- Words of Affirmation (speaking)
- Acts of Service (serving)
- Giving/Receiving Gifts (sharing)
- Quality Time (being present)
- Physical Touch (touching)
Think through the story of the Last Supper.* In his last hours of life Jesus stays present with his friends. He washes their feet as if he were their servant: he is serving them, and he is also touching them. Then, he shares a meal with them, literally giving them the gift of himself: "this is my body. . . this is my blood." And, in both accounts, he speaks his love: "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer," and "Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another." All the expressions of love - given for each to understand in his own language.
This is the essence of love - the speak the language of the other. As parents of infants we struggle to interpret every cry, every garbled word, and every pointing or reaching toward an object before our child has language. We try to imagine what they are saying, even though they don't have the language to express it. Once our kids become fluent in speech, we sometimes begin to take what they say at face-value, just as we do with other people. We start to lead with our preferred language, loving them in ways we are comfortable, instead of in their language.
The 5 Love Language followers advocate learning your child's preferred language (or that of your spouse, friend, co-worker, etc.) but if you don't know which language they prefer, take a cue from Jesus and try them all. You'll know when you hit the right one! It may not be your most preferred way to show love, but the essence of love is for the other, not for the self. That is the whole message of Jesus' death and resurrection. It is for you. The other. Not for Jesus; for you. This is love.
Blessed Easter to you. May you know that you are loved!
*You can find footwashing in John 13 and the rest of the meal in Luke 22 if it's a bit foggy.