Saturday, February 13, 2010

It's not "Are We In Love?", But "Are We Love?"

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.-1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV)

Hey gang!
My wife loves to remind me of our wedding. The other day she found one of our invitations and the words above, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, were on the front of them in pretty handwriting. Women tend to get all emotional over momentos like these, but the words are so important, that it even makes me go, “Aww! Isn’t that cute.”

I can remember back those 7 years, 4 months and 19 days now and I remember how in love we were. I think that’s how it is with all couples. We think back to the days of cuteness and spending all our time together doing nothing, but it seemed like the world to us. Those of you that have spent some time in marriage though realize what I have; I don’t always feel “in love”, but I do know that I love my wife.

How can I say something like that? There are times she makes me mad. There are times that she hurts my feelings. And there are many times that I do what she wants just because I don’t want to get yelled at, looked mean to or just to shut her up. I’m equally sure I’ve made her feel the same way many times.

That’s why it is important to stress that we don’t just play “in love”, but to “be love”. It’s not always easy to be loving. Why? Because sometimes we have to be loving when we don’t “feel” like it.

The love chapter verses begin with “Love is patient, love is kind.” I don’t always feel patient. I definitely don’t always feel kind. All of us have ways of doing things and they don’t always agree if you are dealing with another person. I’ll explain something totally trivial that proves my point. I love my Jif peanut butter. I do. When I get into a jar, I have a way of getting the peanut butter out. First, I go around the sides for an inch or so, then I knife out the middle. My wife will not share the same care for my peanut butter. It drives me crazy to open the jar and see the middle knifed out before the sides. But after seven years, I’ve learned most of the time to say nothing about it. Unless I’m in a bad mood. Then I do not show my patience or kindness with her. We end up not talking for a while and then we laugh about the crazy stuff we argue over. But that is how it begins. That’s how we end up not loving.

Next is, “It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” I am absolutely horrible about this at times. Confession time. When I don’t feel good, I can be a big baby, at least that’s what I’ve been told. My wife takes care of people all day long in her profession as a radiation therapist. She makes patients feel as at ease as possible. But there are times when I am sick, that she does not show me anywhere near the same sympathy. Then I go to church and I hear husbands talk about how their wives took care of them and nursed them to health. I get jealous. I get envious. “Why doesn’t my wife do that for me?” I ask. I also remind her what I do for her when she isn’t feeling good. I pat myself on the shoulder so hard that I almost break it. I joke about praying for her to be more caring and she jokingly prays for me to suck it up. At least, I think she’s joking.

“ It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” How many of you remember Jodie Sweeten, the girl that played Stephanie in Full House? I’ve even tried to get to a point of copying her saying, “How rude?” I drive my wife nuts when she is on the phone with her sister and I add comments. I learned this habit from my mother. My friend Kevin can attest to this. It is rude. Very, very rude. I can’t help it.

There used to be a wrestler I would watch called Raven. He’s a great bad guy. But during the dying days of WCW, he came up with this saying and even 10 years later, I use all the time. He used to ask, “What about Raven?” I think all of us tend to ask this when we feel neglected or not getting what we want. When I say this to Mindy or my friends about Mindy, they laugh. They know Frank isn’t being served. At least not in the way he wishes. It’s terrible.

The last two of those four go together pretty well. I know people with incredibly long fuses. You can do them wrong for a while, even unintentionally, and it’s still cool, you think. However, there is a scorecard going on inside these peoples’ minds and when the scorecard gets too unbalanced, “BAM!” You not only get yelled at for the thing you just did, but for things that happened years ago that you totally forgot about. One of my friends recently told me a story about getting yelled at for not taking the trash out in November 2007. Yes, over two years ago. True story.

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” You ever messed up. I have. One time, I happened to get the checkbook out of line. My friends will tell you that I was a math major until my junior year in college, but I missed subtracting a $100 out. I subtracted two sets of numbers and didn’t carry the one. I tried everything not to say anything to my wife, but she found out a week later. She comes to me with the overdraft statement and asked if I knew. Of course, I did. She tells me that IF I had said something, she would’ve called her mom to ask for the $100 as a loan. It would have been no biggie. But it was to my ego of being math smart. The point is don’t hide your mistakes and they won’t be as big.

“ It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” These are the big four dos that you want to get right. To always have the protection, the trust, the hope and the perseverance. I always stand in awe of couples that reach 25, 35, 40 and 50 years. Yes, they are milestones, but there are less and less people making it this far. These are the ones that make it through the tough times.

All of us that are Christian say that we have that hope in Jesus for love to last. But isn’t the world a better place when we have a partner or friends that help us believe for better things. It’s easy to say that we believe in the eternal, but all of us get caught up in trying to believe beyond this moment, this hour or this day.
Trusting is more than believing. My friend Eddie Riffle threw a large hook ball at the bowling alley. I was always amazed how the ball would go out to the first board next to the gutter and then break quickly back to the pocket. He’d look at me and tell me that I would throw a hook. “It’s simple. Trust is a must. You have to know that the ball is being thrown to do what I want it to. If I don’t know that the ball will hook back, I can’t trust it to throw it.” That is why I always stayed with the straight ball. I could never see my ball moving that much.

Finally, protection of love is major. My wife and I stayed in a gated community in the heart of downtown Atlanta for six months after we were married. We jokingly said we lived “in the hood” because right outside that gate was pimps and hookers and drug dealers everywhere on Ponde de Leon. One night, we came home from shopping and my wife went ahead of me toward the apartment while I was grabbing the bags. All of a sudden, I heard my wife scream. I thought she was being mugged. Bags in hand, I ran to the apartment. When I arrived, my neighbor was standing at his door and I know I shot him a look. My wife look relieved. Why? Because no mugger had grabbed her. She had tripped over a garbage bag left out by the neighbor. He had just apologized for scaring her and me. To this day, I ask her if the garbage got her.
Finally, “Love never fails.” We know that in our heart of hearts when we talk about Jesus. How great it is when we know that in our partner. As time passes, we go through more and more each day. I can’t say I’ve seen everything. Neither can my wife. However, we strive to say to each other that we will walk through it together because we know that final thought, LOVE NEVER FAILS. The caveat is, unless we let it fail. We have to be love even when we don’t feel it. We have to love above all else.

I’ll close with the chorus of a great song by my friend Grover Levy from back in 1995. The song is called “When We Fail Love”. I didn’t realize it was also done by Bruce Carroll. I still like Grover’s version better.

When we fail love, it’s hard to take,
The expectations are so great,
We raise our hopes, we dreams our dreams,
And then we do some foolish things,
The love that comes easy, will easily give up,
When we fail love, we’ve got to trust the love that won’t fail us!

Happy Valentine’s Day!
I love you guys!

1 comment:

Robin Prater said...

Hi Frank. Beautifully written. I love how you broke the entire verse down and shared from your life to illistrate what God is sharing with us in scripture. Blessings to you:) Robin