“When I was a Child”
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 1 Corinthians 13:11.
I’m looking at a photograph of three little boys. The one in the middle is nearly three years old. The ones on either side are his nineteen-month-old twin brothers. Three little rascals. Will, the three-year-old, doesn’t like for his brothers to take his trains. He will jerk them out of their chubby fists. Why? Because they’re bright, colorful, and, above all, his!
While Skyping with the grandchildren, Barb watched as the dog grabbed one of the twin’s cookie and made off with it. Unperturbed, the child simply walked over to his brother and took his cookie. How’s that for daring and resourceful?
They won’t stay that way forever. Their parents will teach them better.
We all know how limited, how incomplete a child is, not to mention how frustrating he can be. One minute, you want to hug his neck; the next you want to strangle the little darling.
I suspect that Paul the Apostle, for all his beautiful, inspiring prose, felt like a child, incomplete in love. How could he not? He was a human being. Read again through the book of Acts, peek between the lines of his letters. The guy didn’t play well with others. He got anxious when better preachers were around. He was not a team player; he had to be Boss. He had to get his way.
He insisted, for example, that Timothy, a grown man, submit to circumcision. I’ve known a few men who had to be circumcised for medical reasons. They wouldn’t have done it if they hadn’t had to–and Timothy didn’t have to.
Paul even picked a fight with gentle Barnabas, who had sponsored him and stood by him when everybody else wanted to run him off.
In the midst of all this, he wrote 1Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter. Love is beautiful. But love is hard. Hard for Paul, hard for us.
I have a friend with whom I can become so irritated on account of what he says or does–or doesn’t say or do. It’s so easy for me to forget that he has stood by me and supported me and given to me for decades.
I have wife with whom its so easy for me to find fault–in spite of the fact that she always makes me look good.
I have a church that lets me do community theater and feeds my need to get up and talk to a large group at once a week. Yet how quickly do I become impatient with these people, even despairing of them.
Ah, love. How can the childish love? How can the incomplete, those of darkened understanding see beyond their own fitful, flickering image in a mirror? How can we do it without God?
We can’t. We just can’t.