It’s Valentine’s Day weekend. As I consider the idea of love, I consider those who have loved and lost, and have let this holiday preoccupy themselves with what they are missing.
It’s easy to do this. We go back to the beautiful times we spent when we were committed to someone and reflect on those special events that helped us feel connected in a powerful way. We find ourselves desiring that connection and in turn that desire creates more pining and inadvertent suffering.
The great C.S. Lewis wrote about the four loves. Lewis writes about storge (affection), philia (friendship), eros (love between the sexes) and agape (God’s love).
Lewis masterfully identifies the nuances of each and ties them to our lives in a profound way.
In his book “The Four Loves”, he articulates what each means to him and the scholarly understanding of the greatest of the theological virtues. Lewis’ poetry of the topic gently guides the reader to a deeper place in the heart to grasp the potential for love in every aspect of his life.
Theology is scholarship into the idea of God, but it is also the poetry of Mystery that carries deeper realizations of what it means to be conscious of Mystery in others. Theology is the mastery of applying Mystery in life. Lewis’ theological ideas ground us in the depth experience and nobility in seeking out love in every step on the journey.
The older I get, the more I realize that there are subset expressions of love within the framework of those expressions. I once taught a Christian Life and Love class and used to tell my students, “There are as many expressions of love as there are leaves on the trees in the world”. We all have a limited perspective on the loves we are experiencing in our lives. The truest expression of that love cannot be fully known, but we can treasure our understanding for the time we have with it. To be present to it at the time and to share that presence in the moment with another is the noblest of all goals.
If we look for love outside ourselves, we miss the resonant presence that informs all we are from within. I’ve met people who are always looking for something more outside of them. “There is a new love right around the corner”. They are looking for someone to save them from their circumstances and the “idea of love” will help them out of their mess.
The wise ones have found love in their own hearts and work with what they know to be true in their present experience and don’t need to go looking for something (else) because fulfillment is there. Going deeper in seeing this fulfillment and seeing how it feeds you this day carries the greatest weight in self-realization. Finding the center of one’s being, can tap into the understanding of what love means in exceptional ways. It can inform our understanding of love and help us see the through line of understanding in the expressions of love we encounter daily.
Those who have experienced heartbreak are sometimes quick to rebound, but taking time to reclaim an understanding of what love means would serve a person well. The expression of love that is seemingly lost, can be informed by taking a look within and reclaiming expressions of love that have always been there.
Everyone wants to be appreciated and experience deep love. We appreciate the gifts and the acknowledgment of our presence from others. We are grateful for a tender expression through a kind gesture. Our society confuses the idea of love, though, and we get caught up in the romantic ideas of “eros” and miss the sanctifying priceless expression of “agape”. This is the richest experience of all love.
Looking for the smallest expressions of love in our lives is paramount to seeing and experiencing Love in the bigger picture.
In the words of Lewis: “I’m not the man to speak. Even if I had heard rumors or made guesses, I couldn’t put them in this storm in deed, myths and symbols. All that can be said here is that even on those high levels, though something goes from man to God, yet all, including this something, comes from God to man. If he rises, he does so lifted on a wave of the incoming tide of God’s love for him. He becomes nothing in that ascension. His love is perfected by becoming, in a sense, nothing. He is less than a mote in that sunbeam, vanishes, not from God’s sight, but from ours and his own, into the nuptial solitude of the love that loves love, and in love, all things”.