The Greeks are lucky. They have different words to refer to different kinds of love, while English-speakers must settle for one. If someone asks me how I feel about my husband and kettle-cooked potato chips, I have to respond using the same word. (Mind you, being locked in a room with both sort of sounds like a perfect date to me.) My husband and I are celebrating our seventeenth anniversary this weekend and after this many years, some of the trial-by-fire, make-it-up-as-you-go-alongs from the earlier years have evolved into a bit of seasoned wisdom. I have learned the importance of a healthy balance of those different kinds of loves and which one rules them all (for all the LOTR fans in the house).
When I am at a bridal shower or a wedding, I write the same thing in all the guest books.
"No matter what anybody else tells you, love really is all you need."
And I mean it. But it's not necessarily the phileo (friendship) or eros (sexual) or storge (affectionate, familial) kinds of love that I'm talking about. It's agapeo, the divinely unconditional love. The non-reciprocal kind that depends on the person YOU are and not the person you're with**.
A strong marriage is not as much about finding the right person as it is BECOMING the right person. Andy Stanley urges singles to ask themselves, "Am I the person that the one I'm looking for is looking for?" Read that again slowly. It's an important one.
Think about it: if both a husband and wife commit to being good partners rather than expecting the other to perfect themselves, everyone wins. (Now's a good time to recite the Serenity Prayer in your head). The trick is that you are focussing on yourself but for the benefit of someone else. As the days, months and years pass, you grow into a higher version of yourself that aligns more with the image of God you're supposed to be. And like Love Himself, as C.S. Lewis refers to Him, we become patient and kind and humble. We grow selfless and even-tempered and stop keeping score. We protect, trust, hope and stick it out. And we place this growth on a higher priority than financial prosperity, influence, and even charity (1 Corinthians 13:1-7).
By the way, Paul doesn't limit this to husbands and wives. Agapeo doesn't translate to married love. The Greatest Commandment instructs us to love God and our neighbour in this exact way (Matthew 22:36.40). Marriage simply provides daily practice for what we are called to exercise in every relationship we have.
What is your favourite characteristic of love from Paul's description in 1 Corinthians 13? Run with it today.
**David J. Stewart, www.jesus-is-savior.com