I could probably write a whole book about the power of those three words: I love you. You take a big risk when you say them. If the object of your love doesn't feel the same way, there's a very real chance he will back away, or maybe even break up with you. As wonderful as it feels to love or be loved, if the feeling isn't mutual, it feels pretty awful.
Today I'm going to talk about the love I feel for my friend, Craig Dunham. He's my friend with ALS. In looking at the eight kinds of love I described the other day, he doesn't really fit into one category. Before he got sick, the type of love I felt for him probably fell somewhere between Romantic and Platonic (many of my single male friends fall into this category... I call them "Flirt Buddies.") But in this past year, since I've been helping him, I've also developed the type of love that's similar for what you feel for your children... the protective love that comes from caring for someone. I also have such a deep admiration for Craig's faith and spunk, in spite of this awful disease, so I'd also throw in what might be considered a spiritual love as well... I think of him almost as a modern-day Jesus with a very big cross to bear.
Craig can't talk any more. The only movement he has is in a finger. If that finger is taped just right to a mouse it's possible for him to send email, but that's pretty much his only form of communication. It's not something that's easy, so it's not like we can really be pen-pals.
Even though he can't answer the phone or talk, he can hear us as we speak into the message machine, so I call every night. I usually review a chapter from a spiritual book that he loves: The Purpose Driven Life. I often tell him how I see him living out the lessons from the book -- not questioning God for the hardships, but worshiping him. What an incredible role model he is.
Well, I'm not one to really utter the 'I love you' words to single males unless I'm in a long-term relationship with them. And even then... it's iffy. I've had the bad experience of not hearing those words back, and when you don't hear a reciprocated "I love you, too" you might as well be hearing an "I don't love you."
So... I was a little hesitant about whether or not I should end my nightly calls with, 'I love you, Craig.' But, hey... I already knew Craig couldn't talk, so I figured there was no risk of rejection. He was going to get love from me whether he liked it or not. So every night, I've been leaving my messages, ending them with "Good night, Craig. I love you." There was something comforting to me about saying those words... not really knowing even if Craig could hear me... Having the safety of not having to worry about whether or not he'd say them back.
Then one night, right after I left my message, I got an email from Craig. It's an email I'll treasure and save forever.
It said, "I love you, too...."