When is the first time you remember really meaning the phrase, “I love you.”? I don’t want to put the focus on the first time you said such a thing, but the first time you think you really meant it. Who did you say that to? Did they believe you?
Almost every day, I say the phrase ‘I love you’ to either my spouse, my children, my friends, my parents, or extended family, but to be perfectly honest, I am still learning what I mean by it. My children, for example, are seven and nine years old respectively and they say they love me and I believe them, but their experience limits their understanding a bit. They also love chicken nuggets, pizza, root beer, chocolate cake, donuts, and pumpkin bread (yes, my kids are, for whatever reason, fanatical about pumpkin bread). Now, throw in a few Disney characters, extended family members, and some friends and that about covers the experience of my children’s world of love.
In fact, they know they should love and that being unloving carries consequences in our house.
The same is true, of course, for me. I may know a few more people and I may be older, but I am still learning what it means to truly love someone. So, I have been always attentive to a little help along the way. In this spirit, here are some helpful quotes along the way:
“Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up.” Neil Gaiman
“We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love—true love.” –Robert Fulgum
““To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
― C.S. Lewis
And these have all been helpful to me along the way. But, today, I heard the most practical, compelling, beautiful, challenging, and grace focused definition of love that I have ever heard. I keep thinking about it and I keep wondering if I have ever done it and I keep wanting to do it and experience it more and more. And it goes like this:
“Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another that does not demand reciprocation or that the person being loved is deserving.”—Paul Tripp
So, now, I will continue to use the phrase ‘I love you,’ but with a bit more clarity and a bit more consciousness of the awesome beauty, power, and promise of grace.