By Chris Bates
Have You Shown Them?
My grandfathers were both amazing men. I spent more time outdoors trolling for bass, casting for bream, watching for deer, or in a duck blind with them than I did being indoors in my childhood years. One of them loved nothing more than sitting outside at our family’s lake house watching us all run up and down the hills and dive off the pier. The other one made me snicker every time he used various obscenities when his lure would hang up on a log instead of a fish.
These men were leaders of businesses and banks in our community, well respected and accomplished much of their lives, and loved their families deeply, each in their own way. They, and certainly my father, taught more lessons to me that have guided my own life than I probably even realize. To this day I can see my grandfathers’ faces and hear their voices. In truth, I don’t remember either being verbally or outwardly affectionate, and each was full of imperfections, but in their generation’s own way they gave their love to me through time and actions.
Looking downhill a generation, my own daughter is often expressive of her love for her family. Having learned some of her own life lessons, she is sure to tell those close around her how much she cares and loves for each. She is quick to share her bright spirit and her smile, and is brave enough to openly tell her family how much she loves them. Even now as a young adult, she seems to know the spiritual value of open expression to one another.
These generations are contrasts in expression. We all have our own ways of letting our family and friends know how we feel about them. Are we being brave and transparent to demonstrate it directly with them? Do we think just saying hi in a social media post is enough? There have been countless volumes written about Venus vs. Mars, descriptions of our differing love languages, and other true perspectives about how we connect. As Christians, we know that God gives us the ultimate love and asks us directly to demonstrate it to others as well. Jesus is clear in John 15:12 that, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” Why, then, are we often too apprehensive or sparse in efforts to show it? What are we waiting for, and what holds us back?
Some do it well, this consistent expression of love to family and friends. Some of us for much of our lives, or for periods of time, do not. The first major set of reasons is about being unaware. We think that we have plenty of time, or that they just know it and we don’t have to show it or tell them. After all, we are all busy people, all the time, and are even more distracted by the screens on the wall and in our hands.
We are extremely aware of our regrets when someone close to us moves out of our lives or dies. Max Lucado puts it well when he asks, “When you are in the final days of your life, what will you want? Will you hug that college degree in the walnut frame? Will you ask to be carried to the garage so you can sit in your car? Will you find comfort in rereading your financial statement? Of course not. What will matter then will be people. If relationships will matter most then, shouldn’t they matter most now?”
The second set of reasons is about debate. It may have to do with not getting along well or being upset with, or even just thinking very differently from, someone in our family. Our personality may be different than someone close to us. We may have what we think are justifications for not connecting with someone. Very commonly, our expectations are out of line and we don’t even know it. We may want someone to be how we think they should be, and that may include wanting happiness for them. Our mistake, though, is that our vision for them may not always be the same as their own. It also may not be what God has in mind for them. Being in discord with someone we love is a natural part of life, but perpetuating it or being closed-minded is often our own fault.
The best model is the one whose story is told in the Gospels. We often try to figure out—and act on—relationships to best fit our own feelings. What if we let down our guard, lessen our pride, and realize how much that helps us to show how we love someone? We forget that if we learn from, care for, teach with, walk beside, and sacrifice for those that we love, that we are modeling after our Great Counselor.
C.S. Lewis often challenges us directly, as he does in this excerpt from The Four Loves: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
Be challenged today to show how you feel. Care, listen, teach, walk beside, and be selfless. Reprioritize the distractions and other concerns around you to be better aware with your family and friends. Be more open to the vision of others you love to be able to lessen the debate. Reach out and pray tirelessly to our greatest guide and let God transform how you do relationships from the OUTSIDE IN.
Chris is President & Founder of Agora Company, a marketing, website, and advertising company based in Jackson, and can be reached at Chris@AgoraCompany.com. He and his wife, Stacy, and their children live in Madison.