If you are from an African country or know anything about the cultures, then you might be familiar with this view of relationships and marriage: At a certain age, especially if you are a woman, everyone around you begins to strongly suggest you take steps toward getting married.
In that vein, a few months ago, my sister introduced me to the book The New Rules for Love, Sex, and Dating, by pastor Andy Stanley. Truthfully, I still haven’t finished reading it. But I was so unexpectedly drawn in that I decided to write summaries of each chapter for my friends and personal blog.
Copyright: dolgachov / 123RF Stock Photo
One of the chapters that struck me was chapter 5: Love Is. With expectations set by society, the media, movies, and fairytales, our understanding of love can oftentimes be tied to the promise of “happily ever after,” complete with roses and butterflies. But, as I came to learn, Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 does not portray love in such a glittery manner.
One of the things Stanley pointed out is that love, as described by Paul, is a verb. Love “is”; love “does.” This means love, the act of loving someone, requires action. You have to do love; it doesn’t just happen.
Prior to reading Stanley’s explanation of each trait of love, I felt I was doing a great job at loving others. I don’t delight in evil. I am not easily angered or self-seeking. I’m mostly patient and definitely kind and honoring.
Sure, there were one or two traits I needed to work on, but I was confident in my identity as a loving person.
Three sentences into chapter 5, that confidence went out the window. There were aspects of each trait that I needed to work on. Two in particular stood out to me, and they seemed relevant for all types of relationships, romantic or otherwise.
1. Love is patient (1 Corinthians 13:4)
Stanley writes, "Patience is the decision to move at someone else's pace, rather than pressuring them to match yours. It is choosing to do less than you are capable of, for the sake of keeping in step with someone else.”
As the firstborn child in my family, I am used to setting my own pace and having others follow me. Though I don’t directly pressure others to match my pace, I admit that I do not make the conscious effort to go at someone else’s pace. In my mind, the idea of “slowing down for others” is the same as “not doing your best”—a very foreign concept.
2. Love does not dishonor (1 Corinthians 13:5)
According to Stanley, “To honor means making the most effort to be the best version of yourself, and presenting that best version of yourself at all times.”
Reading this after the explanation for patience thoroughly confused me. How are we expected to be the best versions of ourselves while also doing less than we are capable of? The best version of myself runs full speed ahead, clearing all stages to be the best I am capable of.
But then I thought about both verses together, and in the context of relationships. In a relationship of any kind, the “me” becomes “us.” So patience can be interpreted as the decision to move at a unified pace, and honor means trying to be the best version of us.
In art, for instance, when you blend two pictures into one, sometimes you may need to tone down the shades of one or more colors in one picture to make the pair blend well.
Toning down colors doesn’t take away from the beauty of the picture. Once blended, a new picture is formed, and that takes precedence. The pictures remain important and beautiful, but the unified image becomes more significant.
I don’t pretend to have mastered the art of loving in patience and with honor, but I’ve decided to take up the challenge this new year and try.
If you are somewhat curious about how you are doing in loving others, I would recommend chapter 5 of pastor Stanley’s book. Take a quick tally and see: do you embody love to perfection? If that is the case, amazing! If, however, like me, you find that there are many traits you need to work on, perhaps join me in adding this as a New Year’s resolution.
Yimi Omofuma has been part of The River Church family for almost four years. She is a Nigerian international PhD student of psychology with a passion for global mental health. When she is not being a graduate student, she loves to travel, explore different cultures, and learn new languages. A student by day and a writer/couch potato by night, Yimi has always considered writing a major part of her life. She is currently finishing up her phase of life as a student and is looking forward to God’s next steps.