Over the past week, I’ve had quite a few conversations with our hosts and friends here in Mexico about words and their meanings. In Spanish (and in english) some words mean multiple things in different settings (or contexts). For example, Real (spanish pronounced: RAY-AL) can mean “real” or “royal” in english. You can see the trouble (..or fun!) I can get into when I try and learn the language!
There are also interesting cultural differences infused into the language. Americans are known for their open (yet sometimes empty) LOVE. Eg. I love bananas and I love you…hmmm. In Mexico, they have “levels” of love.
Me gusta el plátano= Literally, The banana is pleasing to me, but more like: I like the banana
Me encanta el plátano = Literally, I love the banana, but more like: I really like the banana
Me cae bien = Literally, (someone) falls on me well, but more like: That person I met is nice
Te quiero = Literally, I want you, but more like: I really really like you
Te amo = I love you
Note: There are probably more but I don’t know them :)
The last example is of course the strongest and rarely used sometimes not even very much between spouses! I appreciate this separation of love and appreciate the use of a special phrase reserved for those that I really love. I also see the danger in both extremes! People we care about need to hear we love them (and shown of course).
An interesting question to ponder: how big is our inner “love” circle? Some people readily love many people in the “te amo” way while others reserve it for scarcely one. What is more healthy?
This is an interesting word use by Jesus when he says the greatest commandment (and the second that follows):
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
The word (conjugated verb) is agapaō in both “love the Lord” and “love your neighbor”. Scholars say Agape is the highest form of love in the greek (more on the 4 greek loves). The verb would be used to mean Te Amo or I love you.
If this is correct than as much as we love God, we must love those that God puts in our path. This is the way God shows his love as well. Most of us know John 3:16 and other verses that can be summed us as: He loved the world, even in our sin, and sent his son to die and be resurrected to express his love and show us HOW to love again and find freedom in it!
This is not an excuse to burn out as we try to love and serve everyone, but an invitation to go deeper with God and with those that God has put in your community. As we see how the Father loves, we model our life after this. He loves each one of us uniquely meaning we as his children have the same capacity. In order to see how to love, we must ask the Spirit how can I best love this person and obey his promptings.
Lord, may we all be open to love and be loved and may your Spirit continually teach us how to love! amen.
Art for this posts image was created by Camille! Like her page! Special thanks to Joan Godard for helping me birth this idea while training our team!