I want to make sure everyone sees ME, ME, ME! Pride wells up inside of me, and I begin to think that I am better than I really am, and I forget the fact that the only good things in me are from Christ. Apart from that, there is no other good thing. And that pride also makes me think I am all together better than anyone else, especially the person or people of whom I was jealous in the first place. And boy does rudeness seem to find its way in there at that point. Jealousy, boasting, pride, and rudeness are things I find I struggle with on a regular basis.

Love doesn't demand its own way, but I sure do! I want my way or the highway. If others don't see things the way I do, well, they are just wrong and should really come around to my way of thinking. Really, why would anyone bother having any other thought than the one I have. I want things MY WAY, and when I don't get it, I can become very unkind and rude. Am I showing love in that way? I think not.

Love isn't irritable and doesn't keep a list of past wrongs. But so often, when my husband does something I feel is unjust, I get completely irritable, and my memory becomes very vivid. I can remember all the things he has done in the past that were unjust and how he never did anything about it and how he never changes and I am just not happy about all of it. Do I keep lists? You better believe it!

What God showed me in reading those few verses was that, even though I had read that chapter so many times and I knew the right things to do, I have some serious areas that need some work. So I began praying over these things and asking God to help me in each specific area. I want God to show me how to love with a God love - His love! I want Him to teach me how to be patient and kind with others in all situations. Every time I become jealous, I want Him to show me clearly my sin so I can repent. And whenever I feel the urge to boast about things I've done or am doing, and any time I feel like being rude to others, I am praying God will put a lock on my tongue and shut it down immediately. I want my attitude to be in the forefront of my mind, keeping a check on it, so as not to become irritable with people, my husband, or my kids. I want to burn those lists in my mind of things people have done to wrong me in the past. I pray that God will help me to start each day new and not remember wrongs from yesterday. Because really, if people kept lists of things I have done to wrong them, those lists would be very long. I am thankful for the grace and mercy God shows me by not remembering my past sins, so I should offer that same grace and mercy to others by not keeping lists of past wrongs.

When I read the Bible straight through and quickly, there are often things I miss, things God may want to show me that I was in too much of a hurry to see. But by slowing down and reading His Word more carefully, God showed me some things He wants to refine in me.

Don't think that, just because you have read something many times, you have it all figured out. And remember that just reading the Word isn't the ultimate goal here. Reading it in such a way as to understand it and digest it is better! Is there an area God is showing you that needs some work? Leave me a comment and share, and I will pray with you over it.

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“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.” ~Dr. Suess