I’m not sure what kind of family you grew up in, but my family has always been good finishing a conversation or a visit with the words with some pretty unique words in the form of I love you. Of course, depending on who’s saying it depends on how it is said. If I’m finishing up a conversation with my sister or any of her family on the phone, its I luv ya. And if we’re ready to leave from a weekend visit with my in-laws, you might hear something like, we love you guys. If my mom is able to talk and is not crying or emotional over something, she’ll say luv you. My dad is the funniest. Me, my sister, my nieces, nephews and now Julia always get this one: Daddy loves you, or Papa loves ‘em. And of course, after chatting with some of my buddies or other guys in my family, I’ll close things up by saying something like, love you, man, or love you, bro. Sound familiar?
My friend Scott and I were talking about this recently, how saying something like love ya is safer, easier than actually saying, I love you. It doesn’t seem to require as much of ourselves, as much of our hearts, as much eye contact. Words like I luv ya can become casual, almost to the point where you seldom notice the significance of what’s being said. It becomes a familiar salutation, allowing us to sever our time easier and walk away.
I’ve been thinking about this recently in context of the relationships and conversations where I use these words. I even have a casual way of telling Molly how I feel about her, I love you, Sweetheart, or I love you, Honey (always followed by a sweet description of my Subject).
But take away the sweethearts, and instead of substituting luv for love, or ya for you, and precede it with as strong I, identifying who its coming from…when was the last time you looked at someone face-to-face, heart-to-heart and said firmly, “I Love You.” ? Whether romantically, to family or to a friend?
Thinking about this also caused me to realize that I don’t think I’ve actually ever heard my own father say to me, “I love you.” I know that it’s not because he doesn’t love me, but why has he never just said it? What is he afraid of? Maybe a better question here is, what are we so afraid of?
Is it because of the damage, the pain, the hurt in the world around us – all caused in the name of love – that has us shrink back from such bold words? Is it our fear that our sincerity toward someone else will be rejected, making us look foolish and over-sensitive to other people? What if we say I love you, and really mean it…and don’t hear those words in return?
Have you ever heard of folks who sort of brag about never telling each other, I love you? The defense always seems to be, we’ll he/she already knows. Is this heroic? My friend Kate and I were discussing this the other day…how damaging it is for someone to do nothing more than withhold those words from us and how desperately our hearts are longing to hear someone say them. It’s almost as if there’s something built into us where we simply need to hear it…
I’m convinced there are lots of things in life we are supposed to know already. We’re reminded of that all the time, of things we should remember, ought to remember, but somehow don’t. Yet history proves we are a people who easily forget. Why? Life can wear on us, beat us up, cause us to be so disoriented at times that we sometimes forget who we are, who are friends are, who God is. There’s something restorative, something comforting and assuring when someone walks up to us, looks us in the eye and says, I want you to know something. I love you. Did you hear me? Do you understand what I’m saying? I love you.
I think some, if not much of the difficulty found in our struggle of knowing day to day whether or not God actually loves us has to do with our inability to actually tell each other. My friend, Ziya, just left his office overwhelmed with the feeling that things are falling apart for him financially, and in the midst of this is wondering not only where God is, but whether or not God really loves him.
If God is love, and if God has told us that He loves us directly through His Son Jesus, and if Jesus has invited us to tell the world around us of His love, then how can someone really encounter God through us unless they hear somewhere along the way – …I love you…?