Two years ago my dad went to be with his Heavenly Father. I look around my home and I see evidence of my dad everywhere - the beautiful cradle he made for my babies, the swingset he built like Fort Knox, the drapes hung, the pictures, mirror and chandelier all hung with engineer precision. That was my dad. He used his hands and his ability to do things to show his love and I miss him dearly.
One might think, since I was an only child, that I was "Daddy's little girl". Well, not exactly. At least that's not how I felt. I'm not quite sure where I came from...both of my parents were pretty stoic emotionally. My dad was a man of few words and the words that did come out were often gruff or terse. And here I was this overly emotional, rather sensitive little girl with more words than I knew what to do with. If I didn't look like my parents I would swear I was the milkman's baby.
My mom told me that she loved me...but oh how I longed for my dad to tell me that he loved me which he never did. I also wished that he would just give me big bear hugs - the ones that say, " I love you to pieces"...but those never came either. Since I didn't have siblings to see that this is just how my dad treated everyone, I internalized and believed that I was not lovable just as I was. Nothing could be further from the truth, but that's just how I felt.
So, I kicked it into performance mode. I tried to be the perfect child (even though there is no such thing). I got good grades and when that seemed to elicit some positive response, I kicked it up even further going for straight A's.
In my younger years I performed to the point of exhaustion sometimes. All in an attempt to hear those three little words...I LOVE YOU.
I wanted my dad to tell me that he loved me in "my language" which was words. It's been many years since I read Gary Chapman's book The 5 Love Languages. The book points out that we each have our own preferential love language that speaks to our hearts. For some, like me, it is "words". For others it's "spend time with". For some, nothing says I love you like "touch" or giving them "gifts". And the last one is "do things for". I think I have that right?? Do you see where I'm going? I spoke French while my father spoke German.
I needed a roof over my head and clothes to wear and food to eat. Who did that for me - my dad. When my bike broke or my rollerskates needed repairing, who did that - my dad. When I needed to be picked up after cheering for a game, who was always there to pick me up - my dad. When I worked and got off really late, who was always there on time to make sure I got home safely - my dad. When money needed to be earned and saved for my college education, who did that - my dad. My dad's love language was to "do things for" others.
It's taken me many years and actually some therapy to understand all this. As adults we can understand these things, but as children we process things differently and can only understand with limited knowledge.
So why am I writing all this...yes, it's been cathartic, but I know many people who grew up not feeling like they were loved just for being themselves. I encourage you to look closely to the love language that was being spoken. If in your marriage you just don't feel loved, perhaps your spouse speaks a different language. The key is...we can't always expect others to speak to us in our language. Nor can we only speak to others in our language. We are called by Christ to learn others (our parents, our spouse, our children, our friends) love languages and to speak to them in their language. We are also called to learn to accept love spoken to us in a language that is not our own. It's called Learning a Different Language.
This is difficult to do a lot of the time, but it is essential if we are going to give and receive love between two very different people. The first commandment is to love God above anyone else. The second commandment is to love others as you love yourself. This second command may involve stretching ourselves beyond our natural limits. We can call on God for help with this one. Christ spoke to everyone he met in their language. We can do the same if we will ask and let Christ speak through us. Our relationships depend on us being selfless in learning another's love language. One fact is for certain, God loves you beyond measure. We cannot comprehend the height or depth of God's love for us. The Bible tells us so.
My dad never read Mr. Chapman's book. He was of a different generation and I appreciate that now. It is up to me to look back and see how he was speaking love to me. As I look in the rearview mirror, I now see that my dad loved me very much. He just didn't love me with words. He didn't speak my language.
I am so thankful,though, that my Heavenly Father speaks to me in several languages. He speaks to me in languages from others. He has even taught me to speak different languages. Nothing is impossible with God!
If you love someone, enjoy the challenge of learning a different language.
ps. Physical, verbal or emotional abuse is NOT a love language and should not be tolerated under any circumstance. Abuse, verbal or otherwise is not of God.
Please seek professional help if you are in this environment. You are WORTHY of being loved and that is God's will for your life.