I preached through I Corinthians 13:4-7 for a wedding ceremony this past weekend, and I told the starry-eyed couple in no uncertain terms that I knew when the “honeymoon period” ends for newlyweds.

I Corinthians 13 is “the love chapter,” and while Paul wasn’t speaking directly to marriage, it’s probably the most quoted Bible passage in wedding bell history. Verse 4 begins a flood of descriptive language as Paul offers us a composite sketch of love by telling us what it is and what it isn’t.

In the closing remarks of chapter 12, Paul promises that coming up next, he’s going to show us “the most excellent way,” a way being a way of life, a path to walk, a progression. “The love chapter” is the most excellent way, the most excellent path.

“Love is patient, love is kind,” he begins, and really, that’s all we need to know. Love, he says, begins with patience.

Infatuation doesn’t have to build on patience. It’s momentary, fleeting, and shallow. But true love is patient, and it’s patience that makes long term kindness as a way of life possible. Patience is what sustains kindness when the other person doesn’t deserve it. Patience is what kept me at the kitchen table a few minutes ago when my son Joel was driving me bonkers but still needed me to lovingly and kindly help him complete his newly purchased Apache helicopter model.

So I know beyond a shadow of a doubt the precise moment when the honeymoon ends. The honeymoon ends the moment patience dries up.

When we’re dating or even engaged, see, we’ve got a lifetime of patience saved up for that special someone and now that we’ve found them, we open up that bank account and begin spending it lavishly. His annoying habits? No problem. Paid for. Her monthly mood swings? Love’ em. And when we get married, we keep withdrawing. Keep pouring. Keep smiling big.

But one day, the patience dries up. “Okay, that’s IT.”

And the honeymoon ends, grinding to a halt like a rusty Ford with a broken axle.

The thing is, this isn’t bad. It really isn’t. Because an epic marriage isn’t built on patience in reserve. It’s built on patience as a fruit of the Spirit grown fresh every morning, every moment, for every miracle.

Now you know.