The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him… the love of the LORD remains forever with those who fear him. (Psalm 103:13,17)
The earliest childhood memory I have with my Dad was laying on his chest, as he sat in his recliner, with both of us eating out of a can of peanuts, watching Rassling (long before it became so dramatic and overproduced). I still remember his arms wrapped around me.
But, it took me 27 years to hear my Dad say “I love you”. Don’t get me wrong, I knew he loved me. (As testified by the above story.) He worked on big yellow things with wheels, tracks, etc., for as long as I could remember (a master mechanic), but he still had time to go to his son’s games and meets; band and choir concerts. And even if it meant skipping a day of weekend overtime to see his son run or sing, he was there.
When I was in college I read a book on prayer by a Jesuit theologian. It changed my life. Up to that point I had thanked God, praised God, worshiped God, rejoiced in God, and made my prayers and petitions known to Him (in Jesus’ name). But I had never told my Heavenly Father that I loved Him. After reading the book, I made sure that in all my prayers, to tell my Heavenly Father I love Him, to this day. And for the people who I loved, I made sure to tell them I loved them.
So it was probably around my early twenties that I noticed my Dad’s typical response to my “I love you.” It was either “Ditto” or “You too.” It became my mission in life was to hear those three words from him, whether over the phone on in person. It happened the summer of my 27th year. I was back on the West Coast, visiting my parents, with the usual hugs were going around. While squeezing my mom I told her that I loved her, and she responded as she always did: “I love you.” Dad and I grappled in our usual bear hug, and I told him I loved him and he grunted or something. But later in that week, I told him I loved him, and he said…”I love you too, son.” And I cried (maybe Dad even got a little teary). From that day on until he died 9 years later, the “I love yous” abounded.
Now why do I share this ancient history with you? Well, if you’re a parent, have you told your kids you love them today? They need to hear it; and they need to see it and feel it. And for you Dads, loving your kids is going to give them a great glimpse into the love of their Heavenly Father.
What about the rest of the family? Maybe you’re distant (emotionally or geographically). Or estranged. Maybe there are wounds, scars, whatever. Love them. Tell them. Because, Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)
Now there are certain traumas and griefs we go through which may loosen your tongue, but don’t wait for that. A funeral and the loss of a loved one can pry those three words out of you, especially for those us who have been left behind. Cancer or heart disease can get your attention. It did for me and my family. But I don’t want to go through that again—so don’t wait.
What about those in the Family of God. Have you told them you loved them? Maybe they’re alone, or their family’s a complete disaster. Did God bring you into their lives to love them? Tell them. Don’t wait for disaster to strike, because maybe you—or they—end up in the presence of Jesus. Tell them… now.
Please understand that this tirade is for those who may be challenged verbally and emotionally—especially us guys. Who knows, if you speak these three words, with God’s help, you may be able to begin living them. But if you’re more at ease speaking, don’t allow those three words to become some glib motto. Rather, Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. (1 Peter 1:22)