It’s my man’s birthday today. (Happy Birthday!)
Not gonna lie, when I first met my husband, there was some serious physical attraction. Isn’t that always the case? We start out in LOOOOOOVE (heart smile wink) because our significant other is so perfect. Of course, we know they can’t possibly be completely perfect, but it certainly seems like there is a 99.9% chance they truly are.
Unfortunately after a couple years, that 0.1% chance of imperfection loses its decimal point and becomes a 100% probability…and eros melts away like butter on a sunny day.
Thankfully, God gave us more than one kind of love to sustain us through marriage.
Unfortunately, you have to know Greek and Hebrew to notice it in the Bible…either that or have a awesome resource called “Google”. (Not having time for seminary right now, that’s my learning tool of choice!)
There are four words in the Greek language that are all translated into the English word, love. Not all of them are talked about in the Bible, but I think it’s safe to say that God knows they exist.
Eros is that physical, chemical, “gotta have him NOW” kind of love that we experience when we’re new to each other.
Philia (or phileo) refers to a platonic love between equals.
Storge is the kind of love that parents feel toward their children.
And the king of all loves is agape, the unconditional love demonstrated best by God in his unexpected and improbable love for humanity. “This was the love that Jesus felt for humanity, and it was so great that it shook the stars and changed the course of man’s history.”*
Marriage starts with eros, is sustained through philia, is protected for a time by a shared storge, and is undergirded by agape.
I really don’t think a marriage can possibly last through generations without some serious assistance from God. It is through him that agape love is possible. In fact, in Galatians we are told that one of the fruits of the Spirit is agape.
Paulo Coelho calls this kind of love “the love that devours”*.
It only exists because of God and only through God is its existence in our hearts made possible.
When I think about my marriage, agape is the love that gives me confidence in the permanency of our relationship.
When we fight, I know there will be a positive end because I know that God’s agape is working in both of us. It makes it possible for me to love my enemy (let’s be real here) when we’re on the outs. Agape is the only thing that can motivate me to make a sandwich for my husband when I just want to seethe in anger.
“Luther King once said that when Christ spoke of loving our enemies he was referring to Agape. Because according to him, it was impossible to like our enemies, those who do us harm and try to make our daily suffering all the worse.”*
Doesn’t it seem like that at times? Like our spouse is our enemy that is trying to do us harm and make our daily suffering all the worse? Maybe he really is, but most of the time that feeling is caused by the static electricity that builds up over years of rubbing up against each other’s sinfulness. It’s times like this that our marriage must be undergirded by God’s agape.
Agape provides the foundation for the other loves, and transforms them into something beautiful.
Agape transforms eros from selfish lust into selfless passion.
Philia becomes contented devotion rather than bored brotherhood.
And storge becomes a deep sharing rather than a forced cooperation.
This unconditional, unconventional, devouring love isn’t something I can muster up from the depths of my heart. I can’t manufacture it, I can’t own it, I can’t predict it. The manifestation of agape in my life is only possible through the Holy Spirit. It is a love that transcends feeling,
“a sentiment that invades everything, fills all the cracks and makes any attempt at aggression turn to dust.”*
I’m a long way from being the human embodiment of this love that devours, this love that fills in all the cracks in my marriage and makes all my anger turn to dust in my hands. But guided by God’s grace and with the Spirit working within me, I can take faltering steps into the peace of agape.
* All quotes taken from “The Pilgrimage” by Paulo Coelho
(The picture at the top can be found in downloadable/printable form on the sidebar of my blog. While you’re there, I hope you’ll be encouraged by another of my posts about God transforming me into something new!)