“Much more could be said, if I thought with my head,
But I only can think with my heart.
I love you. I love you, and yearn for the day…
The day when you’ll say, “I love you.”
– Irving Berlin, “Just One Way to Say I Love You”
When Sarah and I first were married during our senior year of college, I won a Frank Sinatra cd during a Valentines radio call-in contest. Sinatra’s cover of the quoted Irving Berlin song above was on the collection of love songs, and immediately became a favorite one for me to sing/hum when we found ourselves dancing and in need of a tune. It spoke well of the fact that even though my brain is great at coming up with words, my heart continues to want to communicate one simple/complex truth – I love you.
It wasn’t a stretch, then, when 5 years later I found myself singing the same song to our newborn. It took on new meaning, as I sang the lines “..and yearn for the day…” As a father, I couldn’t wait for my little girl (and each of her subsequent sisters) to form the words “I love you, dad.” Still to this day, it warms me in ways I never knew possible. As each of our girls have moved from crying, to talking, the words come less than when they were 4 or 5. But when they come now from my 10 year old, the words “I love you, dad.” increase in depth and meaning with every year.
So today marks another year of important measurement, and another layer added to the meaning of “our song”. One year ago this week, we were stranded in a small hotel in the middle of the DRC, in Africa. We’d only been to Kinshasa once before, traveling there to provide emergency medical care for our daughter who we’d adopted but weren’t allowed to bring home yet, due to corrupt political situations. Finally now, we were completing final steps to bring her home. She was with us, in that hotel, as each day we tried to move a bit closer toward uniting her with sisters who waited back in the US.
Weeks, and Easter passed, and we chatted via video with family back home, shared prayer updates, and waited with both tears of joy – and tears of struggle. This precious little girl, who was still just beginning to know us, was opening up a bit more each day. But she had been through so much already. She’d never known a father figure, let alone one that wanted to be loving. She would let me care for basic needs, like prepare her food. She would let me be goofy, playing catch at times or offering a horse-ride. Otherwise, she kept her distance…both physically and emotionally.
I would find myself looking forward to the moments she would sleep, and I could come closer. I would try to hum the same tune I’d sung to her sisters when they were newborns. “..and yearn for the day, the day when you say – ‘I love you.” I would pray, as I softly touched her head or shoulders – not daring to wake her.
Finally, we were able to come home. Days and weeks gave way to months. French became English, and emotions of “sisterhood” and “family” have taken root. We are not done with the work of healing what has happened. But God has brought us so far. This morning as I left for work, she said once again “I love you, dad” as I said goodbye to each daughter.
“Much more could be said, if I thought with my head, but I only can think with my heart.”
As I let the words sink in – on each level – I realize I have a Father who continues to wait on me to say “I love you”. Even though I’ve said it before, every time I speak the words, it includes new and deeper experiences that flavor and fill the words to breathe new life into them. The same way that each year finds my wife & daughters communicating new depths of love as they speak the words. I realize He continues to “yearn for the day” when humanity will collectively say “I love you.” For now, I pray to continue guiding my family into a life of speaking those three words well – by our lives. Both to our neighbors, and to God…