Those Three Words

In his book, The Beauty of the Word: The Challenge and Wonder of Preaching, James C. Howell seeks to recapture preaching in a way that draws people closer to God through spoken words. In a society driven by shorter attention spans and overly wrought with visuals, Howell calls us to find the beauty in speaking and listening.

He raises the question of the most beautiful moments of one's life and goes on to argue that those moments for many of us "involve words being spoken face to face with someone who matters." He gives the example of the first time he told his then-girlfriend and now-wife that he loved her, and she responded with the same three words. He writes, "When you tell someone, 'I love you,' you forsake all control, you abandon self-protection." *

While Howell speaks in this scenario of a romantic love between a man and a woman, we can glean from this example the power of the words, "I love you," in different contexts with friends, family, and God. Sometimes, especially among single adults, we long so much to hear those three words in the context of romantic love that we are deaf to love extended to us through other relationships. The words can have just as much power if we will open ourselves to various manifestations of love.

This week, a friend who lives in another state called me just to chat. Though we don't see each other on a regular basis, we share a deep connection that can only be described as a great friendship. He took me by surprise when, just before saying good-bye, he said, "I love you." In his voice I heard a brotherly care, the devotion of a friend. I echoed his words, just as I do with other close friends. This was not the same type of vulnerability that James Howell felt in his illustration, but it was still love.

In The Message's translation of Romans 8:9-10, Paul writes, "Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle." In a society where the word, "love," is thrown around flippantly, let us join with James Howell, my anonymous friend, and the apostle Paul in rediscovering the beauty of the word, "love." It's not just the feeling between a husband/wife or boyfriend/girlfriend. It's what connects a family. It's a force between friends. Most importantly, it's a relationship that God wishes to share with us. Let us not limit love. Instead, let us listen for love in all of our relationships. Let us listen for God.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

* Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011 (pages 68-69)