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"The L Word"

It's true what they say:

If you want to get a child to retain information and learn something new, the best way to teach them is to put it in a song.

Think about it.

Your kid is going to be a lot more motivated to pick up their toys to the tune of

Clean up! Clean up! Everybody, everywhere...

than they would with a finger-waggin' lesson on why the bathtub is not the best place to store all of their Barbie dolls and Legos.

Or, instead of giving your child an anatomy lesson on where their head, shoulders, knees, and toes are, you're going to humiliate yourself with a silly demonstration—bending up and down one million times to get them to match the name of the body part with the location.

It's the very reason why the ABCs became so popular. What better way to teach your kids the letters of the alphabet than with a classic, catchy tune?

Turning lessons into songs is a brilliant idea—the most successful attempt at giving children information they will have a hard time forgetting.

And, while I'm sure all of us gathered on this blog today can remember at least one educational song sung to them in their childhood, I can only imagine church kids relating to this all the more.

As a church kid myself, believe me, I can testify.

To this day, I find myself humming to the tune of Father Abraham—had many sons, many sons had Faaaaather Abraham.

Or, my first confession (and public spelling bee) at vacation Bible school summer of 2005—the first summer I was old enough to go—when I sang to the tune of: I am a C...I am a C-H-...I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N, fumbling the rest of the lyrics to keep up with the speed.

Or, especially the most famous, well-known tune among church kids everywhere—Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

Shall I continue?

These songs are historical, generational, core memories from every church canon event in every church kid's history—the most well-thought out method to teach us the many stories of the Bible.

And, as I get older and brave this stage of my life, notoriously known as the early-twenties, I can't help but think back to those songs that shaped me into the believer I am today.

However, there is one song in particular that influenced my life more than any other—a song that I had the most fun singing as a kid and a Scripture that challenges me the most in my walk today.

You may or may not know it and may or may not love it, but without this song, I would never be able to remember Galatians 5:22-23.

You guessed it.

I'm talking about the fruit of the Spirit.

Do you remember it?

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-controOooOol...

And, so on and so forth.

The quick rhythm of the lyrics, the challenge of the enunciation, the emphasis on self-control (so our Sunday school Bible teachers could remind us to keep our hands to ourselves during chapel.)

Who could forget them, right?!

Well, in today's blog, I want to open up about a fruit that I can ashamedly say I've forgotten about. Even more vulnerable, I'm here to be honest about a fruit I don't think I've ever done a good job at bearing.

It's not love—though I am constantly challenged and growing in how I give and receive it.

It's not joy—joy, joy, joy down in my heart. (I remember that song too.)

It's not peace—though this is a fruit I have to ask God to help me bear often as well.

Instead, the fruit I'm featuring today that I've never done a good job at bearing is the fruit that follows next in this song of ours—a fruit that I don't hear a lot of sermons on, come to think of it.

That's right.


I will admit that I struggle with being patient. Or, in other (and—in my opinion—better) translations, long-suffering.

And, after learning about the L-word in some recent conversations with God, I thought there's no better time than now to talk about long-suffering today on the blog.

Because, I've got to be honest with you, reader:

I never understood it.

In fact, I never even thought to substitute the word patience with long-suffering.

Because, if anything, I thought patience was simple.

I thought having patience meant keeping my cool when a 7:59-pm-customer walks into the 8-pm-closing-time store during my closing shift. (Which, if you're the 7:59 pm customer, I'm sure my retail worker friends would join me when I say: tsk, tsk, tsk.)

I thought God testing my patience meant positioning me behind the car who takes five seconds too long to move when the light has turned green. (Again, I say: tsk, tsk, tsk.)

I thought having patience meant listening to your next door neighbor practice their American Idol audition at one in the morning, forgiving the Starbucks employee for not putting extra sweet cream in your vanilla-sweet-cream-cold-brew-with-extra-sweet-cream order, or letting the long-lost-friend you randomly ran into catch you up on all twenty years you missed when you really just ran into the store for a carton of milk.

In other words, I thought that as long as I didn't blow my fuse and wait five minutes more than I thought I needed to, I was a good Christian girl.

However, while all of those things can test your patience, when you consider the word patience through the original translation of "long-suffering," patience brings on a whole new definition.

A quick Google search uncovered the word "long-suffering" to mean "patiently putting up with a lot of trouble or unhappiness, especially when it is caused by someone else" (Collins Dictionary) and "patiently enduring lasting offense or hardship" (Merriam-Webster) and, by-far, my favorite definition provided by, "long-tempered; to not immediately retaliate or punish, not surrendering to circumstance or succumbing to trial."

If you're asking me to paraphrase, a long-suffering person does not do what I've done in a handful of my very own relationships:

Shut down, isolate, and remove myself when an offense would continue much longer than I prayed it would.

Oh, yeah.

We're getting real today.

A long-suffering person doesn't jump ship at the first sign of conflict. A long-suffering person doesn't let a handful of offenses define the future of a friendship. A long-suffering person shows mercy when the person they're in relationship with doesn't change their poor behavior at the drop of a hat.

A long-suffering person believes the best in people before immediately leaving them in their worst.

And, if you don't think there's anyone who could possibly be that bad at practicing this kind of patience...

Allow me to introduce myself.

While I am not at all proud to admit this, I can honestly say that my long-suffering fruit is brown, soggy, and just about dead. As someone who absolutely hates conflict, I tend to take the easier route and call it quits when my hope of things changing runs thin. I get irritated when a peaceful relationship slowly becomes uncomfortable and takes forever to get back in its happy, honeymoon, unicorns-and-glitter phase that it once was in. I don't like believing for the best and getting let down when the same offense happens. I don't like waiting around for things to get better and actually getting a hopeful feeling that they will again soon only for it to just...not happen.

It drives me crazy.

It makes me feel hopeless.

And, worse of all, it tempts me to make hasty decisions about whether or not I want to stay.

But, to be a long-suffering person means that offenses don't give you the right to leave the relationship. Long-suffering means that your self-protective walls have to come down if you're going to successfully work through long-lasting conflict.

Yana, are you saying Galatians 5:22-23 is telling me to be a doormat? To let people chew me up and spit me back out, and I just have to put up with it?


Godly patience is not being cheated on several times, shrugging your shoulders, and suggesting that maybe it's what you deserve. Long-suffering isn't giving your friends, families, and spouses permission to treat you like the gum on the back of their shoe and strip you of your right to express how that makes you feel.

If you want to truly learn how to be long-suffering, you oughta spend all of your time studying the characteristics of a long-suffering God. Think about it! Long-suffering is a fruit of His Spirit, after all. If we want to learn godly patience, we need to learn from the Master.

Lucky for us, the Bible gives the best and only picture of what it truly looks like to have godly patience—especially when we study the gospels.

Let's get practical.

Spending three and a half years with twelve messed-up, imperfect, short-tempered disciples requires long-suffering. And, we see Jesus—the perfect, patient God in flesh—practicing this without fault.

The Bible says Jesus chose His disciples—from the greedy tax collector to the work-'til-your-hands-fall-off fisherman to the no-nonsense, militant zealot. If all three of them walked into a bar, I would imagine they would be a pain in each other's tail. Let alone living together for three-and-a-half years!

So, here Jesus is—the long-suffering, perfectly-patient God in flesh—dealing with some incredibly difficult people in a three-and-a-half year long friendship.

If we are going to learn long-suffering from anyone, it should be Him.

And, do we see Jesus breaking up with His disciples when they engaged in one too many arguments? (Luke 9:46)

Do we see Jesus telling Peter to kick rocks when he overstepped a boundary and started telling Jesus what to do? (Matthew 16:22)

Is Jesus petty with the disciples after He rose again, reminding them that they all deserted Him when Jesus needed support the most? (Mark 14:50)


Jesus had enough patience to deal with all of the disciples' bickering to and fro their next assignment.

Jesus didn't kick Peter out of the group when he dared to tell Jesus what He was and wasn't going to do. Instead, we see Peter as part of the trio on the mountain with Jesus when He transfigured into the fullness of His glory. (Matthew 17:1-2)

Jesus didn't let His disciples hear from the grapevine that He rose again even though they deserted Him in His time of need. Instead, He made it a point to appear to all of them, giving them the most important commission to go into all the world telling people that Hope is alive!

Jesus didn't even beg Judas to not betray Him at the last supper. Instead, He says, "Go do what you're about to do, and do it quickly" (John 13:27). Meaning, Jesus didn't control His friends! Even if that meant getting traded for thirty pieces of silver.

What this shows is that Jesus was confident in His character, His calling, and His Father enough to endure many offenses. Though He Himself was truth and knew that what Peter and Judas chose to do that night was not honorable in the slightest, He did not try to control the moves they made to protect Himself from getting hurt. He was too confident to do that. And, He was too confident in who He was and what His Father said about Him (Matthew 3:17) that He still forgave and showed them the full extent of His love (John 13:1), washing their feet and paying the price for their sin, for goodness' sakes!

In other words, Jesus wasn't a doormat for His friends, letting His insecurities decide how the disciples get to treat Him. But, He certainly didn't try to control the disciples' every move to avoid conflict either. He let them make the decisions they made the night before He was crucified and still showed them endless amounts of grace and forgiveness in the end.

It was His long-suffering that gave Peter the courage to preach after denying Jesus three times just days earlier.

It was His long-suffering that gave John the urge to write his account of the gospel knowing full well that the "one who Jesus loved" was the same one who couldn't even stay up an hour to pray.

And, it is His long-suffering that blows my mind every single day.

Without God's long-suffering, the relationship I have with Him would be non-existent.

It makes me tear up thinking about it.

There have been many moments where I have made strong, immature vows to God that I would never do that thing again...only to do it once again in record-timing. I get emotional thinking of the many times I thought for sure I had gone too far from God only to hear Him call my name, delightfully inviting me back into His presence.

His long-suffering makes me love Him so, so much.

He is patient with me.

The most patient.

And, if God is patient with me, then I can be patient with me. And, if I'm long-suffering with me, then I can be long-suffering with others.

This is the way to live.

This is the fruit of the Spirit.

If you want long-lasting friendships and relationships, commit your life to bearing the fruit of the Spirit—long-suffering.

And, if you feel yourself close up and shut down when a conflict arises along the way, have hope in knowing you're not alone.

Hear me loud and clear:

I'm learning this with you.

With the long history I have of laying on my horn when the car in front of me is stopped at a green light (....), long-suffering won't come naturally to me. But, that is why it's called the fruit of the Spirit—God's spirit, not mine.

God's spirit, not yours.

The only way we'll learn this is if we submit to Holy Spirit in us bearing this kind of fruit in our lives. On top of love, on top of kindness, on top of gentleness, He wants to bear in us the fruit of long-suffering.

And, before you harp on yourself for not being good at this right away, practice long-suffering with yourself. Show yourself grace. And, you can access that grace from One much greater, much kinder, much more patient than yourself—Jesus Christ.

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