I Hate Your Love Language
My head finally hit the pillow at 3:45 this morning. To put this in perspective, my weekday alarm goes off at 4:25, so I’m typically ready for bed by 9 at the latest. To say that I was exhausted is an understatement. There’s no “making up” your sleep after that kind of night.
It was about 4:30 in the afternoon when my daughter started having acute pain in her abdomen. It intensified to the point where she couldn’t stand up straight. I took her to Urgent Care, and from there we were sent to the ER. 9 hours, a CAT scan, x-ray, ultrasound, blood test and urine test later, we were finally released. What presented itself as appendicitis was really infected lymph nodes that should heal “within the next few weeks.”
At one point in the evening, the doctor presented me with an option. We could be sent home, because the blood test didn’t seem to indicate appendicitis, or we could go forward with the CAT scan to make certain. My desperate prayer at that moment was that the Lord would give me wisdom to make a fast decision. My brain could do little more than see the dollar signs associated with this test as it fought through the fog of fatigue. I was mad that I had to make this choice at all. Choose the easy way out, and there was the chance we’d have to come back the next day and lose the time and co-pay we had already invested. Choose to stay, and we’d still have to pay for the test, and it would likely take another 3 hours.
We stuck it out. The CAT scan was completed, and we finally got the diagnosis of Mesenteric Adenitis—a condition that is basically treated with “take two aspirin and call us in the morning.” So, I was left with the choice to be bitter, or to see my time and money invested as an act of love.
I bring this story up, because it’s a real world example of choosing to love without feeling the love. It was just two days ago when a radio listener asked a really big question about love languages, and I promised to think about it and give a reply. God took me at my word and gave me a chance to answer more “thoroughly.”
The question that had been posed to me was this: What do you do, when your spouse’s love language is different from yours, and your purposeful act of love is seen as forced or insincere?
Let me pause for a moment and explain Love Languages if you are unfamiliar with the term. This concept comes from Dr. Gary Chapman who wrote The 5 Love Languages book. The idea is that we all have ways in which we feel the most loved, and we often express our love to others in the same way. Languages include: Physical Touch, Acts of Service, Quality Time, Gifts and Words of Affirmation. Determining the Love Language of yourself, your spouse and your children is critically important information. If you would like to take the assessment, you can find it here.
Now, back to the ER. As a mother, I love my children and want to keep the safe, healthy and happy(ish). But just because I’m a mother, it doesn’t always mean I feel loving. There are definite moments where love is a choice, and the feeling doesn’t correspond with the actions taken. Last night’s hospital visit was one of those moments. I choose to serve my daughter (through investment of time and money) by going through the necessary steps to ensure that she didn’t have something seriously wrong. My primary Love Language is Act of Service. My daughter’s primary languages though, are Quality Time and Words of Affirmation. I had to fight hard, to produce affirming words and to be all in (paying attention to her, rather than playing on my phone to pass the time).
So, to the listener’s issue, my choice to love my daughter on her terms wasn’t easy or natural. It may have seemed forced, because it was. But, isn’t that the point? Love very often requires sacrifice.
At first, I was going to talk about my struggle with loving my husband according to his Love Language—Physical Touch. I kid you not, I retook the assessment before I began writing this, and I scored a 0 in that category. The obvious for me in this whole situation is that we must choose to love others. It’s sometimes uncomfortable or inconvenient to love them according to their language.
What I will add though, is that we cannot control or influence someone’s perceptions and interpretations of our acts of love. If we choose to do it to honor the individual (and to honor the Lord) than we have done what we are called to do. The emotions and enthusiasm cannot always be mustered up. If a child or spouse feels you are doing it (act of love) just because you have to, than a gentle and respectful reminder can be given that yes, it is a purposeful choice. But choosing to love is the best gift that can ever be given.
A pretty big example comes to mind when I think of the choice to love. Jesus sacrificed Himself for the ultimate act of love. He didn’t “feel” like being crucified. It wasn’t comfortable to suffer and die. There was no eagerness to face the pain that He went through. Yet, His choice to love changed all of eternity.
So, to my listener, I suggest this: continue to choose to love your husband in the way he needs, and I will do the same for mine. If you have children, choose to love them in the way they need to be loved, and I will do the same for mine. If and when they rebuff your loving acts, don’t be wounded (easier said than done). Remember that your sincerity and service is seen by the Lord. He loves the way you choose to love.
Be prayerful in your relationships and be purposeful in your love. May this week be one where you see the fruits of your labors.