We are surrounded by words in every arena we find ourselves in. Words bombard us from the time we wake up until we go to bed at night and sometimes words replaying in our head continue after we have tried to settle into our cozy bed. For some of us, that is way beyond our comfort level because too many words interfere with how we process information, so we are tempted to tune out or leave the noise and find a quieter place.
Others of us enjoy words. We love to read, write, chat for hours, and they can be a primary way we received affirmation from others. But even if we fit into that category, never in history have we had so many mechanisms promoting words for us to read or hear (many times ones that we weren’t looking for). Even word lovers can get weary ears and eyes.
Some of us are old enough to remember life before cell phones, iPads, computers, or TV’s that had programming 24 hours a day 7 days a week. It was a simpler time and way of life. We barely noticed as we crept to where we are now, but this week as I watched parents taking their kids to college with heart strings tugging as they drove away from the campus, I was reminded of how different this experience will be for them versus my husband and me.
When my husband and I were going to college, we left with manual typewriters, a few suitcases and boxes and a stash of snacks. We were lucky if we had a car and phone calls were via a pay telephone. Writing letters were the only other options. By the time our children were heading off to college, they had electronic typewriters, more boxes, hot plates, refrigerators, and more. Sometimes there were chairs and small couches that needed a grandparents’ pickup truck to make it all happen, but communication was still via letter or standing in line at a pay phone to talk. Now those heartstrings pull as you drive away from campus, but cell phones will soon buzz, and FaceTime or Zoom won’t be far behind. Snacks can be delivered right to the dorm room through any number of options and typewriters of any kind are for museums. With computers and tablets of all kinds, this makes trips to the library for research far less necessary most days.
These are all great and give a lot more options for staying in touch, but they all still rely on words. How do they make up for a hug, or a cup of cocoa or coffee made by a loving mom when you’re over your head with studying and unsure you can really survive the rigorous demands you discover at this new level of education?
We talk often of love and see it spoken of or depicted on film or print many times over, but what we most need is that someone shows us love. It reminds me of the classic scene in My Fair Lady. You may recall or know the epic movie or even have seen the stage production. Eliza Doolittle has been recruited by Professor Henry Higgins to prove his point that he can transform a Cockney working-class girl into someone who can pass for a cultured member of high society. He puts Eliza through rigorous and often unkind practices, and it makes for more than a few clashes. A high-class suitor named, Freddy, who is the son of a friend of Professor Higgins is smitten with Elisa and keeps offering words of adoration to her. She is fed up with “words, words, words” and sings about what she most wants in the Lerner and Lowe song, “Show Me.” Some of the lyrics express how she feels as she sings, “Words! Words! Words!
I’m so sick of words! I get words all day through…” The song continues with her admonishing Freddy not to talk about love but to show her his love.
Yes, we love to be told we are loved, but if it is only words, they will fall short. If I am struggling and you remind me that you love me, that’s nice but it’s better if you invite me to coffee, come sit with me and listen to what’s going on, or give me a hug. If I have been overwhelmed taking care of an aging parent, don’t just tell me that it’s hard and you’ll pray for me, bring me a meal, or offer to come stay with them so I can go out to get a haircut or run some errands without worry. We love words, but we need to see the demonstration of them, or the words will just be words when we need to see love.
And there’s the challenge…showing love will always cost more than saying it. Showing will mean I need to set aside my own plans or preferences, boost my empathy and be love to that person. Sadly, it’s one of the places where we falter more often than we want to admit. In my lifetime I have been blessed by many people, but there are some acts of love that are so selfless and cherished that years later I recall them as if they had just happened. One example that never fails to come to mind is of a friend who came to our house to take my husband to pick up my car the morning after I had been hit by a car while walking in my office parking lot. This friend drove over a half hour that morning. She knew I was in great pain from so much soft tissue damage, and it was a gift for her to make this trek for us, but she went beyond that. When she arrived, she brought us a roast beef dinner that she had prepared for us. That was showing love!
The other example that always leaps out is when our youngest grandson and his family were staying at our house following specialized outpatient hand surgery from out of state. We (his parents and us) had him (under a year old), his three siblings, and a lot to deal with that we felt ill-equipped to handle. One of the first nights, we were trying to sort out what to do about bandaging and I called a friend who was a nurse who lived an hour away. When she heard what was happening, she packed a bunch of supplies and drove down later that night and brought us all we needed and showed us how to do handle it. That was showing love!
God understands that we have that need. He had given so many words to us to tell us who He was and who we were, but we still couldn’t grasp that He really loved us. We couldn’t keep the laws He had spoken, and hard stuff kept happening. That didn’t seem like love (ignoring we had a part to play in all that). So, He chose to show us and it cost Him everything. Jesus stepped up and offered to come to a poor couple as a baby and then live love out for us all to see and offered to die on a Roman cross to show us the truth of his love. He demonstrated and taught us that was what love was supposed to look like if we believed in Him. The Gospels in the New Testament show us example after example of love showing up in more than spoken words.
How are we showing love (especially to those who are hard to love) or does it cost us too much? (It’s never about the money, always about putting ourselves aside for someone else.) God showed us love because it was his very nature to love. Is it ours because of Him?