Confessions of a Love-Stutterer

Jeff Uncategorized

If you have been following the Transforming Truth blog for any length of time, you are familiar with the pulse that is in my Kingdom veins. You know what I think – my bend, my passions, my contentions and my priorities. If you have been with me for a couple of years or more, and if you consider yourself a discerning Christian, you have likely noted that I do not write deeply or frequently on the topic of love. God’s love, Christian love, loving our enemies, loving the unlovely…I mention it often, but I usually do not stay there long. Frankly, I am embarrassed to even acknowledge that in writing. But it is true. I am one who has always seemed to struggle with the activity of love. Not the theology of love. Not the need for love. Not the possibility of love. The actuality of love and the activity of love – these areas are where I lived a long time in a state of being hobbled. For those who don’t mind open and honest confession, keep reading.

I believe that my parents loved me the best that they could. Not recognizing they were merely human, rather than flawless superheroes, for many years I believed I got robbed from being raised in a love-nest. It was not until I was in my forties that I learned how my dad refused to leave me and my sister when my mom wanted to split up from him. He fought for his kids, changed his lifestyle as he instantly became a single dad who was also an executive in the banking industry – a role that was saddled with lots of responsibility and demand. Dad paid the price to abide faithfully in our home as an engaged, proactive father – and that is certainly a strong expression of love. When I broke through my decades-long false belief that he had not really cared enough for me, I was flooded with so many memories that actually validated a very hands-on, funny, consistent father-son relationship. I had taken the bait of Satan and remembered only the pains, losses and disappointments. I was a bitter teenager and young adult. Ironically, I was blind to the fact of how loveless I was to him. The perspective I adopted in my teenage years just soured all the more during my young adulthood. When Jesus rescued me at age twenty-four, holy, blazing light began to dissipate the shadows in my mind, and I entered a process of becoming grateful for how my dad loved me, cared for me and prepared me for the future which is now my present-day life. My dad’s love language was a mix, but I now know clearly that the loved me and my sister. Today, I love him more than I did as a child. Something about becoming an adult brings clarity on the blessings and struggles that your own parents experienced as they were raising you. I’m so grateful that Holy Spirit chased out the shadows of my wrong thinking.

So, what about my mom? She loved me. Imperfect love does not mean there was no love. Our relationship was a difficult paradigm of a really broken mother trying to figure out how to love a freshly broken son. We shared interests. She taught me to read by my fourth birthday. She was funny. She gave me a typewriter in third grade and challenged me to write, and I fell in love with it. Any creativity I have came from her. When I was a fourth-grader, I never saw her departure from our family coming, so the damage done by that life-ambush moment likely dwarfed whatever sense of love I had with her. In my mind, the headline over our relationship was “Mom Abruptly Walks Away From Her Family”. I think the pain of that headline deterred me from every being motivated from reading the smaller print of the whole story. Any child would have profound difficulty with that. It put a deep scar on the love-center of my nine-year-old heart. Can I be honest and say that there really was not a happy ending with mom like there is with dad. We just lost each other and I have had to accept that. Not every facet of our stories has a bounceback moment.

Ultimately, I had to conclude much later in life that I just really never became fluent in love. I suppose, like some of you, I could be called a love-stutterer. I could recognize love when I saw it, but I just never found the skill to speak it myself. The tragic thing is that I learned to live without a strong sense of it, but God was very gracious to this limping lover. He brought a beautiful, kind and very loving young lady into my life when I was twenty-seven. Amy Samples would become Amy Lyle and she has been my love-tutor for more than two decades now. She inherited my broken places and, with the help of Holy Spirit, has shepherded me into a deeper ability to speak the language of love. Amy is a love-gusher and it once intimidated me so much that I thought she was the weird one. When our kids arrived, there was a strong uptick in my quest to become fluent in love. I started poorly and, admittedly, am aware now more than ever that it is the one thing all children need and want from their parents – no matter how old they get. It has to be more than sincere words of love. They deserve to feel it from us. Being a firm believer that it is more important how we finish than how we begin, I have intentionally been pursuing breakthrough in this essential area. I will win. Because of that, so will my family, friends and those whom I lead and serve. Love truly wins.

I hope that what I am writing makes very little sense for most of you. I hope it sounds foreign to you. My desire is that you feel a little disconnected from it. It would be pleasing to me if you thought that it was even a little pathetic. Why would I want this for you? Because it would be an indicator that you don’t share my limp, my stutter. It would mean that you are able to easily love. It would likely indicate that your love-wounds either never appeared or healed early in life. For those of you who completely get what I am saying, well, that means we share something that we wished we did not. We know what it is to want to release something in fulness which we feel that we only possess in droplets. If you inwardly get what I have written, it means that you are also one who will have to press in for a supernatural ability to receive and give love. If you do so, it does not make that love any less authentic than it would have been had you been one who naturally flows in the language of love. Working intentionally for something good does not have to compromise its beauty and power. Some received and connected with the giving and receiving of love early in life. Hallelujah to God on their behalf! Others of us will have to come by it via a broken dependence on a King. There are simply some things in God’s Kingdom that we only obtain and experience via desperation. Jesus loved unto the uttermost. He loved those who walked away. He loved those who abused His body. When they mocked Him, He loved them in prayers for their souls. Peter betrayed Him and He went chasing that broken, struggling man down. When Jesus found Peter, He asked him three times if he truly loved Him. Peter, confronted with his own love deficit, surrendered himself to Jesus in an acknowledgement that basically said to the Master, “You know where I am, Lord. You know the extent of my love. Whatever it is today, I am yours.”

Immediately after that, Jesus sent Peter on a life-long mission to love others.

The disciple who began poorly in love, finished well.

I plan to do the same.