I love it. I’ll say that from time to time. And then I’ll wake up in a day or so and say it about something else. It may even be contradictory. It ebbs and flows like the ocean’s tide. It’s no wonder we experience insecurity when someone tells us they love us. It just doesn’t carry the impact it should.
It could be because the word love encompasses a spectrum and we just thrust all of that meaning into one word. It would make sense because oftentimes there’s (seemingly) no delineation between someone’s love of a hobby versus their love for their child. It’s just become a catch-all for affection. Affection is defined as “a gentle feeling of fondness or liking”. And I have to tell you, I have a gentle feeling of fondness or a liking of Sour Punch Straws but if someone used the same word and meaning to describe their “affection” for me, I’d have reason to feel a little insecure.
Faith gave me a card this past Father’s Day that sits on the corner of my desk. It says, “I love you literally all the time. Don’t ever forget that, OK?”. She gave me that because I do forget and she wanted to reassure me that she doesn’t stop. I think the problem is we’re working off of two definitions. And I think the same is true when the sentiment is offered in reverse. When I say I love you to her, it has very little to do with affection. It’s more of an indication of the status of our relationship. It’s fact. It doesn’t matter if my pallet changes or if the wind blows a different way. But when we receive it, we seem to hear it with different ears. It comes across more like, “I really like you right now.” It feels temporary and fragile.
I could be wrong but I think the cause is the muddled definition I referred to earlier. The day we say “I do/for better or worse” to our spouse is meant to denote a change in status. However, today, we often times we hear the term “broken up” attributed to some marriages having been ended (cases of abuse excluded). Children are disowned when they don’t live up to expectations. The status change intended for this kind of love is permanent. It isn’t like the emoji accompanying our latest social media post. But when the status is changed, the special meaning loses its potency and is consequently merged with lesser forms of affection casually referred to as “love”. It becomes diluted, meaningless, and imbued with insecurity.
Christ’s new covenant with us was to be “written on our hearts” (Jeremiah 31:31-34). When something is inscribed on our heart, it’s a permanent status change; a commitment made in red, Sharpie ink. It reads, “LOVED”. And that understanding of love changes things. It changes the way we conduct ourselves. It creates a sense of responsibility, emboldens and challenges us to return that love and even extend it to others. It separates itself from other “loves”.
Faith gave me a card as a reminder. It sits on my desk and I read it from time to time to re-define what may have been muddled in translation. It will change my day. It instantly provides me with a firm foundation to act upon. When I looked at it today, I realized the reason we have a written reminder of an even greater love promised to us. And it’s meant to be emulated in our lives in order to change the atmosphere of the here and now. It can be read as,
“I love you literally all the time. Don’t ever forget that, OK?”