The One Who Loves – 1 Corinthians 13
By Amanda Jenkins
We have dear missionary friends who would visit our adopted son, Max, when he was still in the orphanage in Thailand. They brought him books, candy, and pictures of our family, told him about Jesus, and assured him that his new mommy and daddy would come to get him soon. Dallas and I were grateful that Max was being loved on — we saw it as God’s provision and protection for our son while we couldn’t be with him. I’m forever indebted, not only because they cared for Max, but also for their help while we were in Bangkok. They showed us around, armed us with maps and sky-train passes when they couldn’t be our personal tour guides, translated for us, and were a source of support during a difficult, emotional time.
But by day five, four-and-a-half-year-old Max still preferred them and Dallas over me, and I was sad. From moment one, the entire experience was nothing I expected. Nothing felt natural or instinctive. Max wasn’t connecting to me — the woman he’d seen in pictures for the past year. And what was worse, I didn’t feel a connection to him. He was difficult to control and rough around the edges; exactly what you’d expect from a kid who’d grown up in an orphanage.
I excused myself to use the bathroom and cried the moment I was alone, to which God quietly said, “You’re going to learn how I love.” I assumed He meant His love is patient and that He faithfully and quietly waits for us to love Him back. Or that He loves us more than we love Him. Or that He loved us first, while we were still stuck and broken. I assumed I was going to learn to love Max patiently, without reciprocation, and in spite of how much he acted out — at least for a while.
But that’s not what He meant.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless. . . .Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:4-10, 13)
I thought God was referring to the way I would love Max, but so far in the process, I’m learning about how God loves me. And by His grace, it’s spilling over to my son.
What extraordinary mercy for us both.
God is patient when I flail and fail in ways I didn’t see coming on the adoption road, and when I choose to swim in my selfishness and pride. He’s kind. He gives me reprieve when I’m ready to break down—in the form of my friends, my sweet husband, and our parents. He whispers wisdom to help me navigate through the crazy of our new life, and He offers conviction to protect the child in my care. He comforts way more than He chastises, even though I usually deserve the latter. He keeps no record of my wrongs, though I’ve given Him plenty to work with; every day, every repentant minute, I get to start over—His forgiveness has been poured out by the bucketful. He doesn’t argue when I’m angry—of course, He doesn’t stoop. He lets me wave my fists and tantrum in my heart while He waits for me to yield. Again. And He never boasts. In that little bathroom in Bangkok, He could have said, “I’m amazing. Prepare to be blown away by who I am and who you’re not, and how magnificently I love.”
But He didn’t.
Everything will pass away, and only a few things will remain—the greatest of which is love. And God is love. My recent crash course in the nature of God compared to who I am has been rough because I thought I offered more. Prior to adoption, I thought my high opinion of my abilities and my good heart was well founded. But as I’m seeing my sin for what it really is, God’s perfection is coming into sharp focus. Praise God I failed so early on in the process, and that Max and I didn’t lose years to my misguided self-confidence. Praise God that in his love, He’ll knit our hearts together, He’ll heal Max’s wounds, He’ll continue to melt my hard heart and calm my anxious mind, and He’ll glorify himself through our obedience in adoption.
And the people in our world will see how magnificently God loves.
(Order Amanda’s book, Confessions of a Raging Perfectionst here.)
Amanda Jenkins spent ten years in L.A. alongside her film-making husband surrounded by plastic surgery and high-falutin lifestyles, which is where she became convicted and inspired to write about her struggle with chasing perfection in all its forms. Amanda attended Northwestern Bible College and graduated with degrees in Communication and Biblical Studies. She has taught Bible studies for women of all ages for the past 14 years, and is passionate about communicating truth in a culturally relevant and funny way. Today, she lives just outside of Chicago with her husband, Dallas, and their four young children, including their recently adopted 6-yr-old son. She is also the daughter-in-law of Jerry B. Jenkins, author of the best-selling Left Behind Series, and drops his name in the publishing world as often as possible. Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist was released in 2013 by Tyndale House Publishers. Amanda blogs at RagingPerfectionist.com.