How do we say, “I love you?” Sometimes it’s as simple as just saying the words. Other times, those words are not enough, or they’re hard to say, or they need to be demonstrated in some way to be effective. Love is our most basic emotional need, but we’re not always very good at saying, “I love you.”
Saying “I love you” is hard because expressing love leaves us vulnerable. Will the other person love us back? Or will they use our vulnerability to wound or hurt us? Can you remember the vulnerability of trying to say I love you for the first time to a boyfriend or girlfriend? Can you remember when someone has used your vulnerability to hurt you? Most of us can.
Some people spend whole lifetimes trying to overcome the emotional wounds of a parent or spouse who was unable to express love adequately—fathers, mothers, husbands and wives who never said I love you—or who wielded love like a manipulative weapon.
We’re spending a few weeks at HERITAGE studying the Psalms in the hopes that we can learn a few things about love. Using the Psalms as our example, we’re asking, “How do we express love?” and “What does demonstrated love look like?” What if we were able to express love for our families and friends in the same way the Psalmist expresses love for God? What would that look like?
Here are three things we can learn from the Psalms.
1. When love is spoken it comes out as praise (Psalm 148)
Praise is perhaps the most powerful way we can express love for those closest to us. Mark Twain said, “I can live for two months on a single compliment,” and he’s right. Praise has a powerful ability to encourage and support and sustain us. Few things resonate quite as strongly as “GREAT job!” or “EXCELLENT work!” or “You really are the best!” or “I never feel as good as I do when I’m with you.” Love is spelled P-R-A-I-S-E. When love is spoken, it comes out as praise.
2. When love is prayed, it comes out as blessing (Psalm 67).
God bless mommy. God bless daddy. God bless my dog, Spot, and the goldfish, too. What does it mean to ask God to bless someone? What does it do? When we ask God to bless our loved ones, we ask for God’s favor in their lives. We ask for God’s providence and protection. We ask for God’s presence.
In Psalm 67, God’s blessing is God’s face turned toward us—it’s simply God’s attention. The picture of blessing in Psalm 67 is as simple as it is beautiful. It’s the peaceful radiance of God’s gracious presence.
When we ask for God’s blessing, what we’re really asking is this: "God, simplify my life (or the life of a loved one) and make it beautiful." God’s blessing is God’s investment in our lives, surroundings, and communities to make them beautiful. When we ask God to bless us and our loved ones, we should pray for lives that are beautiful. When love is prayed, it comes out as blessing.
3. When love is acted out, it looks like celebration (Psalm 100).
Acts of love are celebratory. Parties, hugs, dances, dinners out on Friday nights, smiles, high fives, pats on the back—they’re all celebratory. Gift-giving, too, is an act of celebration. And, sometimes, the best gift we can give is the gift of presence.
If we are never present, words of praise and even prayers for blessing begin to ring hollow. Even in times of mourning and grief, our presence—gifts of time and casseroles—are acts that celebrate relationship and demonstrate love in powerful ways.
So, to demonstrate your love—to celebrate—sing and dance. Give gifts and shout for joy. But more importantly, just show up.
How do we say, “I love you?” By speaking words of praise, praying words of blessing, and acting out in celebration. And, don’t forget, sometimes it’s as simple as just saying the words.
See you Sunday.