Harvesting grapes
Humility, Scripture, Suffering, Transformation
9

A Worker in the Vineyard

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Think about a time in your own life when you were pretty much at your (emotional/spiritual) rock-bottom low.  What insight did you gain about life and faith from that difficult time?  How did that insight come about?  Who or what helped make that happen?

My own lowest-low time came when I was 24 years old.  Just three weeks short of what would have been my first wedding anniversary, my spouse never came home one evening, which in itself was significant, but it was a pressing concern because we had plans to drive to his sister’s for an overnight visit.  Upon returning close to midnight, he casually responded to an offhand remark I made by revealing that he didn’t want to be married, had never wanted to get married, and thought we should just “break-up.”

And just like that, life as I knew it changed forever.  Once I recovered from the shock and came to understand that there was no chance of reconciling, I picked up the shattered pieces of my life and vowed to learn, fix, heal, and ultimately become a better, stronger, and more whole person.

One of the most difficult pieces of this process was coming to terms with my own Crisis of Faith.  I was a theology teacher—teaching New Testament Scripture to high school sophomores—at the time.  I had a Bachelor’s degree in theology.  I was not only committed to my Catholic, Christian faith, but I had specific, poignant conversations with my estranged spouse during our 17 month engagement about the Sacrament of Marriage, about the Covenant which we would be entering into, and about how divorce was not an option.  Not for me, anyhow.

An excellent therapist helped me dissect the unhealthy dynamics and patterns which led to this whole situation, but I was still left with the God question:

I had responded to God’s call to be a teacher of faith.
I had given my life to God.
How could God have allowed this to happen to me?

broodingWhen I returned to my classroom after taking a week off to get my head together, I told my students that I was “going through a difficult time,” which was an understatement, but it was all that I could muster.  It was incredibly difficult to be teaching about the faith when I was so very angry, confused, hurt, and broken in my own relationship with God.

So it was in this context when I happened to assign a Critical Thinking Reflection on the “Workers in the Vineyard” parable (Matthew 20:1-16).

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.  After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.   Going out about nine o’clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’  So they went off.  And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise.  Going out about five o’clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’  They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’  He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ Grapes in a Vineyard When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’  When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage.  So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage.  And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you.  Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?  Take what is yours and go.  What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?  Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?   Are you envious because I am generous?’  Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

As I facilitated a class discussion with the 15 year olds, one kid raised his hand and earnestly asked:

I just don’t understand how this is fair.  How can it be ok to give the same amount to all-day workers and those that only worked an hour?

Still a novice teacher at the time, instead of prompting him to think it through or asking other classmates to respond, I sought to answer his question directly.  And when I did, I heard the truth that God was trying to speak to me come out of my own mouth:

The workers think they “deserve” something more because of their efforts, but that’s not how God works.  We don’t earn it.  God’s Kingdom is offered to us, and we either say yes or no.   God loves, gives, and forgives with generosity. 

Or are you envious because God is generous?

The kid paused for a moment and said “Hmm, I never thought about it like that”.  And there I am standing in front of a class of 36 students, apparently continuing to facilitate a discussion, thinking to myself, “Me neither, kid… me neither”.

How could God have allowed this to happen to me?

Yep.  I thought I “deserved something more” because of my efforts.  I couldn’t believe I actually had a sense of entitlement.  With God.

The last will be first and the first will be last.

It’s like when we were in elementary school and would race to be first in line (for almost everything).  There was actually a sense of superiority that being first had for those at the front.  As an adult, I see how juvenile the need to be first was; I mean we’d all be going to the same place.  I can imagine how frustrated God must get with us for fixating on this juvenile need, and then getting all irate at the perceived injustice of someone “cutting in line.”

With greater humility, I began to look at my situation, which was honestly the consequence of actions.  God’s care, concern, and presence enveloped me in the network of support from friends and family.

Just as my divorce and annulment were a turning point in my personal journey, this insight from the “Workers in the Vineyard” parable was a turning point in my faith.

This was my story.  This was my insight.  This was my process.  How about you?

And so I conclude as I began: 


  • Think about a difficult time in your own life. 
  • What insight did you gain about life and faith from that difficult time? 
  • How did that insight come about? 
  • Who or what helped make that happen?


“Harvesting Grapes © Depositphotos.com/Bunyos30″

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Friends
Friendship, Love
3

Friends

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I love my friends.

They know me through-and-through and love me all the more.  Their genuine care and concern for my well-being is as warm as their hugs.  I delight in their presence, savoring the moments of quality time, the great conversations, the honesty, the fun, and the laughing.  The laughing is the best.

Can you relate?

Friendship has lots of categories: good-friends, old-friends, Mom-friends, family-friends, work-friends, Facebook Friends… and they’re all good.

Let’s take a closer look at “Facebook Friends.”  Facebook has helped me reacquaint myself with a slew of old friends from different points in my life, especially since I’ve moved around quite a bit.  In addition to high school and college friends, I’ve even reconnected with my best friend from childhood.  Some “friends” from Facebook are just in the social network, more akin to friendly acquaintances.  Some offer a lot of “water-cooler-didja-hear-about” conversation, which as a work-from-home-mom, I totally appreciate and enjoy. Though, I think the thing I enjoy most about FB friends is the way in which we know about what’s going on in each other’s lives.  When someone shares joy, I smile with them.  When someone shares pain, I gather them in my thoughts and prayers.  And how about the birthday-love from FB friends?  It’s certainly a different version of friendship than my grandmother experienced, but it’s community all the same.  At least it has the potential to be…

Whether it’s online or in-person, friendship is about community.  It is a community with whom we have fun; it is a community who challenges us, comforts us, supports us, and cheers us on.

And within this community of friends, different people have different roles.

Beyond the “BFF” label (meaning “Best Friends Forever”and yes, Mom, that was for you), there are certain people in our lives that are part of our “inner circle.”  These are the close friends you appoint to a place of honor in your life.  I once knew a woman who called this group her “Personal Board of Directors.” (My husband refers to it as “The Brain Trust.”)  These are the folks who we tend to check in with regarding our life decisions and the ones with whom we cannot wait to share any “big” news.  We may not always agree with the counsel offered by members of our Board, nor do we always follow their advice.  However, we certainly listen to what they have to say – good or bad – because we value their input.

  • Who have you appointed to your own Personal Board of Directors?

The friendships filled with philia love can touch us so deeply that they may even bring the Divine Presence into our lives.  In Touching the Holy, Robert Wicks identifies four different kinds of friends that it is important to have in our lives.  (Though Wicks notes that it’s certainly possible for one friend to have multiple roles).

[Note: I also recommend The Work of Your Life: Sustaining the Spirit to Teach, Lead, and Serve, by Catherine Cronin Carotta (Harcourt 2003), which offers a summary of Wick’s four friends, presenting them in the context of discerning one’s calling.]

  • The Prophet  This is the friend who points out the truth.  “Prophets challenge us to look at how we are living our lives” (99).  Prophets prompt us to examine whether we are listening to God’s voice and following our values or if we are being swayed by “other” voices.  When the prophet-friend asks, “What’s that about?” it makes us think. This is the friend who will speak the difficult truth (with love), despite discomfort or pain.

Many friends have been the “prophetic voice” in my life, but Theresa and Stacey stand out as examples for me because of how and why they speak the truth.    

  • Who are the Prophetic Friends in your life?

  • The Cheerleader  We all need people in our lives who offer the cheerleader’s unabashed, enthusiastic, unconditional acceptance.  This is the person who helps us see the reflection of the loving face of God more readily in ourselves and others.  When we’ve had a difficult day, this is the person we turn to for loving support and encouragement because they say just the right thing to nurture our own self love.  The cheerleader is the friend who offers the presence of God’s mercy and love.  This is the friend “who gets joy out of seeing the footprints of God in our personality” (102).  “Warm friends represent the incarnational love of God in our lives” (106).

My Grandpop was perhaps the greatest cheerleader there ever was.  I’m proud to say that my Mom and my sister, Laurie continue Grandpop’s  legacy of enthusiasm and acceptance.  I can’t wait to share news with them because they triple my own excitement.  When I need affirmation, I call them.  In their love and support, they remind me of God’s goodness dwelling within me.   

  • Who are the Cheerleader Friends in your own life? 

  • The Harasser  This is the friend who helps keep us from taking ourselves too seriously.  The harasser makes us laugh – especially at ourselves.  Through friendship with the harasser, we avoid emotional burnout and/or unrealistic expectations of ourselves.  “This type of friend helps us regain and maintain perspective.”

My husband, Peter takes the cake on this one.   Probably because he enjoys mocking… Nevertheless, he helps me laugh at myself, especially when I’m being completely unreasonable or unrealistic.  April stands out as another great example of a good harasser friend, especially when she’d pull out the Yiddish.  

  • Who are the Harasser Friends in your own life? 

  • The Spiritual Guide  “We will never cease to need an array of spiritual guides to help us deal with our unrecognized and unnecessary fears, to help us appreciate the need for proper detachment, and to lead us to a sense of enthusiasm and perspective in a world strained by anxiety and confusion” (109).  This friend helps us identify our deepest fears, soulful longings, and treasured values.  This is the person who helps us process experiences in our quest to make meaning of our lives.

At different times in my life, different people have served in this role.  In high school, the adults and leaders in my youth group (Antioch) were my spiritual guides.  In college, it was Karl.  In grad school at Boston College,  I found spiritual guides in Theresa, Andrea, Kyle, and Jerry.  My friend Julie is a good spiritual companion.  Sometimes I looked to counselors and spiritual directors to fill this role.  I also turn to good books and special places to  nurture and challenge me spiritually.  I don’t necessarily talk with the friends whom I consider “spiritual guides” on a regular basis.  But when we do talk, we speak with ease and with depth.  

  • Who are the Spiritual Guide Friends in your own life? 

Wicks points out that these four friends help to balance each other out.  Too much cheerleader and not enough prophet might make a person a bit full of themselves… too much prophet and not enough cheerleader might make a person down on themselves… So we need all four kinds.

Which is good, because I have each of these friends.  Moreover, I want each of these friends in my life.  I am a better me because of these friends.  And I want to be this kind of friend to others.

This is what I mean when I say: I love my friends.  Can you relate?


“Friendship © Depositphotos.com/Hannamariah”

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Grand Prismatic Spring Yellowstone
Hope, Suffering
4

Rising from the Ashes

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I had always imagined one’s honeymoon would involve sand, sun, and saltwater (probably because the bulk of my family vacations were spent on the beach).  So while planning our spring 2004 wedding, when Peter suggested we honeymoon at Yellowstone National Park, I was a bit taken aback.  “We both love hiking and nature, and besides, it’s on my list.”

It’s on his list.

Though not the most convincing argument, I acquiesced, especially since he promised to set us up with quality lodging (no camping or “roughing it”).

Without a doubt, Yellowstone is spectacular. It should be on everyone’s list.

The geysers…

The hot springs…

The wildlife…

Each morning we would drive from the gorgeous Lake Yellowstone Hotel to a different area of the park.  I started to notice some of the stark trees around the landscape…

Yellowstone showed the scars of fire.  My heart broke to see the scars of such pain amid such beauty.

I remembered the intense “Summer of Fire” in 1988.  I couldn’t believe we were still seeing the effects in 2004.  My rocket scientist husband, who has a bit of the encyclopedic knowledge going on, explained that fires were an ongoing reality in Yellowstone, most of them sparked by lightning strikes.  Like most people, I assumed that fires were bad.  I got all Smokey the Bear: “Can’t they do anything to prevent forest fires?  Or stop them?”  As I shot off endless questions, Peter (who avidly avoids the phrase “I don’t know,”) suggested we tour the visitor center by Old Faithful, which told the Story of Fire at the National Park.

I hadn’t realized that there was such an allegory between “fire” and personal “pain and suffering.”

Conventional wisdom—and the average park visitor like myself—views fires as devastating, destroying everything in its path.  We see fire suppression, on the other hand, as good stewardship.
Sounds a lot like our attitudes towards pain and suffering…

Turns out that the amazing scenery in Yellowstone has been shaped by fire; it is part of the ecosystem.  The National Parks Service explains this ecological phenomenon in the educational resources on Yellowstone’s webpage (which, by the way, is where all Yellowstone fire-related facts and figures in this reflection come from):

  • Natural (lightning caused) “fires are the primary agent of change in many ecosystems”
  • “Many of Yellowstone’s plant species are fire-adapted.”
  • Some 80% of the park’s forest has pinecones that actually rely on the intense heat of fire to crack open the resin and release the seeds inside.
  • Fires actually stimulate the rebirth and growth of some plants.
  • While above ground grasses are consumed by the fires, the below-ground root systems typically remain unharmed, and even increase in productivity after a few years.

In the gift shop section of the visitor center, I picked up the book Fire: A Force of Nature: The Story Behind the Scenery, and was struck by a quote on the front page:

“Fire presents opportunities for new life that don’t exist until a burn.

Isn’t that the truth.

Certainly my own greatest moments of personal growth have occurred in the aftermath of a painful crisis.  The growth might range from learning a difficult lesson to forging a new, better, stronger path.  Sometimes it prompts me to develop compassion, broaden my perspective, and practice empathy.  Other times the crisis has me questioning decisions, priorities, and/or relationships.

Just as the amazing scenery in Yellowstone has been shaped by fire,                                                                                                       the amazing person that I am has been shaped by personal pain and suffering.

I marvel at the idea that whatever part of me which was struck down by personal pain and suffering has somehow been rebuilt.  This dynamic is at the heart of the Christian message: from death comes new life.  Theologians use the phrase Paschal Mystery to refer to the suffering, death, and Resurrection of Christ.  But the Paschal Mystery doesn’t just refer to what happened to Jesus.  It points to the process of dying and rising that we experience in our everyday life.

And by referring to it as a “mystery” we reaffirm the fact that we don’t always understand how that new life occurs… yet we have faith that it will.

“Fire presents opportunities for new life that don’t exist until a burn.

From death comes new life.

As marvelous as it is, it’s also important to see the word “new” in each of those phrases.  New life.  Different.  Things will never be quite the same as they once were.

Anyone who has experienced personal pain and suffering resulting from the loss of a loved one can attest to that truth: Things will never be quite the same as they once were.

Moreover, let’s be honest: pain is real.  Fire burns.  No one is expected to cheer on suffering wearing a t-shirt that says, “Yay – growth!”  That’s not what faith in the Resurrection is about.

I cringe when I hear phrases like:

What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle.

Everything happens for a reason.

I know they certainly don’t bring me solace.  I can’t imagine a Holocaust survivor or rape victim finding comfort in hearing any of these clichés, either.

The enormity of the Yellowstone “Summer of Fire” in 1988 was unprecedented.  That summer was the driest in the park’s recorded history.  The practice of allowing for “controlled burns” was called into question as the fires burned from June through September, threatening lives and homes in the greater Yellowstone region.

With controlled burns, a fire ignites naturally – with a lightning strike, firefighters monitor as Mother Nature does some “spring cleaning” through the burn, and the fire extinguishes naturally.

The fires that summer were just too big and too out of control.

A total of 248 fires started in greater Yellowstone in 1988; 50 of those were in Yellowstone National Park. Despite widespread misconceptions that all fires were initially allowed to burn, only 31 of the total were; 28 of these began inside the park.  In the end, 7 major fires were responsible for more than 95% of the burned acreage. Five of those fires were ignited outside the park, and 3 of them were human-caused fires that firefighters attempted to control from the beginning.

Between the evil of arson, the enormity of the problem, and the imminent danger to others, Yellowstone National Park needed help.
More than 25,000 firefighters, as many as 9000 at one time, attacked Yellowstone fires in 1988.

There was a lot of damage.
Ecosystemwide, about 1.2 million acres was scorched; 793,000 (about 36%) of the park’s 2,221,800 acres were burned. Sixty-seven structures were destroyed, including 18 cabins used by employees and guests and one backcountry patrol cabin in Yellowstone.

Yellowstone was certainly affected by the fires, but all was not lost; it was not devastated; it was not destroyed.
The effects on many plants and animals are still being studied, although in the short-term, most wildlife populations showed no effect or rebounded quickly from the fiery summer. In the several years following 1988, ample precipitation combined with the short-term effects of ash and nutrient influx to make for spectacular displays of wildflowers in burned areas.

Contrary to what was feared, the fires of 1988 did not deter visitors. In 1989, more than 2,600,000 people came to Yellowstone—the highest annual visitation of the 1980s.


While we are in the midst of the flames of suffering, it is difficult.  Even Jesus wept.  But that is not the end of the story.  From death comes new life.  We are people of the Resurrection.  Faith in new life is what it means to be a people of hope.

As a people of hope, withstand the fire.  Understand that controlled burns are a part of life.  Ask for help.  And when rising from the ashes, be sure to identify and appreciate “spectacular displays of wildflowers” whenever you see them.


“Grand Prismatic Spring Yellowstones © Depositphotos.com/kwiktor”

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Tree of Life
Love, Love and Relationships
1

Let’s Talk About Sex

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If you have been following along in the series of posts I have offered on Love and Relationships, now is the time on Sprockets when we talk about sex.

As a Catholic high school teacher (and now as a contributing author and editor to a Catholic high school textbook series), I frequently have the opportunity to discuss sexual morality with teens.  I approach this opportunity as a privilege, and I am confident that I teach it well.  Part and parcel to my self-understanding here is that I refuse to discuss the topic without spending time on what love is and what love is not.  Moreover, I refuse to discuss the topic of Catholic sexual morality as a set of rules.

When I teach about sexual morality to teens, I emphasize the importance of understanding what the Church teaches and why.  Because it is only then that a person can decide whether or not they agree.  It is not my role to dictate behavior and dole out judgment, nor do I need everyone to agree with what I teach.  I ask only that they understand.

A Christian discussion of sex begins with human dignity.

As Christians, we have a vision of what it means to be human; the fancy theological name for this is Christian Anthropology.  We were created in the image and likeness of God, which gives us each a unique specialness.  In all we say and all we do, we are called to respect this inherent human dignity in ourselves and others.

In creating us and designing our way of being with each other, God has a vision for what is supposed to be expressed and experienced in sex, and God’s vision is phenomenal.

Christians believe that God intended for the sexual aspects of our bodies to be a way for two people to say: “We love each other enough to become one.”

The fact that they become one flesh is a powerful bond established by the Creator. Through it they discover their own humanity, both in its original unity, and in the duality of a mysterious mutual attraction.  – Pope John Paul II (Theology of the Body, 10:2)

You’ve heard the phrase from Genesis 2:4, “two become one.” We know that is what physically happens in sexual intercourse, but we’re selling ourselves short if we think that’s all that happens.

The Catholic Theology of the Body sees sexual intercourse as God’s way of letting two people signify that they have become one – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  It is as if we are saying:

I love you so much that I give my whole self – body, mind, and soul – to you completely, without any reservation.

This complete union involves a total gift of self – mutually given and received in all four senses of love (agape, philia, storge, and eros).

This intense message is communicated with the body, in the body, through the body – it’s a bodily language.  The body was designed by God to be truthful.  Look at our bodily reactions, like sweating when we’re nervous.  Have you ever tried to suppress laughter when you find something hysterically funny?  Think about how lie detectors work.  When we lie and when we laugh, the body reacts!

In honestly and truthfulness, think about who you trust with your deepest, darkest secrets.  In fact, what would it take for you to open yourself up to someone and be totally vulnerable – like emotionally naked – with your whole life?  In God’s design and vision, through sex, the body communicates that two people become one physically, emotionally, and spiritually, with exactly that level of vulnerability and openness.  What does it take to get there?  It takes the reliability and trustworthiness of the solid commitment of marriage.

In reality, we know that there are multiple “levels of commitment.”  To facilitate this part of the conversation, I have identified what I like to call:

Ms. Dienno’s Levels of Commitment

  1. Just Friends – both people enjoy each other’s company, but there is no “relationship claims.” The idea of “Friends with Benefits” would fall in this category, because although physical activity is implied, there is no commitment
  2. Casually Dating indicates that a very low level of commitment exists.  Often referred to as seeing or talkin’ to each other, this sometimes reflects the initial stages of a potential relationship.  However, low-level of commitment means that the relationship is not necessarily exclusive.
  3. Exclusively Dating indicates official “couplehood,” where both can expect to be romantically involved only with each other.  Interestingly, this level requires both parties to have a (sometimes uncomfortable) relationship defining conversation.  Seeing (or talkin’ to) anyone else is clearly understood as cheating.
  4. Serious Relationship refers to couples who have “been together forever” to the extent that it would not be surprising for their families to find out that they are intending marriage; in fact, this level includes the period of engagement.
  5. Marriage is the deepest, most serious commitment.  A commitment which is to last a lifetime.

Now take the “Meaning of Sex” sentence and apply that to the “Levels of Commitment.”

Sex is a bodily gift of one’s very self, involving as much emotional nakedness as physical.  Tremendous openness and vulnerability are needed to be able to truthfully express the Meaning of Sex sentence (I love you so much that I give my whole self—body, mind, and soul—to you completely, without any reservation).  When both husband and wife give themselves to each other without reservation, it is a wonderful, beautiful, incredible act of intimacy, and it feels great.

Certainly, two people need to love each otherwith agape, philia, eros, and storgefor the complete gift of self in sex to be truthful.  However, without the reliability and permanence of the commitment of marriage, the body knows that it cannot completely, freely give itself.  In sex outside of marriage, the body does, in fact, have reservations – particularly when it comes to vulnerability.

Any Christian teaching on sexual morality would need to extend from this holistic vision of truthfulness and love, of respect for one’s own and another’s human dignity.

Whether it comes to the bodily experience of sex in your own marriage or teaching your children about sex, my greatest hope is that we honor this beautiful vision.


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Love sign language
Love, Love and Relationships
3

Feeling Loved

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I love my husband.  And I know he loves me.  In the REAL LOVE way.  But sometimes I’m just not feeling it.  Why is that?

After 7 years of marriage (11 ½ years together), we’re definitely beyond “You’ve Lost That Lovin Feeling. But from the kitchen to the bedroom, we know we need to cultivate agape, eros, philia, and storge.

I have been trying to get him to read Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages for quite some time.  He’s not just a guy; he’s a science guy.  An engineer.  And I know expressing “emotions” isn’t his thing.  But gosh darnit, I know we really, truly love each other, and I’d just like him to tell me in the way I’d like to hear… you know?

“We must be willing to learn our spouse’s primary love language if we are to be effective communicators of love” (14).

Gary Chapman identifies five different ways that we express and experience love.  What makes one person feel loved emotionally isn’t necessarily what makes another person feel loved.

1.  Words of Affirmation – Verbal affirmations and compliments, expressions of gratitude and appreciation.  Spoken with encouraging words… kind words… humble words… genuine words.

2.   Quality Time – Giving the other your undivided attention, focus, time.  Doing things together.  Having quality conversations.

A central aspect of quality time is togetherness.  I do not mean proximity… Togetherness has to do with focused attention.” (59)

Offering someone Quality Time means offering your understanding and sympathy, as you give your attention to the person…not necessarily offering advice (unless that’s what the person is asking for).  We can do this by

  • maintaining eye contact
  • giving our undivided attention to the other
  • listening for the feelings being expressed
  • observing the other person’s body language
  • refusing to interrupt the other person – seeking to understand what they are saying and waiting to respond

Many of us… are trained to analyze problems and create solutions.  We forget that marriage is a relationship, not a project to be completed or a problem to be solved.” (62)

3. Receiving Gifts – This love language has less to do with the monetary value of the “gift” than it does with the thought behind it.  The gift symbolizes love.  It represents the fact that the person was thinking of the one they love (be it friend, family, or beloved).  These gifts of love may be purchased, found, or made.  They needn’t be extravagant nor expensive.

“A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say ‘Look, he was thinking of me,’ or ‘She remembered me.’ You must be thinking of someone to give him a gift.”  (74)

4.  Acts of Service – This love language is about doing things for the one you love… things you know they would like you to do.  Acts of service require forethought, planning, time, effort, and energy.

Jesus offered us an example of the way in which acts of service demonstrate love when he washed the feet of the disciples.

5.   Physical Touch – This love language includes all forms of affection: from hand holding to the supportive friendly hug, to kissing, to a marital embrace, to sexual intercourse.

In this, there is the recognition that all forms of touch (including the refusal to touch) express emotion – positive or negative.  The thing to remember is that while this love language includes sexual intercourse, that’s not what it’s all about.  Holding someone tenderly while they cry… squeezing a hand in excitement… patting a shoulder in encouragement… These are all forms of expressing love.

Chapman explains that we each have a “primary love language” in which we express and experience love.  We need to pay attention to what our beloved’s love language is so that we can express love in the way they primarily communicate love.

This explanation is so simple, yet so profound.  And it explains so very much.

In my case, my primary love language is quality time, with words of affirmation close behind.  My husband definitely enjoys quality time, but he primarily speaks acts of service.

Chapman challenges us to try to speak our beloved’s primary love language – so that they feel the love we have for them.

I’d go a step further and say that it’s also important that we hear the love our beloved is expressing to us in their primary love language.

If I hadn’t read this book, I may have missed appreciating some of the wonderful things he does for me as expressions of love – like something as simple as making me a cup of tea every morning with breakfast.  Or recognizing that making me breakfast (or dinner) is an act of love.  Without a doubt, I heard his expression of love when he built me a little shelf to hold all my jars of loose tea.

I know he loves me.  But sometimes I need to hear it in my love language (particularly in words of affirmation).  And this isn’t easy for him.

But he’s trying.  And that means the world to me.

And both of those—that he’s trying and that I know it—are important.

It’s important that we do this for all of the special people in our lives: spouse, children, parents, siblings, friends, co-workers, etc.

How do you express and experience love?  How do the important people in your life express and experience love?   Are you speaking their language?


“Love sign language © Depositphotos.com/altanaka”

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