Picture, if you will, the great finger of God, stabbing His points for emphasis. “The greatest commandment,” with a dramatic sigh for the stupidity of one young human, “is to love Me with all that you are. You say you don’t know what that means or what love is.” An impatient statement follows, “Silly girl, it’s all spelled out in I Corinthians 13. To love me, you” an emphatic stab of His finger at me “must be patient. You” another stab “must be kind. You may not” point, point, point “envy or boast, and there will be no dishonor, selfishness, or flammable tempers on your part. I most certainly do not want to hear about any wrongs that may have been done to you, either. You can’t keep those records. You better be rejoicing with the truth, protecting, trusting, hoping, and persevering. Let me know when you get it all down.”

This bit. It rankled. I did not like it, not one bit, no sirree! I don’t like being spoken to like this, dismissively being told what I needed to do to make myself at least somewhat acceptable, but this is God we are discussing. However vast my resentment, some part of me recognized that if anybody had the right to talk to me like that, it would be Him, so I tried swallowing my pride and tried to do all of this stuff. I tried to be kind and patient, especially with my (annoying, obnoxious, pestiferous) younger siblings. I failed more than I succeeded, but I did keep trying, and I even humbled myself enough to ask or sometimes demand that God help me with this impossible task.

I did not approach this labor wholeheartedly. All the while, that resentment of God’s highhandedness kept rumbling. I was annoyed by it all. “I must be patient. I must be kind. I must not be boastful,” I would snarkily repeat to myself, under my breath. “What the heck does all the crap mean, anyways, God? I don’t know. I can’t figure it out.” Please, my friends, do not underestimate the value of snarky prayers or confessions. God hears even them. All I could do with love was try, and the trying made me angry and insecure, because it exposed how completely I failed. I could not even talk to God about love consistently with any love (or civility) on my part. I was not patient, nor was I kind, nor did I treat God with honor. Once in a while, some of that would appear, but it was not a consistent experience for me. I just kept trying and kept looking for opportunities to keep trying. I’m stubborn, and I do not give up easily. Still, I treated love like a huge pain in my butt. I felt it was a nuisance. I did not believe that love was a good thing. I only cared about it because I believed it was what God demanded of me, and I was trying to make Him happy.

God hears and answers even snarky prayers, people. One day, I was in the kitchen, making something for lunch. Nobody else was around, something that was a rare event with my many younger siblings (I had five at that point), and while I was cooking, I was thinking. Cooking involves lots of fairly mindless tasks, and performing fairly mindless tasks has been a soothing thing for me for a long time. I accomplish something, my hands are busy and thus not distracting me, and my mind settles down for a good think. So I was thinking, and because I had love on the brain (love had gotten under my skin. I was so irritated by it!), I was thinking about it and God’s ridiculous demands. My mind was traveling its (by now) well worn path of resentment and shame.

But suddenly, I had this moment of revelation. It was so cool. Out of nowhere inside me, I realized that I was reading I Corinthians 13 all wrong, and that I was more right than I knew in complaining that I didn’t understand love. I thought – believed, really – that I Corinthians 13 was there to point how messed up I was. It is not. It can serve that function of conviction, yes, and it did for me, but that is not its most crucial message.

You see, my friends, what I realized is that God is love. Not only that, but at just the right time, while we were still powerless, while we were still sinners and making terrible messes, God demonstrated his love for us through the death of His Son, of Himself, of Christ. God was NOT saying, “Bekah, you have to live out I Corinthians 13 to get me to care about you.” I had misunderstood completely. He was saying, “I Corinthians 13 is there to explain how I treat you, because I AM love, and I’ve already commended that love to you. I already love you. I am patient. I am kind. I do not boast, and I am not selfish.”

My jaw dropped. It was not a demand, an imposition over which I had every right to be angry, a great nuisance to make me sweat and toil and suffer. It was an explanation, an offer, something which I’d already been given. I had been so wrong, and yet He was so gracious. My jaw just dropped in awe at the amazing awesomeness that is the love of God.