Friday, October 23, 2009

Who Needs Words?

This article first ran on BPNews in 2002. Since I was recently interviewed for Home Educating Family magazine concerning communication within families, I thought y'all might want to read about the special sign language that I used with my kids when they were growing up. I still use it today, and of course, it still means, I love you.

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One of the best things I have ever done as a mom is to develop a special sign language with each of my kids. For each child, I have a special sign that translates, "I love you." To tell Danya, "I love you," I tug on my earlobe, Carol Burnett-style. David and Derek each have their own special signs as well.I have found many occasions to use our special signs, especially as the children are getting older. How macho is it for David to have his mother calling, "It's okay, honey. I love you!" when he gets tagged out at first base? But if he sees me nonchalantly rubbing my chin and manages to give me a half-smile, then we're both comforted.

I use these love signs to communicate with my children as they ride away on the church van, when they are performing in musicals and when they are waiting for their turn at the piano recital. Sometimes, "I love you" conveys "I'll miss you." It can say as well, "You're doing a great job!" And at one particular basketball game, the interpretation was, "I saw that kid hit you, even though the referee didn't."

Who needs words? There are multitudes of ways we tell our children we love them every day. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

  • I purchase and prepare your food.
  • I provide you shelter and clothing.
  • I play.
  • I take you to church.
  • I let you have five squealing, giggling, pre-adolescent girls over for a slumber party.
  • I go camping.
  • I hold you in the hospital emergency room and never once say, "I told you not to run by the pool."

If you'll think about it, you can probably come up with several occasions when words weren't necessary to communicate. Sometimes, in fact, words can actually hinder a true connection between people. Words can complicate. Words can be easily misunderstood.

When Jesus fed the 5,000 with the little boy's lunch of two fish and five loaves of bread, he instructed the disciples, "Let nothing be wasted" (John 6:12b). Jesus was talking about the food, but how many times have you had to eat your words?

It's easy to waste words with gossip, dirty jokes, complaints and foolish quarreling. Suddenly, what started out as a simple sack lunch is feeding a multitude, and you are frantically gathering the leftovers! Ever had to retrace your steps for something you said? It's like trying to put squeezed-out ketchup back into one of those little packets from your favorite fast food place.

Jesus used his words sparingly. During his three years of earthly ministry, He said all He needed to say. From His first word to His last, nothing was wasted. Since Christ's time on earth, there have been generation after generation of humankind who have not had the advantage of walking the streets of Jerusalem engaging in intimate, face-to-face conversation with Him. Still, Christ continues to be known as One who does not waste words. Two thousand years later, He manages to communicate with us in beautiful, wordless ways.

I had the breathtaking privilege of viewing a full rainbow from the front porch of my sister-in-law's home the other day. It was awesome. I have seen partial rainbows in my life but never the full arc, from one end to the other. It stretched across the sky in a brilliant panorama. Every one of its seven colors was distinguishable. It was a spectacular sign of love. From Noah to now, God has been using signs and wonders to express His love to us. Rainbows, butterflies, sunsets, a full moon -- there are signs and wonders all around us. They whisper, "It's okay, honey." "You're doing a great job." "I saw that kid hit you." And they quietly shout, "I love you."


1 comment:

2Thinks said...

I loved this idea. I might have to come up with an I Love You signal for Fash before it's too late. She's already a senior in high school! Yikes.

Love rainbows like that, too.

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