Remember choose your own adventure books? I loved them as a kid. When I read them I felt like I was an active participant rather than a passive observer. The Bible is supposed to be like this. When we sit down to read, we are placing on our lap a living book that bites back. But the Bible is powerfully “relevant” not because we are in charge but because God wields the words that confront us like a master surgeon wields a scalpel. Forgetting this is dangerous. And a few months ago I forgot.
I sat down on the couch that morning, grabbed my phone, and clicked on my Bible app. I rolled my eyes internally when 1 Corinthians 13 popped up. 1 Corinthians 13 is that passage we all tune out at weddings because we’ve heard it over and over again. We’ve turned it into a cliché. “Love is patient, love is kind …” And like the nagging repetition of a parent droning on, I was not interested in hearing the same old things again. I was about to look for another passage to read when the Spirit pricked my conscience.
Was I so arrogant that I thought a passage of God’s Word, no matter how familiar, had become irrelevant? So in a kind of sanctified rebellion towards my pride, I determined to read through this passage … slowly … and deliberately. I didn’t get past verse 5.
With each phrase I asked God to let the words have their way with me, and the words did their work. In the middle of verse 5 I read “love is not easily … irritated” and as the words hit my eyeballs it was as if I’d never seen this before. This passage which I have heard easily 100 times cut me to the heart.
I am a father and I’ve been married for almost 18 years. This means that among other things irritation seems to follow me through my home like Pig-Pen’s dirt cloud. These words lifted the veil and allowed me to see what my irritation really is. My irritation is not merely unpleasant, it is unloving. Stated more honestly, my irritation is selfish and hateful. Every biting word or exasperated breath is an unloving cut to those dearest to me.
So I learned at least two things in that moment on the couch. I learned again that God’s Word is truly living, active, and deeply relevant to my life. I also learned just how far I have to go to learn to truly love my family. Irritation is not an excusable speed bump on my way to loving my family it is weapon that must be relinquished. Loving my family means loving myself less, and that means my irritation must be offered up daily as a living sacrifice on the altar of God’s ever patient mercy.