When You Say You Love Me

When You Say You Love Me

“I love you.” Three small words, but put together, they are the most profound three-word sentence that can be spoken using the many languages of humanity. Not unlike the ancient Greek philosophers who tried to define differing “types of love”, we continue to struggle with its multiple meanings today – from using it casually to express our feelings for our simplest preferences, such as “I love pizza,” to using it in its more deeper sense to try to adequately express our most intimate feelings in interpersonal relationships when we say, “I love you, ________.”

We humans have a significant handicap when it comes to love. Our fallen human nature will forever prohibit us from being able to experience, both in giving and receiving, truly authentic love. Yet that desire is written deep within our hearts and we are driven to search, often at great costs, to find it. Some are blessed to come into this world with a glimpse of what authentic love looks like. Some, much less fortunate, come into the world lacking anything that even remotely resembles authentic love. Then, as we journey through life, trying to navigate the numerous and differing types of relationships, we hunger to hear those three words. Whether it is a relationship with a parent, child, relative, friend, spouse, etc., we all long to be heard, understood, accepted – to know we are loved by others’ affirming us in word and deed. What we sometimes experience, however, is the exact opposite. With such obvious disparity prevalent in our worldly experience of love, is it any wonder we fail so often at what we all so desperately yearn for?

Creation very often reveals human nature in its beauty and its brokenness.  As I walked the beach one day trying to process what had happened between myself and a friend, it struck me how much “love” is like the ocean. Vast, deep and dark in parts, shallow and light in parts, some days rough, other days calm, stretching out beyond where I can see or comprehend – it encompasses all I can “experience” in love – enjoyment, relaxation, intimidation, inspiration, admiration, uncertainty, peace, thanksgiving, change, stability, rejuvenation, … and the list goes on…

When we choose to love, our “loves/relationships” are like shells that get tossed about the depths and shallows, carried by the tides of the ocean, eventually washing up on shore to be exposed to the bright light of day. Some of those loves make it to shore, small but whole and colorful. Some wash up still beautiful in appearance, but broken or with the tell-tale holes made by boring predators. Others, once part of something much more elaborate and grander, are now but a mere fragment of what they had been.  Exposed to the light, we are sometimes given a chance to examine and admire them for their beauty, despite their altered appearances. Sometimes, however, the tides come and sweep them back to the sea before we know it, sinking to the depths out of view, or tumbling about aimlessly among the waves, only to wash up, once again, on the shore.

Our human endeavors at loving seem to mimic the shells. Some loves leave us whole, but only a small version of who we can be. Some wash us up, still beautiful, but broken or with the scars of battle. Others allow us to grow into something elaborate and grand, but eventually leave us mere fragments of who we had been.  If we are fortunate,we will be given the enlightened opportunity to examine and admire the beauty in our relationships despite how they have altered us. There will be times, however, when our loves/relationships will slip out of our grasp and we will either have to relinquish them, or try to navigate the “bumpy ride” to bring them back to safe shores where they can be admired once again.

It is no surprise that the majority of shells on the beach are broken and altered, just like most human loves/relationships are broken and altered because of our inability to love authentically. Does that mean we are left then to journey through life broken and altered and without hope of finding that love we yearn for or to hear those three words said authentically? Every day we take the “good” we have experienced and the “bad” we have experienced in our loving and venture out into the vast ocean of humanity, hoping to “get it right.”

As I walked along the beach pondering this analogy, a shell just ahead on the sand caught my full attention. Brilliantly white, perfectly whole, nothing hidden, fully exposed to the light – the answer to loving in its completeness. Only one love/relationship can be everything that shell represented – the “I love you” God spoke when He chose to share our humanity, living on this earth to show me how to love, the “I love you” He spoke when He stretched out His arms on the cross, the “I love you” He spoke when He formed me in my mother’s womb, the “I love you” He speaks now every second of every day through the loves/relationships I currently have in my life (yes, even the difficult ones and the times I fail to love as I ought).  Until my earthly loves/relationships are examined in His light and then transformed (“broken and altered”) into reflections and mirror images of His love for me, I will continue to fall short of giving and receiving love authentically. It is only when I allow Him to transform my feeble attempts at loving that they will become occasions of grace, healing, freedom, fulfillment, and authenticity; only then will the shells in my life be whole, white, pure, and sanctifying.

Josh Groban’s song, “When You Say You Love Me” recently came up on one of my music stations.  As I drove home from the beach, the words came to me again, but this time, I found myself singing them in response to the best “I love you” I could ever hear and the only “I love you” that will ever authentically fulfill my heart’s greatest desire for love.  In this month of “love”, as you celebrate the loves in your life and perhaps mourn the loves where you have failed, may you hear the “I love you” He longs for you to hear – the one true love you have this side of heaven and the only love that can transform our earthly love into a glimpse of the divine.

When You Say You Love Me

Josh Groban

Like the sound of silence calling

I hear your voice and suddenly I’m falling

Lost in a dream

Like the echoes of our souls are meeting

You say those words, my heart stops beating

I wonder what it means

What could it be that comes over me

At times I can’t move

At times I can’t hardly breathe


When you say you love me

The world goes still, so still inside

When you say you love me

For a moment, there’s no one else alive


You’re the one I’ve always thought of

I don’t know how but I feel sheltered in your love

You’re where I belong

And when you’re with me if I close my eyes

There are times I swear I feel like I can fly

For a moment in time

Somewhere between

The heavens and earth

I’m frozen in time

Oh when you say those words


When you say you love me

The world goes still so still inside

When you say you love me

For a moment, there’s no one else alive


And this journey that we’re on

How far we’ve come and I

Celebrate every moment

When you say you love me

That’s all you have to say

I’ll always feel this way


When you say you love me

The world goes still so still inside and

When you say you love me

In that moment, I know why I’m alive


When you say you love me


When you say you love me

Do you know how I love you?


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