In his letter to the early church at Corinth, Paul sets out how love shows up in the world in his effort to help them get along. It is a frequent text for weddings:
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful…” 1 Corinthians 13:4-5.
To those about to marry, an interesting exercise is to substitute the name of your beloved each time the word ‘Love’ appears. And an even more interesting exercise, for all of us, is to substitute our own names instead of the word ‘love’:
I am patient and kind; I do not envy or boast; I am not arrogant or rude. I do not insist on my own way; I am not irritable or resentful….
How did you do? For many of us, this simple recitation shows us the exact ways and times we are being less than loving and calls us to consider those actions. Must we insist on our own way? How do we know what is right? Isn’t it possible that someone else may be right, too? Are we becoming impatient with others? Can we take a minute to rein ourselves in, breathe deeply, and begin again? Are we holding grudges? Can we let the past go and try to make our present the best possible? And so on.
These checks we can do to measure our progress and monitor our moods against the ideal of love can be very helpful to keep us on track showing up in this world as close to lovingly as we can get.
In a world of senseless violence and hate, you can make a difference.
In a world grieving, you can make a difference.
In a world angry and looking for someone to blame, you can make a difference.
Are you overwhelmed? Sometimes our To Do lists are so long, the tasks too complex or difficult, the road ahead too winding, that we get paralyzed. We freeze not sure which way to turn or what to do. Sometimes that leads us to choose doing nothing at all.
Try this instead: ask yourself “What’s next?” and then sit quietly. Breathe deeply. Listen. Be patient.
We don’t have to see the whole path. We don’t have to know the answers to all life’s questions. We may never be able to see more than one dimly lit footstep ahead.
But sometimes when we are harried, we can see the next step, and then the next, one at a time leading us forward out of being stuck and onto the next thing. One foot in front of another, forward. Try to let the uncertain or overwhelming future move to the fringe of your imagination and focus on just that one step.
Right here. Right now. That one step.
And then again.
What is worth fighting for? Sometimes a battle is won in a courageous show of strength and derring do. A fireman runs into a burning building to save a child. A passerby stops to help victims of an accident. A pilot steers a damaged plane to safety.
But sometimes the battle requires showing up time after time with love, kindness, and patience. Not giving up on someone. Having faith that love will win. Believing that relationships can be salvaged.
That takes courage, too.