Love-languages are the ways in which we express and receive love. If you don’t yet know yours, I can recommend taking this fun quiz to find out! There are five love-languages, according to Gary Chapman:
- quality time,
- words of affirmation,
- physical touch and
- acts of service.
These are all ways in which we can express love for others, but we will have a preference for one or two of these ‘languages’ over the others. The language that we most naturally express love for others is usually the language that we also receive love from others.
When my husband and I first discovered this concept, we had a real ‘aha!’ moment. In my family, we had always expressed love for each other through quality time and words of affirmation. In Jon’s family, they expressed love for each other not through words but acts of service – anticipating the other’s need and meeting it.
Suddenly we understood why I was always wanting to go to restaurants and talk about feelings, and Jon was always asking me to do the ironing and make cups of tea for him. I started making cups of tea for him gladly, and Jon took me out to restaurants. All was happy: we were communicating love to one another in the language that the other person could receive it.
But then I got ill, and we had to learn to adapt. In the worst stages of the illness, I can’t really talk or think at all, or even understand what someone else is saying to me and I have to spend much of my time sleeping or resting. I am now rarely well enough to go out to a restaurant and chat. (Au revoir to the way we did quality time.)
Acts of service are now very tricky as well – I can’t even make cups of tea for Jon, and he has to do everything around the house for me. So bang goes ‘acts of service’ as a way of me communicating love to Jon.
Over the past few years, as we have slowly adapted to my illness, we have both had to learn new love languages. They are not our native tongue, but there is pleasure as well as hard work in learning new ways to love.
Sometimes we mourn for the loss of the long walks together, sharing our heart as we enjoyed the countryside, but now we talk art and photography and discuss the different ways we see the world. I have surrendered some of my feisty independence and learned to lean on Jon and love him for the ways in which he selflessly and silently serves. I have been helpless: I have needed him to carry me upstairs each day, to cook and clean, to wake the baby in the morning. I see the washing up done and I now listen in and hear his lovesong, sweet and clear.
I can no longer communicate with Jon in his preferred love-language of acts of service, but I can sit with him as he washes up and I can offer him these shy words of tribute; and that quality time, these words of affirmation can become a lovesong too.
I know that my life is hidden with Christ in God, that my salvation is sure because of His death, that I am declared righteous and forgiven in His sight because og what He has done. I know this. But sometimes you can know that your husband loves you and still need to feel it. I am still married to Jesus, but I have not taken the trouble to adapt my love languages along with my illness.
The ways that I am accustomed to expressing and receiving love from God:
- in-depth Bible study and theological lectures,
- Christian conferences with engaging talks,
- worshipping with modern songs with many other Christians,
- playing the piano and singing worship songs at home,
- thrashing out theological issues with like-minded believers –
all these extrovert, intellectual and musical ways that I connected with God as easily as my mother tongue have now been largely taken away.
I am wondering, with a little trepidation, whether I will need to let go of these ways of communicating with God and start looking at new ones. I don’t like silence and contemplation, and reading Julian of Norwich or looking at a candle for hours just makes my evangelical hackles rise. It would be the equivalent of attempting to learn Arabic or Cantonese. I’m just too cynical to be a mystic.
I need something that is a little more like Spanish or German – still strange to me, but with enough familiarity that I could begin to understand God’s love in that lexicon.
I am not sure yet what that is. Perhaps you could help?
Over to you:
- What is your ‘love language’?
- What are your ‘spiritual love languages’ – the ways that you express and receive love from God?
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