Just walk into any store this month and most likely the first display we see is love themed. Love is in the air. February is the month of love. Valentine’s Day.
What a loaded holiday. It can simultaneously bring joy and misery all in one. For some, Valentine’s Day is a reminder of how exceedingly loved they are. For others, it is a painful reminder of the love they long for, but for whatever reason alludes them. And yet others can find themselves fraught with disappointment when the love they have fails to recognize them in the manner they had hoped.
A day set aside to celebrate love, to highlight those we love. But what is love? Is it just a feeling? Is it an action?
If I had to explain love in one word, I would say – Jesus.
Jesus is the embodiment of love. Jesus came to show the world what God’s love looks like in flesh and blood (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). That we are loved beyond compare (Eph. 3:19). To show us that the greatest act of love is laying down our life for others (John 15:13).
But more practically, that love looks like meeting the needs of others, even when they don’t recognize their need. Jesus shows us love is meeting not just someone’s physical needs, but recognizing their greatest spiritual needs too. He shows us that loving others looks like grieving when they grieve and celebrating when they celebrate. Love is finding the marginalized, overlooked, and downright disliked and inviting them to the party too. Jesus shows us that love protects (1 Corinthians 13:7). Love looks like advocating for the exploited and that it’s ok to be angry when we see that exploitation, but our anger should be the catalyst for action.
Jesus set a high bar for us to emulate when it comes to love, but practically speaking, how do we effectively communicate love to those we love the most? Dr. Gary Chapman is a pastor with over 20 years of marriage counseling experience. In 1992 Dr. Chapman published: “The 5 Love Languages,” drawing upon his findings that most people express and receive love in one of five different ways. Since 1992, the book has only gained momentum, consistently landing on the New York Times’ bestseller list since 2007.
So, what are the 5 love languages?
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Receiving Gifts
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
The basis of these 5 love languages is that we each have a preferred love language. When people “speak” to us using our preferred love language we feel seen, validated, and loved. Dr. Chapman’s initial book dealt with marriage relationships, but he has since expanded the The 5 Love Languages to include children, teenagers, military, and even a men’s edition.
Knowing our own love language, as well as the love language of our spouse and children allows us to effectively communicate love to those we want to feel loved in our lives. Dr. Chapman’s website – 5lovelanguages.com has free quizzes for adults and children to determine our primary love languages.
I would highly recommend taking these quizzes. I have taken the quiz along with my spouse and children. As a side note, if you select the category for children under 8 it will prompt you to ask your child to draw you a picture of how parents love their kids. This is great, but I found my youngest who was only 6 at the time, was able to take the quiz if I read him the questions and he picked the answers he liked best.
The quiz will break down by percentage how we rank in each of the five categories. Some people rank substantially higher in one category, while some like me, may rank closely in more than one category. The highest percentage represents our primary love language, but if they are close second and/or third place can also be ways we like to receive love.
Knowing our love language not only helps us communicate love and connect with loved ones, but it also helps us understand why certain actions or a lack thereof can be so hurtful. For example, forgetting to do something for someone whose primary love language is acts of service can feel like a slap in the face to them. Conversely, we can go out of our way running ourselves ragged completing acts of service for someone with little to no response from them, because acts of service is not their love language.
This season of love, may we love well speaking love into the lives of those we want to feel most loved using their unique love languages. May we be reminded that we are loved beyond compare by a Savior who is the very embodiment of love itself. And that his love gives us the the confidence and freedom to celebrate we are loved without disappointment this Valentine’s Day.