I’m learning a lot about what it means to love someone so closely. One big thing I’ve learned is just how bad I am at it. But a bigger lesson is just how valuable God’s love is, and how gracious He is to offer us His love fresh and new daily.
Here are some of my notes on 1 Corinthians 13, starting with Love is Patient.
Love is Patient
Patience is very closely related to the word *passion*. They both have to do with suffering. Passion is literally defined as suffering, the idea being we are so passionate for someone or something, that we are willing to undergo difficulty for them. Patience is passion in action.
I guess this is why Paul lists it first among his descriptive qualities of love. Love is first *passion in action*, which is being so taken by the beauty and value of something that we endure for them, which includes enduring the big and small pains that comes with loving anything and anyone, with a firmness of resolve.
A passionate man (or woman) is a patient man.
Prayer: Father, help me suffer with Christ-like quality, which permits injury, damage, and pain with a firm, unyielding, enduring love.
And a personality test
We’ve taken them all
As popularly advised
Yet we’re still not our best
Book after book
Blog after blog
Attending talk after talk
We have majored in opinion
Have minored in practice
And have gone nowhere in our walk
So Many Tests
“I want you to take this test.” Yasmin told me. I knew it must be serious because she normally asks “Can you do this?” This time it was almost a command.
“What is it?” I asked her.
“It’s an anger assessment test.” She said. “It was developed by the people who wrote
“I don’t need to take that test. I’ve done a good job controlling my anger.” I replied defensively. “I rarely shout at anyone anymore.”
“Yeah. You just stew now. That’s still not a good way of handling anger. Take it. Here. I loaded the page already. It’s only 4 questions.”
So I took it. After what was more like 20 questions (how does someone mistake 20 questions for 4???) the results came out. I forgot the original term they used but basically it said that I handled my anger sufficiently well.
With arms outstretched in victory I rejoiced, “I knew it! I have mastered my anger!”
Yasmin, looked at me in disbelief. “Did you answer honestly?”
“Yup!” I said.
“There must be something wrong. You must have not filled it out right. Or the test must be wrong. That can’t be right.” she struggled with the result.
“Haha!” I kept laughing at my shallow but satisfying victory.
“I don’t believe that test.” She said.
“It was developed by the people who wrote
“It means you still need to work on your anger!”
The One Love Language
Despite my victory with the test, I proved, once more, to be my own worst enemy. Not long after that, I was sitting in my bean bag one early morning, still stewing from an argument Yasmin and I had the night before, I was reading my Bible when I thought of the words, “Consider Jesus.”
So I did what any millennial would do when faced with a set of words he wants to understand better, I googled it, and was led to this verse:
“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
– Hebrews 12:3
I realized that this was something I had not been doing. I had been searching for principle, searching for understanding, searching for strategy, for wisdom, I was being thankful to God, praying, writing poems, but I was not doing this simple yet profoundly enriching practice of considering Jesus, and considering the price He paid to love sinners, sinners like me.
The word consider means to “observe closely”. I like another definition I saw, “to dwell upon”. So I started thinking about the challenges Jesus faced (at least the ones I could remember in my head) and how He responded to them. I thought about the poor, the sick, the hungry, the Pharisees, the tax collectors, and even His followers, and over and over, He loved them. I don’t mean He loved them according to their love language but He loved them according to their deepest need. He looked beyond the superficial need of the moment. He saw beyond the request. He knew that the blind needed more than sight. They needed to see the Son. The lame needed more than legs. They needed to walk in the Way, the Truth, and the Light. He knew the Pharisees needed more than an answer to their questions. They needed a heart check. Jesus responded to everyone by loving them in such a way that brought them closer to Himself, even if it meant NOT giving them what they thought they wanted because sometimes what they wanted would have driven them further from Him.
When we consider how Jesus death with people, not merely try to distill the rule, we find that Jesus elevates what it means to love others.
To love others the way Jesus did, means to love others in such a way that addresses the cries of others not by merely giving them what they want (soft love), nor by not giving them what they want (tough love), but by giving them what they need in such a way that it brought them closer to Himself, because He understood that ultimately, what people need, WHO people need, is God, and not just an intellectual knowledge of His existence, but an acceptance of His love.
People don’t get closer to God by getting everything they want. These people usually become brats.
Neither do people get closer to God getting nothing. These people will never taste and see God’s goodness.
We need a dynamic kind of love, not a formulaic set of practices, but one that is prudent and responsive with the priority of bringing us closer to God and one another. We need a love that isn’t dependent on what people say they want but one that journeys to know another well that we may meet their greatest needs, especially through bringing Christ’s love to these points of great need.
Maybe this is why, despite all that we know about love and marriage, all the books written, all the research done, all the shared experience, and technology involved, the stats on marriage aren’t good. In fact, they seem worse than ever. Maybe there’s been too much emphasis on getting our marital technique right and too little emphasis on the simplicity and beauty of how Jesus loved. He didn’t care so much about love languages or date nights. He didn’t bother Himself too much with gender differences. Not that any of these things are wrong or useless. They’re actually interesting. But they aren’t essential. What was essential to Jesus, the One love language He used was love itself, a pure love that had the single purpose of bringing people to Him.
This is the One Love Language I need to get better at, that in all my interactions, I need to ask: Did I bring this person closer to God’s love in the situation?
As I ask myself these questions, I find how I fail so badly doing this.
So my partner forgot Valentines, so what? Do I fight him? Do I reinforce the feelings of rejection? Do I shame him in front of others? Or do I bring God’s love into the situation by praying for him, knowing that my prayers in secret to a powerful God are more effective than my badgering? Do I make myself a victim to his forgetfulness or lack of sensitivity? Or do I make the best of a bad situation? (By the way, this isn’t about Yasmin. Yasmin and I aren’t big on Valentines. She doesn’t like flowers that will die the next day.)
So my partner was disrespectful, what do I do now? Do I respond with disrespect? Do I give her the cold treatment? Do I reinforce that she’s always disresecpful
A couple is not more loving when each partner gets what they want. A couple is more loving when they love at all times as each partner draws closer even when not getting what they want.
So my partner hasn’t been available for date night for a while, do I fight him? So my partner did something wrong? Do I respond like a Pharisee? Or do I respond like Jesus with the adulterous woman? So my partner does something that bothers me over and over, do I keep a record of her wrongs? Or do I choose be like Jesus, not treating me as my sins deserve, but with more kindness.
The essential practice here is to get so close to God that we take His heart, which is the heart of a loving Father, NOT a walking set of expectations that is hyper sensitive to his or her feelings, NOT a vigilant cop looking for criminals who broke the law, and surely not a Pharisee who are so good at techniques but can’t seem to just focus on the simple idea of: It’s the plank in our own eyes that cause our problems NOT the speck in another.
It is not Yasmin’s comments that triggers irritability. It is my impatience that makes me irritable. It was just waiting for an excuse to rear its ugly head. I need to respond in a way that brings her closer to God and to myself.
It’s not because our love banks are empty that we fight. It’s because our hearts of full of pride and unforgiveness. If we did not keep records of wrongs then we would never say things like, “I’m tired of this!” or “I’m sick of your antics!” or “You’re always doing this.” The very idea of a love bank that we can deposit and withdraw from may seem practical, but in my opinion, is not Biblical love. The bible doesn’t tell us to respond to people based on the status of their accounts in our love bank. The Bible tells us to consider Christ. Did Jesus love me based on the status of my deposits with Him? Nope. He did the opposite. He paid my debt. Why then do we think it’s right to hold our loved ones to a standard that Jesus Himself did not hold us to?
It’s not because we’re neglected that we cheat. It’s because our pride needs comforting. I love reading history. And one of the things I love most about historical figures are the letters they would write, particularly the letters they wrote their loved ones. It’s amazing how couples remained most ardent despite being years apart, despite having no email, having to wait for months to get updates, and being under a lot of pressure in their environment. Today, a late response is enough to make us feel like we’re not prioritized, a like on someone else’s photo is enough to make us feel inferior, and a comment is enough to make us feel insecure. How easy it is for people who get things faster than ever, who are more networked than ever, who are supposedly closer than ever, to feel more neglected than ever.
It’s not our partner’s lack of technique that makes us dissatisfied. It’s our failure to apply the essential One Love Language: love others the way Jesus did, primarily motivated to bring others to God and to Himself.
Simple Questions for Myself
People don’t choose ugly things over beautiful things. We do many times choose vain things over beautiful things. Vain things are seemingly beautiful but ultimately empty things. Beautiful things are substantiated things of value.
I don’t think we traded great marriages for broken ones. We traded loving marriages with idealized marriages. We traded life-laying love for romantic love. We traded dying to oneself for love banks, and date nights, and compatibility. None of these are wrong or bad, but they are vain, empty, if they are not built on a foundation of love the way Jesus taught it: lives laid down.
It’s symptomatic of the times, and it’s not just the millennials who are at fault. We’re a highly shallow generation because we were taught to be. When the emphasis of our societies and communities are the things we should be doing and NOT the person we should become, we will become shallow. For marriage, the question isn’t whether society will add a #husbandoftheyear next to my name but whether I’m more loving. Is what I did loving? Is how I spoke loving? Is the way I managed my time loving? Is the way I corrected my partner loving? Is the way I responded loving? Is the way I apologized loving? Is the way I forgave loving? And if I’m really spending a significant time with God, the One who sees all of rotten me, yet responds lovingly, how then can I defend an entitled response to when my expectations aren’t met as I am prone to? It’s because I have forgotten that I’m the one that needed and needs a ton of forgiving, and I have been forgiven. I need to remember this and go back to being loving.
Here’s what I’m trying, and don’t think I’m an expert. I’ve never been married and my track record with relationships is fun at best and “bad for mankind” at worst as someone once put it. But instead of trying to live up to a laundry list of shoulds and shouldn’t notes, I’m going to ask myself the following key questions when it comes to Yasmin:
1. Did I grow closer to God today? (Answerable by a Yes or No, if no, repent)
2. Did I bring Yasmin closer to God today? (Answerable by a Yes or No, if no,) apologize to Yasmin)
3. Did I bring Yasmin closer to me today? (Answerable by a Yes or No), if no, apologize to Yasmin)
4. What can I do tomorrow to bring her closer to God? (Answerable by a scheduled action to be completed the next day)
5. What can I do tomorrow to bring her closer to me? (Answerable by a scheduled action to be completed the next day)
You’ll notice that not one question has to do with how Yasmin treats me. I’ve found that with everything I need to work on, I don’t have time for that. I need to prioritize. And I’m convinced I get more bang for buck when I focus on changing myself instead of waiting for others to change for me. I hope no one takes this list and expects their partner or marriage to ask these questions. If you think they’re useful, use them on yourself.
I just asked myself these questions last night.
I have a lot of apologizing to do.
The Night Before the End
(with the song The End by the Doors playing in my mind)
I’m about to start my suicide mission, which, if successful, means Yasmin has accepted my request to pay for her large volume meals for the rest of our lives.
Seriously, what this means, if she says yes, and I’m confident she will (Why won’t she? Haha!), is that I’ve asked her for the privilege of her exclusivity, despite knowing that this includes putting up with an intense, impatient, grouchy, workaholic, and bad tempered man who has a lot of maturing to do.
To give you an idea of just how vain I can be (though I don’t remember ever saying this), Yasmin reminded me of one time, while going for a walk, I turned to her, put my hands on her shoulders and said in all seriousness, “Yasmin, you’re so lucky to have me.” That story is more believable when it is told with another incident, when I first asked her out and she said she couldn’t make it, I told her, “Forget it. I’ve never been turned down.” These stories are both funny and embarrassing, but really are proof of how conceited I’ve become. If I could live my single life over I would remind myself of this truth: Never mistake being impressive with living wisely. Being impressive in the single man’s sense today means being successful at work, going out with someone pretty and decent, having a nice batch of friends, being fit, and doing your part for the community. That’s not a bad life, but none of that really shows that you have the humility and selflessness that are necessary for building lasting relationships. Humility and selflessness are two key attitudes that are better developed while we’re young. I can’t say I’ve been strong in the areas of humility and selflessness. I’ve actually been weak, which is probably why, despite being with the most amazing woman in the world, I’ve struggled with taking this next step.
But I’m taking it now. So here we go.
(Why are images of Alfred P. Doolittle having a last drink coming into mind??)
On That Steep Climb
I stopped to take a look down at the amazing view bellow, a vast sunlit valley, stretching to meet the foot of a majestic Mt. Batulao and its many peaks, as they all sat under a bright blue sky.
Then a dialogue started in my head, “Isn’t the view bellow beautiful? That’s where you came from. That’s what you’re leaving behind.”
“What are you talking about?” I said to the voice.
“Nothing. I’m just saying that with going through with this means leaving that beautiful view behind. It means more dirt and rocks.” the voice replied.
Then I looked up at the steep climb ahead of me made up of dirt and rocks. My legs, already painful from idiotically doing “leg day” at the gym before a hike, stiffened at the thought. Then I looked back at the view. The words “You’re leaving that behind” echoing in my head. Then I thought about what I was about to do at the top of this mountain, and again that voice said, no longer a whisper, “You’re leaving so much behind.”
“Let’s do this.” I willed myself to say.
“Alright. Your call, boss.” said the voice. “Now how are we going to pay for all of this? Asking someone to marry you is one thing. Paying for a wedding, fixing up your place, health insurance, kids’ education, these all cost money.” I thought about what his point.
“Shut up I told him. We’ll think about that later. One step at a time.”
He didn’t shut up. With each heavy step after heavy step, I climbed that mountain, stopping to look back at the view every now and then, and, like Lot’s wife, would freeze like a pillar of salt for a few seconds. “No more looking back” I told myself. “You’re going to do this.”
“Alright.” The voice answered, still there. “How are you going to pay for this again? We still haven’t figured that one out.” it reminded. “Dying to yourself, promising your life to someone is all nice and cute but what about the practical aspects of this decision?”
“God will provide.” I heard another voice from within me say. Then I pictured an old story my parents told me about Abraham on his way to sacrifice his beloved Isaac, telling him, “God will provide the sacrifice.” And I pictured what they told me, that as Abraham and Isaac climbed the mountain, the ram, the provision for their sacrifice was making its way up as well to meet them at the very moment they needed it. “God will provide” I reinforced in myself.
I looked back up the mountain and spotted Yasmin, who always comes alive when she’s surrounded with nature. She smiled at me as she continued to climb, with no clue of my plans to propose or of the tug-of-war happening in my head. “That’s what you’re getting.” that other voice told me. “Isn’t she beautiful?”
“Yes.” I replied.
“What are you waiting for?” it asked.
“I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t know if I really want to do this. I make a great single guy.” I confessed. “I’m not good at these long term things. I’m too restless, too independent, too much I want to do, too busy, too… selfish…”
I looked up the mountain again. I couldn’t see Yasmin anymore as she had climbed past my view. I followed the trail of dirt and rocks leading up to the top of the mountain, and past its tip, to the bright blue sky. The kinder voice spoke, “Sure there’s going to be rocks and dirt. Sure there’s going to be struggle. But what you’re getting isn’t simply a great view or comfortable place. You’re getting infinity. Loving someone means embracing infinity.”
Then I remembered a line from a story I’ve been writing, which coincidentally, also happens up a mountain, “Destiny, where I’m supposed to be, is not a moment in time or a place on a map. It is anytime, anywhere, with the one you love.”
“Do you want her?” the voice asked me.
“Yes.” I replied.
“Now go make a great husband.”
The Morning After
I was planning to sleep in, which means waking up at 7am for me, but I still woke up early. It’s a weird feeling the day after asking someone to clamp a ball and chain, ahem, marry you. In many ways it was a normal morning. I got up, did my morning routing of oil-pulling, went to my CBTL Machine to prepare a cup of coffee and remembered I was out of butter (which I normally mix-in with coconut oil) and my favorite Intenso flavored capsules (which Yasmin likes to say is the last coffee flavor a guy like me should be drinking). I was happy to find a few capsules of French Brew, prepared my drink, and, with a hot mug beside me, sat down to do my devotions and write this.
I can’t begin to stress how vital this daily discipline of going to God in the morning has been for me. The older I get, the more I discover dark parts of me, and nothing brings out the most selfish parts of you like being in a relationship. When all you have to think about is yourself, it’s easy to make your life so busy that you don’t really need to wrestle with the darker side of our humanity. Starting the day with reflection allows us to recalibrate and take an honest assessment. Coming to God reminds us that despite the ugliness of the honest assessment, we’re embraced by His love.
As I prayed I remembered the podcast Yasmin and I were listening to on the drive up to the mountain. I could hear Timothy Keller’s voice reading the passage from Philippians,
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature[a] God,did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
“You know how I feel.” I prayed. “You had to give up stuff too. You had to give up much more, much much more.Yet You, who knows everything about me, thought I was worth it.”
I imagined Jesus, walking away from His glorious Father, seeing the grand view of Heaven getting more and more distant as He traveled to the rocks and dirt of Earth…for me. Then I imagined Jesus sweating blood, crying to God, asking His disciples, “Can’t you stay awake for me?”, while knowing that He was about to die for them, and praying, “Father, isn’t there another way to save them?” then saying “But if this is what I have to do so that I can be with them, I’ll do it.” Finally, I pictured Him carrying His cross up the steep climb of Calvary, tired, bleeding, shamed… for me.
Here’s what I realized: When you’re in love, you can’t enjoy anything without the one you love. It doesn’t matter how great something is, how wonderful the view, how large your wealth, how high your position, or how glorious your fame. If you’re not with the one you love, you won’t find joy. Jesus wasn’t simply on a cosmic mission to pay a debt. He was lover paying the price that we may enjoy together. Here I was, for most of my life, trying to grasp wealth, security, achievement, trying to grasp more and more control over my circumstances, and without knowing it, trying to grasp equality with God. When the example of Jesus is this, He didn’t consider any of those things worth going for. The power, position, and privilege of being God weren’t as valuable to Him compared to the joy of being in a relationship with me.
In a world where the good life is closely associated with success, having security, wealth, and the freedom to do what you want, and in a world where faith in God is treated more as means to achieving those things ethically, we will miss the true message of love. This is why we why think it’s wise to make a list of qualities for our dream partner – because it increases the chances of us getting someone “right for us”. I felt like I was giving up a lot because I valued what I had. I didn’t think that everything I would be leaving behind wasn’t worth as much as being with Yasmin. But when we follow the example of Jesus, we see how different His values system is.
I felt Him impress, “Power? I had that it all. Prestige? I had that it most. Position? I am above all. Good family? Mine was perfect. Good home? I was in Heaven. Yet don’t you see? They’re nothing compared to being in love with you. And to love someone means you’re everything you have means nothing without the one you love. So I did everything I could to have you.”
Then I was reminded of something I wrote more than 2 years ago:
Maybe in our quest for the life we thought we wanted we traded away the love we really needed.
I know now that I’m guilty of this. This is why it was so hard to let go. There’s nothing like the beauty of love to set us free.
This is also why the personal characteristics I really feel are most essential now, even more than hard work and discipline, is to be loving, truly loving, and forgiving, and humble. When you partner discipline and hard work with a soul that loves as Christ loved, then we get a powerfully transformative force that cuts through any divide and any impossibility.
In past years, I learned how to work hard, be diligent, be faithful, be disciplined, deal with loss, deal with failure, but this year I learned to love in a greater way as I understood a little bit more about how much God loves me.
I encourage you, as you end this year, to say a simple prayer, “Father, open my eyes to see Your love.”
One Step at a Time
On the drive down, Yasmin asked me, “So what happens next?”
“We get married.” I said.
“As soon as possible. A man’s got needs.”
“Hey!” she said angrily.
“Just kidding.” I told her (even thought I wasn’t).
“We need to plan it then. I want a small one (I’m adding a record of her saying this as insurance in case things go out of control). How many people should we invite? In my family, there’s…” as she started listing and counting family and friends.
“Yasmin, Yasmin. Could we please not talk about this now?? I just proposed. That’s HUGE for me! One step at a time, please. One step at a time. Thinking about a wedding is stressing me out!”
She laughed, knowing me well enough to continue. “So where are we eating?”
“You choose”, I told her, my brain still sore from the 3 minute conversation on a wedding.
I must admit, I have a long way to go. I have a lot to learn about love.
“Do you want her?”, I’ve learned, is the question.
“Yes.” is my undeniable answer.
“Go make a great husband.” I remind myself.
Alright. Here we go. One step at a time.
Epilogue: Train Up a Child
(to be continued…)