by SUZIE ELLER
“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Ephesians 4:2 (NLT)
I was in third grade and boys were all around me, but they mostly seemed annoying. They made weird noises and laughed about it. They were rough-and-tumble.
So when 8-year-old Timothy handed me a homemade green velvet heart with my initials on it, I didn’t know what to do. It was Valentine’s Day, which meant I would take home lots of cute cards and maybe a sucker or two, but this was unexpected. I think I mumbled thank you. Honestly, it’s kind of a blur, but I do remember the feelings, for that was the moment I first realized “love” was a possibility.
Several years later, I married a man I loved. This was bigger than a green velvet heart with my initials on it. It was for a lifetime. Yet if I were honest, I still didn’t fully understand what it meant to love fully. I was grateful for the days when feelings were sufficient to carry us, but wasn’t sure what to do when we disagreed or things were difficult.
In Ephesians 4:2, Paul shows a community what it looks like to love each other. They love Jesus, but sometimes struggle with loving each other. At times, they’re divided. There is outside opposition and opportunities to be offended. Paul reveals characteristics that will help them through each of these.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
Just like the Ephesian church, there have been disagreements in my closest relationships, especially within marriage. Richard and I have faced opposition in seasons of sickness, financial hardship and unwanted adversity. There have been multiple opportunities to be offended. Yet the same characteristics that built a secure wall around a battle-ridden church can also hem us in tight.
Be humble …
Humility is to be others-centered. We acknowledge our feelings, but also those of the person standing in front of us. We see their dreams, as well as our own. Humility is intentional. It’s viewing the relationship as “we” rather than “I.”
Be patient …
Patience is a willingness to stay the course as someone grows into their best self. It’s not just something we give to someone we love, but also something we give ourselves as we grow, fail, get back up and determine to love day-by-day.
Be gentle …
Every relationship has conflict, and it’s important to work through it, but gentleness sets a goal to heal or resolve conflict, rather than wound or be “right.” Gentleness is a soft place to land as love leads our conversations, our actions and our tone.
Bear with one another …
To bear with one another is to make room for imperfection. We do not tolerate abuse — that is not what this is describing. Rather, it’s making room for growth, allowing for mistakes and differences, and cheering each other on as you bring your unique strengths together as a team.
Love won’t be perfect …
Human love will never be perfect. As we read through Ephesians, we find the church had other struggles they had to overcome. Isn’t that just like life? Isn’t that how human we all are? Yet they continued to love each other. They continued to grow together. They continued to seek God. And God used them in powerful ways.
Love won’t always look like a handmade green velvet heart with our initials. It might not look like a perfect wedding, a perfect life or even a perfect year. Instead, love is forged from laughter, hard work, lots of prayer, patience, acceptance, forgiveness, fresh starts and sincere apologies.
It’s imperfect love, but when God is in the midst, it reflects Him … and that will hold us fast on good and hard days.
Father, sometimes love feels complicated. Today, will You enable me to reflect the characteristics of love, even if I don’t feel it? Help me to be humble, patient, gentle and to make room for imperfection as we grow in our love for each other. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.