Last week I spoke a little bit about our cats and how George has a love bucket that needs to be filled up 2-3 times a day. George’s language of love is definitely physical touch. He loves getting petted and scritched. He is like a little love sponge absorbing all the physical love we can give him. Annie sometimes likes physical touch, especially when she is eating although often she is like a typical cat… Don’t touch me. And she will arch her back to try and avoid being touched. The way to Annie’s heart is quality time spent either playing if she is in the mood, but more often spent sleeping on a lap. Give her a lap and she can be very happy for the next hour or so… its just a little difficult if one needs to get up to go to the loo, or If one is working away at the computer. It is not quite so easy typing away having to extend one’s arms over a sleeping kitty!
Gary Chapman writes that at 11:45pm he stepped into his teenage son’s room. He had spent the day counselling and felt both physically and emotionally drained. He was anticipating a brief “good night, I love you” experience, but instead his son said “Dad, I don’t understand girls”. At that point, Gary Chapman writes that he sat on the floor, leaned against the side of his sons bed and asked, “What brings you to that conclusion?”
He writes that that was the beginning of a two hour conversation. His teenage son Derek, was seventeen years old at the time. At the time of writing, his son was now over 40 years old. Gary Chapman writes that his son still doesn’t understand girls, and neither does he, but they have always been close enough to be able to talk, and that is what has been important in their relationship.
Gary Chapman writes that to give someone quality time is in fact to give a portion of your life to another person. Real quality time means giving your undivided attention. Nothing else matters in those moments. He writes that quality time is a powerful communicator of emotional love, but unfortunately the love language of quality time is much more difficult to speak than either words of affirmation or physical touch and the reason is simple: It takes more time.
Gary Chapman writes that a meaningful touch can be given in a second. Words of affirmation can be spoken in less than a minute. But quality time may require hours. And in today’s hurried world, people are finding it more and more difficult to speak this love language of quality time. Gary Chapman suggests that many children these days are growing up in houses with lots of material possessions, but very empty love tanks, feeling like they are simply a a part of their parents collection of things.
It is hard to believe that it is 25 years since I worked as a youth pastor. Together with another member of the congregation we ran a Friday night youth group that comprised about two thirds of teenagers whose parents did not come to Church. It came as quite a shock to me to realise that many of these parents treated their teenagers as a kind of inconvenience. I got the sense that for some of these teens, Marinda, the other leader, and myself were giving quality time to many of these teens that they were not getting at home from their parents.
Gary Chapman gives a wider explanation of what he means when he speaks of quality time.
Firstly, quality time means to really be there with someone else. Central to quality time is togetherness and this means more than simply being in the house together. When you are in the same room with someone else you might be in close proximity, but you are not necessarily together. It is about engaging together in quality conversation or being engaged together in a meaningful activity. Talking about things that are significant and important to the other person, or engaging in an activity that is meaningful or special to another person.
Gary Chapman writes that quality conversation is one of the most powerful ways to communicate this language of love. Asking questions that give space for another person to open up and to speak about things that really matter in their lives without constantly interrupting them so that they have space to really share what they need to. And also being willing to reciprocate by opening up and speaking about things that might also really matter in your life.
To spend quality time with someone requires:
Firstly being deliberate with your time. For someone whose primary language of love is quality time, this would mean giving dedicated and pre-planned time to another person, which shows that you are thinking of them and wish to give them their own special time.
Secondly, quality time means being mentally present, and not being with someone but spending most of your time on your phone or watching the TV out of the corner of your eye at the restaurant. Quality time means putting away the phone and other things that might distract, and making the other person your number one focus.
Thirdly, to be genuinely interested and engaged with them.
Clearly spending quality time with someone else is a key way in which friendships can grow, a key way in which family relationships can be nurtured and a key way in which marriages can be enriched. All of us need in some way to learn to be able to speak this langauge of love if we are to love those who around us, but for some people, this is their Primary Language of love. You may say nice things to them. You may be physically affectionate with them if that is appropriate to the relationship. You may give gifts to them, and you may do loving acts of service towards them, and they may appreciate all of these things. But for some people, until you have spent quality time with them, engaging in a meaningful activity with them or in a meaningful conversation with them, you may not yet have truly begun to communicate to them in their language of love.
In the New Testament, one has the sense that Jesus was fluent in speaking this language of love with other people, showing people that they were valuable to him by spending quality time with them, sometimes as individuals or sometimes in groups.
The story of the Woman at the well is the first that comes to mind. While sitting at a well, waiting for his disciples to return with food Jesus engages with a her in a deep and meaningful conversation that touches the depths of circumstances. In John’s Gospel, we get just a short potted version of the conversation, but it clearly must lasted quite sometime and seems to have touched some of the deepest struggles and most significant parts of her life, because when she goes back to the village to tell others about Jesus, she says to them: Come and see the man who told be everything about myself. In his presence, it seems that this woman felt heard and known and understood probably in a way that she had never felt heard or understood before. This has been a quality conversation with Jesus, and quality conversations don’t often happen quickly. It takes time for a meaningful and deep conversation to unfold as a person is given space to really open up and express themselves fully.
Jesus also spends quality time with Nicodemus in John 2. Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night. He is a Pharisee who wants to know more. He is interested to understand more fully what it is that Jesus is actually teaching and what that might mean for him on a personal level. As they say, no question is a silly question. Even though Nicodemus seems to struggle to understand the depth of what Jesus is saying, Jesus sticks with him, engaging in a deep and meaningful conversation with him and not simply dismissing him as a simpleton or as a waste of his time.
I think also of the story of Jesus inviting his disciples to draw aside with him. Come let us rest a while says Jesus. Although it is clear that Jesus sees himself engaged in really important and significant work, the work is not so important that he cannot set aside and dedicate quality time to be with his friends and disciples away from the crowds. In this instance, his disciples have just returned to Jesus after having been sent by Jesus to proclaim the good news of God’s Realm to the surrounding villages. When they return, Jesus response is to invite them to draw aside privately with him to spend quality time together with him: Come, let us rest a while he says to them. When last did you stop what you were doing and said to someone important in your life, perhaps a friend or a family member, come, let us rest a while, lets spend some quality time together.
Lastly, I think of the story of Zacchaeus. A man despised by many, because he had used and abused his role as a tax-collector to enrich himself at other people’s expenses. Although he was rich, with all the wealth in the world, he was probably a very lonely man, and probably quite conscious of how hated and despised he had become. It takes a person with a very thick skin not to be bothered by such hatred. How remarkable that it is with this defrauder, and a person despised and hated by so many that Jesus goes out of his way to spend quality time with him. With crowds following Jesus and so many other people wanting to get a slice of Jesus’ time that day, it must have made an enormous impact on Zacchaeus that Jesus chose to spend the rest of the day with him, eating a meal with him in his home. This great act of love on Jesus’ part of spending quality time with Zacchaeus clearly made an enormous impact on him. Perhaps it was the first time in his life that he had truly felt valuable in someone else's eyes? The impact upon him was so great that day that it caused an unblocking of his own heart so that love began to flow from him. Beneath the heart of stone that he had presented to the world was revealed a heart of flesh, a heart of softness and generosity that wished to become a blessing to others and to restore to them what he had taken from them.
Who are those in your life who have blessed you by spending quality time with you, showing that they felt you were valuable by taking time out to be with you, perhaps engaging in deep and meaningful conversation with you giving you space to share what you were carrying in your heart? Or perhaps taking time to engage in an activity with you that was meaningful to you?
Lastly, is there someone in your life whose primary language of love is quality time? What might it mean for you to communicate with them in their primary language of love?