My grandparents were married for over half a century, and played their own special game from the time they had met each other. The goal of their game was to write the word "shmily" in a surprise place for the other to find. They took turns leaving "shmily" around the house, and as soon as one of them discovered it, it was their turn to hide it once more. They dragged "shmily" with their fingers through the sugar and flour containers to await whoever was preparing the next meal. They smeared it in the dew on the windows overlooking the patio where my grandma always fed us warm, homemade pudding with blue food coloring. "Shmily" was written in the steam left on the mirror after a hot shower, where it would reappear bath after bath. At one point, my grandmother even unrolled an entire roll of toilet paper to leave "shmily"
on the very last sheet.
There was no end to the places "shmily" would pop up. Little notes with "shmily" scribbled hurriedly were found on dashboards and car seats, or taped to steering wheels. The notes were stuffed inside shoes and left under pillows. "Shmily" was written in the dust upon the mantel and traced in the ashes of the fireplace.
This mysterious word was as much a part of my grandparents' house as the furniture. It took me a long time before I was able to fully appreciate my grandparents' game. Skepticism has kept me from believing in true love----one that is pure and enduring. However, I never doubted my grandparents' relationship. They had love down pat. It was more than their flirtatious little games; it was a way of life. Their relationship was based on a devotion and passionate affection which not everyone is lucky enough to experience. Grandma and Grandpa held hands every chance they could. They stole kisses as they bumped into each other in their tiny kitchen. They finished each other's sentences and shared the daily crossword puzzle and word jumble.
My grandma whispered to me about how cute my grandpa was, how handsome and old he had grown to be. She claimed that she really knew "how to pick ‘em."
Before every meal they bowed their heads and gave thanks, marveling at their blessings: a wonderful family, good fortune, and each other. But there was a dark cloud in my grandparents' life: my grandmother had breast cancer. The disease had first appeared ten years earlier. As always, Grandpa was with her every step of the way. He comforted her in their yellow room, painted that way so that she could always be surrounded by sunshine, even when she was too sick to go outside. Now the cancer was again attacking her body. With the help of a cane and my grandfather's steady hand, they went to church every morning. But my grandmother grew steadily weaker until, finally, she could not leave the house anymore. For a while, Grandpa went to church alone, praying for God to watch over his wife.
Then one day, what we all dreaded finally happened. Grandma was gone. "SHMILY"... There it was again-scrawled in bright yellow ink on the pink ribbons of my grandmother's funeral bouquet. As the crowd thinned and the last mourners turned to leave, my aunts, uncles, cousins and other family members came forward and gathered around Grandma one last time. Grandpa stepped up to my grandmother's casket and, taking a shaky breath, he began to sing to her very softly. Through his tears and grief, the old song came, a deep throaty lullaby. Shaking with my own sorrow, I will never forget that moment. For I knew that, although I couldn't begin to fathom the depth of their love, I had been privileged to witness its unmatched beauty.
"S-h-m-i-l-y---------See How Much I Love You!"
Valentines is a time when we think about expressing our love to others. Whether it be our husband or wife, our boyfriend or girlfriend, our parents or children or someone else. We know that we ought to love one another, but is it really love if it is not expressed? But this evening, I am not going to talk about that, rather, I want to talk about how we express that love. Having love without expressing it is like winking at a girl in the dark. The story which Carla read is a wonderful story of a true love which lasted, but also a love which in a unique way was expressed from beginning to end.
As good as this model is, however, I would like to examine a much better one to think a little about how we can show love to one another. Think with me about the ways in which God has demonstrated his love to us. As we do, we will find a model for how we can show love to each other.
The first thing I would suggest about God’s love is that he loved us when we did not deserve love. The story of salvation teaches us that God created us in order to have a relationship with us. When our first parents sinned, they implicated all of us in sin. From that time onwards, we also were sinful. Romans tells us that not only did we fall into sin because of our first parents, but that all of us are guilty of sin because of wrong things that we have done. So much is this so that the Bible concludes in Romans 3:23 that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We have deliberately and callously rejected the one who loved us. But the wonder of God’s love is that he loved us in this unlovely condition. He loved us when we did not deserve to be loved. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Lesson one is that God loved us when we did not deserve it. How can we show love whether it is deserved or not?
I know a family whose son began to drink and use drugs when he was about 14 years old. The parents did not realize it until some years later when they began to notice things disappear from the farm. One time a scale which was used for testing grain was stolen and given to friends who were using it for drugs. He caused his parents a lot of grief. He was often angry with them and did not let them know where he was. Yet every Christmas, he received gifts just like his siblings. Whenever he was in trouble, the parents supported him and listened to him and tried to draw him back. He always knew that he could count on his parents support. Did he deserve their love? Probably not, but they, like God, showed him love even when it was undeserved.
How about you, do you show love even when it is not deserved? How do you treat your sister when you find out that she has borrowed your sweater without asking and then comes to you and asks you to borrow your jeans? How do you treat your brother when he uses your car and doesn’t put any gas in it? How do you treat your boyfriend when he forgets to call?
Real love is demonstrated even when it is not deserved.
Have you seen the commercial on TV where the guy asks to use his wife’s power saw? He gave it to her for Christmas and now he asks to use it. Is that the kind of love God has shown us?
The second thing we learn about God’s love is that he loved us enough to give us what we needed. His gift of salvation is not about meeting his needs, but ours. He didn’t give us a pat on the back telling us we were OK. He didn’t overlook our sins. He didn’t give us a good life so that we could just be happy. He knew that our deepest need was for our sins to be forgiven and for us to have abundant and eternal life. He gave us that gift at a huge cost to himself. He provided just what we needed. 1 John 4:9,10 says, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
As some of you know, we are Bomber fans. One year when the Bombers were in the Grey Cup, we went to some friends place for a Grey Cup party. They were members of the church where I was pastor at the time. For some strange reason, that day, we were all wearing socks with holes in them. Well, that year they gave us socks for Christmas. Now you may say, who wants socks for Christmas, but we really appreciated that gift and haven’t forgotten it, even though it was a long time ago, as you know if you follow the Bombers. It was a gift which responded to a need.
Expressing love in a way that is appropriate is not only about giving a gift that is appropriate, it can be love expressed in any number of ways that fit the person. Jesus put it this way in Luke 6:31, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Recently we have discovered Hallmark.com which is a pretty simple way of sending a card to someone who has email. When God expressed his love to us, however, he did not use “Hallmark.com.” God came down personally and met our needs by personally becoming involved in our lives. This is the thrust of the Christmas story. We read in John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
When Carla and I were first going out, she was in high school and I was in university. My younger brother also attended the same high school. Sometimes, in the morning, I would give him a note and ask him to give it to her or she would give him a note to give to me. You have heard of UPS, the parcel service? Well, we called my brother UMS which stands for Unreliable Messenger Service because the notes seldom actually got where they were supposed to go. I found out that you can’t send your brother to tell your girlfriend that you love her. You can’t ask your husband to go tuck the kids into bed and give them a kiss. You can’t ask your wife to attend your kids game while you do your work.
Although we may try to short circuit our expressions of love, love is always best expressed as personally as possible.
I John 4:11 says, “since God loved us, we ought to love one another.” Take away all the worldly notions of passion and commercialism and at heart, Valentines is a great time to think about how we love. God, of course, is the greatest example we have for how we ought to show love to one another. God’s love is demonstrated even when it is undeserved, it is demonstrated with the person’s needs in mind and it is expressed personally. Let us follow God’s example of love.