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How Are We Taught to Love?

October 11, 2017

Another Way for week of October 6, 2017

How Are We Taught to Love?

One of my newer favorite writers, Marianne Jantzi, posed this question in one of her “Connections” columns (a small Canadian women’s magazine): “What if we had never been taught to keep our homes and families near our hearts?”

Are we taught that, and how? Where does family love and devotion start? Perhaps more importantly, how do we nourish that in ourselves, our children? Is it natural, or learned?


Chad Churchman with his parents, Charles and Pat.

It was one of those “let’s-toss-normal-structure-aside-Sundays,” with chairs placed around tables and in small circles instead of traditional rows (we don’t have pews). The liturgy was pretty normal but when we got to the sermon, mostly we were led through discussion suggestions, with each person sharing from their own journey. We were to close our circles by praying for each other, anointing each other with a bit of oil, and then telling each other “God loves you and I love you.”

On that Sunday morning, one of the persons in my small circle was Chad, who I will always think of as a “young” man, about 11 years younger than me. Chad had suffered a severe head injury in a skiing accident when he was truly young and daring, a freshman in college. After the accident he lay in a coma in critical care for weeks, but eventually regained the ability to walk, talk and function. He was, however, very much changed in personality, but he became a much loved member of our church community as he lived in a separate small cabin at his parents’ home. He eventually was able to hold a job as a landscaper at a local university, loved hiking and the outdoors, and took great joy in doing stonemasonry on the side. Then he had to quit his job about four years ago. Increasingly, he had difficulties talking, swallowing and sometimes walking.

The next Sunday morning after our “small circle” experiment in worship, we received the terrible and shocking news that Chad had died Saturday evening in a choking incident. His aging parents were not strong enough to do a Heimlich maneuver, although they tried valiantly to help him.

My mind went immediately back to the small group circle with Chad and the special anointing. The blessing we gave each other was so simple, yet profound: “God loves you, and I love you.” I will treasure that special service and memory of Chad as he now walks and lives freely in that other heavenly realm with our great and loving God.

Our pastor, Stephanie Sorge Wing, said she gives each of her small sons this blessing—God loves you, and I love you—each night as they go to bed. That is one way to help teach our families the love of God. It is also through the daily tasks requiring great patience, endurance and dedication that our families see love demonstrated (and which Chad’s parents—through many difficulties—possessed in spades).

This is how we teach children and each other what love is. Chad himself became a carrier of that love as his main greeting at church became a solidly gripped handshake or a sweet bear hug. He also reached out to help others however he could.


Another excellent Canadian writer (British Columbia), Gareth Brandt, writes in a devotional magazine Rejoice! about God’s great love. Brandt notes that, “God is often depicted as quite emotionally volatile in various Old Testament stories, but divine anger is always temporary, whereas God’s love is always steady and lasting, even eternal. … This love is … the basic message of the gospel we pass on to the next generation.”

Brandt closes with this beautiful reminder:

“When our daughter was lying in a coma: God is love. When we moved from rich familiar soil to windblown prairie: God is love. In the thick and thin of our marriage: God is love. Amid disunity and division: God is love. On special occasions and in ordinary life: God is love. Whatever you have experienced: God is love. Come what may: God is love.”


How do you see God’s love made visible around you? 

What prayer or reminder did you or do you say to your children or grandchildren when you put them to bed, or other special traditions?

What do you remember your parents or grandparents saying to you?

I’d love to see your comments below!



Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.


  1. There is so much to love about this post for many reasons. First of all, I was taught from a young age that Jesus loved me and that God is love, even though some family members didn’t know how to express such love verbally.

    Usually, when we greet or leave children and grandchildren nowadays, we say “I love you!”

    The story of the small circle with anointing with oil is so touching and heart-warming. One of the chapters in my memoir manuscript tells of observing the anointing with oil ritual, a powerful thing. I am glad “God’s love is always steady and lasting, even eternal.” Thanks, Melodie!

    • Yes, thankful for the homes where even thought the verbal is hard to express, the love of Jesus for us is taught.

      I like saying “I love you” but sometimes hold back, not wanting it to become just a throwaway line. How to balance?!

      And thanks for the comments on the small circle we formed that Sunday morning, certainly even more poignant in retrospect. Thanks for your thoughtful reflections.

  2. This is beautiful Melodie, and a wonderful tribute to my much missed and dearly loved younger brother, Chad. I was actually at your church that last Sunday at the end of your service. Husband, Dennis, and I had come to take Mom and Dad and Chad to the Blue Ridge Parkway to have lunch at the Big Meadows Lodge. I went inside the church and found Chad. He was heading into the fellowship area to have coffee but readily persuaded to come with me. Then he and I located Mom. She was laughing and happy. Dad also was pleased They all enjoyed the special church service. We had a lovely drive and meal together. I sat in the backseat between Mom and Chad and kidded with him. My last words to Chad were, “I’ll see you again soon.” He probably said, “All right,” the way he did. And I was planning future fun outings that would include the three of them. But I never saw him again. That happy memory must sustain me, along with many others. He was the kindest people and did the most he could with his life despite his challenges, which we great. All I can say is, yes, I’m sure he is with God, and we will love and miss him until we join him on the other side.

    • Beth, thank you for adding this tender and precious footnote. I didn’t know the after-story. There are always more stories, eh? Nice to know you had a fun afternoon and good memories to carry you through.

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