I want you to think of the one person – it doesn’t mean you don’t love lots of people – but if there is one person that comes to mind who you would like to love in a deeper way. You would like, you feel like you love them but it lacks some connection. You’d like what’s in your heart to get across and maybe it’s one of your kids, maybe it’s a close friend and nothing is wrong but it has drifted apart, maybe it’s a co-worker who you’re really trying to express the love of Christ and it’s just not going very well.
Maybe it’s your mom. Maybe it’s your dad. But I want you to think about what one person would you like a deeper, loving relationship with that just, even as I say that, you kind of feel like, Boy, yeah, it’s so-and-so.
And then at the top of your notes, I want you to write something down. Are you ready? “Communication is the highway on which love travels.” Just write that down. Communication is the highway upon which love travels.
If you can’t communicate, you can have the right intent, you can really care, you can actually love someone, and you can be speaking French and all they can hear is German. They can even question the very things you do because communication – are you ready? …is the meeting of meanings.
Communication isn’t talking. Talking is a part of it. It’s the meeting of meanings. There’s this person over here and there’s this person over here. Communication is the verbal and non-verbal ability of what’s in your heart and what you actually mean crossing those barriers into the mind and to the heart of another person.
Norman Wright, who is the author of the book that Theresa and I read as we were going through counseling on communication. He says, “Communication is the privilege of exchanging vulnerabilities.” It’s not just talk. You are exchanging what is really on your heart. You are unzipping your heart and you are allowing your insecurities, little by little, and who you really are, to come out.
And then I love the second line. He says, “It’s the process of sharing verbally and non-verbally in such a way that the other person can both accept and understand what you are saying.”
Now, the problem is we think communication mostly is words. And you’ll notice the communication experts, I did a little research, and they tell us that of all the communication, in other words, the communication process, what you really mean, only seven percent is words.
That’s a real bummer for a lot of us men. “I told you I loved you, what’s the problem with that? Get over it!” You can say three words a lot of different ways, “I love you.” “I love you.” “I love you!” “I really love you.” The same three words. Completely different meanings. See, a lot of us feel like, That’s what I said. What’s the problem? Why didn’t they get it? If you can just remember only about seven percent of the communication process is the actual words.
Notice, thirty-eight percent is your tone of voice. I, unfortunately, have been – what shall we say? – encouraged by family members and close friends who had the courage to tell me. Apparently, when I get passionate, I get intense. And when I get intense and when I get passionate, I’m just excited and I’m telling people this is really important and I’m thinking I’m at about a two or three helping people understand something.
Or asking a question like, “What happened over here? What happened? Why didn’t this get done?” And they actually have told me things like, “You sound like you’re really mad. It feels very intimidating. Who did something really bad?” “No one! I’m not mad! I’m not intense!” “Oh really?” But your tone of voice.
And then notice, fifty-five percent of communication is body language, facial expression. See, there are a lot of us who think that you can go to a restaurant and that you’re really communicating as you look at your phone, catch your watch, one eye – most of the restaurants now, for some reason, they feel compelled to put TVs everywhere.
And when your kids see the Wall Street Journal up or when people are talking around the table and everybody’s smart phone comes out. See, you know what you are communicating is to that person? You don’t matter. Oh, no, no, no, no, no. I can multi-task. I’m listening. Well, you can keep thinking that, but what I want you to know is what your body says, what your facial expressions say, what your tone of voice says is: You don’t matter.
But when they have all of you and you are fully present and there is your tone of voice and facial expressions and you are leaning forward that are saying: I want to pull out of you what is in your heart because what you think and feel deeply matters to me. Then communication can take place.
In a little book by John Powell entitled, Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? he talks about the five levels of communication. He says level one communication is what is called “Cliché conversation.” It’s safe, it’s shallow, it’s polite.
Second is reporting facts.
Third level of communication is ideas or judgment. Risk begins here.
Level four is feelings and emotions. This is when you begin to lay yourself on the line.
And then level five communication, which is very, very rare and I pray that you get the privilege of experiencing this with your mate and at least a couple people in your life is open communication. Total honesty, mutual understanding, vulnerability. Deep-root issues.
Genuine love is when totally apart from how you look, what you have accomplished, how much education, who you know – that they love you for you. That’s how God loves you. That’s agape love. And they love you when you are doing really well and they love you when you’re not doing very well. And it is in the safety of that kind of love that fills your heart.
Here’s what I want you to know, for you to be really loved, are you ready for this? We would actually have to know who you really are. But if you get vulnerable enough to share wisely and privately at the right time with someone you can really trust who you really are, you have the possibility of who you really are getting rejected. And that’s painful.
And so most of us keep putting up walls and projections, always testing. And even when they love the projection, you don’t really get loved because you know that’s not really you. You just have learned a sophisticated means of projecting what you think people will like and they respond positively. So that’s why real love is complex and hard to find.
Well, how does it happen? See, you have to have some ground rules. You have to have some principles given by God so that there can be safety inside of this. And in Ephesians chapter 4, verses 17 to the end of the chapter – verse 32 – God gives us five very specific principles to develop this kind of real love in real life.
If you’d open your Bible, your phone, your iPad, or whatever you use to get to the Word of God, if you’ll do that now, because I want you to see context. I’ve put the passages here. Chapters 1, 2, and 3 are really, in essence: This is how God has already loved you. Every spiritual blessing is yours. He has chosen you. He has sealed you. He has adopted you. He has given you an inheritance. He has put you in a supernatural body called, “The Church.”
And so chapters 1, 2, and 3 are, “This is how God loves you just as you are.” Then chapter 4 opens up and the apostle Paul would say, “I, a prisoner of the Lord, urge you to live a life worthy of the calling in which you have been called. You were called to Him, called to a purpose, called to His love.” And that word worthy is, we get our word axis.
And so he says, This is all that God has done for you. You are already loved, you are already accepted, you are already adopted, you are precious in His sight. Now, I want you to live that out in your relationships with others. And so notice what it says in verse 2 of chapter 4, “With all humility and gentleness and patience, becoming like Christ.” Experiencing love doesn’t begin with activities and duty and religious activity. It begins with attitudes and issues of the heart, “Bearing with one another, protecting the unity of the body.”
And then understanding what Christ has done in verses 4 through 6. Then understanding He has given us supernatural community in verses 11 through 16 of these apostles and prophets and evangelists and pastor-teachers to help us grow to maturity.
Then in verse 17 he says, “Now, here is how you live out this new life.” And so with that, let’s pick it up. He talks about the renewal of the old self to the new self, up to verse 24. And he says, Now, you are this new person in Christ. What are the ground rules so that you can be vulnerable so that the love that God has already given you, you can share and have real love in real life?
Number one is: Be honest. Speak the truth in love. He introduced this in verse 15. It says, “But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up into all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” And then he picks up that theme of honesty again in verse 25 with a transition, “Therefore, laying aside falsehood,” that’s not just lying. Falsehood. Representing yourself as untrue. “…speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are all members of one another.”
Here’s what I want you to know: It’s easy to be honest and it’s easy to be loving, but boy is it hard to speak the truth in love. When there gets to be tension in a relationship with a brother or sister in the family or with maybe your parents or with a friend at work or with someone who you’re dating.
It’s easy to gloss over, like, Oh, wow, she said that, or, he did that and I felt really hurt. Or, This happened and everyone went out and they didn’t even call me and I feel left out. And so what we do is we feel hurt and we feel wounded and we push that down. And for some people, then they go to the truth, “Hey! How come you guys didn’t invite me and what’s the deal?” That really usually doesn’t work.
Genuine love relationships demand that we speak the truth in love. And for those of us who have followed Christ, my experience is the first ninety percent is not all that hard. It’s the last ten percent. It’s the really, really hard stuff that builds vulnerability.
Here’s a little skill I would give you. You might jot down: Make direct requests.
In the marriage relationship, there’s a lot of women who are waiting for a husband to slow down so we can really, really talk and they feel hurt and wounded. In a marriage relationship, there are a number of men who are wondering, How many days are we going to go, despite our crazy schedules and where we are taking all these kids? It’s been two weeks since we made love and I don’t feel connected to my wife.
And the woman honestly will not feel bold enough to say, “Could we stop everything, go get coffee, and really have a good time to talk?” Or, “You know something? It’s been crazy. We need to sit down. Would you be willing to sit down and get a calendar that we can get two days away because we need to reconnect?
Or to say, “Honey, I know you love me. I know you love me. And my work is crazy and I know you’re doing all kinds of stuff with the kids but I miss you physically. Let’s mark off an evening next week where we clear the house, where we can be together.”
And we feel hurt and we don’t communicate but often we have not asked for that and therefore we don’t get it and then we get wounded.
The second principle is: Be angry but do not sin. Deal with your anger appropriately. This is a command. Did you know the Bible commands you to be angry? “Be angry, yet do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger and don’t give the devil an opportunity.”
When there is injustice, when there’s a blocked goal, when someone disappoints you, when someone is sarcastic – there are all kinds of reasons. Whenever you feel threatened or wounded your response is anger. Anger is a secondary emotion.
In other words, if you’re driving a car, anger is like a light on the dashboard. It’s never the problem. Anger tells you there is something underneath the hood. So when you are angry you were hurt, you were wounded, or that was wrong or they treated your kid that way or that was unjust at work. So you’re angry.
People deal with anger in three major ways. Some people stuff it down and they get depressed. Other people spew it out and alienate people. And a third group leaks it passive-aggressively. And it’s very subtle. Or sarcastic. You won’t make a direct request, you won’t really say what’s going on. There are these little jokes and little jabs. It’s called being passive-aggressive. The issue is you are angry.
Be angry. But don’t sin. Notice the impact. Anger is one of the most powerful emotions on the face of the earth. When you are righteously angry, it may propel you to do something that is so needed. Someone got angry about slavery and did something. Someone got angry about child abuse and did something. That’s good anger.
But anger that is not dealt with gets down in your soul and it says it can be a stronghold or a window of opportunity where demonic spirits begin to mess with your mind. Spiritual warfare isn’t about just weird stuff happening and all the weird stuff.
Spiritual warfare, primarily, is the enemy telling you lies about God, yourself, and others that build resentment, that cause division.
I want to give you a skill for this one. Write down underneath these notes: “I feel” messages. My wife and I in our early married life and I have used this with employees, I have used this with friends, I have used this with my kids.
We had major marriage problems and one of the biggest ones was we didn’t know how to deal with our anger. See, if you don’t know how to deal with your anger, you attack people instead of problems. And when you attack people, it alienates you from them.
And so this is one of those where you didn’t have to go to counseling and I paid for this but I am going to pass it on anyway. Doctor Richard Meyer at the Meyer-Minnerath clinic, as Chip and Theresa sat down with him, he said, “Okay. Theresa, when you get angry, you completely withdraw and you just go into a cocoon. Chip, when you get angry, you get really frustrated and you talk even more, mostly quoting verses. And neither of these are really helpful for your relationship.”
And so he says, “This is an ‘I feel’ message.” And it was put on a card and it was on our refrigerator for two years. “Theresa, when you’re angry – Chip doesn’t come home on time, he’s insensitive, he’s sarcastic, all the things that make you angry – ‘I feel angry when you…blank.’ Chip, when Theresa withdraws, when she gets uptight about a small thing, when she gets so rigid that it makes you crazy, you say, ‘Theresa, I feel angry when you…’ So you’re not attacking her. It’s not words like, ‘Ought, should, never.’ That’s what parents say to kids.”
But it works in friendships. And I can feel angry. “I feel hurt.”
An “I feel” message. “I feel frustrated, fellow employee, when I get these demands on Friday at three thirty and you tell me you want them Monday and I have had a weekend away planned with my family for three months. I feel frustrated. I feel like you don’t honor the work that I have done here.”
An “I feel” message is a non-threatening way to get out of what is in here over the bridge of communication into someone in a non-threatening way. Does that make sense? Do it. Start out in a safe place with that one person.