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(c) 2014 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2014 Christiana Lambert

How many of us have attended weddings where we listened to Bible verses read from 1 Corinthians 13? The passage that begins with “Love is patient and kind” introduces one of the most detailed treatises on love in the Bible. The Apostle Paul did not set out to address the love between partners or even friends or family, but instead spoke of agape love—which is divine love of and from God. Still, many of us think of these verses when we think of romantic love and commitment. These words model godly love as an example of how to behave toward all people whom we love, yet we, who are human, most need them to remember how to treat the most constant person in our lives—and thus the frequent reminder at wedding ceremonies.

Why is the person who is most precious to us—and the one who puts up with our failings so often—the one we find so hard to treat with the respect and love he or she deserves?

Everyday life intrudes upon the drug-like euphoria we feel when first falling in love. When we begin to know someone, we can’t imagine acting self-seeking or rude to them. That person is a perfect fit for us. And yet no one really is a perfect fit—it’s more a question of what we can live with or live without and what we must have in order to continue together happily enough.

In other words, if love is a drug, what benefits must a person receive and what side effects are too much? For example, look at stimulant medications used to treat AD/HD—medications that are often abused illegally. Contrary to popular beliefs, when properly prescribed, these medications aren’t supposed to give a high or create a life filled with peaks and valleys. Too much stimulant can leave a person feeling anxious and irritable even if it might give the focus to pull all-nighters. The appropriate dose and type of medication for the AD/HD patient is the one that brings the person into the moment and that provides a sense of calm as well as confidence that the person can find balance in life and manage necessary matters in his or her life, including relationships with others.

Some love seems more like the stimulants abused just to feel the highs—even when the lows are simply caused by a mismatch in the needs of the individuals in a relationship.

When I fell in love that first time, I couldn’t imagine coming down from that high. But when the lows came, I didn’t want to recognize just how much I was trying to force what we had just to get back to the highs. And the more I forced, the less my own love acted like that 1-Corinthians-13 love, even as I tried to let those words be my guide. All I wanted was more time with him, but what he needed was time for sleep, sports, schoolwork, and helping others. Our love was like too much stimulant—incredibly high and energetic until it became irritating and fragile. Despite his desire to live out a 1-Corinthians-13 love, he could not do so with me any more than I could with him—trying harder to follow these tenets would not make it happen. The side effects of our drug of love were too numerous and too damaging to continue together.

On the other hand, when we’re compatible with someone, it’s not as hard to have a 1-Corinthian-13 type of love—assuming we believe in and strive to follow those words. This is what I have found with Sherman, my husband of 26 years. Yes, maintaining a day-to-day love long term still has some challenges, but it is not all-day-and-all-night difficult. With a lasting love, much of it happens easily because we love who they are—with us and away from us. We can be in the moment together and confident that who we are together will be good and will also allow us each to be the individuals we are. For all their eccentricities, we love more of them than we do not. As Sherman likes to say, “You marry the strangest people.” To which I always respond, “You certainly do.”

Though our wedding ceremony did not include reading the 1 Corinthians 13 passage, we see those words as an explanation for how to live out the passages we did choose from John 15 and 1 John 4, including the following:

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:11

If love is at all like a drug, then it’s more like a medication prescribed by God, the healer—don’t settle for one bought from a street dealer. Love is patient and kind—and that also applies to loving ourselves enough to have the patience to wait for a 1-Corinthians-13 love.

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