“Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” - James 4:8a
Thanks to Dr. Gary Chapman, millions of people now know their love languages. Through his pastoral and counseling work, Dr. Chapman identified five distinct love languages for expressing or receiving love. They are: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. Dr. Chapman argues that each of these love languages is experienced and expressed by everyone, but a person will usually have one or two primary love languages. (Don’t know yours? You can take a quiz here.)
God also embodies all the love languages. For acts of service, God is pleased when we serve her* obediently, and God knows and serves our needs. As far as receiving gifts, God showers us with gifts and blessings, and God enjoys when we give of our time, talents, and tithes to further her kingdom. For words of affirmation, I think God speaks encouragement to us through the Bible and loves it when we offer words of praise through prayer and singing. For physical touch, God has created for us a truly amazing physical world and wants us to honor our world through our physical presence. While I believe God appreciates each of these love languages, I think God’s primary love language is quality time.
According to Dr. Chapman’s website, quality time “is all about giving the other person your undivided attention.” Quality time is the bread and butter of relationships. As someone who has close friends and family in a dozen or more states, I know all too well how crucial it is to invest quality time to maintain these relationships. Anyone who’s been in a long-distance relationship can testify that if you go for a long time without communicating, you start to feel disconnected. Everyone with family members who live out of town knows that you have to sacrifice to spend time with family for the holidays or regular visits or you miss things. While phones, social media, and Skype are amazing technological mediums that have enhanced communication, there’s simply no substitute for making memories in person.
Knowing from experience, then, how important quality time is to the building and maintaining of relationships new and old, I seem to struggle to apply this knowledge to my relationship with God. As author Francis Chan puts it, I often “serve leftovers to a holy God.” I overinflate the importance of work, other commitments, and even entertainment at the expense of time with God. When I’m out of the habit of spending time with God, that quality time can seem one-sided. However, I’ve learned that, if anything, my relationship is one-sided on God’s side!
Spending time with God creates all kinds of surprising benefits. When I spend time in the word (that’s Christian-speak for a regular Bible study practice), I’m more aligned to my personal values and make better decisions. When I pray in the morning, I feel God’s presence throughout my day. When I talk to God frequently, I’m more likely to “hear” some holy nudges. When I surrender situations beyond my control to God, I feel a sense of peace. When I meditate, I find myself with larger stores of patience and smaller stores of anger.
Just like we all have different primary love languages, we all have different ways that we like to spend quality time with God. And our preferences may change over time. For example, as a morning person, I prefer to spend time with God in the morning before the busyness of the day carries me away. But if you’re not a morning person, it might work better for you to spend lunch with God or to chat with God on your commute.
The point is, God, the Divine, the Universe, Spirit, whatever you want to call our Creator, desires deeply to spend time with you and me. God’s primary love language is quality time, and if we “draw near to God” as James instructs in his letter, God will meet us more than halfway with her abundant grace, love, forgiveness, and peace.
How do you connect with God? What’s one habit you can cultivate to make quality time a regular occurrence? I’d love to hear your ideas below. And thanks for reading!
*I noticed that I often use the traditional masculine pronouns for God. I wanted to try using feminine pronouns because I believe God is bigger than genders. How did the use of the feminine pronouns affect your experience? Thanks!