I love you. What comes to mind when you hear those words from someone? What about when you read them on a blog and they’re coming from a (maybe complete) stranger? Do you believe them? Are you more guarded than to simply take those words at face value? Is there even such a thing as face value when we’re speaking those words? I was recently talking about these words with my girlfriend (who I’ve been married to for 26 years) and she suggested I write about them. So I am.
Let me start by saying what I DON’T mean. I don’t mean that I feel a certain way about you (at least that’s not what I mean primarily, and especially if we’ve never met). I don’t mean that I see and know everything you do and have come to the conclusion that you’re worth love. I don’t mean those things. What I mean is that I love you.
Those 3 words pack a punch, don’t they? There are people in my life who can’t even receive them because of the impact they’ve made through negative events in their past. And I’m so sorry for that. I’ve actually had someone tell me to please not say those words to them because of the pain they trigger. Begrudgingly, I consent.
I share these words with people freely. My wife wasn’t brought up that way. My wife’s parents very wisely taught her from a young age to guard those words carefully and NOT to simply dole them out to anyone and everyone. I love that. I love that they taught her to guard those words because in teaching her that, they taught her they were not words to be taken lightly. Her parents knew and instilled in her a reverence for the power these three words wield. I completely respect that. I told my girlfriend (when she was just my girlfriend) the words “I love you.” LOOOONG before she uttered the words back to me. But when she did? Oh….my…..WOOOOOORD. Have you ever seen a video of the atomic bomb going off? (How did that camera survive, anyway?) That mushroom cloud? That was my heart at that moment. And I’m pretty sure that was the point. That’s why she waited. That’s why she guarded them so well. Because of the sheer magnitude of impact they carry.
Why then? Why would I toss them around so flippantly, seemingly without regard for where they land? Why would I tell my wife “I love you” and still tell a 15 year old guy in my student ministry “I love you”? Aren’t I just cheapening the value of the words by using them so haphazardly? Can’t I and shouldn’t I discriminate more than that?
Maybe. Maybe I should. But I don’t think so. Here’s why.
To those who hear those words from me, they more than very likely know that I’m not talking about butterflies, rainbows, and warm fuzzies. They know me enough to know I’m on a different level than that. I realize fully what those words mean. I know what they’ve done in my life and I know what they have the power to do in others’ lives. I’ve seen it firsthand.
I tell you I love you because I’m expressing my commitment to stick with you, no matter what. Love is work, and I’m willing to work.
I tell you I love you because I want to help create a world that is both loving AND unwavering in its standards. Love has standards, and I love that.
I tell you I love you because I agree with Burt Bacharach, they really are “What the world needs now” and saying those words fills the air with what we need most, next to oxygen.
I tell you I love you because I don’t want anyone to ever mistake me for someone who’s unloving.
I tell you I love you because I invite you to inspect my life, my motives, my actions, and scrutinize them. Hold me accountable to the very definition of love that I proport. If you find me falling short, I trust you’ll love me enough to speak the truth in love to me.
I tell you I love you because I don’t know who is or who isn’t telling you that you are loved. I’d rather err on the side of communicating it and risking being misunderstood than not communicating it and risking being perceived as unloving.
I tell you I love you because I don’t know what’s actually going on behind the curtain of your life and those words–simple as they are–just might be the life-saving floatation device you need right now.
I tell you that I love you because life is far too precious to keep powerful, deeply-understood, healing words to myself. It costs me nothing to say them but for you they might hold everything that’s vital to survival.
I tell you that I love you because when the dust settles and I’m the one in the casket being lowered into the ground, I want everyone present, and everyone who’s ever known me to agree on one thing: Jerry loved us.
But mostly, I tell you that I love you because I know how loved I am. And I know that I’ve been loved first. I know that because I know that I am loved I am also compelled to let others know how loved they are. In other words, “We love because He first loved us.” If that sounds familiar to you, its from 1 John 4:19. The apostle John is spelling it out succinctly and supremely. He’s identifying the very reason that love exists for us at all. Its because you and I have been loved with an everlasting love. Therefore, we in turn are invited to love as freely as we are loved.
That’s why I love you. During the several minutes I’ve been typing, I’ve gotten 3 texts from 3 different people and all 3 of them received from me the words “I love you.” And I do. I love them. I love you.
Not because you earned it. Not because I feel like it. Not because of some ill-placed karma-like philosophy of life. Simply because I know that I’m loved. So God helping me, I want you to know it too.