When Love Was Left Out

by | Jun 28, 2017 | Inspiration


A few years ago I had the privilege of praying with a friend whose heart had been broken. Her world was turned upside down and a sea of questions surrounded her at every turn. We prayed embraced and cried together until we felt assured that heaven had heard our cry.

When we were done, she lifted her head and flashed me a tired grin. Through tear-stained eyes, our gazes locked and I whispered with a smile, “I love you”. She nodded in agreement. Then I did something I had not really planned to do. I hugged her again and whispered in her ear, “I you”. She chuckled and said, “what?” I repeated, “I you”, “What does that mean?” she asked. That’s how our family says “I love you. It is the greatest kind of love.”

I explained to her that when Colton, who is now 28, was a toddler and learning to talk we tried to get him to say I love you before bedtime or when daddy went to work. Without fail, he would repeat after us but it always came out, “I You”. For months, we tried to get him to say those three important words  but he just would not do it. Night after night I would coach him very slowly and have him repeat each word after me…

Me- “I”

Colton- “I”

Me- “Love”

Colton- “Love”

Me- “You”

Colton- “You”

Me- “now say, I love you”

Colton- “I You”

After months of trying, I resigned to the fact that he would say it when he was good and ready. But a funny thing happened, over time “I You” took the place of “I love you” in our everyday conversations. And the best part, it grew to mean more than the traditional, “I love you”. To this very day, “I You” is used on a regular basis by everyone in our family.

Over the years, “I You” has morphed into “IU”.  It is written in every card, typed in texts, yelled out across crowds of people as we say our goodbyes, it’s engraved on jewelry and even been scratched in the sand. Although the word “love” has been completely left out, our family knows that “IU” is the greatest kind of love. The unconditional kind.

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The other day, Colton, along his wife and kids, came to visit us for a few days. That first night, as Jaxon was being carted off to bed, his daddy said, “Tell Sweet T good night and that you love her”. At that moment, it all came full circle when Jaxon lifted his sleepy head off his daddy’s should he said, “nite nite Sweet T, IU” As a smile came over my face, I asked, “did you teach him to say that?” “Nope”, Colton replied, “That’s just the way he says it”. Even with “love” left out, I had never felt more loved than I did in that moment.

Love does not have to be spoken, to be felt. You don’t have to hear the words to know that someone loves you. And, when you do say those all-important three words (or two letters), the timing can be just as important as the words themselves. Have you ever heard the words “I love you” right after you’ve done something really stupid or foolish? Have you ever been the recipient of unconditional love when you least deserved it? Maybe someone graciously accepted your “I’m sorry for screwing up” and never looked back. That’s what I like to call a no-matter-what kind of love. Whenever Mr. Wonderful and I are going through a rough patch, inevitably, one of us will look at the other and simply say “no-matter-what”. In that moment, all fear is gone. The word ”Love” was never said, but we both felt it. That kind of love, a no-matter-what kind of love, is such a precious gift when received but it is even more special when given. What an amazing gift. The gift of unconditional love.

That’s the kind of love Christ gave when he died on the cross. It was free. It was unconditional.  We didn’t have to ask for it, and we sure didn’t deserve it, yet, He gave willingly. And the best part, that same love is still available for us today. As He hung there on the cross that day, “Love” was not spoken. It was given.

That’s the key. He gave so that we could receive. Then He commissioned us to give that same love to those around us who needed to receive it. It’s that whole full circle thing again. Here’s the takeaway.  Speaking love is special. Showing love is beautiful. But giving love is the greatest gift of all.

How will YOU love today?

IU bunches, Tonya.


Tonya is a mother of four, a wife of 32 years, and always finds the laughter in everyday life. Learn more.