June 07, 2010

Patience in Relationships (The need for immediacy)

Paul paints a beautiful picture of love in the thirteenth chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.
1 Corinthians 13:4–8

One of the most beautiful experiences in life is being patient enough to be thankful for not doing something you would have regretted had you not been patient. In a world of e-mail, instant messaging, cell phones in ten-year-olds’ pockets, iTunes, and every other form of instant communication, people have begun to fear the absence of immediate self-gratification. This is what immediacy is: immediate self-gratification.
It looks like this: Cindy calls to tell Dan that she wants to break up. Dan doesn’t understand this. He thinks everything is going well. Cindy tells him that she just wants a little time on her own before they talk because she needs time to heal herself because this hurts. This further confuses Dan. If it hurts, why do it?
What does Dan do with his questions? He gets in his car, drives over to her dorm room, pounds on the door, and, face to face, demands an explanation. Dan wants answers right now. He doesn’t care if Cindy needs time to think. He wants immediacy.
I have found that immediacy rarely works when anger or fear is involved. Fear and anger do not promote any of the virtues listed in 1 Corinthians 13. Immediacy in such cases promotes self-gratification. “I want answers now.” “I want to be heard right now.” And oftentimes, most poignantly, “I want to know right now that you are hearing me.”
This problem isn't isolated to dating relationships; it's everywhere: employer/employee, teacher/student, friend/friend, parent/child, sibling/sibling, etc.
For the Christian, immediacy can be a thorn. Many of us will struggle with the need to have immediacy for the rest of our lives. We need to learn from the quiet few who have learned to utilize letters and journals to process their thoughts and articulate words so that they don’t have to live with the regret of saying things that they regret in times of emotional turmoil.
This means that we need to be patient in relationships. Patient to let God work in other people’s lives. Patient to let other people work things out in their human minds. Patient to take time in order to communicate in non-threatening ways.
High school and college can be two of the hardest places to develop patience in relationships. Most of the time, students are running a hundred miles an hour with over-packed schedules, and they have pretty open access to friends at all times. This type of fast-paced environment and immediate access fosters a belief that we deserve to have things resolved “right now.” It’s here that we need to develop the lifestyle of Christian discipleship by respecting the relational rights of the other six billion Image Bearers of this world and the inadequacy of our human brains to operate optimally under emotional stress.
The lesson here is to be patient and love unselfishly. Write. Process. Pray. James warns us that our speech can be more deadly than a raging forest fire and more powerful than a mighty wave. Heed the caution and return to the guidance in Philippians 4:8 before you enter into a difficult conversation. Be in a place where your mind is focused on things good, pure, true, lovely, and noble. Have the mind of Christ and use your speech as one who bears His image.

With you for His glory