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The power of saying “I love you”

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Are any words more heavily charged than these three?

We love because He first loved us. – 1 John 4:19

My then 4-year-old came stumbling into my room that morning as I was swinging my legs over the edge of my bed, raising myself to a seated position. My husband and I both said hello to him but this still-groggy boy couldn’t say a word. He came right over to me, planted his head on my lap and wrapped his arms around my legs and hugged them fiercely. “Thanks for that hug!” I tell my boy.

Now wide awake he looked up at me with the widest smile and announced warmly: “I love you, too!”

He’d  often do that: say “I love you, too” to my husband or me when we hadn’t said “I love you” first. Sometimes he’d say it in response to kindnesses, compliments, but often just because he was happy.

I find it so wonderfully bold, so full of his child-like confidence that he knows his mom and dad love him without our saying so. Our presence assures him we love him, our hugs and our smiles say the same thing. He knows his relationship to us is rooted in our love for him. So he responds to our affections just the same as if we had said the words “I love you.” I am enchanted by this. I realize it’s probably partly due to the fact that he was delayed with his speech and, at four, was still trying to figure out the rules or conventions of language, but it was so refreshing and still makes my heart burst to recall those times.

Are any three words more heavily charged than “I love you”? They do more than acknowledge that I will your good. They affirm that you have a place in my heart; that I delight in you; that you are a part of me; that you have some power over me. They say I want to give you the gift of myself. They confess that your acceptance or rejection of me can build me up or tear me down. They admit my vulnerability. They promise: ”I will forgive whatever wrong you cause me, because for you I am willing to be wounded, I am willing to suffer.” They beg the response: ”Yes, I love you, too!”

It’s gotten me thinking about how we approach Our Father. Saint Thérèse spoke so much of childlike faith; she knew that God loved her without question, much like my boy takes it for granted that we love him. I can imagine the Little Flower whispering ”I love you, too!” to her heavenly Father in response to a beautiful sunrise, a sweet-smelling rose, or any heart-stirring grace.

God made us to love us, to delight in us, desiring for us to freely choose to love Him in return. And He made us to love Him through those around us, and to love those around us through Him, and to let ourselves be loved by Him through them and by them through Him.

I can feel His love when I’m kneeling in front of the monstrance, those wordless “I love you”s bouncing back and forth between my soul and Him, feeling pulled towards Him as if by a magnet.

I can feel His love in my children’s unexpected showers of affection; in a chance glimpse of beauty; in the kindness of another.

Every grace — and life is all grace — is God shouting ”I love you.” Let us tell Him boldly that we love Him, too.

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Faith
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