Today I’m writing on the topic of love. Not just any love, I’m talking about agape love. It’s the greatest virtue one can possess because it reflects the love of God that reached down to us while we were yet sinners. Jesus died for the undeserving. He gave up His life so that we could have life.
Even after He was whipped and crucified and nailed to the cross He cried out, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
1 Corinthians chapter 13 tells us that love bears all things. Some translate that as patience, but what it really means is, to be patient in bearing the offenses and injuries of others. (Strong’s G3114)
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not encouraging anyone to be a punching bag. That kind of behaviour is dangerous and should be reported immediately.
When I read that scripture I’m reminded to offer grace to my husband on the days he gets under my skin. I’m encouraged to be patient with him when I’m frustrated. I’m resolved to forgive him as God forgave me.
Growing up, I witnessed two men that exemplified this kind of love. One was my dad who loved Mom with patience and grace. And of course there was also Nel’s Oleson.
With popcorn in hand, I sit down to watch season nine – episode 21. I’m reminded of this gentle man who came into our home week after week, illustrating the virtue of love.
Willie wants to get married, but he knows that his mother won’t take it well, so he keeps it a secret from them. Purposely failing his college entrance exam he sets off his mother. In true Harriet form, she explodes into a hissy fit, stomping her feet and wailing out loud, until finally he announces his plans to work at the restaurant and marry Rachel Brown.
Self-centered Harriet weeps as Nel’s leaves the room to encourage his son. First he gently scolds Willie for not handling the situation honestly, and then congratulates him with these words, “You’ve got to live your own life, not your mother’s, or mine.”
For the next 30 minutes of show time, Harriet is miserable and she wants everyone to know it. Meanwhile her husband holds his tongue. He doesn’t snap back.
The wedding day comes. Harriet is under the covers pouting, still hoping to control the situation that’s slipped out of her grasp. She’s angry, controlling, insensitive, and rude.
Pleading with her, Nels is gentle and kind. “Please, please just get dressed and come with me to the wedding,” he says.
She’ll have no part of it, and so she continues to dig her heels in, refusing to go.
She does eventually appear at the wedding to mourn. Dressed in black she’s weeping at the back of the church. After nine seasons, we’ve come to expect this of her.
I love the way the writer wrapped everything up in the end. It’s brilliant and emotional, in a way we wouldn’t expect. In fact after watching it again, I think it just might be my favourite episode of all time. Even more so than Sweet Sixteen.
Wedding music is playing in the background. Nels enters the room to find his wife in the parlour with her hair down, she’s wiping her tears.
“It brings back memories, doesn’t it?” he says. “My mother didn’t want us to get married. She said it would ruin my life. Well, she was wrong.”
Harriet listens intently, while his grace softens her heart, “Marrying you is the smartest thing I ever did,” he said.
Turning to face him she asks, “Do you mean that?”
Finally, holding her head in his hands, he looks into her eyes, “If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t change a thing… May I have this dance?”
That right there is agape love.
It’s a fictional story I’m sure, but the principles are true to my life. I’d love to throw stones, but dropping them to the ground, I’m reminded of the countless times I’ve stood in her shoes: self-centred, impatient, angry, grumpy, and down-right hard to live with. Over and over again I’m served that same agape love that keeps us together. And you know what? My heart softens by the way that he loves.
In the same way, there are days when I don’t feel like being patient and kind, but I do it because I know it’s God’s will for our marriage. I love this man, and the best way to soften Michael’s heart is by the way that I love.
We’re not all blessed with a Nels in our life. I know that. But we are blessed by a God Who loved us before we loved Him.
“Please, please come with me to the wedding,” He says.
And that right there is agape love.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Teach me to love the way you love–with patience, and kindness, and grace. Help me to love well on the good days and bad. You have given me much to be thankful for, Lord. May Your Holy Spirit guide me to shine as a light in this dark world—keeping in step with Your will. Amen.
You are loved by an almighty God,
Love your husband, even and especially if you’re having a bad day.