When I was growing up . . . I knew that my parents loved me . . . I even knew that my little brother loved me. My Grandmothers, Aunts, Uncles and Cousins. I was loved, and I loved them, too.
But in our family we never said, "I Love You."
Someone may have said those magical words to me earlier in my life . . . but the first memory that I have of someone who told me that they loved me comes from 6th Grade of Elementary School.
The three o'clock bell had rung . . . one of the prettiest girls in our class stopped me as everyone else was running out the door to go home.
"******* dared me to say this to you!"
"What?" I asked cluelessly.
"I love you!"
Though this is a clear and wonderful memory . . . to this day I do not remember what I said to her in response.
Maybe I didn't say anything as she ran giggling out the door with her friend (and co-conspirator).
I don't remember - "I love you, too?" or "Okay?" or "Thank you?"
All twelve year old boys are in some kind of weird spiders and snakes mode . . . and if I had had access to a frog I probably would have shook it at her and said, "This frog's for you!"
One regret of my childhood (and youth) is that I wish that I had not been such an idiot where girls . . . and love . . . were concerned.
I have basked in a life full of love . . . I have been and am so blessed. I hope that I have learned something about loving in return.
When I became a Christian, Jesus required me to learn to love people who didn't love ME. That is hard to do.
With all of the familial and friendship love I have experienced in my life . . . I believe that I have only truly romantically loved two women. The second of those two is my wife of 40 years.
She and her family have taught me a lot about showing love . . . and saying "I love you.'
But Terri can tell you how I respond when she says "I love you."
Sometimes she has said, "I KNOW you love YOU . . . but do you love ME?"
When we were engaged to be married and I was away at college, she sent me a little Troll doll figure that was on a base that declared, "Next to me, I like you best!"
I guess she was already picking up on some of my love issues. I really do mean "I love you, too" when I respond in that dodgy fashion.
But . . . when someone says, "I love you" I have never known quite what the best response was.
"I love you, too" is automatic . . . expected . . . perhaps the most desired response. But it has less kick than the initiated "I love you." "I love YOU!" "I love you MORE!" "I loved you first." "I love you best."
But in 1980 I was in a movie theater where I heard what I believe is the very best response to those three words . . . it is the response that I would cherish most from those to whom I declared my love.
It is not knee-jerk or parroted. It is a surprising, but meaningful response.
"I love you."
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
Han Solo is about to be frozen in carbonite by bounty hunters and delivered to Jabba the Hut. The process could very well kill him.
Solo and Princess Leia seemed to hate each other and didn't even seem to be friends. But everyone watching this old scenario play out knew exactly how they really felt about each other. And we knew that they knew, too.
This is her last chance . . . and maybe his.
One of the greatest cinematic love stories of the digital media age: Han Solo and Princess Leia.
Solo's line was not original in literature or probably cinema or real life, but it struck me and stayed with me.
Solo was not being crass, macho, or repulsive . . . He may or may not have known how to love or how to say "I love you," but he knew that he was loved. Not a bad thought to have before you are encased in carbon.
It's NOT just a silly movie . . . or merely an on screen fantasy . . . this thought resonated with me.
You see, the reason that I told you that I loved you . . . was because I wanted you TO KNOW!
You may or may not love me . . . but what matters is that "I LOVE YOU" . . . . and I want to make sure . . . that you KNOW.
If I love you . . . I want you to know. If you love me . . . I want to know.
I KNOW you love ME . . . because you have demonstrated and proven it in so many memorable ways. You have shown your love . . . and I have seen it in action and I have felt its warmth. When you say "I Love You" I have no room for doubt and need no deliberation.
Do I love God?
Do I love His Son, Jesus?
How can ANY love that I can afford compare to the love that God has for me?
I cannot return His love equally . . . I cannot possibly love Him as much as He loves me.
But I believe that He smiles . . . and it blesses HIM . . . . . . when I sing . . .
Jesus loves me . . . . . .
THIS . . . . . I know.
Tell them . . . even if they don't believe you
Tell them . . . even if they won't receive you
Tell them for me . . .
Please tell them for me . . .
That I love them . . .
. . . and I came . . . . to . . . let . . . them . . . KNOW.