when patience is a kind of suffering

I wonder whether there is anything that requires more patience than waiting for someone to become . . . “patience” seems inadequate for that sort of waiting . . .

Patience is a word we toss at small things.

Waiting for dinner, for traffic to move, for the phone call, for the slow walker, slow talker, slow thinker. . .

A commonplace patience. Spoken in just a minutes. Implying an end to the wait . . .

I wonder whether there is anything that requires more patience than waiting for someone to become . . . Patience seems inadequate for that sort of waiting. Sometimes, the old words are better.

Love suffers long . . .

Long-suffering*
a. to not lose heart, to persevere patiently and bravely in enduring misfortunes
b. to be patient in bearing the offenses and injuries of others

This word? This word is a love story.

Long-suffering is a covenant. The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness . . . 

Long-suffering allows time. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity . . .

Long-suffering is generous mercy on the sinner begging forgiveness of foolish debts: Lord have patience with me and I will pay thee all . . .

Compassion, grace, mercy, forgiveness intertwined, woven through God’s long-suffering sort of love over and over and over through laws, through lifetimes, through generations, through priests, through kings, through prophets, through Jesus, through the pen of St. Paul: love suffers long.

This is God’s love. The love a parent has for a precious child. The love that waits an eternity for us to catch up. The long-suffering love that outlasts our foolishness.

Oh friend, this is a hard kind of love to do. 

I know.

I quantified waiting in days, weeks, months — not years, not lifetimes.

I measured forgiveness in chances.

I made threats, ultimatums, behavior checklists, demands.

I expected too much too soon . . . the perfect dad and husband should emerge from the years chained to addiction.

I didn’t want to wait for God to work His wonderful long-suffering ways. I wanted Dave to be the person he was supposed to be today.

God, you are too slow . . .

I don’t know when a Dave clean and sober for real finally became enough for me. When I realized this honesty was laying a strong foundation for an entirely new way to live.

Love is patient.

Maybe, then, patience is a prayer. A sacrifice. A letting go. Not my timing, but God’s.

Patient while layers of deception are peeled away.

Patient while demons are exposed and destroyed.

Patient while life is relearned.

Patience must be a forgiving grace. A grace that works both ways.

There came a time when Dave had to learn to be patient with me.

Patient while a tightly wound knot of pain is picked apart til undone.

Trust is not rebuilt overnight, even by the most earnest and true. Too many lies, too many promises, too many words, too many times, too many years.

Patient . . .

while I grilled mercilessly

while I ranted angrily

while I hurled wild, wounding accusations

while I hid

while I let go of defenses

while I healed in places addiction leaves ugly scars

while I learn how to deal with myself after so many years of blaming my faults on him.

Maybe that’s it — the key to patient love — realizing there might be a tiny bit of suffering long involved in being married to me.

* * * * *

Sometimes, no matter how imperfect I know I am, I forget my flaws.

But God is patient with the impatient.

His love suffers long, waiting for me, without a list of demands, without unreasonable expectations.

He rewrites in His own hand what I have smashed in anger.

He dispenses endless forgiveness when I’d rather pout on a hillside under a plant.

And His kindness leads me to repentance.

Just as it does with Dave.

* * * * * * * * * *

*Thayer’s Greek Lexicon

1 Corinthians 13:4
Exodus 34:6
Romans 2:4
Jonah 4:2
Matthew 18:26

when you don’t know what to do, try love

Determination only gets so far in the day in day out.
And romantic stubbornness turns cold.

“A friend of ours, Hugh Bishop of Mirfield, says in one of his books:
‘Love is not an emotion. It is a policy.’
Those words have often helped me when all my feelings were unlovely.”
— Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet

There were other reasons I stayed through addiction:

  • Sheer stubbornness and pride. We were not going to fail.
  • I wasn’t going to let some future woman reap the benefit of my struggles. I suppose that’s jealousy.
  • If anyone was going to leave, it was going to be him. I would not be the bad guy.

Not exactly pure motives.

But determination only gets so far in the day in day out. And romantic stubbornness turns cold.

It’s in the hard places of weighing stay or go, of what’s best for me, best for the kids, of even what’s best for him, of what is faith and what is fear . . . of listening, hard . . .of straining to hear the voice of God more than anything, of pleading for the heavens to open and send down a Gabriel to say: Rise and take your children to California, stay there for two years until David gets his act together.

But answers were not delivered to me by angel, by fleece, by burning bush.

A decade ago, there wasn’t much out in the world to tell you what to do when you have a spouse who was a non-abusive, high-functioning, repentant-when-caught, migraine suffering, prescription drug addict . . . chronic pain complicates things.

I needed words.

We had made a sacred vow: for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, for better or worse, so help me God . . .

. . . I wonder how many nights I sat up late, unable to sleep, praying to God, begging Him to speak words to me. Just wanting to do the right thing. The thing that would make it all turn out for good.

But my responses to Dave were harsh and angry more often than not — justifiably, much of the time . . . But rage accomplished nothing. Except to produce more pain.

Now and then, there were good days. Arms around our children, reading stories, playing games, digging gardens. Soothed by routine, lulled by exhaustion. Encouraged to persevere just because four children (who were not completely oblivious to their mother’s broken heart) needed me to do so.

So, I turned to the only place where I knew I could find God’s voice.

And I found words . . . forgive, compassion, mercy, grace, restore . . .

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. — I John 4:11

This sort of love — a love that is not so propelled by what’s best for me — is not a thing that is do-able in our own strength . . . but it is the mark of Christ on our life. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples. (John 13:35)

* * * * *

I have never been very good at this love.

But in the end, I think it won. In spite of me, in spite of my failings. Because this love is a plan. Every word an action. Something to do: believe, hope, endure . . . And when I finally, mostly quit trying to fix Dave and began to at least really try to love him way God loves me, everything changed. And answers came. Hard ones. The leading out of bondage is not pleasant. And even when it begins, you don’t really know it’s begun because it began just that way in so many times past. You know only waiting, watching, praying. Minutes. Hours. Weeks. Months. Years.

And so, this love begins with a word for waiting . . .

Love is patient . . .
I Corinthians 13:4

* * * * *

a funny Valentine: love and fear and staying

If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it.

CS Lewis, The Four Loves

“What made you stay?” 

The answer is so simple and yet so complex it would take time to explain to anyone’s satisfaction.

I’ve been asked so often lately — to the point that I should probably respond. So I will. This spring, starting now.

But before I do, I think I should explain why I hesitate to publish my thoughts:

First, people ask this question, most often, to find a rule, a principle, a plan. My answer is disappointing, I think. Like when you notice a co-worker’s amazing weight loss, ask their secret, and the answer boils down to “diet and exercise.”

Second, although we praise the result of endurance, we tend to call the process foolish. When I attempt to write my simple truths, I can hear mocking crows as they circle above my head. Anyone who would stay with an addict for so long is a sick co-dependent.

Third, the past casts a hint of a shadow across every sunny day. Last week, an addict clean for a decade ends up dead in the headlines. Five days ago, I write up a woman’s story — nine years clean, she relapsed after her brother’s tragic death, got clean again and was now in recovery. Two days ago, I’m told she quit the program. And, in addition to the millions of addicts thrown from the wagon by trauma, we lose a Philip Seymour Hoffman every 24 minutes in this country . . . 100 people a day die of an overdose.

Sometimes, I’m afraid if I feel too sure and secure, if I rest in this new life, I’ll jinx it and the six years of clean and good will be gone. There are no guarantees . . .

But the answer to the question is, and always is, in its purest form: love.

And here is a beginning:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous;
love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly;
it does not seek its own, is not provoked,
does not take into account a wrong suffered,
does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

I Corinthians 13:4-7

And here, an explanation:

In words which can still bring tears to the eyes, St. Augustine describes the desolation into which the death of his friend Nebridius plunged him. Then he draws a moral. This is what comes, he says, of giving one’s heart to anything but God. All human beings pass away. Do not let your happiness depend on something you may lose. If love is to be a blessing, not a misery, it must be for the only Beloved who will never pass away.

Of course this is excellent sense. Do not put your goods in a leaky vessel. Don’t spend too much on a house you may be turned out of. And there is no man alive who responds more naturally than I to such canny maxims. I am a safety-first creature. Of all arguments against love, none makes so strong an appeal to my nature as “Careful! This might lead you to suffering.”

To my nature, my temperament, yes. Not to my conscience. When I respond to this appeal, I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from Christ. If I am sure of anything I am sure that His teaching was never meant to confirm my congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities. I doubt whether there is anything in me that pleases Him less. And who could conceivably begin to love God on such a prudential ground — because, so to speak, the security is better? Who could even include it among the grounds for loving? Would you choose a wife or a friend — if it comes to it, would you choose a dog — in that spirit? One must be outside the world of love, of all loves,  before one calculates. Eros, lawless Eros, preferring the Beloved to happiness, is more like Love Himself than this.

I think that this passage in the Confessions is less a part of St Augustine’s Christianity than a hangover from the high-minded Pagan philosophies in which he grew up. It is closer to Stoic “apathy” or neo-Platonic mysticism than to Charity. We follow One who wept over Jerusalem and at the grave of Lazarus, and who, loving all, yet had one disciple whom, in a special sense, he “loved”. St Paul has a higher authority with us than St Augustine — St Paul who shows no sign that he would not have suffered like a man, and no feeling that ought not so to have suffered, if Epaphroditus had died.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

I believe that the most lawless and inordinate loves are less contrary to God’s will than a self-invited and self-protective lovelessness. It is like hiding the talent in a napkin and for much the same reason ‘I knew thee that thou wert a hard man.’  Christ did not teach and suffer that we might become, even in the natural loves, more careful of our own happiness. If a man is not uncalculating towards the earthly beloveds whom he has seen, he is none the more likely to be so towards God whom he has not. We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armour. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it.

CS Lewis, The Four Loves

12 great things you learn when you skip school to go to a Super Bowl parade

I get why school wasn’t cancelled for the Seattle Seahawks victory parade. People had to work, I appreciate that. But for my family, it was worth dropping everything to go — and they even learned a few things:

 

Russell Wilson

Excused or unexcused – my kids were going to the Seahawks parade.

I was 8 when the Broncos had their first Super Bowl sendoff parade through downtown Denver. And I remember the insane adoration my family, my street (Bronco Road), school, entire city had for that team. The similarities to this Seahawk season are crazy: a notorious nicknamed defense, the loudest stadium and most fervent fans, a Friday unwritten dress code at school, edging out their Bay Area rival at home for the AFC championship . . . my Washington-raised kids have been reliving my childhood.

My dad had to work that day, so my mom took us downtown to celebrate. I remember running up to the convertibles with my brothers to get players’ autographs: Haven Moses, Lyle Alzado, Randy Gradishar . . . I went looking to see if schools were officially let out for the 1978 “Orange Crush Day” and never got the facts, but I found this:

“Denver should have gotten the Nobel Peace Prize that year,” Haven Moses says. “There was more done that year to bring people together than I’ve ever seen in my life. It transformed the attitudes of this city.”

Just like Seattle, 36 years later. . . only this time, the hometown heroes won it all.

I get why school wasn’t cancelled for the Seattle Seahawks victory parade. People had to work, I appreciate that. But for my family, it was worth dropping everything to go — and they even learned a few things:

  1. What it means to peacefully assemble. Mass gatherings on the news and in movies always seem to end in destruction or violence. But Seattle proved you don’t have to fear of the worst, you don’t have to destroy things to celebrate, and that policemen not only ensure safety and enforce boundaries, but they will also give you “how much longer” updates when all the smart phones fail.
  2. That patience pays off. Standing in the freezing cold for six hours is a long time when you have nothing to do but carve out your space on the sidewalk. But the long wait eventually became a fantastic front row seat – #worthit. (Here, my Washington native husband adds, “We waited 39 years!” Also, friends make time go by faster and you whine less.)
  3. Plan ahead, go early, dress warm, bring snacks, and take a pen – better yet, just trust your parents. My husband is the king of prepared, so we endured the groggy grumbles and took a ferry to Seattle at dawn. And let’s just say the children who listened to me about layers were happier than the one who refused to wear sweats under his jeans. On the other hand, they were right about the pen – “It’s not the 70’s mom, you can’t just run up to cars.”
  4. What pot smells like, and more importantly, that mom and dad know what pot smells like. (speaking of the 70’s)
  5. What a hero’s welcome is. It’s in literature, in history, in movies, but we don’t get to see this level of mass unrestrained, joyful enthusiasm often in real life.
  6. What a “mass of humanity” means. When you live in a town of 9,000 people, your physical concept of population is limited. When the kids hear “hundreds of thousands of people” were affected by a natural disaster, or famine, or war, they’re going to have some context for it.
  7. That you can be kind but firm even in the midst of chaos. For every rude line cutter, there was a gracious grandma like the one next to us. “We’ve gotta remember it’s for the kids,” she’d say nice and loud to shovers. “You ain’t standing in front of them.”
  8. That generosity generates loyalty. Here’s my shout out to the staff of Bartell’s on the corner of 4th and Madison who welcomed a whole lot of people into their store who just to wanted to get warm and use their bathroom. Thank you! After an hour in that line, my youngest knows not only what kind of dental care items we need — but where we will buy them.
  9. That even superstars are human – and it’s beautiful when they’re humble. Anyone close enough to see their faces knows the Seahawks were as delighted by the crowd as we were by them. And Warren Moon – hanging out the window of the Duck with all the childish delight you hear on the radio . . . I had tears.
  10. What total unity and community feels like. For a historic moment in time, nearly a million people had one happy heart and purpose. Oh yeah, everybody was feeling the love.
  11. That it’s possible to survive without a cell phone. Our batteries died, we split up to get to the ferry home (#WSF #ftw), split up again to find the one who went to the bathroom and got lost in the sea of people in the terminal, and somehow managed to make it home together.
  12. That parents are still in charge of their kids. Sometimes, it feels like everyone has authority over our kids but us. Every now and then the kids need to know dad and mom are still the boss of them, and if they want to take them out of school for a moment of history, it’s going to happen.

My family moved away from Denver in the summer of 1978 and we never moved back. But that magical season has stayed with me the way I know this one will with my boys. We won’t sit down with this list like it’s homework. (I can hear them now . . . “Mom! Stop! You’re ruining it!”) But if anyone happens to be assigned an essay about the value of the parade — just the sort of joy-sucking assignment I may have given once upon a time — I figured I’d save them the pain of dissecting a beautiful day. Just print this out and give it to your teacher.

IMG_20140205_110913_272Warren Moon

Defensive Line

Running Backs

Pete Carrol

Wide Receivers

Wide receivers 2

BeastmodeIMG_20140205_155155_431

Marshawn Lynch hit Calvin with this Skittle…And everyone’s phone died before we could get pictures of Richard Sherman, but his smile wins — well, after Calvin’s.

Addendum: my mom read this post, and she says we skipped school back in ’78, too.