1 Corinthians 13 parenting

1 Corinthians 13 Mom Meditations: Love Is Patient

March 27, 2013


Marked by Impatience

From womb to tomb, we are impatient beings. I think it may be safe to say that our access to technology that repeatedly produces instantaneous results has allowed us to grow accustomed to instant gratification in ways in which societies of previous eras could not. (We are certainly not the first, nor will we be the last, to say to our age, “slow down,” though.)

There are very few areas in life which cannot be touched by our impatience. Yet for millennia, certain areas held a sort of sacredness–parts of life that could not be rushed. And yet, in each of those areas–even the womb and the tomb–there are technologies in place by which to make sure we can get what we want when we want it.

In parenting, impatience often sets in before the baby even leaves the womb. We want the child to be born early, and to be able to control every single aspect about the birth. (This is evidenced that there are now campaigns to warn parents not to induce just because they wish to meet the baby prior to 39 weeks!) But in an attempt to hide our own impatience, we frame our impatience as a child’s stubbornness…even before they are out of the womb! (“Nope, still not here! We can tell he’s going to be a stubborn one!”) It might seem funny, but do we really think this reframing and false projection of the child’s motives ends here?

Though all of us yearn to be mothers characterized by love, we often slip into the subtle trap of impatience — quite the opposite of 1 Corinthians 13. Impatience shows up where we least expect it, yet where we most need it — in the earliest and tenderest of our children’s lives. 

Patience Needs Perspective

Often, we are quick to be outspoken about extending grace to those around us, while forgetting that our children need such displays of love, too.

We cannot truly teach and disciple our children without patience. 

It takes time to teach, to instruct, and to instill life-long habits. When we demand of our children what we have not taken time to instruct, model, and demonstrate, we are likely either being impatient or lazy (or both).

What we quickly label as a discipline issue, foolishness, failed first-time obedience, or even rebellion may simply be our own lack of patience. How often do we master picking up a new habit, character trait, or skill and have it down after the first try?

Patience in mothering takes into account that we have had far more years of experience at this thing called life, and even with such experience we still don’t get it.

Patience in mothering realizes that human growth and development takes time and tender care. It takes many year to grow a fruit tree. And the years during which it is a tender seedling, then even a young sapling, are not years during which we hate the tree for not bearing fruit or for being weak and needing much extra care.

Patience borrows from the perspective of older mothers that these days will quickly pass, and we’ll long for them once again.

Patience in mothering can see through the fog of recency bias.

Patience sees the present as a quickly passing season of life. This year is the only year you will have with your child as a two-year-old, five-year-old, and so on and so forth. Don’t let those 365 days go by without enjoying them simply because we are in a hurry to move on to the next season.

The March of Dimes 39 Weeks campaign says this:

Don’t rush your baby’s birth day

More and more births are being scheduled a little early. Experts are learning that this can cause problems. If possible, it’s best to stay pregnant for at least 39 weeks. If your pregnancy is healthy, wait for labor to begin on its own.

Maybe it’s just a whispering of what we need to hear about motherhood as a whole:

Don’t rush your child’s life.

More and more children are pushed to do too much too early too soon. This can cause problems. If your child is healthy, wait for milestones to occur on their own. 

Our Children Need Our Patience 

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Childhood is a journey, not a race. Try looking at it from our children’s perspective. Do they feel like they’re being rushed through life — that they are facing the daily displeasure of our impatience? Our impatience, however unintentional it is, has detrimental effects. Children are going to develop, but they might not do it according to that schedule thing that we found online. If our young children our struggling under the weight of our demands to perform or meet milestones, we might need to consider, as Johanna reminds in her article, “Waiting is usually better.”

Yet in Our Impatience, We Learn Patience

Often, the most brutal lessons of patience are experienced in the heat of impatience. We’ve all experienced it — a moment where we want to (or do) scream or do something extraordinarily uncalled for. The word “impatience” is an understatement. 

And then the disappointed shock hits us, like freezing temperatures on the first day of spring. Our impatience! These struggles with impatience are lessons in the school of patience. Tough as they are, we are coming face-to-face with our impatient selves. Our impatient moments help us understand how much we need patience. And in so doing, we can better develop the patience that love requires. 

The Grace and Growth of Patience

Of patience, James 1 says this:

3 Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

Patience here is alternatively defined as perseverance. We must be patient with ourselves and the work that God is doing as we watch patience grow in us. It’s not a one time, overnight development; rather, it perseveres — over and over and over again. When we see flareups of impatience in ourselves, in our spouse, or our children, we persevere. What is remarkable is that this passage says that when we allow patience to have its work and patience is perfected, we are complete-mature, and made whole!

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It’s virtually impossible to just buck up and be more patient. We’re not very good at self-sanctification. This is something that God can and will do within us. Rather than “trying harder” to be patient, we can rely more on the God who is love — who is our perfect patience — and learn patience in the process. 

Let us not grow weary in well doing, but persevere, both in our seeking God to bring about patience in our lives and the lives of our children. 

The perspective of patience has a huge benefit. We learn to love the moment. Mothering is made up of thousands of moments — some high points, a lot of low points, but a whole lot of points in time.  The continual working of patience allows us to cherish more of the moments, to cherish our children better, and to better thrive as a mother.

Love is patient.

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  • Tracy Penwell March 27, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. This is really encouraging to me to keep praying for patience. Motherhood has definitely been my biggest school for this! 🙂

    As a mother of older children, I still need LOTS! But I can also agree that your perspective is right on. Please, please, please enjoy those young and early days, even if at times they feel exhausting.

    God bless.

  • Crystal C. March 27, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Really enjoyed this.

  • courtney defeo March 29, 2013 at 9:12 pm

    whoah, i needed to read this. was this written for me? so so good.

  • 1 Corinthians 13 Mom Meditations: Love Bears All Things | Keren Threlfall May 22, 2013 at 5:02 am

    […] Children need physical protection; that’s quite obvious. (And perhaps the easiest, when we get to the other areas and realize the heavy responsibility.) What we feed them, how we treat them — these are important elements of protecting them. They need spiritual protection. They need to be protected from the direct influence of wrongdoers. They sometimes need to be protected from their own foolishness. They need emotional protection that supports and bears the hardships of life as the gradually grow from  tender plants into strong pillars of trees. And to broaden this analogy, when we place the crushing burdens of life on them prematurely, we do more damage to the small saplings than we do to strengthen it. Love that bears all things is a patient love.  […]

  • 1 Corinthians 13 Mom Meditations: Love Endures All Things | Keren Threlfall July 17, 2013 at 5:01 am

    […] so many descriptors of love that seem similar. A love that endures appears similar to love that is patient and love that bears and love that hopes. But there is a unique element to be found in love that […]

  • chelo February 8, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    This is very helpful, Keren. One of my goals this year is to memorize th “love chapter” and to read through and meditate on these articles you wrote last year.

    PS: great idea for a book/ ebook! 🙂