Well I want to say we are continuing our message series on Love Life. Do you all love life? How is your love life? That’s what we are learning about today as we’re going through 1st Corinthians 13. We began it last week and I preached on “Love Believes The Best.” Today, I’m continuing with verse four from 1st Corinthians 13: “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. Love waits patiently.”
Now I don’t know about you, but I love to go to Starbucks, sometimes in the morning, and I’m usually running late for work and I think oh I bet I can go. The line will be very short today and I can still get my Grande decaf soy latte just like that and still get to work on time, and I pull into the driveway of the parking lot and I see that long line and I’m thrilled to see that long line, I’m thrilled to know that I have to wait in line. Anybody else thrilled to wait in line at Starbucks? No of course I’m not thrilled. I don’t like to wait any more than you do.
Who likes to wait? Anybody like to wait? No. None of us like to wait and that’s because we are a very impatient society and the faster things move, the faster we expect things to move and we become acclimated to that and we become more and more impatient. Used to be fast food was really cool until you had to go and you had to wait in line for fast food. Doesn’t feel very fast anymore and it’s not moving fast enough for me. My cell phone died the other day and I had to go get a new one. And they had these big banners all over the store and it said upgrade from a 3-G to a 4-G phone. I’m going what in the heck is that. I didn’t know what that meant. Well I guess there’s such a thing as smart phone, which has the internet. And if you get 3-G it’s very, very slow. And so people want fast, they want everything faster, faster, faster. Faster is better.
We have to be on the move, we have to go, we have to do. We completely fill our diaries and our calendars with more and more to do. Why? Because time is a very, very precious commodity. Oh yes, it is one of the most precious commodities of all because you’ve been given so many minutes in an hour, so many hours in a day, so many days in a week, so many weeks in a month, so many months in a year, and so many years in a lifetime. And when it’s all spent, your time is completely gone and used up, you can’t go to the bank and borrow more time. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Time is a precious commodity.
And so you say, Sheila, you want me to wait? And waste time? Well I’m saying that this is what St. Paul says. St. Paul says that love waits patiently because there are different kinds of waiting. There are some people they wait, they’re waiting, they’re not waiting very patiently. They’re tapping their foot, hurry up, hurry up, hurry up, let’s get on with it. They are watching their watch, they’re waiting for you but they’re watching their watch. How many of you have ever had somebody beeping their horn at you out in the driveway. Anybody? I bet the women all raise their hand and go I have. My husband’s out there beeping the horn at me, right? So you know that’s not waiting patiently, guys. But we all do it. We all become impatient in our waiting.
But love that waits patiently doesn’t keep time. It doesn’t watch your watch. It doesn’t rattle the key chains. It doesn’t beep on the horn. It gives time, as much time as they need. As much time as they need. And different people need more time for different reasons than others, and that’s the gift of love, to give the people we love the time they need.
Some things cannot be rushed. They need to be allowed to unfold naturally. If I went out today and I cut a rose bud from my garden, and it was all tightly closed but I wanted a bouquet of buds, not buds but full blown roses, and so if I tried to pry open those petals, I’m going to destroy that rose. It’s going to be good for nothing but the trash by the time I’m done trying to force those petals open. Rather, I need to let it have the time in a warm, nurturing environment to just blossom and bloom.
Some things cannot be forced. They cannot be rushed. With children, we know that. We know that children do things on a different time table. You can’t rush childhood development; it doesn’t pay to do that. In fact, some people think it’s a race, that if a child shows a developmental milestone earlier than another child, that they must be more gifted or they must be more intelligent. But I dare say if you sat next to anybody and all of you could read you wouldn’t know which of you learned to read at four years and which of you learned to read at six years or seven years. If you were walking down the street, I’ll bet you can’t tell who learned to walk at 10 months and who learned to walk at 13 months. They all walk the same, eventually. They’ve all unfolded and developed according to God’s timetable. The same with riding a bike. Next time you see people out there riding a bike, I ask you, you point out to me and tell me which ones learned to ride a bike at five years and which ones learned to ride a bike at seven years. You can’t tell. It doesn’t matter. It’s not a race. Love waits patiently, gives people the gift of time to allow them to develop fully in God’s time, in God’s way. If I went out and I found a cocoon and I got impatient and I wanted to see that butterfly, and I tried to break open that cocoon, I could end up not ever seeing a butterfly is what I would end up, because that butterfly wouldn’t have a chance to develop its wings and flutter and fly beautifully around my garden.
Patient love is a love that gives the gift of time. Time to just be with each other. Time to just sit side by side. Time to just go for a ride together in a car. Time to just listen. And you know I’m the worst of all of this, I’m preaching to myself, so don’t think I’m here trying to make you feel guilty because we all sit here, none of us have been giving our loved ones as much as we should. But my son Scott, when he was about seven years old, one day I was busy washing the dishes and Scott came up to me and today he’s 28, 27 years old. He said to me, “Mommy I need to tell you something” and I was washing the dishes and I said “oh go ahead Scott, I’m listening.”
“No mom, I need to talk to you. You’re not listening.”
I said, “I absolutely too am listening. I can tell you exactly every word you’ve said so far.” Now I’m continuing to wash the dishes. Then I reached down underneath the cupboard to get the cleanser out and he’s now talking to my denim clad back side, and he’s saying, “Mom, you’re not listening to me with your eyes.” I put down the cleanser, I turn around, I turned off the dishes and I looked right at my precious little toe headed boy eyeball to eyeball, soul to soul, spirit to spirit and I said, “Scott, forgive me. Forgive me for not giving you the love and the attention that you deserve. I’m here to listen to you with my eyes. Tell me now what’s so important to you. Forgive me for making you feel unimportant, like the dishes were more important that you, my child.”
Now of course my husband said to me just the other day, “Sheila, don’t you remember when Scott said to listen with your eyes” cause I’m sure I was continuing in my very poor patterns, this time with my husband. But patient love; we give the ones we love the time, time to be with them, time to listen, then time to allow them to work through their losses. Some of you have had to face tremendous losses in your life this past year or two. You may have lost your home, you may have lost your health, you may have lost finances, you may have lost your job. Those are losses. How many of you have family members who have faced losses? And they’re grieving and they’re grieving and they’re grieving and sometimes we want to tap our foot impatiently as we listen to their sob story over and over and over again and think come on, you know? Get better. I want you to stop complaining to me, and we think it, we don’t say it, but we need to give those we love the time to grieve, the time to heal. Cannot be rushed. And every person has a different time table in that regard.
You know, the love that is patient waits and waits and waits as long as necessary. In fact, frequently when you read in scriptures, the word patience is used interchangeably with the word long-suffering. Long-suffering. Sometimes patience means you suffer long, long, long but you don’t give up. And when you have a loved one or a rupture in a relationship and you have a child or a sibling or a parent who will not talk to you, who will not return your e-mails, you are patient, you suffer long, long, long, believing and hoping the best, that God will redeem and restore that relationship. But you wait and you wait and you wait patiently. How? Because God waits patiently for you. God is waiting for you all the time. You know, I like to think of Him sometimes and He’s there beside me, walking along beside me and I’m busy doing everything I need to do and I’m busy answering my e-mails, I’m busy in meetings and I’m busy making dinner, I’m busy, busy, busy, busy, busy, in all my busyness, and God is just sitting there walking beside me, waiting patiently for me to stop and turn and notice Him and acknowledge that He’s there with me. God waits patiently for you and for me. He gives us the time we need, all the time in the world. God is love. That means that God believes the best about you and me. That means that God waits patiently for you and for me.
Now today, I’m going to act out a little play for you. I’m not going to put on costumes; I’m not going to have sets or anything like that. It’s a three role play played by one woman, me. And you’ll probably recognize the story. There’s also a little narration I’ll have to throw in there, as well. Once upon a time, there was a man he had two sons. And the younger son came to him and said this, “Hey dad, I want my money and I want it now. I want my entire inheritance, I’m not going to wait any longer, I want it now.”
“Well son, what are you going to do with this money? Can’t you wait?”
“I am not going to wait any longer, I’ve already waited, I’m a whole 18 years old and I want my entire inheritance and I want it now. I’m going to go off and see the world while there’s still time. I’m tired of waiting. If I wait until you die to get the inheritance, I’ll be too old to travel.”
“Well son, I will miss you deeply because I love you. But okay, here it is your entire inheritance. Good bye son, know that I love you.”
So off went the son for far off places. He had more money than he knew what to do with and he thought I’m happy, I’m free. I can do anything I want to and he spent a little here and he spent a little there, he spent a lot there, lost a lot there. One day he reached into his pockets and empty. No more money. He began to get a little hungry. Began to get a little tired of living outside. Saw a little want ad sign that said wanted, someone to feed the pigs. I guess I can do that. So he went over and he said “can I feed the pigs?” The guy let him feed the pigs, so here he was, feeding the pigs and thinking I’m starving, I’m hungry. I haven’t eaten for days and you know what, that dirty, stinky corn cob actually looks appetizing. I’m that hungry. And as he reached up to pick up the corn cob, the dirty, slimy corn cob to eat it, suddenly he thought wow; here I am in a dirty stinky pig sty, eating a corn cob and gosh my brother’s back home with dad and they’re probably having a wonderful feast and a meal and I wonder if I went back home, no dad wouldn’t take me back. I took all my money and squandered it. But what if he said I could come home. What have I got to lose? I’m sitting here in a pig sty with corn cobs, eating them. I guess I have nothing but to try. And so the son set off. He went back home but he was afraid. He had no idea what his father would tell him and say to him.
Well meanwhile, here’s the dad. He’s looking high and low for his son. Will he ever come home? It’s been so long. I’ve missed him. Wait! Wait! Is that him? There in the distance? Oh my heart, could it be? It is! It’s my son! And the father ran out to him and he took his son and he enveloped him and he held him tight, grasped him, never to let him go again. The son said, “Father, forgive me, forgive me,” and the father said “No, you are home, son. That’s all that matters. You are home.”
Meanwhile, there’s another brother. The big brother. And he’s out there working hard in the fields like he did for his dad all the time. And he hears from one of the servants that his younger brother had come home. What? What? What is that you said? He comes back home? How dare he come back home. He took his money and left. He treated dad like dirt. He left me here to do all the work. He left me here to work in the fields. What do you mean he’s come back home. What? And dad’s throwing him a big feast? A party? He’s rewarding that kind of behavior? Where is my feast? I’ve been here working all this time. Dad hasn’t rewarded me with any kind of feast. I don’t like this one bit.
Well the older brother goes back to see what’s going on and he says “Dad, I don’t get it. I don’t get it. I worked hard for you. I didn’t go away, I didn’t rebel against you. I’ve been faithful to you. Where’s my feast?”
The father says, “Oh my child, you have had the best reward because you’ve had me with you. We’ve had time together. I can never reclaim that time with my younger son, but now he’s home, don’t you get it? He’s home. And we can celebrate all together.”
Well of course you recognize the story of the prodigal son, and Henri Nouwen wrote a book called The Prodigal Son, a story of a homecoming and he said that sometimes we all play all three roles. We all play the roles. We vacillate between being the younger brother and discounting God. He’s standing there all time and I’m over here in my busyness, being the younger brother, discounting the fact that God is here waiting patiently for me. But I’m impatient. I’m the impatient younger brother who says no I want it now, I want it now, I don’t want to wait. And then there are times we play the role of the big brother where we feel like we have earned and deserved more recognition from our father for all the hard we’ve been doing. Hey wait a minute, am I getting overlooked here? And sometimes I’m getting impatient for the reward, what I think is the reward, the acknowledgement. We vacillate between those roles. Henri Nouwen says the goal is to be the father. The goal is to be the father, the father who waits patiently for the homecoming. For the homecoming.
People, God is waiting for you to turn, to return to Him. All the time, He is there watching for you, looking for you, and the minute He sees you start to turn to Him, His heart starts beating, He is so excited, and He comes running to you with arms open wide and He holds you in His arms and He says welcome home my beloved child. And that is the message for today, that love waits patiently. God waits patiently for you and for me. What a precious, precious gift. Let us pray:
Lord Jesus Christ, thank You that You watch for us, You wait for us; You even whisper to us and say hey I’m here. Take a moment to turn and look at me and listen to me because I will have something I want to tell you. I want you to know I love you. I will wait patiently for you as long as I have to, says the Lord. But don’t miss out on a single moment. The time together with you is precious to Me, says the Lord. Thank You, Lord, for this message, amen.