Story by RON WELLS // May/June 2017
When asked what the worst disease she had encountered was, Mother Teresa responded: “The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy. It is being unwanted, unloved and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair and hopelessness is love.”
Those who believe love is about sex and beauty often become destitute in relationships of the heart. Such people live broken lives and are hoping to find someone who can fill the emptiness in them.
Before Paul met Jesus, his heart was filled with cruel condemnation of others. When Jesus entered Paul’s life, Paul dramatically changed.
Jesus said, “So now I am giving you a new commandment. Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other (John 13:34).”
Paul began loving people and wrote a relational compass for love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance.”
Using the acronym T.A.L.K., we can use his teaching as tools that, much like four corner posts, can stabilize and give boundaries to relationships.
T IS FOR TIME
“Love is patient (waits, is not in a hurry, endures).”
Paul says that patience takes time. Our biggest challenge in fast-paced society is making time to communicate with others. Impatient and facing demanding time crunches, we become rude when we feel opposed or inconvenienced by others. We want instant responses to our needs rather than being willing to give others our time and attention.
Missionary Corrie ten Boom said, “If Satan can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.”
Being overly busy can destroy a family from within. Having been married nearly 50 years, my wife and I are learning that love is gently patient and that we must reserve plenty of unrushed and up-close times with each other, our children and our grandchildren.
Being in the same space at the same time together is not the same as being together. By shutting off our distracting electronic screens, we all have more face-to-face time to interact. Our greatest challenge as a couple is finding the time for date nights with each other, family game nights, play days and early morning breakfasts with pancakes or doughnuts that provide opportunities for one-on-one, eye-to-eye, ear-to-ear talking and listening.
A IS FOR AFFIRMATION
Affirmation (encouragement) involves using words to lift one another from the despair of living in a confused and lost world. People hurt one another with loaded put-downs.
As one couple, who insisted on dragging out baggage from their past instead of choosing to forgive, said, “Every time we get hysterical, we get historical.”
Creating dissension and chaos and saying cruel remarks tear down the ones we love.
“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them” (Ephesians 4:29).
Mrs. Norman Vincent Peale offers wonderful advice to married women in “The Adventure of Being a Wife.” She said, “It’s best if both spouses study their partner.” In 63 years of marriage, she “studied” her Norman, to figure out how best to love him. Study those you love and become their biggest fan.
Richard Halverson, a previous chaplain of the U.S. Senate, says this about encouragement: “You can offer ideas to others as bullets or seeds. You can shoot them or sow them; hit people in the head with them or plant them in their heart. Ideas used as bullets will kill inspiration and neutralize motivation. Used as seeds, they take root, grow and become reality in the life in which they are planted.”
Encourage one another.
L IS FOR LISTENING
Listening is a learned skill and probably the most difficult part of communication.
Paul understands the art of listening when he says, “Love never gives up!” By patiently evaluating and understanding what someone says, we become true listeners.
Anatomically we have one mouth for speaking and two ears for listening, which underscores the need for us to listen twice as much as we talk.
The French philosopher Voltaire said, “The road to the heart is the ear. Careful listening to your partner is the quickest way to intimacy.”
Listen and listen some more before forming an opinion. Don’t listen in order to respond, instead listen to understand.
K IS FOR KINDNESS
Kindness is being courteous, generous and helpful. Are we nicer to strangers than we are to our family?
Jesus models kindness (John 13) when He gently washes His disciples’ dirty feet. Small acts of kindness open communication in difficult situations and restore trust within a family.
It is a challenge to evaluate T.A.L.K. with those we love. Having a vertical relationship with God gives us the desire and heart to love others as Jesus loves us.
Talk as a family about the need to talk to one another. It may be the first step in real communication within your family and with each other as a couple. Maybe, it can help us all learn new ways to communicate love.
Ron Wells is director of CentrePoint Ministries in Tyler, Texas. He and his wife, Beth, counsel individuals and families and help them find hope. Website: centrepoint.cc Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.