We've all seen movies with the epic scene where, in the midst of their imminent separation, one lover passionately proclaims to the other, "I will wait for you!", and the rest of the movie is their struggle finding their way back together. Some of these stories are tragedies, where time proves to be too much for the estranged lovers. But some of these stories, the best ones, end with the lovers reunited because they were willing to patiently endure.
Webster defines patience as "bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint" and "steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity." I think there is a reason that God puts this quality first in his definition of love. It is perhaps the most difficult attribute of love to master, because it involves waiting--and not merely waiting, but waiting bravely, with a good attitude, in hope and trust.
When entering our sophomore year of college, Erica and I were separated by 220 miles when I decided to stay in Ohio while she went back to Indiana Wesleyan University for her second year. I was heading down a path of selfishness, alcohol, and apathy while Erica was trying to seek God's will for her life.
She was a Resident Assistant in her dorm that year, and I.W.U. encourages authentic relational mentorship among their leadership. Week after week, as Erica shared her anxiety over her boyfriend's poor attitudes and bad decisions, she was encouraged to break up with me (which was good advice from their point of view). But Erica saw something within me that they did not have the perspective to see. She saw how God was pursuing my heart. And so, she patiently endured, all the while praying for me and encouraging me to give up my selfish life for the life God intended for me.
In late October of that year, God himself broke through my walls of self-preservation and fear, and I made a decision to quit living in sin and start living for Him. That January, Erica and I were reunited as I rejoined her at Indiana Wesleyan University.
Patience is trusting God will come through in our lives. We read Bible stories about the great men and women of faith, but we fail to realize the epic struggles their faith endured. After God promised Abraham he and Sarah would be parents, it was 15 YEARS before they actually had Isaac. Moses was with the Israelites for 40 years before he finally got to see the "promised land". After David was anointed as king of Israel, it was at least another 13 years before he actually became king (and that of only Judah. It would be another 7 years before he became king of all Israel).
Without patience, our "love" is cheap and shallow, and we give up on others before the true potential of their worth can be realized. Love without patience is not really love, but rather a vain lust for something temporary that brings us fleeting pleasure. In this form of "love", divorce is the answer to irreconcilable differences and sheer force is how we get what we want. We move from relationship to relationship or from rash decision to rash decision, only to end up empty and void.
Shakespeare wrote, "How poor are they who have not patience. What wound did ever heal but by degrees." We must be willing to put off the instant gratifications that will never satisfy in order to wait for an enduring love, because love is patient.