Ways Your “Love Language” Affects How You Experience God’s Love (and Express Love to God)
- 2018 1 Nov
“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”
When the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning asked and answered this question, she implied that the ways of expressing love are unlimited except by the human ability to be creative. Browning was right to an extent. When a man and woman are in the obsessive state of the “in love” experience, they can be extremely creative.
For example, Justine once told me about her husband, Matt’s, invitation to take the afternoon off and go flying with him. He was a farmer, so Justine was confused—but curious. Matt had a pilot friend who took them up in his plane and flew over their farm. He tilted the plane a bit and Matt pointed to the wheat fields below where she could clearly read the words, “I love you, Justine.” Months earlier, Matt had carefully double-seeded those letters, knowing that once the wheat had sprouted, the words could be seen from the sky. So Elizabeth Barrett Browning was right: there are thousands of ways to express love.
What Love Language Do You Speak to Your Spouse?
However, most of us don’t see that level of creativity very often in the course of daily life. Our expressions of love tend to fall into predictable patterns, and those patterns are greatly influenced by each person’s primary love language. If your spouse’s primary love language is words of affirmation and you speak that language often, your spouse will maintain a full love tank. If your own primary love language is acts of service, and your spouse speaks that language regularly, you will feel secure in his or her love. If, however, your spouse fails to communicate through acts of service and you fail to speak words of affirmation, neither of you will have a full love tank, even though you may use other love languages.
Couples can sincerely love each other, yet not connect emotionally. The problem is not the lack of love; the problem is that they are not speaking each other’s primary love language.
If I simply do what comes naturally for me, I will tend to speak my own love language. If my primary love language is words of affirmation, then I will tend to use words to express love for my wife. I am giving her what would make me feel extremely loved. Most of my creativity will be used in exploring various ways to verbally express my love for her. I may write love notes and leave them in unexpected places. I may even write the words “I love you” in a wheat field. However, if her primary love language is not words of affirmation, words will not mean to her what they would mean to me.
The Love You Receive From God
The same tendency is true when it comes to receiving and reciprocating God’s love. Theoretically I may agree that God speaks His love to me in a thousand ways, but experientially I feel more loved when I sense that God is speaking my primary love language.
One Monday morning I walked into my office and found that my assistant had placed a photocopy of a note from the offering plate the day before. It said simply:
The church who shakes hands with me.
No mention of the songs, sermon, drama, or stained glass windows. What church means to Michael is someone who shakes his hand. Michael’s primary love language must be physical touch. I don’t know if Michael has made the connection between God and God’s helpers who attend his church, but I predict that soon he will. Someday God will shake Michael’s hand and embrace him, and Michael will make the God connection.
The Love You Express for God
Conversely, a person tends to express love for God in his or her primary love language. I first met José in Houston. He was operating the sound system for a national convention of pro athletes. I had given my lecture on The 5 Love Languages the day before. During one of our breaks, José stopped me and said, “What you said in your talk has helped me understand my marriage. My love language is physical touch, and my wife’s love language is acts of service. To be honest, we have not been doing very well speaking each other’s language. I never understood until now. I knew she complained that I didn’t help her with the kids. I also knew that she would often draw back when I tried to kiss or hug her. Now I understand; both of us have empty love tanks. I can’t wait to get home and shock my wife by playing with the kids, helping them with homework, and driving them places. Do you think if I start speaking her language, she will start speaking mine?”
“I can’t guarantee that,” I said, “but I can tell you that’s the best thing you can do to improve your marriage. If your wife begins to see that you are speaking her primary love language, there is a good possibility that she will begin to have warm emotional feelings for you and eventually will begin to reciprocate love.”
What Love Language Do You Speak to God?
Later, I had a more extended conversation with José during which we discussed spiritual matters. I discovered that he had become a follower of Jesus about three years earlier and was very active in a contemporary church. “I never cared much for God,” he said, “and the church always turned me off. But a friend invited me to this new church. The place was wired! I felt God the first night I visited. The second time I went, something happened. I was at the front of the church, crying. That night I asked God to come into my life and forgive me of my past. It was the greatest night of my life.”
I asked José, “How do you express your love to God?”
“What I like is the praise music. I just reach out and touch God when I’m singing. It’s like God is all over the place, and I’m caught up in worshiping Him.”
“It sounds like your love language toward God is also physical touch,” I said.
José was silent for a moment, and then a smile broke across his face. “I’ve never thought of it that way, but you’re right. I guess you could say my love tank is filled up and I could worship God forever!”
José was confirming what I was coming to believe: that an individual’s method of worship and of expressing love to God is strongly influenced by his or her primary love language. We can learn to speak other love languages, and we should. But the most natural way for a person to experience and express love toward God is by speaking his or her primary love language.
Adapted from God Speaks Your Love Language by Gary Chapman (©2018). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.
Gary Chapman - author, speaker, and counselor - has a passion for people and for helping them form lasting relationships. He is the bestselling author of The 5 Love Languages® series and the director of Marriage and Family Life Consultants, Inc. Gary Travels the world presenting seminars, and his radio programs air on more than 400 stations.
Photo Credit: Thinkstock/Ruslanshug