Can you speak “love” fluently? Me either. Not everyone can, and no one on earth can, at first. This sounds mysterious.  What are we even talking about? “Lovespeak”, in our context here is not referring to people flirting in Hallmark movies. It is referring to charity, which (as the scriptures tell us), is the pure love of Christ.

Love is the language of heaven.  We’re not in heaven (or Kansas, thanks Dorthy) anymore. We’re now in a fallen world, learning to speak the language of heaven all over again. It’s an exciting, but often daunting challenge. How are we doing?

My Dad would tell you that he could have used a language tutor in this area. Growing up, he was both hilarious and brilliant. Think Fred Flinstone, Attorney At Law. Like Fred, he was “larger than life”.

One day outside as a small child, another child in the neighborhood said “Your Dad can Really Sing. I heard him in his shower.” What? This boy didn’t live in our house. In these earliest childhood years we lived in a suburb dotted with well insulated, mostly brick homes. But my father sang so loudly he could be heard from the shower outside of our home…. O.K…..

Dad’s booming voice reflected his booming passion for life. Unfortunately, he also had a passionate temper. It was Dad’s Achilles heel.

Mom’s temperament was the polar opposite. In childhood, she reminded us of Snow White. It wasn’t just the porcelain skin and jet-black hair. She was a gentle Non-Yeller. Dad was practicing to become a different Disney character: Old Yeller :D. He succeeded. We adored him for countless reasons, but temper wasn’t one of them. His dog gone temper dogged him throughout his life, chewing up some relationships along the way.

He needed more education and practice with the language of love. It takes time to study, absorb and practice this language. That’s ok. Love is the most powerful voice in the universe.  The ability to express disagreement without being disagreeable is an astronomically positive quality worth developing.

A screaming baby witnesses that we are not born speaking love consistently (although when a baby is happy, that cooing is some love language at its finest!).

Demanding baby crying is something we are supposed to grow beyond. And yet we all know whiny, demanding people who are not babies. If we are ever tempted to be one of these people, here is in acronym to help us stop. It’s called-you’ll never guess-STOP:).

S-See the situation through our spiritual eyes: what heavenly lesson might we be learning from this interaction?

T-Take a minute. Don’t respond right away. Breathe. As they say in yoga “You always have your breath”. Ten or twenty seconds of deep breathing can really calm us down.

O-Own our own responsibility. The problem is not usually 100% the other person’s fault. We can be sympathetic or even empathetic with how the other person may be feeling. What are their insecurities? What are their fears?  There is a popular pop song right now called “Stupid Deep”. It’s profound, and it helps me feel compassion for people who struggle to express themselves in optimal ways. This includes me.

P-Pray. Pray constantly for help in not over reacting.

We can be forever kind when it’s hard. We can do it.

There is a subset of the loving language of heaven called respect. This language, which involves speaking politely, not interrupting and being appropriate, is one that we deeply want children to learn and to practice throughout our lives.

But for little children, respect can be difficult language. It can take years of practice to speak it fluently. Sadly, many parents expect their young children to speak it immediately. But children are foreigners who have arrived on our planet without any words at all.  It’s hard!

Imagine you suddenly live in France. You don’t speak French. How would you prefer to be treated by service providers?

A:  I would like my guides to be regularly exasperated with me. I would like to be scorned at every turn. Should I make a mistake that appears easy to avoid, I would like to be yelled at with great intensity.

I would also enjoy being sent away constantly, to an isolated room/place for infractions large and small. Whenever possible, I would like to feel shunned.

B. I would love to be offered some grace. When I violated cultural code, I would be happy if someone would take me aside and lovingly explain the correct phrasing or protocol. Again. And again. And again. If necessary, I might need some “time out” to think. But I would prefer to be sent away with my dignity in tact.

Yes, the process of teaching the language of respect requires gentle repetition. And also yes, yelling can yield quick results. But those results come at a long term, often painful price.

Instead, we can teach the basics over and over. We can cheer when progress is made. We can be patient when necessary. Once we have these skills more or less down, we may be ready for advanced classes. These classes operate at a deeper, more “spiritual core” level. They are Pilates for the soul.

Here is an example: One day one of our sons gently asked if he could speak to me in private. I said “Yes” and we went into another room. He said that he had noticed that I was being very nice to one of the younger kids whom he knew had been especially difficult lately.

“Yes,” I said. I was being extra kind. It was sort of “killing me softly” because deep inside, I was actually resentful about a recurring negative behavior. I told him this.

“I think she can tell,” he said. He told me that when he was a counselor at Anasazi (a great program for troubled teens), he was taught that if actions are right but the heart is “at war”, kids will pick up on the subtle clues. Children are masters of observation.

He was right. I had to get my own heart right with this child on this frustrating issue.

At first, I wasn’t totally sure I could. I prayed hard for charity and forgiveness. The love returned, but it was fragile. I wanted that love to be consistent. Focusing on avoiding contention, remembering the true worth of children of God, and repenting on the regular—these things helped me with that consistency. Eventually that consistency became a strength. The connection between us slowly morphed from wispy thread to an unbreakable titanium beam of love. It took time. More time than I would like to admit. But it was worth every second of focus and self-control.

In the end, the two of us could speak love, and not just the basics. We are now addressing subtle conjugations, as it were, and idioms, and nuanced exceptions. We’re pretty fluent!

This same process can happen in a marriage, in a friendship, in any relationship. We just need to be vulnerable (pretty please see all books by Brené Brown on vulnerability) prayerful, and willing to open our mouths to try to speak love. We know that the more we practice, the better we will become.

And when we arrive home in heaven, having forged through opposition, and armed with our language of love, we will see heaven as more heavenly than ever before.

This is because we will have experienced the contrast. And we will have conquered it.

“We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.”- T.S. Eliot