Darn that Eugene Peterson.
Just when I think I know what my Bible says, along comes the good pastor asking me to think differently about a familiar passage.
Because I am a slacker, I am now in my second year of working my way through Peterson’s one-year devotional Bible, The Message Remix: Solo. I’ve finally made my way into the New Testament, all the way into I Corinthians, where I came across these familiar words: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy . . .
Even among those who seldom set foot within the church, these are probably familiar words. Often assigned as a reading to a friend who is not quite bridesmaid or groomsman material, I Corinthians 13–the love chapter is offered as traditional fare during many wedding ceremonies. The words are set before newlyweds as an ideal, or perhaps, offered in hope, or perhaps even, as a kind incantation to guard against falling out of love.
This letter to the Corinthian church is so familiar; I probably stopped paying attention to it long ago. And then the good Pastor Peterson blindsided me by rendering part of verse seven this way:
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
And I realized I spend an awful lot of time and energy wanting things I didn’t have, particularly from those I claim to love.
In my defense, a certain amount of discontent serves a mother raising young children. No loving mother wants to see her children remain helpless and dependent upon others. I wanted my children to learn to crawl, to stand, to walk, and to learn to tie their own shoes. I wanted them to develop appropriate manners, hygiene, and social skills. My desire for my children was for them to become respectful of authority, to do their homework and practice the piano, preferably without reminders. I wanted to see them develop their gifts and grow into the persons God intended them to be.
Children are by nature works-in-progress. Sometimes the progress is painfully messy and slow. Love, as Peterson reminds me, is about wanting what is—not what I hope for, not what might one day be. Love calls me to be patient and kind in the midst of the mess, with people whose lives are yet in process.
Because God loves me in the midst of my mess, even on days when I can barely tie my own shoes. Even when I am a slacker in my own growth.
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him . . . I John 3:2, NIV
Linking with emily and Jennifer: