1 Corinthians 13
“If I speak in tongues of human beings and of angels but I don’t have love, I’m a clanging gong or a clashing cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and I know all the mysteries and everything else, and if I have such complete faith that I can move mountains but I don’t have love, I’m nothing. If I give away everything that I have and hand over my own body to feel good about what I’ve done but I don’t have love, I receive no benefit whatsoever. Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t boast, it isn’t arrogant, it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints, it isn’t happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth. Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things. Love never fails. As for prophecies, they will be brought to an end. As for tongues, they will stop. As for knowledge, it will be brought to an end. We know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, what is partial will be brought to an end. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, reason like a child, think like a child. But now that I have become a man, I’ve put an end to childish things. Now we see a reflection in a mirror; then we will see face-to-face. Now I know partially, but then I will know completely in the same way that I have been completely known. Now faith, hope, and love remain—these three things—and the greatest of these is love.” (Common English Bible)
(I officiated at a wedding on Saturday. I thought I would share with you my message. I have taken out the bride and groom’s names, but otherwise, this is the message I gave them.)
Grace to you and peace from God, our father and creator, from the Son, Jesus, our redeemer and friend, and from the Holy Spirit, our sustainer and guide.
I grew up along the Mississippi River. It is a huge body of water that never stops flowing. It isn’t like a lake, where the water comes in, stills, and evaporates. The Mississippi’s water is going somewhere. It has a flow that is steady, constant. It never drains dry because it is continually being refilled by the smaller rivers and streams all along its 2,340 miles that stretches from the northern reaches of Minnesota to the Mississippi Delta at New Orleans on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
I have learned a lot about life from the Mississippi River. In many ways, life is like a river. It has a beginning. It has an end. But at the end it doesn’t disappear, it goes into something bigger, and different than what it was. On the surface, it just seems like you can drift along in say, a canoe, and it will take you from one end to the other. And in theory, you can get along that way… stay in the middle of the channel and you can just float along. But in reality, there are snags that seem to pop up out of nowhere that will threaten to swamp your little boat. There are eddies that you can get caught in and get turned all around. A little canoe won’t carry very much and sometimes the fish won’t bite and it seems like you will run short of resources. There are unsavory characters that live along the banks of your river that will come out and attack you when you least expect it. You think, “If I get a bigger boat, then I will be OK. I’ll be more secure. I can take it easy then.” But bigger boats take a lot more work to navigate. It is harder to enjoy the river with so much to pay attention to.
You get the idea…
And there is the other thing about the river that is such a good metaphor for marriage. A river needs that constant replenishment from the small rivers and streams along the way. Your marriage will need a constant flow of communication, affection, gentle and loving touches, gifts and consideration given, sacrifices made for the other. St Paul said it this way:
Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t boast, it isn’t arrogant, it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints, it isn’t happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth. Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things.
Your marriage will need a constant flow of patience, kindness, trust, hope and perseverance. Just like a small river can be blocked completely by a beaver dam or a felled tree or a landslide so that you cannot navigate it, love can be blocked by jealousy, rudeness, selfishness, crabby behavior, complaining and scorekeeping. Like a river, love will reroute itself around the blockages, but sometimes it is too much for a marriage to bear. Only humility, truth telling and forgiveness can get the marriage onto the right track again.
Forgiveness is huge. It is the most important power you can harness to clear up the damage of done in a relationship. Forgiveness will be necessary. It is necessary in every relationship because we fall short of our highest standards and our most important values when we get sidetracked by something that seems good in the moment but bears long term consequences that were either unconsidered or ignored. Better to work to keep the channel clear by trustworthiness, respect, honesty and looking out for the good of the other first.
Being a military couple will bring this into stark reality because you will be put into difficult situations during the separations of training and deployment. You will have times when you cannot tell your wife where you will be or what you will be doing. You will have times when you will have to handle things without the advice or assistance of your husband. A steady stream of trust is necessary to keep that river flowing freely. You will have to deal with loneliness. You will have to deal with uncertainty. You will have to face your fears because life is fragile and you will have to do dangerous things. But just know that there is no place that is safe. There is no time where our security is guaranteed. An easy life is promised to no one. Because of that, you have to make every day count. Because of that, you have to make sure the streams of devotion and commitment and honoring the other flow into your life every day. Because of that, you have to guard agains those things that would block up the flow of your marriage.
You have to put yourselves into this 1 Corinthians passage:
You and I are patient with each other. You and I are kind to each other. You and I aren’t jealous of what the other has or does or knows. We don’t boast. We aren’t arrogant. We aren’t rude. We don’t seek our own advantage over each other. You and I aren’t irritable or short tempered with each other. We don’t keep a record of complaints. We aren’t happy with injustice, but are only happy with the truth. We put up with all things, trust in each other in all things, hope for the best in all things. We can endure all things when we can do all that.
And that is impossible to do on your own. Divine power is the only source of that much love. In 1 John 4:7-8 John writes “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” God is love. God’s power is love. God’s presence is love. God’s purpose is love.
God is what gets you through it all… you have the source of love at your fingertips, as close as your next breath. Prayer is one of your greatest resources. Practice staying in that holy place remembering that God is love, and there is nothing you cannot get through. Thanks be to God.
blessings to you,
Common English Bible (CEB) Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible