And The Greatest Of These Is Love
Amor fati – it means to love one’s fate. It is a belief that to truly live and love and be the best human you can be, you must fall in love with life – all of it, the good and the bad. To really love with all your heart, you have to have a grateful heart. That means ridding yourself of these ingrained notions that happiness equals everything always going your way. This is life, things will not always go your way. Sometimes good things will happen and sometimes bad things will happen. There is no rhyme or reason, there just ‘is.’ To quote one of my favorite songwriters Leonard Cohen, “There’s a crack in everything that’s how the light gets in.” Love is seeing the beauty through the pain, knowing ‘this too shall pass’, and being grateful for both the cracks and the beauty. When you open your heart to this kind of gratitude or amor fati, you will begin to see each day as a gift.
We throw around the word ‘love’ a lot. We love chocolate, we love that new Netflix series, we love that new boutique that just opened up. As much as we throw the word around and click on ‘hearts’ over ‘likes’, you would think we would freely and eagerly show love to other human beings, but often times our love expressed to other humans remains exclusive. It is a gift we for the most part reserve to our family and our social circle. The idea of showing love to strangers or people who live in other areas of town seems like too much to give. But the beautiful thing about love is we do not have a limited supply. In fact the power of love is infinite, and when we share love, that love only multiplies.
When we are young we are given advice on how to find love, how to keep love, and how we should expect love. This idea of love is marketed to us in movies and all along Hallmark shelves. It says that love is packaged inside another human being who will sweep you off your feet, buy you pretty things, and make your dreams come true. Wow – what an impossible expectation we put on one other singular human being. To think that deep love only exists on a romantic level is juvenile. To think that love is this allusive thing that we have to search and search for is juvenile. To think that love means giving gifts wrapped up in pretty packages is juvenile. Love, although incredible in its romantic form, is far more than that.
Love is so much deeper than the commercialized, rose bouquet version we are sold. Love can reach far beyond our own front door, far beyond our social circles, far beyond our church pews. Love in its purest form is bigger than ourselves, its compassion has no boundaries, and its empathy is infinite. In the Greek language love actually has 7 main words to describe it. Yes, 7, and some say even more. How incredible is that – to know that one word in our language has so many ways to describe it in another.
Agape LOVE – It is the purest form of love that is free from desires and expectations, and loves regardless of the flaws and shortcomings of others, regardless of the worldly reasons to keep our love exclusive. AGAPE is a love that sees the world as a whole and wants to make it better. It is a love so much greater than ourselves. A love that even in writing this brings me to tears. It is love in action. It is that feeling when you see someone suffering that makes you want to act. It is offering your hand to someone no matter who they are, where they are from, or what the outcome may be. AGAPE love has transformed me into a person I did not know I could be. It has taken a normal human being with normal human tendencies and turned me into someone who sees everyday as an opportunity to show love, make an impact, and just do it. AGAPE love has shut up that voice inside that gives us a million excuses why we shouldn’t do something and simply chooses to act in love without reservation. AGAPE love isn’t about being sympathetic or acting because you feel sorry for someone, it is seeing oneself in the other people, seeing God in other people, seeing people not as ‘other’ but as human beings, and knowing any spark we may create may ignite something in another human being and help them become the person God wants them to be. It is knowing and seeing that we are all in this together.
The other night on a very cold night when temperatures were hitting below freezing I saw a homeless man in very little clothes and sandals with no socks. I raced home grabbed a blanket, coat, shoes, socks, and I went back to where the man was, but he was no longer there. I traveled up and down the parkway and when I found him, I gave him the bag of clothes and I told him to stay there I would buy him dinner. I bought him dinner and a gift card for future dinners. I also gave him information on both the Salvation Army and AA meetings, because I knew that most likely addiction was also his reason for being on the streets, and after listening to his story, it in fact was. In my car I carry around gift cards for food and cards with AA’s information written on them and the Salvation Army’s information, because I see more and more homeless people.
Every week we take one of my daughter’s friends to dance, otherwise she could not experience dance. We signed her up for classes, cover transportation, and make sure she has everything she needs for dance. We drive to a street where some of Huntsville’s fatal shootings happen, and we just do it with hesitation and without reservation. We do it because we believe that every child should have the same opportunities as our child to excel in something they love. She has become a beautiful dancer, and in June she and my daughter will get to perform in a recital together. Can you imagine the world if we all became more inclusive with our love, if we all broke down the boundaries we have put up in our lives and loved without expectations, without reservation? I do not tell you this to pat my family on the back, because I know better than to think it is my family doing this – it is God doing this and we are merely vessels.
Pragma LOVE – My thoughts on love evolved when my husband and I went through trying times. I think one of the hardest challenges that young couples face is when EROS or romantic love dims and the realization that love is not a fairytale sets in. Marriage is hard, let me say that again, “Marriage is really, really, really hard.” We are brought up to believe that romance, affection, and adoration are the key components to love. It is easy to have those in the beginning but when life starts happening (demanding jobs, mortgages, raising children) the fairytale romance that was ‘once upon a time’ doesn’t seem so ‘happy ending’ anymore. What I discovered is you must fall in love with the everyday aspects of marriage as much as the highlights. There’s a lot of days in between the highlight reels and if you cannot get comfortable with the everyday, you may find yourself moving from relationship to relationship always trying to rekindle that EROS instead creating a lasting PRAGMA love with someone. I have also learned, you cannot take each other for granted. It is the challenges and how you react to them that will define your love more than the rainbows and butterflies. Humans are flawed, we can be selfish and hurtful, there is a component to real love that is far more important than romance, that is resilience.
Storge LOVE – Love does not start and end with romantic love. Storge love can be between parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, two lifelong friends, a pet and its owner, two longtime neighbors. When my grandmother passed away from ALS, my grandfather said to me, “Always remember you had one true love in this world.” My grandmother’s devotion made me feel uniquely and beautifully made. A visit to my grandmother’s house meant being woken up to the smell of homemade biscuits and being made a grilled cheese just for a snack. A visit meant being rocked to sleep while she tickled my back, she would tickle my back for hours it seemed until I was sound asleep, oh how her hand must have hurt. My grandparents did not have much more than a penny to their name, but as a child I never was aware of that – to me their house was the best place in the world because it was filled with such enormous love.
I like to go through boxes of letters that my grandmother wrote me throughout my life – there are letters she wrote me when I was a child, postcards she would send while she was traveling, letters she wrote me while I was in college, letters she wrote me while I lived in New York, letters she wrote me before I was married, letters she wrote me as a new mom, and letters up until she became unable to write. What I find so incredibly moving is how so many times she would date and begin a letter, write to me until she fell asleep, then wake up and re-date the letter where she finished and continue the letter that next morning. These letters show an unparalleled love and devotion rarely found in today’s world of instant messages. To take the time to actually sit down and write a letter to someone you love almost everyday – that is devotion. On top of that to write pages at a time telling someone about your day, asking questions about their day, and telling them how special you think they are.
Philautia LOVE – Self love, the healthy kind. It took years, 40 to be exact to truly understand what this meant. For years I thought self love was a type of vanity, but in this version PHILAUTIA it means self acceptance, self awareness, and self care. Although I am no stranger to vanity and have self confidence, I also have had low self esteem most of my life. I felt like I was not enough, like I did not measure up. I would look in the mirror and the things I would say to myself in my head were horrible. Until recent years I could never look myself in the mirror and say, “I love you just the way you are.” It was always a barrage of what I needed to do better, what wasn’t right, what was wrong with me. When I stopped listening to that little voice inside me and began seeing myself as a light in this world, when I was able to look at myself with loving eyes my capacity for loving others changed to. Self love isn’t looking at yourself and thinking, “I’m the best.” Self love is not taking yourself on a shopping spree to ease your troubles. Self love isn’t thinking you deserve ‘this’ or ‘that’ to be happy. Self love is seeing yourself as God sees you and wanting to be the best you can be because this life is a gift. Self love is making time to reflect, to recharge, to connect with nature because it is good for your soul. Self love is looking at your physical and mental self and taking care of your body and mind because they are gifts from God.
Philia LOVE – Friendship love. When you find those people you connect with, those people you can be yourself, those people who love you no matter what – Praise God for those people and PHILIA love! So many times we hear people talk about why they do not like someone or why they can’t be friends with that person. This is not love. When we stop trying to change people or situations so that they fit ‘us’, when we stop judging what others do, when we stop going through each day ‘ready to be offended’, we begin to open our heart to a deeper kind of love and wisdom. As an adult I understand the worry, hate, and stress that can resonate in us when we are constantly trying to fit people to ‘fit’ us. When we are able to cherish our friends for their uniqueness and accept them just where they are, that is what true friendship is about. Philia is also a love we can experience in our marriage as love grows and time passes. My best friend is my husband and I am infinitely thankful for that.
Eros LOVE – Passion, ooooh lala. EROS is a primal and powerful fire that burns out quickly. It needs its flame to be fanned through one of the deeper forms of love as it is centered around the selfish aspects of love, that is, infatuation and physical pleasure. EROS is also the type of love that is most often portrayed to us in film, books, TV, the type of love most hyped up around days like Valentine’s Day, yet it is the most fickle of all love.
Ludus LOVE – Described as a playful love and sometimes puppy love, I like to think of LUDUS as a childlike wonderment that we sometimes loose as we grow older and more cynical, but can easily be regained if we try. Whether it is dancing without reservation or watching a butterfly flit from bloom to bloom or running as fast as you can with the one you love along the beach, approach each moment with an unbounded childlike zest. Have an open heart that delights in discovery, an open heart that has a childlike capacity to learn, an open heart that rejoices in each moment and you will feel bliss each day. Never close your heart off to being in the moment, when we do this we close ourselves to the bliss we could be experiencing each day. This is the life we have been given, nobody gets out of here alive, so love life’s moments.
Every morning when we open our eyes we can choose to love – we can love unconditionally, we can love through acceptance, we can show love’s resilience, we can show love through devotion, we can love with a thankful heart, and we can love the world of wonderment around us. Let us choose love, let us choose love greater than ourself.