During my preteen and teen years, I got all caught up in the mystery and excitement of boys. Along with my friends, I became boy crazy, giggling over the cute ones, blushing when they talked to me, never being happy unless I had at least one to ooh and aah over. Even in my late teen years, I didn’t quite understand love yet. Maybe that’s common, I don’t know.
As my daughter gets close to her teen years, and she’s becoming interested in boys, I pray that I can help guide her to make good decisions, to wait before becoming too serious, and to know someday what to look for in her forever guy.
I learned about different types of love from my best friend, David. I was about 19. I can’t say that I took his words seriously at first. I just wasn’t deep enough to understand them or to want to. However, I’ve never forgotten his advice to me. I know that someday, when I know the time is right, I’ll share his words with my daughter, and my prayer for her will be that she find someone someday with whom she knows all types of love.
The Types of Love
David and I stood in the parking lot of the restaurant, both of us leaning against the church bus he had driven to pick me up, facing each other, deep in conversation. Time passed so quickly, and I’d finished my first year of college. We had kept in touch throughout the year through letters. Every Wednesday, I raced to the mailboxes in the dorm lobby because David seldom missed putting a letter in the mail to me on Monday or Tuesday. I’d hold that letter to my chest and make myself wait until I was back in my room to open it. Now, in the beginning of my sophomore year, he’d begun coming to see me. We’d been out to eat together several times, our friendship growing as we sat talking together at various restaurant tables, sometimes for hours. This time had been no different. When we finally made it out of the restaurant, we continued our conversation outside. Reaching into my purse, I pulled out a picture and held it out to him, a picture of another David, the one who worked at the front desk in my dorm.
“I’m gonna marry this guy,” I announced. It was true, I had decided. I could easily picture a life with this other David. Cute, friendly, conveniently located in the lobby of my dorm. No matter that he wasn’t really interested in me, I could still imagine it. In my imagination, I could control the situation and make it what I wanted. I did that, had always done that. When I stayed in control, nothing hurt me. I could easily block myself off from anything that made me feel too much.
Still, even though I could imagine it, I really was kidding…at least some. I waited to see this David’s reaction.
David reached for the picture, brow furrowed. “What? Why?” he asked me.
“Because he’s just so cute!”
“No.” He shook his head emphatically. “No, Julie. You can’t marry someone just because he’s cute.”
“I don’t know why not,” I answered. “Besides, he’s really nice, too.”
“Do you love him?”
I grinned at him. He didn’t realize I was kidding. “I love that he’s cute!” I looked up at the sky, at a passing car, anywhere but directly at David.
He reached out and touched my shoulder. “Juliebean,” he started, glanced away from me as if he were trying to decide what to say and then looked back at me, his gaze intense. “Julie, listen. Love.” He let that word die off on a sigh of breath. Started again…”Do you know about love…the types of love?”
I didn’t even really know what love was. I loved pizza. I loved the guys I’d had crushes on, but I knew it wasn’t real love. I knew I loved my dad, my brother, my sister. But what did that mean when we were talking about loving a man (boy, whatever). I had no answer. Slightly, I shook my head. No.
David leaned against the church van. Gesturing to emphasize his point, he continued. “There are three main types of love; well, I think there are four, but these three are the ones most important, okay? – philos, eros, and agape.”
“Okay,” I could follow him so far.
“Philos is compassionate love, the kind you’d feel for a friend.”
“Sure, or anyone. Even just mankind. Brotherly love.”
“Okay,” I said.
He continued. “Eros is romantic love – that probably speaks for itself, doesn’t it?”
I nodded. I listened. The sound of his voice kept my attention as always. His words, whether they were silly, entertaining, or serious, impacted me …always.
“Eros is what you might feel for a movie star…or a cute boy. Or most importantly, when you fall in love with someone, right?”
“Right,” I responded automatically.
“And then there’s agape, the most important of all. Spiritual love. The kind of love Christ has for us. The kind of love He wants us to have for everyone else.”
I nodded as if I understood completely. His eyes were so blue. I stared at him thinking about his blue eyes and hoping that I looked as if I were intent…and wise.
“Julie, it’s common to have one or two of these types of love for people. That’s typically what happens. It’s rare to have all three types of love for one person. That’s what you want, though, when you’re deciding who to marry. You want to find the person you feel all three types of love for.”
I nodded at him, listening but not. I loved him; I knew that. At least in the philos and eros way. I didn’t quite get the other. Christ’s love? Sure, okay. It didn’t matter, anyway. David would never love me in those ways. He’d never given me any indication that he would. I knew that. It was okay, though. As long as I could keep seeing him, I didn’t care. I had no idea why he was telling me all this about love. I couldn’t really marry this other guy, anyway, and I sure didn’t love him. He only ever treated me like a cute little sister. I always did stuff like that, imagine the situation and control it. That’s what worked for me, or at least kept me from getting too close and getting hurt. It kept people at a distance, and that suited me just fine. I think I just wanted to see what David would say.
“Okay, David.” We stood quietly. He was staring at me, I could tell, but I couldn’t look up at him. It felt too serious. Too…something. I stepped past him carefully making sure I didn’t brush up against him and climbed the van steps taking my place in the front row seat right behind the driver’s seat.
“Thanks for lunch.”
Three days later
I stepped out to get the mail and found a package. The return address – David. Trying to draw out the suspense, I made myself look through all the other mail first when I got to the kitchen table with it. I saved David’s package for last. From the feel of it, I could tell it was a book.
Slowly, I slid my finger under the flap of the tan envelope and pulled out the book…The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis. Tucked inside the front cover was a small white piece of paper on which David had written, “Read this. Love in Him, David”.
That’s all he wrote. Despite knowing better, I still held out hope that he would declare his undying love, and he kept writing about God and spiritual things. Ugh.
Some day, my daughter will choose who she spends the rest of her life with. I want her to take this knowledge of love and hold out not only for philos and eros which tend to be more recognizable but also for agape, the most important, so that Christ truly is first in her life.