Recently I was thinking about those well-known words that Paul uses in his first letter to the Corinthians when describing love. This is the passage I am talking about:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, 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.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

And it struck me that parents, who are supposed to have the most unconditional and selfless love for their children, often struggle with the very first (and therefore, arguably, most important) fascet of love that Paul describes. Patience. Interestingly enough, the other aspect of parenting that some may find difficult to maintain just happens to be the second item in that carefully selected list. Parents may be able to provide for their child’s physical needs, feed him, clothe him, even help him brush his teeth at night. But to acknowledge a child’s identity, his or her right to have and express their views, to honor and cherish instead of wanting to submit and squelch…this is something that we, as parents, may struggle with. We are in a dire shortage of kindness.

How incredibly convicting to realize that when I am patient with my child, I am not just expressing good self-control, but I am expressing the foundamentals of love. Paul reveals the depth to which he understands human nature by breaking down the amorphous “love” into tangible, accomplishable attributes. He puts patience first. Then kindness. And all of the other qualities seem just an iteration of those two.

In closing of this little doxology, I cannot help but put the second half of that chapter:

“Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror, then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”