Loving isn’t always easy. The people in our lives are broken and imperfect. Sometimes they are frustrating and annoying. In spite of their faults, they still need love. Recently I encountered a patient who understands what it means to love someone in difficult times.
It was his first time seeing me as a patient so I asked him my typical first question, “How did you hear about us?” He responded with the most common answer I hear from married men, “My wife came first and told me I needed to come.”
He kindly helped me remember his wife by reminding me of her medical history. She has bipolar disease and a number of other medical conditions. He went on to briefly describe their marriage journey. Although they were now in a good place the road had been extremely difficult. As with so many patients with bipolar disease there had been many years of dysfunction, disappointment, and pain. For much of their marriage her mental illness made it impossible for her to be the woman she was when they first married. It took over twenty years for her doctors to finally determine the combination of medications that gave her a degree of normalcy in her thinking and peace in their relationship.
As he related their story I was amazed at the absence of bitterness and resentment. It struck me how easy it would have been to give up, to say that it was too hard, too painful and too difficult. I wondered how many men would have simply walked away, and I wondered why he didn't.
The answer is simple. He loves his wife. Even though it took over 20 years for her to get to a place of health, he waited. (And waited, and waited!) As a man of faith, he understands the exhortation of the Apostle Paul that “love is patient.” (The Greek word for patient is a powerful word that can be translated “long suffering”. It doesn't just mean “wait” it also means “wait a long time through pain.”)
In my years in practice I have heard countless complaints about the bad behaviors of spouses, exasperated laments about toilet seats, spending habits, house-cleaning (or not!) and other behaviors that were just “too much to take.” This patient reminds me of The value of keeping your promises, doing your best, and loving the person you married. He reminds me that patience isn’t just a virtue, it is part of what love is.
This is the first in a series on love based on definitions found in 1 Corinthians 13. You can have all the posts delivered to your inbox by clicking on the subscribe link on the page. If the post has been helpful or encouraging please consider sharing it with a friend!