Camden, our 6-year-old grandson spent the night last week. He was sleeping on a pallet in our room.
About 3 in the morning, I heard him get up. He came to my side of the bed and said, “I just feel like I need to get in the bed with you and Buddy,” so, of course, I let him.
He crawled in between us, and I thought he had drifted back off to sleep. All of a sudden I hear a little voice saying, “Mimzy." I said, “Yes, Camden." He very quietly paused and then said “Um, I love you.”
After I melted in a puddle, I told him I loved him too, and he went right to sleep. Lottie does this as well. I will hear her call my name or Buddy and when you answer she just says so sweetly, “I love you."
We always respond right back with, "I love you, too." In all honesty, I think both Camden and Lottie really have something else they want to say, but they forget. So they just say, "I love you." I can assure you that it does not bother me or Wayne one little bit for them to “forget” what they are going to say because then we get the blessing of an "I love you."
I was thinking about this on my way to work this morning. I thought about all the times when I have so much going on in my heart and my mind and I really don’t even know how or what to pray for. Instead of worrying about how to articulate what I am feeling, I should just tell God I love Him.
He knows my heart, and He knows what is going on in my life. By expressing my love for Him I am also expressing my trust that He knows the situation. I don’t have to go over all the details because He already knows them.
Years ago when we were making the very hard decision to place our daughter Missie in residential care, I learned a very valuable lesson. It was a very hard time for our entire family, probably one of the most painful times I have ever experienced. I knew our friends and our church family really cared about us and were praying for us, but for whatever reason people were afraid to say anything to us. I’m sure they knew if they did say something I would cry. I mean, who wouldn’t?
I still longed to hear words of affirmation or concern. However, these hard times taught me valuable lessons. I learned when you don’t know what to say, say "I love you." When you say "I love you" people know you care. Maybe you can’t say anything that will change the situation but you can say something to let the person in the situation know you care.
I think about people who have lost a loved one. We all feel at a loss for words at times, but saying "I love you" could be just what that person needs to hear. I think about people struggling with health problems and sickness. We might feel afraid that we won’t say the right thing but saying "I love you" lets them know they have value and you really do care.
I am definitely not minimizing prayers that we can offer on another’s behalf without saying anything. I’m just saying that there are times when you just need to hear spoken words that reassure you that someone cares – "I love you."
Wayne’s dad died several years ago and for the last five or so years of his life he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. He had probably not spoken a word for the last two years of his life. Wayne’s mom, Gloria, and I were at the nursing home the night hospice had told us that Mr. Johnson was close to dying. In the early morning hours before dawn, I saw Wayne’s mom get up and go and put her face close to Mr. Johnson’s face and she whispered something in his ear. I promise you as soon as she got the words out of her mouth he took his last breath.
I asked Mrs. Johnson later that day what she had said to Mr. Johnson. With tears in her eyes, she said, “I whispered 'Gloria Dean Johnson loves James Wallace Johnson.'” Those were the last words he heard from the only woman he had ever loved. He was released from this world knowing he was loved into His Savior’s arms knowing He was loved.
I can’t imagine anything better. We all struggle. We all have heartache. We all have life problems and family problems. God knows them all and HE definitely loves us and cares. However, God also wants us to share that love with others ... continually.
I pray this will be a reminder to all of us, myself included. God’s word says “love is patient, love is kind. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." When you don’t know what to say, say "I love you."
Jill Johnson, a staff member at the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, finds spiritual applications in her everyday experiences as a wife, mother, grandmother and Georgian. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.