My native language is obviously English. The first words I heard as an infant and the sounds that shaped my mind were all in English. I’d like to say that I read, write, and comprehend English with a high degree of proficiency, though, there’s always room for improvement. Since my formative years, I’ve also studied other languages: Spanish, Greek, and Portuguese. In fact, at one time I was fluent enough in Portuguese that I lived and worked on my own in Brazil. But after 20 years of non-use, I’ve lost most of my ability to speak Portuguese. Regardless of what tongue we speak, language shapes us, and it shapes our relationships.
Love is like a language. It is something that is communicated and received. It has numerous dialects and forms of expression. How we communicate love even forms and strengthens our relationships. Every couple remembers how easy it was to communicate their love for their mate in the beginning. With little effort you expressed your love and affection in just the right way to make the other feel loved. You contemplated the many ways you could show your love. You anticipated every moment you could spend together to experience your love for each other. And your mate reflected the same love back to you in their own multi-faceted ways. One could say you were fluent in the language of love.
But then with time you began to take loving for granted. You might have thought, “She already knows how much I love her” or, “I could never not love him.” You become preoccupied and burdened with life, and little by little you stop speaking the language of love to each other. You stop seeking ways to daily make your spouse feel loved. You allow distance and silence to grow between you. You become preoccupied with work, with children, with anything else to replace the longing for love that is within you. Selfishness, pride, and ultimately bitterness take hold, until the language of love is finally forgotten.
If you want your marriage to last and to thrive, you need to express your love daily no matter what and you must become fluent in the languages of love. Gary Chapman says, “I am convinced that keeping the emotional love tank full is as important to a marriage as maintaining the proper oil level is to an automobile.” Loving another person is not a one and done checklist; it’s a daily practice as vital as breathing is to your own body. You’ll notice I said, “language(s) of love.” There are several modes, or languages, of loving. Chapman defines five languages. They are: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. You see, love is not mono-chromatic.
We are each familiar with these languages of love. To some degree they are intuitive. But just one or two of these languages are your “native” language. One person’s primary love language might be Acts of Service, so he thinks to himself, “I’m going to show my wife how much I love her and I’m going to wash the dishes every night without being asked.” Meanwhile, her primary love language might be Quality Time, and she’s thinking, “I wish he would stop cleaning the kitchen and just cuddle up with me on the couch and talk. In this relationship, she could care less that the dishes were being washed; that’s not her primary love language. And he might not prefer just “sitting” and “talking.” What is this couple to do?
The secret to having a love that lasts is two-fold. You need to intentionally practice loving in all the love languages, and you need to give special priority to communicating in your spouse’s primary love language. In this way you also learn to speak the ultimate love language, the love of Christ. The Apostle Paul says, “Each of you should look not only look to your own interests, but also to the interests of (the) other. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ.” (Philippians 2:4-5) Christ lived, died, and now reigns by the power of love. Consider what Christ has done in the name of love, and then consider what you can do in your own marriage by the same love.
We want to give East Hill couples the opportunity to practice speaking the different languages of love now during the month of February. Please see the Love Language Fluency Challenge on the inside page of today’s bulletin.
Your brother in the Faith,