“Love suffers long.”
1 Corinthians 13:4
Around 7:00pm, during our Ladies’ Bible Study, the power shut off. The fans stopped rotating to keep us cool and deter the nasty mosquitoes. About fifteen of us, sitting around two tables under the thatch roof of the church. It wasn’t a normal Bible Study night; it was the night of the potluck. A third table boasted numerous plates and bowls of delicious food, all homemade that day or the day before by the women in the group. Tortillas, panadas, beans, coleslaw, bread pudding, cookies. Tiff made her famous lime juice and Blanca contributed her baked macaroni and cheese.
But there it all sat, on the table, waiting for us to devour it. And there we all sat, around the tables, waiting for the current to return. My patience was dwindling, as I had skipped dinner at the house in anticipation of the feast before us. Miss M., sitting across from me, decided to start us off in song. We sang hymn after hymn, praise after praise. Some of them I’d never heard before, but as I opened my mouth God gave me every necessary word in order that I might lift them back up to Him. Our voices continued and we prayed, asking for the current and a decrease in mosquitos. Eventually the lights came back on. Patience.
I was in the shower. Conditioner soaking through my strands, water freezing to ease the sweat. The lights went out, and all was silent but the sound of the running water. The bathroom was pitch black–not even the moonlight shone in to give light to my task. I finished rinsing, turned off the water, and cautiously stepped out onto the little rug, praying the huge cockroach behind the trashcan would not find its way to my feet. I grabbed my towel, felt around for my clothing, and hurriedly got dressed. Arms out and hands spread, I slowly moved out the door and down the hall to my room. My flashlight sat in its regular place on the shelf. God is so good, how He provides.
As I sat on my bed, flashlight and pen in hand, I wrote in my journal of the day’s happenings. How I had to practice patience. How I had to remind sweet Irma to be patient. How thankful I was that it was a “cooler” night, so the absence of a working fan was not such a problem. Mid-sentence the fan clicked and the light overhead began to shine. A shout from down the hall made me smile and share in Irma’s joy. Thank You, Jesus. Patience.
The rain poured, and poured and poured and poured. Children ran from one building to the next, screaming and avoiding glares from their teachers. One by one I helped usher them back into their classrooms, though they still could not hear their teachers over the raindrops on zinc roofing. With these children, I have fallen in love. Their giggles, their belly laughs, their smiles and conversations and joy. I love watching them as they learn, as they make realizations and come to conclusions. When things “click.” Or, when they understand a wrong they’ve done and come to full repentance. How precious.
We’ve built a trust, those kids and I. Not all of them, mind you, but many of them. They respect me, and I respect them. But it has not always been that way. I came and they saw a target: someone to manipulate and dupe into giving them material goods. They’re really great at their game. Thankfully, the Lord gave me wisdom and discernment enough to see through it. Consistency is key, with any and every child. After some time of constant discipline and maintained order, these kids have discovered that I love them. They see that I care about their futures, which means not giving in to every whim and wish. And they know that I will praise and encourage them at appropriate times.
This thing, this trust, does not come easily. But when a child turns from fighting you and begins to hug you and lean on your shoulder and actually confide in you? Oh, there is much reward in love through patience!
Adapted from my journal, June 21 & 22, 2012. A friend of mine worked with me, via email, to help me fully digest the “Love Verse” (aka: 1 Corinthians 13). We took one portion at a time, starting with “love suffers long”, in order that I might master the act of love.