If I use it I mean it. I don’t throw it around easily, so when I say it I care about that person a lot.
I’ve been the one on the other end of ‘I love you’ who awkwardly goes, ‘uh, yah, well…me too.’
I think that too many people throw around that ‘L’ word without even thinking about it.
We are not talking about a word that conveys just liking something, or kind of thinking that you are probably at a point that you love someone. Or worse, they said it and I have to say it back.
We are talking about real love. Love that asks for nothing in return. Humility. Surrender. Unconditional. Sacrificial love.
Love manifested as human, crucified, dead, buried, resurrected and ALIVE.
That definition of love far exceeds any version used in describing ice cream. No matter what country, or how hot it is!
Many languages use specific words for specific types of love.
In Creole there is love, love for each other and being in love with someone who is a bit more than a friend.
In Hebrew there are seven different ways to refer to love. The main three are love for God, love for a friend and love for someone who is well…you get the gist.
But in English, there is only one word for love of all forms. See where we get confused with our uses of love?
Several weeks ago, I was at Leogane at one of the villages we support. The kids were playing a game with me and asking, ‘Renmen Jezi?’ Love Jesus? Well yah! ‘Renmen Dieu?’ Love God? Of course! ‘Renmen Satan?’ Hold the phone, what? Non!!!! Which was heard with a resounding cheer by the kids. Over and over we went, other kids would get called over, “She understands! Ask her!” they would tell them.
I got a crash course in the word for loving another in Creole that day.
The next week I was in one of my favorite places, other than the villages, I get to take teams near Petionville in Port-au-Prince. Papillion had started screen printing shirts, and I found one that said ‘Renmen Ayiti.’ All because of the kids at Leogane, I immediately knew what it said. ‘Love Haiti.’ It’s a safe bet that I now own it.
The reason I don’t use ‘I love you’ carelessly is not because I have a cold, black, crusty heart. It is because the intent behind it, and the belief, should not be tossed around as if all love by our American definition is equal. I am intentional with my love. I don’t just say it to make someone feel good, I say it because I mean it and every element that should be backing up those words will be the relationship I have with that person.
I love Jesus, with every fiber of my being actually, and most days, my love for him is completely backed up by my actions. Most days.
Last weekend, I was at the village next door with a team and hanging out with some of the kids that I’ve gotten to know over the last couple of months. Takyra is one of those fellas, although I most often refer to him as the bubble ninja from my first weekend here. He’d been standoffish the last couple of times, but I’d also been spending intentional time with a special kiddo while his American friend was in the States.
There I was…in the heat of the day, spinning Takyra around until we are both so dizzy neither one of us could stand upright. But his laughter, oh, friends, his laughter…it is contagious. You cannot hear his giggle and not join in the fun. For the first time since I got here, I had to use our bus as a safety zone so my head would stop spinning, because Takyra kept wanting spin after spin after spin. Giggle and spin. Giggle and spin.
I got off the bus, spun him again and he landed giggling and came in close for a hug. He looked up at me with these beautiful brown eyes and whispered something I couldn’t understand. I leaned in closer so he could repeat, and still could not hear him. I said, ‘Mwen pas comprend.’ I don’t understand. He repeated and I still wasn’t getting it.
Laughing…I repeated, ‘Mwen pas comprend!’
He looked at me. Smiled that gorgeous smile of his, stepped back confidently and said loudly, ‘Mwen renmen ou.’ While gesturing with his hands at himself, then pointing at me.
All of a sudden…it clicked. I knew this word! Renmen. Love.
I love you.
My mind scrambled. Did he want something? I didn’t have anything, we’d been spinning in circles for about 20 minutes and he knows I don’t bring ‘stuff’ with me. Just myself. He’d said it so quietly at first…did he know what he was saying? Of course he did. He speaks Creole. I’m the language idiot.
After all that finished racing through my head, I just leaned down, wrapped him in my arms and whispered, ‘Mwen renmen ou.’
His grin sparkled as his small hand wrapped within my own while he led me to sit down on the steps…in the hot Haiti sun. Some things you just have to sacrifice a piece of yourself for and in this instance it was redhead skin in the hot Haiti sun. With our sweat joining into one big stream, he landed in my lap, and we sat there until it was time for me to head back home…just over the wall. I’m overjoyed to see where God will take our friendship, and what our friendship will look like over the next year. I never imagined I would feel this attached after just two months. But then again, I know my God does crazy things once you surrender the pieces of yourself that don’t reflect him. And however many times it has happened…in Haiti or Russia or wherever…it is completely supernatural, and it asks for nothing in return.
Love comes down to our ability to let God supernaturally flow through us so we are reflecting God in all aspects of presence, time and sacrifice in all forms. Some more extreme in the case of our Savior’s sacrifice, and others are simpler when it is a sacrifice of comfort or time. Real love requires a lot of surrender, and an ability to be honest with who you are when the other person is around. Somehow, God strips off every layer of who I am when I am among the orphans of our world. What is left behind is a woman who chooses her Savior every day and chooses to share the love of her Savior with others.
It all comes to love, and really meaning what you convey. Asking for nothing in return. Constant. Reliable. Intentional. Unconditional.