It began at an airport, standing awkwardly close to a half dozen strangers, as we all pressed forward toward the door of the airplane.
“We’ve landing and are deboarding,” I texted my boyfriend, resisting the urge to follow it will a string of exclamation points. Just a few more minutes, now.
“Call you in 15?” He texted back.
I frowned at the screen. We have a lot of things in common, Daniel and I, but punctuality isn’t one of them.
OK, no biggy. For two-and-a-half hours I’d been literally counting down the individual seconds till I would see him. I could count 900 more. But as soon as I exited the jet bridge my phone rang. I answered it with a sigh of relief.
“Are you here?!”
I hate flying. He knew very well he was the light at the end of a dark tunnel for me . . .
“Hey love,” he said. “So the rental place had to clean the car they’re giving me and that took about 20 minutes, but I’m leaving now.”
“Leaving . . . Santa Rosa?”
My heart sank. “So you won’t even be here for an hour and a half?”
“More like hour, but yeah.”
I knew the drive was longer than that — but why argue? Seeing a Starbucks sign ahead, I told him I would find a coffee shop and do some editing. I hung up, awarding myself girlfriend points for keeping calm. But as I stared at the inflated, airport prices on the Starbucks menu, my blood was beginning to boil.
He knew how long it would take to get there, why hadn’t he planned better? I told him to pick up the car at 8:00, and he thought 11:00 would be fine. Why couldn’t he ever just listen to me? He had probably slept in, and here I’d been up since 6 AM. He was so insensitive!
The accusations mounted in my head, one after the other, my anger like a pressure cooker building up steam. I knew if I didn’t let some of it off I would blow a gasket at Daniel when he arrived . . . whenever THAT would be.
I decided to ditch the marked-up coffee and walk to a regular Starbucks. (After all, this was the San Francisco suburbs. There was a Starbucks every five blocks.) I put an audio-Bible on through my headphones, hoping that would help, and I started walking.
Airports are meant to be exited by car, train, taxi, bus, or airplane — but not by foot. Once I’d walked a bridge the length of an airfield, I had a good idea why. By the first mile, I wasn’t angry at Daniel for being late anymore, I was angry at him for every time he had ever been late. By the third mile, I was angry at him for the weather, the lack of proper sidewalk, that car that had honked at me, and the fact that I’d chosen to wear tights instead of trousers that morning.
It took me an hour, two wrong turns and six chapters of Bible verses to get to another Starbucks.
“I left the terminal. I’m at Starbucks by Chevron right off the freeway,” I texted.
Fifteen minutes later, still no response.
Finally, I called.
“The traffic is at a complete standstill,” he said. “It could be two more hours.”
The words sunk in. I was relieved I could answer honestly, “I’m so sorry you’re stuck in traffic, darling. But I’m really looking forward to seeing you.”
It had been a long walk, but by the end of it, instead of thinking about the times I’ve waited for Daniel, I was thinking about all the time Jesus waited for me. Instead of thinking about the road I was walking, I was thinking about the road He walked to the cross.
I remembered my sister-in-law telling me the week before, “Whenever your brother and I get into an argument, he has started trying to respond the way Jesus would. It’s worked wonders for our conflict resolution.”
But that has never been a particularly effective strategy for me — Jesus, after all, was never stood-up at an airport.
Instead, early in our relationship, God taught me a very different way of dealing with Daniel. I treat him like he is Jesus.
That’s right, I’m dating Jesus.
Believe me, I never thought I would be writing a blog with this title. I thought it was very near heretical if not just, you know, weird. But the fruit of it in our relationship and in my spiritual life was good. I was singing Jesus a silent love song every time I kept my peace when I thought Daniel was crazy or irresponsible. He — Jesus — was the One I was trusting my fate to, not this imperfect person He’d put me in relationship with.
And then in church one day the pastor quoted from E. Stanley Jones,
“Your neighbour is the agent authorised to receive the glory you owe God.”
There’s only one way Jesus ever gave us of doing things for Him, and that’s by doing them for others. Which means that in the moments I don’t want to love Daniel for Daniel’s sake, I am still able to love him for Jesus’ sake.
Whether or not Daniel deserved my patience, Jesus deserved my patience. But that took a while to sink into my heart that afternoon. Finally, I prayed, “Jesus, you know the response of my heart isn’t right, but please make the response of my mouth right. You said that loving your neighbour is like loving God. My boyfriend is my neighbour here, please help me to love him like I love You. You said that the things we do for the least people we do for you, please allow me to take this opportunity to show You how I love You.”
God gave me an easy lesson to learn, because, despite a different approach to timekeeping, Daniel loves me as well as my own parents and most of my best friends. And what I give to him in love, he gives back to me over and over again. AND, to his credit, he’d actually been up since 5 that morning, working, and had waited an hour and 20 minutes for the rental, not “about 20 minutes” — I’d heard him wrong. But maybe God was looking for a teaching opportunity?
It’s loving the people that don’t love me that’s the hard lesson. It’s giving to the beggar who takes advantage of my charity. It’s serving the boss who overworks and underpays me. I haven’t learned how to love these people yet, but I have this great training ground called close relationships, and a good God who never fails to make me take a long walk when I need it.