I Corinthians 13:1-13---NRSV:
13If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
Most people the world over are familiar with this verse of the bible as it is a staple of weddings. However, most people don't live up to these standards especially in this day and age---when moving in together before marriage or shacking up is becoming more common. The phrase "love is patient" then becomes one of deep conviction for this day and age of lust, infatuation and instant gratification. We live in the Postmodern age where technology has revolutionized the speed in which we obtain the things that we want. We can order a book one day and receive it on our doorstep the next day---and so we want our love-life to be the same. We want love, sex and marriage without sacrifice or thought---and we want it now. In fact, the internet has helped some people to achieve this.
Go online and at any time you can be bombarded with online dating sites---some of them good, some of them bad. These sites speed up the process but one doesn't need them to do this. Some people do it the old fashion way---by meeting people wherever they are. Yes it's true---we live in a busy and hurried world. Technology has afforded this for us. Computers, telephones, cell-phones, jet planes, automobiles, etc. Think about how much these things have helped us for better or worse. It is not as if technology is wrong in and of itself. Technology has just bumped up our run-ins with instant gratification.
Amidst this backdrop of technology and instant gratification---I would like to paint a different picture for you. This is a story of war, technology and a love that truly was patient:
For five decades, she kept his picture in her wallet — a black-and-white snapshot of a handsome young Polish man with brooding eyes. The unlikely love story of Elvira Profe and Fortunat Mackiewicz began in the chaotic aftermath of World War II, as Poland's borders were redrawn by the victorious Allies and millions of Germans were expelled. It blossomed even as their people seethed with mutual hate and endured some of the past century's most tortured upheavals, and survived the Cold War that drove them apart. Now, in this 70th year since World War II broke out, and 20th year since the Cold War ended, they are married in a love affair that has triumphed against all odds.
So began a recent article on AOL news---but wait there is more:
In January 1946, Profe was one of the few Germans left in this town that became part of Poland after the Nazi defeat. She was sickly and malnourished from a nearly a year spent in a Soviet forced-labor camp in Siberia. Mackiewicz had resettled here after the swath of eastern Poland where he lived was handed to the Soviets. When they met, it was hardly love at first sight. The once privileged daughter of a factory owner was by then a stick figure weighing just 75 pounds. Her back was damaged by heavy labor and, at age 20, she was already sprouting gray hairs. She had returned home from Siberia to the town she knew as Baerwalde and which now had a Polish name, Mieszkowice, and her family was having to beg for bread and milk. One day, at her family's bidding, she knocked on Mackiewicz's door. His family was kind to her; they had heard her parents never mistreated Poles. When Mackiewicz, then 25, first saw her his first emotion was enormous pity. "She was just a toothpick," he recalled recently, holding up a single finger. The first time he kissed her, it was on the forehead, a gesture of compassion. Their love took its time. She would spend entire days with his family, helping to milk their cows and carry hay. He would walk her home. "We were friends first. Friendship, great friendship, trust. And then in the end — love," Mackiewicz said.
This romance is hardly the fast-paced romance so often encountered today but rather one that took it's time to grow as it should. When reading this article---I was immediately struck by the biblical example of Jacob and Rachel. The part that I am reminded of comes from Genesis 29: 16-20:
16Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17Leah’s eyes were lovely,* and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. 18Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, ‘I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.’ 19Laban said, ‘It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.’ 20So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her. (NRSV).
Jacob and Rachel's love was a love of great sacrifice and patience. The love between Elvira Profe and Fortunat Mackiewicz was also one of great sacrifice and patience. Continuing on with Elvira and Fortunat's story:
If their romance developed slowly, it was about to come to an abrupt end. And it was their decision to marry that tore them apart. When Mackiewicz went to the town hall seeking permission to wed, the authorities reacted with horror. Her father was not just a German, he was a German capitalist — a double sin in the eyes of the Polish communist bureaucracy. They ordered Profe's family to leave town. As Elvira and Fortunat — whom she affectionately calls Fortek — said their goodbyes in front of her father's factory, they exchanged photographs. He kept hers for several years until he married another woman in 1960 and gave the photo to his father for safekeeping. She kept his in her wallet — and never forgot him. And never married. She devoted her energies to helping run a new family factory in Germany and later working with handicapped children in Berlin. Then the currents of history that had separated them offered a chance to recapture the past. On Nov. 10, 1989, the morning after the Berlin Wall started coming down, Profe heard the news on her car radio and the impulse to trace her lost love came to her right away. "I had carried his photograph for 50 years so that thought was automatic," she said. "As soon as the wall fell, I thought, 'now I can go home.'" On a visit to Poland in the early 1990s, the manager of her father's former factory mistakenly told her that Mackiewicz had died. But she eventually found a cousin of his who said he lived in Mlynary, a town in northern Poland where he had been running a repair shop for farm equipment. She wrote to him. He wrote back. And they agreed to meet. In 1995 they were reunited in the parking lot of a Polish train station — and immediately reconnected across the decades.
Elvira and Fortunat just like Jacob and Rachel took years to finally get together. We can't imagine that because we are so use to celebrity romances that come and go in seconds. We are spoiled by immediate gratification. Marriage and sex that happens in an instant like Britney Spears' 55 hour marriage. We don't know what it means to wait. We've forgotten how. "Love is patient" then becomes a plea for us to wait on God's timing---for it is not by our own will and power that love truly happens---but the very act of God. Wrapping up the story of Elvira and Fortunat---here's how their patience truly paid off:
"We were five meters apart and he said 'Elvira?' I said 'Fortek?' We flung our arms around each other's necks and it was if those 50 years just melted away, as if the 50 years just didn't exist," said Profe.
By then he was 75, and she was 70. Today they are married, sharing a tidy, white home they built for themselves in the town where they first met. The inside walls are paneled with wood to look like her childhood home that no longer exists.
"Love will last until the end of your life, if that love is real," Mackiewicz said during an interview at their home. Sitting at a table in a dining nook, Mackiewicz, now 89, broke into tears recalling his pity for the girl from an enemy country that had killed millions of his compatriots, who had knocked on his door asking for food.
Profe, 83, who had stepped away to get coffee, rushed over and caressed his cheek.
Their love speaks in other small gestures: they hold hands as they walk through their yard, she places her hand softly on his knee during a drive to her family's old factory. His black-and-white picture of her, framed and still well-preserved, sits framed on a shelf in their home. Mackiewicz's first wife eventually left communist Poland to seek her fortune in the U.S. and remained abroad for 20 years. They never had children. When Profe re-entered his life, he asked his wife for a divorce but she at first refused, forcing the couple to delay their own marriage. The wife eventually relented and Elvira and Fortek made their long-delayed vows in 2005.
They took each other's names; today she is Elvira Profe-Mackiewicz and he is Fortunat Mackiewicz-Profe. "I never dreamed I would meet Elvira again," he said. "There was an Iron Curtain across the continent that was not to be crossed." Profe's Polish is halting, and Mackiewicz's German, much better in youth, has grown rusty with disuse. The two use a bit of each language and understand each other. Though her hair is now white and his silver, they are both trim and active. She exercised regularly with a women's group until a few months ago when she had to have bypass surgery, and he regularly uses a sauna in their basement. Their house, surrounded by a small yard with geraniums and roses, sits on the edge of a pine forest haunted by boars and deer — an area once dotted with the homes of German families. Many of the houses were heavily damaged in the war and afterward their materials used to rebuild Warsaw 450 kilometers (275 miles) away, which the Nazis had bombed to near oblivion.
The Profes' factory, which made tape measures, sits vacant at the end of a country road five minutes from where they live now. The original family house was burned down by the Soviets. Their lives today are a peaceful marital routine. They say they never argue — that it's not their nature anyway and that the short time they have been given together should not be spoiled. "What is there to fight about?" Mackiewicz said. Like many husbands, he has trouble remembering their wedding anniversary. But he insists it's not important anyway. What matters to him is the day in 1947 when he sought permission at town hall to marry her. And what he remembers is this: "Even though they said no, Elvira told me, 'it doesn't matter because I will never stop loving you.'"
See true love is truly patient---Jacob and Rachel knew it and Elvira Profe and Fortunat Mackiewicz know it. Their love is truly much more interesting than the lust, the instant gratification and the fast-paced romances of celebrities and today as their love had meaning through sacrifice and patience. Hardships which one does not find in instant love. Meaning and depth which instant love and immediate gratification can never provide. These are the people that we should truly look up to---not to the celebrities who get love, sex and marriage instantly without sacrifice---but to the ones who truly live out the phrase: "love is patient." So help us, God---Amen!