(my apologies for being a few hours late with this post. we've been traveling and only now have i found time to write what's been on my mind.)
a recent visit to the home of a relative who lives about five hours away reminded me of this characteristic from paul's list in first corinthians 13. we were dividing our time between two related families who live on opposite sides of a large city. in order to move conveniently from one home to another, we needed to leave the first home we visited on a friday morning. to lengthen our visit at this first location would have meant adding an extra hour to our travel time and fighting rush hour traffic at its worst, adding even more to our time to reach our second destination.
the relative whom we first visited had it in her head that we had to stay the entire friday at her home before leaving. she hadn't thought through the inconvenience it would cause us, and at breakfast we explained to her why we needed to leave on friday morning. (we had already extended our visit by one extra night at her insistence.) she was preoccupied with other matters and didn't pay attention to our explanation. when the time came for us to leave, she became quite angry and agitated, stormed off to another part of the house, and, when one of us followed her to try and reason with her, she became even more angry and said some very unkind things.
we always dread visiting her home, because inevitably there is an explosion like this no matter how careful we are to avoid upsetting her. this relative is very talented--a wonderful musician, keeps an immaculate house, can do anything from laying flooring to plumbing to gardening. she is economically well-fixed, has a brilliant daughter and two equally gifted grandchildren--in short, everything she needs to live a happy, contented life. but she is an eternal victim, and her past constantly haunts her. her father was an abusive controlling man who terrified his wife and children, her first husband was equally controlling, her daughter was alienated from her for several years because she lived with and eventually married a man that the daughter resented after her divorce from her first husband, and even now, her daughter and grandchildren keep their distance much of the time. her second husband is several years older than she and in poor health, and she resents having to care for him.
when we talk with her, the conversation is a litany of all her problems past and present, and, when we visit, she must determine the schedule and control all the activities that take place. she is the epitome of a sort of self-love that insists on its own way to compensate for all the unhappiness in her life, an unhappiness that she blames on others but which really stems from her own insistence that everyone else must submit to her wishes to compensate her for her past and present misfortunes.
all of us fall into the trap of insisting on our own way from time to time, but we do no one a favor when we become a doormat for others who insist on their own way. relationships with others are about compromise--i'll go your way some of the time if you'll go my way at other times. my wife exhibited a perfect example on this trip when she went with me to an event that she didn't give a fig about because she knew how much i wanted to go, despite my telling her that it would be alright if i missed out on this event so that she could have more time with relatives she wanted to visit after we left the first relative's home. as she told me later, "i knew how important this was to you, and i was determined for you to have this experience no matter what." this is true love, a giving of yourself to make room for another's happiness.
may we all have such a love, one that allows others to have their own way when it matters most. may we let go of the selfish belief that the world owes us our own way because we somehow deserve it. shalom.