I sat in a senior level class for my major the other day, and our professor asked us to write down ten qualities we would use to describe ourselves. I let out a sigh of relief; this course seemed like it was going to be a tricky one, so this simple exercise would finally be something I was confident in.
I picked up my smooth gel pen, carefully writing out the words "loving," "hardworking," and "impatient" among many other descriptions of myself in my loopy cursive swirls. My professor asked us to announce to the class what we wrote down, so when it was my turn, I smiled and spoke with courage. The class giggled when I uttered "impatient" directly following a list of naturally positive characteristics. My inner self beamed because, heck yeah, they thought I was funny!
But my professor stopped me and politely noted that it would be impossible to be both loving and impatient. I hesitated, a little embarrassed, before finishing my list. I sat in my seat, unable to stop thinking about his statement and his lack of an explanation. I loved God, my friends, and my family. I seriously considered myself to have a huge heart, and my sense of empathy is one of the things that make me me. But I cannot deny that I am pretty short-tempered. I get annoyed when people are late, I get frustrated when I don't understand things immediately, and things that irritate me... really irritate me.
I just could not understand how it would be "impossible" to both feel love for the people around me and get impatient from time to time. But as always, God showed me why.
I went to Vertical Ministries that same night and was reminded of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7...
"Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love does not give up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance."
The speaker reminded us that there is a difference between feeling emotions and choosing to love. I've heard "love is a choice" a million times, but I usually disagreed because I thought that love simply meant care or passion or desire or appreciation that is innate and you can't actually control. And it's true that attraction and feelings of pleasure from being around someone are emotions that aren't a choice. But when you look to the Lord's Word, it is evident that one can only LOVE when you make the commitment to express every quality written in 1 Corinthians 13.
The Bible explicitly states that love is patience. You do not show love for your friends if you're annoyed that they're running late to dinner. You're not loving when you're mad that your crush takes a little bit too long to text you back. You demonstrate the opposite of love when you're irritated when your mom calls you too many times a day. Because love and patience are synonymous according to the Lord.
When Jesus went to die on the cross for our sins, it's not because it felt good to do so. He didn't die for us because of attraction or emotions he couldn't control. He died because he CHOSE to love us. And we, as Christians, should choose to love others because of that ultimate sacrifice from our savior.
There's no such thing as a coincidence when it comes to God. Because that very same night following Vertical, when the clock struck midnight, my Bible app informed me that my Verse of the Day was no other than the exact same verse in 1 Corinthians. I believe that I was meant to hear what God says about love THREE TIMES in one day, so now I'm spreading the Word to you.
Yes, I'm an impatient person. And yes, I have strong emotions and compassion for the people around me. But I'm going to start doing my family and friends a favor by choosing to love them as God loves us in addition to those emotions. We're all sinners, so of course, impatience or jealousy will inevitably creep its way back into my mind. But simply being aware that a true commitment to loving ANYONE has to start with the Word instead of emotions will allow me to be a better daughter and friend. The last verse of 1 Corinthians 13 says:
"Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love."
So let's choose to love each other, and the emotions that accompany friendship will follow later. For now, I'm taking "loving" off my list of characteristics about myself until "impatient" comes off, too. Thanks to that not-so-silly list and the power of Jesus, I'm learning how to finally love others in the way God envisioned for the world.
It's going to take some time, but hey, be patient with me.