When you create a character in a roleplaying game, you typically have a set number of points to spread across various talents: strength, perception, endurance, charisma, intelligence, agility, and luck. It helps you feel SPECIAL. You make choices, and it helps build your metaphorical character.
As you progress through the game, you level up, and you keep getting points to distribute in the different areas you want to specialize your character. Do you want to battle through the game? Pour everything into strength, endurance, and agility. Do you want to outwit your opponents? Perception and intelligence are your targets. Want to roll the dice? Charisma and luck might get you a long way. It’s meant to mimic life as much as any game can.
There are times in my life when I feel like I don’t have enough strength, perception, charisma, what-have-you. As Paul lists love’s characteristics, I realize I would like to have a few more points in the patience category for my real-life character.
My patience runs out, and sometimes it feels I didn’t have any patience in the tank to begin with.
Jesus teaches us patience too. You think you’ve been offended by someone? You think someone has tried your patience? You think you’ve forgiven too much? Peter asks Jesus about the limits of patience, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” We have to give credit to Peter because forgiving someone seven times seems like a lot to me. If I have to repeat myself to my children, I can get incensed. If I have to repeat myself seven times, we’re taking all of their entertainment away for a significant period of time. But Jesus comes back and responds to Peter, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Really, Jesus? That seems excessive. That seems like You’re forgiving someone too much.
But God is that patient with me, and more than that…
If I started adding a check mark to every sin I had to repent of more than once, I’d definitely be well past 77.
God is patient. He is gracious and merciful. He’s slow to anger. He abounds in steadfast love. He continues to extend forgiveness. He continues to love. He continues to be patient.
All of this is true, but we also can’t pretend God’s patience doesn’t have limits. After God had delivered his people from slavery out of Egypt in the Old Testament, recorded in many a history book also, He leads them toward the promised land. On the way, God tells Moses that He is going to give His people something significant. He beckons Moses up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments. While Moses and God are on the mountain together, the people below create a golden calf and begin to worship it. God tells Moses in not so many words: “Go take care of your people.” God doesn’t claim them as His own, and even tells Moses, “let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.” God was painfully, rightfully angry. His patience had reached an end.
Moses talks with God, and God relents. There’s a Love Brave relationship on both ends. People in the Bible are resistant to God all over the place. We’re warned about this resistance problem in the New Testament by the writer of Hebrews.
Certainly, there are ways that I would have redistributed my personal character if I was given the option in this life. I wish I could pour more points into patience, kindness, and love. But there’s no distribution which could have ever forgiven me, saved me, made me perfect and holy in God’s eyes. I’m thankful instead that when I return to God and lay my inadequacies before Him, He is patient, gracious, and merciful. He covers what I cannot for myself. He gives me life. He invites me to His rest.
I share Matt’s affinity for dorky board games, but I appreciate even more his ability to teach us to cry out to God, “Really?!” This is the bravery God’s love builds into us. We easily get wrapped up in believing we need to respect God, and yes, we do, but God desires real relationship with us, and real relationship doesn’t always look like placid agreement. The difference in our relationship with God and our relationship with people is that we know God is always right, even when we don’t like his ideas. Respecting God is in admitting He is God, and we are not…in the middle of our questions and wrestling. Praise God for a Brave Love that would rather have all my questions and turmoil than a fake metaphorical character I build to appease Him. Praise God for Jesus reaching into my life with freakishly patient, real relationship.