When “I Love You” Doesn’t Cut it

There are times I want to express my love to my husband, and I want him to know that I love him more than my morning coffee, or my favorite sweatshirt, or the TV show Parenthood, or naps (all of which I do love!).  It is those times when the diluted English words, “I love you” just doesn’t cut it.

When I’m writing him a note in our black, leather journal, the one we’ve written back and forth in for the last 6 years, the one that captures years of occasions, memories and emotions of our lives together….and signing “I love you” doesn’t cut it.

When I’ve stepped beyond myself, to speak his love language, to do something for him that he wouldn’t expect or spend quality time with him that he knows requires me to lay aside my perpetual list of “to-do’s”, and he says “Thank you”…and responding “I love you” doesn’t cut it.

When he’s away, maybe just at work or farther, and I want him to really feel how much my heart bursts with love, respect, admiration, anticipation – for him – this very moment, and my means is through a text message….and sending “I love you” just doesn’t cut it.

Or when my need for affirming words comes out in the question to him, “Do you love me?”, and he wants to make sure I know…and saying “I love you” doesn’t cut it.

When I Love You


I’ve always admired the Hebrew language of the Bible, particularly the way a simple word always seems to hold such a wealth of meaning.  Look up just about any Hebrew word for an English translation and it seems it take a whole sentence to portray what that one word meant to them.

And so it is with the word LOVE.

Webster says the English word, LOVE, as a noun, has 14 meanings.  From “a liking for anything”, to “a deep affection as in a parent to a child”, to “sexual desire”, to a “tennis score of zero”.  Add in LOVE as a verb, and you add in 6 more definitions.

So, tell me.  When we speak of LOVE in the English language, how does one know which we speak of?

What about when you say “I love you”?  What do we really mean?  What do they really hear?

The Hebrew language does a far better job here.  There are actually 11 different Hebrew words that all get translated to “love” in the Bible (stat based on RSV translation).  And for the portions of the Bible originally penned in Greek, there are still several more words all translating to “love”.

If we look at our theme verse for February, “Dear friends, for God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:11, what does it really say?  What LOVE is spoken of here?  Both translations to LOVE in this verse are the same root word, AGAPE.

AGAPE is the love spoken of in 1 Corinthians 13 that describes this love as the “greatest of these” and whose words were read at many of our wedding ceremonies.  AGAPE is the love spoken of in John 3:16 and tells us of God’s love for us through Jesus.  AGAPE is the love that husbands are commanded to show their wives in Ephesians 5:28.

AGAPE is the love displayed by Jesus.  It is the self-sacrificing, unconditional, no-matter-what love.  It is LOVE that is all about the well-being of the other.  It is the love that says “You Before Me.”


So when “I love you” doesn’t cut it, we sign, respond, send and say three new words that have become for us a declaration of the LOVE we want to express, the AGAPE love that God gives us and we strive to give one another…

“You Before Me”

(or our text-friendly acronym, YBM.)

And he knows.  And I know.  And God sees.


How else might you choose to say “I love you” in a way that expresses something deeper than our English word can convey?  Make it your own!  Something special between you and your spouse that speaks of AGAPE love and reaffirms with each utterance, the commitment & the command to love one another.

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