Her plan was to stand up in front of a church in the United States and begin her testimony by telling the audience that she was about to share life changing words. The words she was about to speak were urgent and must be applied.They were the very words of God. Then, she was going to passionately quote a passage of scripture…in Arabic. She was then going to pause and ask the audience… “How can you apply something, how can you believe something, how can you live something out, if you CANNOT understand it?” That was going to be the introduction to her missionary talk as she raised support for Wycliffe Bible Translators. Awesome. I loved it. I don’t know if she ended up doing that or not. I knew her one summer on an internship through Wycliffe, and I have not seen her again, but I will never forget what she said.
How can you apply something that you don’t understand?
This February, our family has done a project, kind of like an advent calendar, but for Valentine’s Day. I made little round cards with phrases of scripture on them. I made a little clothesline and bought tiny clothespins. Each day we put up another part of I Corinthians 13:4-8, describing love. Day one was “Love is patient.” Day two was “Love is kind,” and so on until we got through the whole description of love.
As we would do this daily, we would say what our love word for the day was and tell the girls what that word meant. Pretty simple. A couple days into it, I decided to actually look these words up and see what the official definitions were so we could clearly explain them to the girls, along with synonyms and everything. When we started doing that, I Corinthians 13 got a whole lot deeper and way more convicting. Whereas before, we would breeze through these verses and drone on, one word after another, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud….” This time, we stopped at patient. Love is patient. What does patient mean? It means “able to accept or tolerate delays, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.” Whoa.That was like an arrow through my heart. How annoyed do I get when the girls are causing “delays?” Seeing the definition of “patient” showed me how badly I need to work on being patient. That was just the first one. It got more convicting. Love is kind. What does kind mean? It means “having or showing a friendly, generous, and considerate nature.” Wow. We had even more work to do. Love does not envy. Envy means to “desire to have a quality, possession, or other desirable attribute belonging to someone else.” Love does not boast. Boast means to “talk with excessive pride and self-satisfaction about one’s achievements, possessions, or abilities.” Love is not proud. Proud means “having or showing a high, or excessively high opinion of oneself or one’s importance. Love does not dishonor others. Dishonor means “to bring shame or disgrace on.” The synonyms were “humiliate, degrade, debase, lower, cheapen, blacken the name of, give a bad name to.” Wow. Love does NOT do this. Love is not self-seeking. Self-seeking means “concerned only about getting what you want or need and not caring about what happens to other people.” Again, as we read the definitions of these words, it made such an impact. Love is not easily angered. Anger is a “strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.” Love keeps no record of wrongs. A record is “the sum of past achievements or actions, previous conduct.” Wrong means “an unjust, dishonest, or immoral action, misdeed, offense, injury, or crime.” Love does not delight in evil. Delight means “to take great pleasure, charm, enchant.” Evil means “immorality, wickedness.” Think about that. Love does not take pleasure in, or allow itself to be charmed by… immorality, or wickedness. Love rejoices with the truth. Truth means “what is in accordance with fact, or reality.” Love always protects. Protects means to “keep safe from harm, defend, shield, hedge, shelter, guard.” Does your love protect? Does mine? Love always trusts. Trust is “a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone.” Love always hopes. Hope means “expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” Love always perseveres. Persevere means to “continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty, or with little or no prospect of success.” This one brought tears to my eyes. The final one was Love never fails. To fail means “to be unsuccessful in achieving one’s goal.” So you could state it this way, “Love is never unsuccessful in achieving it’s goal.” It always achieves what it sets out to achieve. When I read this passage this way, defining the words, it hit me. This is how God loves, not us. We are imitating His love. He loves like this. And we are to love the way He does. That will require Him every step of the way.
This was one of the most precious family devotional activities we have ever done. It was a reminder for us to slow down and make sure that we understand the words we are reading. It went from us just breezing through the love chapter to us being cut to our core by truth, and it led us to marvel at the amazing, faithful, strong and unfailing love of our God. The difference was defining the words we were reading. The difference was understanding. In the words of my friend, “how can you apply something that you don’t understand?”