Oh how I love receiving a gift… big or little… new or used…wrapped or unwrapped. Just to know someone thought of me means so much! So when I first read Gary D. Chapman’s books, “The Five Love Languages” (or “Love DNA” as Gary Ezzo calls it in Parenting from The Tree of Life Part 1), it was no surprise which language spoke most to me.
If you aren’t familiar with love languages, the premise goes something like this: each of us has a primary way of speaking and receiving love through one of the following:
❤︎ words of encouragement
❤︎ physical touch and closeness
❤︎ acts of service
❤︎ quality time
❤︎ gift giving
❤︎ thoughtful gestures
I remember when, as a young girl of 8 or 9 years old, I burst into tears when my dad brought home a lovely new pin for my mom. I couldn’t believe my daddy didn’t bring something home for me. But, like a loving father will do, the next day he brought home a beautiful butterfly pin just for me. And I felt loved.
Fast forward about 40 years to a conversation with my neighbor about college care packages. Her daughter loved stuffed animals and cute little trinkets. I really wanted to send my son something during his first semester away but those ideas wouldn’t really work for a guy. Then my friend suggested using school colors as a theme. Perfect! I went to the grocery store bought everything purple I could find, enclosed a note and sent it. It arrived just in time for finals week.
When he came home on break a few weeks later guess what came with him? A full box of uneaten purple snacks. He shared with his dad that he didn’t want to hurt my feelings, but if he were to receive anymore “care packages” he preferred just to have money. After all, he can get all the food he wants with his meal plan. But on the other hand, driving four hours home meant he would be needing extra gas money.
In that moment, I realized I was speaking my love language, which was “gifts,” to him, but this was not his language which turns out to be “thoughtful gestures.” In my mind, picking out each purple packaged goodie communicated that I miss having him home, that I think of him often, and, of course, that I love him. Would a $25 gas card really communicate all that? Yes! Because it would be speaking his love language. So, like a loving mother will do, I put the snacks in the pantry for the family to share and bought him a tank of gas.
The lesson to be learned from my college care package story is that not only do we need to know our family members’ and friends’ love languages, we need to remember to speak them in a manner that the person will actually “feel” our love in the ways that matter most to them, not the ways that come easiest to us.
Gary Ezzo writes, “The moral qualities of love flow from the character of God. Love is so important to God that He made it the distinctive identifying mark of Christ-followers. In John 13:35 Jesus said, ‘By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ Loving others is a badge that identifies Christ-followers. God’s love is always intentional and purposeful.”