Friday, March 16, 2012

From Eros to Agape

Breena and I watched a movie the other night called Like Crazy. It was an interesting movie that I think I liked--a love story without being a chick flick. I don't want to give anything away, in case you decide to spend the dollar and rent it from redbox. But I will say that it got me thinking about love and relationships.

You've probably heard it said before that, in the early stages of a relationship, you experience the emotional joys of being "in love"; later, however, if you want the relationship to work, you have to choose love. Eventually, love doesn't come pouring out of your heart like a river at flood stage. You have to do things that nurture and foster love, even to the point of choosing love against your emotions and will.

This is true. Sorry to disappoint you, but the Hollywood love story is a myth. Happily ever after is hard work. But I want to look at this from a slightly different perspective.

What do we mean by "love"? What are we talking about when we talk about love? The trouble is, love is far too big a concept to be confined to one word. The Greeks knew this, and had four words that each defined part of the love spectrum.

The love that we often talk about is eros, or romantic love. This is the butterflies-in-your-stomach kind of love. It is erotic and sexual. It's the love of every Hollywood love story.

The funny thing about eros is that it dominates then dissipates. At first, it's all you feel for the other person. You're captivated by them. You can't help it. You think about them all the time. It's always hot when they're around. You just want to rip each other's clothes off. This is normal. It's good. You're meant to feel this way...for a time.

But then...life happens. Your googley eyes return to normal. You've thoroughly digested most of the butterflies in your stomach. You stop feeling toward this person in such extremes. This is also normal. And good. eros is meant to fade. Not all the way, obviously. But it's meant to become a healthy part of your love spectrum, not the only sort of love within it.

When eros doesn't dominate anymore, it can feel like you're falling out of love. You might even find yourself saying that you don't love that person anymore, that they're not "the one", or that you just don't feel it any longer. When this happens, it's important to remember that eros isn't the only kind of love. In fact, it's not even the most powerful kind of love. When eros fades, there is a greater love ready to come in. That love is called agape.

I've written a lot about agape, especially as it pertains to God's love toward us. (You can find the most definitive post here.) But agape is also the love that we are commanded to have toward one another, particularly between a husband and a wife. Agape is not so much a felt love as it is a willed love. We choose agape, often against our own wishes and desires.

When eros fades, that creates more opportunity for agape. A healthy marriage will have a good mix of both eros and agape, as well as the other kinds of love in the love-spectrum. As my own marriage grows and matures, I've found that choosing agape has led to feeling more eros. Making room for agape has actually created more space for eros. These two kinds of love are not mutually exclusive, but actually serve one another.

So, in your marriage, when you feel yourself "falling out of love", choose to love your spouse in a new way. Choose agape.

1 comment:

CBrecht said...

Great thoughts, Andy. If I may I'd like to complement them. I encourage all to learn their spouse's love language. Gary Chapman wrote a great book on this, The 5 Love Languages. The idea is to communicate love to your spouse in the way they best receive it, which is probably different than your preferred way. It's the best way to be effective when "choosing love."