Does your Valentine have a long nose?
That question might seem peculiar (and okay, it kind of is), but don’t blame me. Blame the Apostle Paul, who brought it up.
In one of his letters to the Corinthian church, Paul wrote a lot about love. You know the passage I’m talking about; you’ve heard it at a bazillion weddings. And in fact, when our son Robbie got married, the minister cautioned against dismissing the passage as cheesy or cliché, since it’s become so familiar.
I’m talking, of course, about 1 Corinthians 13. That’s the one where Paul says that whatever we do–no matter how noble or moral or jaw-droppingly generous–is basically worthless, if it’s not motivated by love.
And then he details what love looks like: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
That’s really good stuff, but it’s a bit of a mouthful. So with Valentine’s Day almost upon us, let’s just bite off what we can chew.
Love is patient.
The Greek word for patience in this verse is makrothumia, which means long-suffering. Or, even more literally, long-passioned. You know what a short-tempered person acts like, right? Picture the opposite. Picture someone who waits before expressing their anger. Someone you feel safe with. Someone who makes you feel loved.
Because honestly? The kind of patience Paul is writing about is the kind of patience God extends toward us. “He is not slow in keeping his promise,” Scripture says. “Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” It’s that very patience, coupled together with God’s unlimited kindness, that makes us want to love him back.
God wants us to have that sort of patience with one another–and especially, I have to believe, with our Valentine. (Particularly if our Valentine is someone we’ve lived with for, say, 37 years.) God knows, and studies show, that being generous toward our loved one–extending patience and kindness instead of anger and contempt–can create an “virtuous cycle,” one where love begets love.
But what if you’re not a naturally makrothumiac-ish person? (Don’t @ me, all you Greek scholars; I’m trying.)
The good news–the great news, actually–is that we might not be naturally patient. But that’s okay. Because God offers a super-natural answer. Makrothumia is something the Holy Spirit produces in us; all we have to do is say yes.
Okay, so I know some of you are wondering what any of this has to do with being long-nosed. I’m getting there. Be patient.
Paul was writing to Greek-speaking people, so he used Greek. Had he been writing in Hebrew, he would have used ’erek ’appayim. Which, as we all know, literally means “long of nose.”
For instance (stay with me here), in Exodus 34:6 when God describes himself to Moses, he says he is “The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness!”
This verse could actually be translated like this:
“The God of compassion and mercy! I am long of nose and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness!”
Why does God say he is long of nose? I don’t know. But as someone whose own nose gives my face what some people call “character,” I am grateful for the Hebrew translation. I just wish my patience were as prominent as my proboscis. 😉
What about you? Could you use a little more makrothumia in your love life? Could your Valentine?
If so, you’ll find lots of prayer prompts in my book Praying the Scriptures for Your Life, which includes chapters on loving others (even when that doesn’t come naturally), waiting well, and asking God for things like patience and kindness in your marriage. Click here to order.
And in the meantime, here are three of my favorite “patience prayers” you can pray. I’m sending these along with armloads of love and warmest wishes for a Happy Valentine’s Day!
Fill us with the knowledge of your will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that we may be strengthened with all power and have great endurance and patience. (Colossians 1:9-11)
Equip us to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:12)
Help us be completely humble and gentle. May we be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2)
(Photos by Jen Fariello.)