Shepherdess: Just Three Words

"I love you" can be said in a multitude of ways, but it had better be said or something dies.

Robert H. Parr is editor of the Australasian Record. Reprinted by permission from the March 12, 1979 issue.

Dear Shepherdess: February is a special month for all who love. So I'd like to share with you some thoughts on love written by one of my favorite authors. I know you'll enjoy the picturesque language and inimitable humor of Robert Parr.

The thoughts he expresses remind me of something Ellen White once wrote: "Love cannot long exist without expression. Let not the heart of one connected with you starve for the want of kindness and sympathy. "—The Adventist Home, p. 107.

And I like her description of a happy home: "A house with love in it, where love is expressed in words and looks and deeds, is a place where angels love to manifest their presence and hallow the scene by rays of light from glory.''— Ibid., p. 109. Isn't that a beautiful description of a happy home? I want the angels to love to come to my home, don't you?

Love is the greatest thing in life—so let it flow out of your heart into the lives of those around you. You'll be glad you did.—With love, Kay.

How do you say "I love you"? Now, that's a good question. You see, every one isn't like you and me—balanced, clear-thinking, kind, gentle, and thoughtful. Some people are, well, inhibited, to use a rather euphemistic expression. But would you believe there are parents who never tell their children that they love them? There are children (on the other hand) who never tell their parents those very words. There are even husbands and wives who never utter those words to each other. How the marriages survive I have no idea.

It seems to me that one of the essentials of a good and steadfast home is that those who dwell therein are assured of the love of the others. Naturally, it is usually no trouble at all for a doting mother to murmur those wonderful words to her cuddly offspring in baby lingo such as would embarrass her (perhaps) to have anyone else hear. But to the gurgling newcomer, these words, somehow, bring a smile of satisfaction and chuckle of delight. Of course, when the words are understood, and they are reciprocated, the mother waltzes around for the rest of the day in a seventh heaven of satisfaction.

But things change. The trusting little mite, utterly dependent and overtly loved to the point of satiation, grows up. The chubby cheeks and the tiny pink toes somehow vanish, and in their place you have the features of a two-fisted little urchin who pulls his sister's hair, and who gets dirty the moment his mother's back is turned. Dirty, did I say? That's hardly the word. He becomes immersed in muck and permeated with grime; his habits are hardly endearing, and his lips are stained with other than the innocent bubbles that they used to blow. In short, the child develops some bad habits along the way, and because he isn't sweet, clean, and winsome, his mother leaves off the terms of endearment and the cooing assurances of her never-dying affection.

Now, instead of laughing at some minor misdemeanor, his mother scolds him for his untidiness. She storms at him for his dirty fingernails, and she shudders at his less-than-immaculate appearance. And while she doesn't actually tell him that she doesn't love him, she certainly never hugs him anymore, because she might find some of the ugh! rubbing off on her frock. So she simply refrains from any words of affection, any gestures of delight, and any suggestion that he has a special place in her heart. Oh, yes, she loves him, but she seldom, if ever, tells him. Naturally, he reciprocates. And it is all a great pity.

Husbands and wives likewise are often in that category. Not that a husband avoids the cleansing balm of the hot shower when he becomes all perspiry and grimy, but other barriers tend to build up between them. The chief wall that builds itself (you don't believe that) between them is the one called Take Her/Him for Granted. After all, you aren't courting her anymore, so what is the sense of telling her that you love her? You told her enough when you were hoping to capture her as your very own. To tell her now, five, ten, fifteen, twenty years after you have married her would surely make you feel a little stupid. And feeling stupid is something you could well do without. As a matter of fact, when men cease for just one day to tell their wives that they love them, they find it surprisingly easy to let the gap widen indefinitely. Leave the matter in abeyance for a week, and you have to force the words out if you want to get back on the old footing. Some of us are so stupid that we feel that to tell the little woman that we love her puts us in the maudlin class.

Judy Garland (the late, I regret to say) knew a fair bit about men and a whole lot more about women. She said something like this once: "You can ill-treat us; you can abuse us; you can knock us about; you can yell at us; but you mustn't ignore us; you must never take us for granted!" Now those are wise words, and every husband who doesn't want to have his marriage settle into the doldrums of boredom ought to memorize that little homily. I happen to be one of those odd creatures who couldn't (and still can't) stand the singing of Miss Garland. She always gave me the impression that her voice was a twin with a howling blizzard. If I never heard a Judy Garland song again, I wouldn't be a scrap disappointed. But I love her philosophy as enunciated above. And while, apparently, she didn't find the right man, in all her searching, to pay her the attention she needed, what she said in that snippet of wisdom ought to be memorized and practiced by every husband and husband-to-be. Of course, the con verse is true. Change the genders of the words in her little bit of philosophy and you have a ready-made recipe for happiness for the other sex.

Now, when you pay the right amount of attention, all this is splendid, but it is not enough! It is only a beginning. You have to get used to telling the other half of the contract that you love them. Tell them in just those three simple words that you used to murmur when you caught her in your arms as the moon beamed its mellow light upon her, and you thought that she was made of angel-glow and ice cream.

Women are supposed to be romantic creatures, sentimental to the core and quite impractical in matters of everyday living. That, of course, is a gross exaggeration, an overstatement of a nonsensical generalization. But if you mean that they like to be told that they are loved, you have a point. On the other hand, I don't know too many men who would brush such a statement aside as an encroachment upon their privacy.

But notice that this essay is begun with a question—and it is a question that ought to be answered, for there are so many ways that it can be said. Of course, I am insisting that there is no better way than to out and say it. Form the words with your lips, get your tongue into action, and put your brain into gear (not necessarily in that order), and you are in business. But I give as my opinion that that isn't enough. After all, there are some men (and I suppose there may even be a few women) who utter this little formula when they want something— and at no other time. Such people are not as smart as they think they are.

The really smart people (of both sexes) are those who say "I love you" by actions as well as by words. (Note that actions are not a substitute for words; they are a supplement.) You can say "I love you" by that small inconsequential didn't-cost-much gift given for no reason at all. You can say it by just listening to her exasperations with the children while you have been at work. You can get the message across by saying, "You've had a tough day; let me wash the dishes tonight." You can say it in ringing tones without uttering a word by lending a hand unexpectedly at some chore that she doesn't particularly like. The words are different, but the message is the same when you say, "Let's just spend this evening alone and talk to one another."

A wife can say it to her husband when she gives him wordless sympathy when he has had trouble with his boss; when he has been passed over for promotion and she lets him know that, in her eyes, he's still the greatest; when she asks his opinion and takes it; when she rests her head upon his shoulder and gathers strength from his touch; when she defers to his opinion.

A husband can say it just as clearly as if he spoke the words when he refrains from criticizing his wife when he feels that he has reason for it; when he comes in from his work at night and tells her how good it is to come home to her; when he takes her hand as they stroll together in the afterglow of day; when he brags to his mother-in-law (or even his own mother) of what a wonderful wife he has; when he tells his children (as my grandfather used to do), "Your mother's right, even when she is wrong!"; when he looks across a crowded room and his eyes find hers and they exchange a smile; when——oh, there are millions of ways. The best fun of all is finding new ones and surprising each other with them. Try it, if you don't believe me


Prayers from the parsonage

by Cherry B. Habenicht

Once again we're beginning the process of getting acquainted with a new congregation, Father. It takes time for strangers to become close even when we have so much in common in the Lord.

Thank You for the exciting potential for new friends. What close relation ships will we develop? Whom will we help? Who will help us to grow?

In these first months may I be accessible to even the shyest person who'd like me to know who he or she is. Please help me to observe carefully so I can re member these unfamiliar names, linking them to the correct faces.

Already there are people to whom I've been introduced but whose names I've forgotten. Bless them for understanding. Eventually I'll get everyone straight.

Help me to say meaningful things to those I meet. The polite groundwork of greetings must be laid, but I want to discover clues to the interests and personality of each individual. I know there will be some people I'll never know re ally well because of limitations we can not control, but do keep me from thoughtless words or acts that unintentionally alienate.

Sometimes I'm confused and wonder whether I'll ever recognize each member. In lonesome moments I wish I were back in our former district where we knew everyone and had shared so many experiences. Remind me, then, that soon we'll have a similar feeling for this group. We'll sense who needs encouragement and who stands ready to encourage, who is in conflict and who possesses peace, who bears heavy bur dens and who invariably lightens others' loads.

Working and worshiping together, we will know each other as brothers and sisters. I'm glad to be part of this branch of Your family.

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Robert H. Parr is editor of the Australasian Record. Reprinted by permission from the March 12, 1979 issue.

February 1980

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