“I love you.” “I’m sorry.” “How can I help?” These are three simple phrases that just might change your life.
A couple of weeks ago, my wife, Kathi, told me she had read in an article that saying those things regularly to one another in a marriage could strengthen the relationship. Possibly, even save it.
I’m quite confident that our marriage is not falling apart. Still, I think every relationship needs help and advice to a greater or lesser degree. So we started saying them to one another, jokingly at first, blurting out the three phrases in one sentence, “I love you, I’m sorry, how can I help?” As if we were taking a daily vitamin, keeping the immune system of our relationship in tip-top shape!
We’ve always said I love you to one another every day of our marriage. If it’s got to the end of the day, we challenge each other with the phrase, “Did you say I love you today?” and we answer appropriately. This is never just a thing we do, like two robots working through a list, it means something, it helps us check where our hearts might be at.
Saying “I love you” is not a problem but after a few days of saying, “I love you, I’m sorry, how can I help?” an odd thing happened, at least for me. The last two phrases, in particular, started to become somewhat of a struggle as I’d pause wondering what things I might actually be sorry for and needing Kathi’s forgiveness. I began to struggle even further with the question, “How can I help?” What task am I opening myself up to? What am I potentially committing to, on top of every other thing I have to do? On the flip side, is the answer to this question going to eat into my time to rest and relax.
However, I think all this is precisely the point!
My marriage isn’t just about me and my wants and desires, my marriage, to a large degree, is very much about my wife, her needs, and her well being. Saying, “I’m sorry,” and asking “How can I help?” places these things front and centre and can encourage changing a selfish attitude into a selfless and humble one.
I think we can, and should, also apply to these phrases to something much more significant than any earthly marriage. That is the marriage between Jesus, the Bridegroom, and His Church, the Bride. Those who hold to the Christian faith are part of Christ’s Church, and thus we are His Bride. How often are we turning to our Bridegroom and telling Him that we love Him, saying that we are sorry, and asking how we can help?
Let me break that down a little more. We can all think we love someone, we believe it with all our heart, but sometimes it’s only really until you say the words aloud do you begin to bring that feeling into reality. To verbally say “I love you” is powerful and can change a person’s world. It’s a phrase that carries weighty responsibility. When these words are said to you, someone is metaphorically placing their heart in your hands. The most vulnerable part of who they are has been given over to you, and you need to handle with care.
When we tell Jesus that we love Him, we are giving over all that we are to Him. But it is not a one-sided relationship. We can know Him intimately, and we know we can trust Him. The Bible tells us that God is love and that those who are living in love are living in God, and God lives through them. Our Father in Heaven loves us so much that He sent His Son as if to prove His love for us. So that whoever believes in Him will never perish but experience everlasting life.
When we say sorry to Jesus, we are accepting the reality of His gracious love and His forgiveness. We all mess up, and I imagine this isn’t a one-time event for most of us. We may have said yes to Christ and received Him as Lord over our lives, but this doesn’t mean we will never do things wrong again – we will never sin again. Living in this fallen world is hard, temptations are all around us, and we will, on occasion, make another mistake or make a wrong choice. However, God loves us and will always forgive a genuinely repentant heart. If we get into the habit of saying sorry when we know we have done wrong, we might find that those moments of falling for temptation become less frequent.
When we ask Jesus, “How can I help?” You are really asking Him how can you help Him in His mission to seek and save the lost. His answer might be “love one another, as I have loved you.” and “love your neighbour as yourself.”
If you are someone of faith in Christ, how are you helping Jesus in His mission? Who are you telling about Him? How are you representing Him to those that you do life with? Jesus asks for our help in the book of Matthew, chapter 28. He tells us to “go with His authority, to make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Son and of the Father and of the Holy Spirit.”
When was the last time you told your partner, or even a family member, that you love them? When was the last time you told Jesus, out-loud, that you love Him?
When was the last time you said sorry to your partner, or just a friend, for that bad attitude, that stinging comment? When was the last time you said sorry to Jesus? This is more for your sake than His. When you know you’re not entirely living out the life you have promised you would. Saying sorry helps you move on, enables you to recognise that love and forgiveness are already given to you.
When was the last time you asked, “How can I help?” When was the last time you were prepared to sacrifice time and energy to make your partner’s life that bit easier? Maybe all they need to help them is a hug, a smile, a kiss? When was the last time you sacrificed time and committed to working out Jesus’ command to make disciples? When was the last time you were Christ to others, as you gave your energy to help bring others to Christian maturity? Helped the vulnerable and those in need?
“I love you.” “I’m sorry.” “How can I help?” These are three simple phrases that will change your life.