“Do you remember that girl, Marisa?”, was how the conversation began.
How could I not? She was the cute one who sat behind me in Latin class in high school.
I tried to make her laugh. “Latin is a dead language/ as dead as it can be/ First it killed the Romans/ and now it’s killing me”.
That was what passed for comedy in those hallowed days. That episode inspired me to pull my high school yearbook out of its musty home at the bottom of a trunk and flip through its pages. “Hey, bud, you’re the best! Love ya!”
Let the eye-rolling begin.
The pages in my yearbook are filled with grimace inducing pictures of our awkward adolescent selves, bad haircuts, cryptic references, best friends, and roller coaster loves and hates.
Oh yes, our loves were epic!
Or so we thought. In reality, they were little more than hormones and sentimentality. We didn’t know — couldn’t know, really — what life had in store for us down the road. At that point in our lives, we had barely more than a score of years that we could remember. Our brains were still developing, our emotional control was tenuous at best, and our bodies were in their first blush of maturity.
But to read back through the sentimental mush in my yearbook, you’d have thought we had lived through harrowing ordeals and sweeping romances on the scale of Gone With The Wind. It was all bubblegum and soap operas, but it was all-consuming.
My buddies would write stuff like: “Keep it real” and “Stay Cool”; the girls would start out with “Hey, bud” if they just wanted to be friends, and “Love ya!” if they were a bit closer. One girl wrote one word at the top of every page of my yearbook just to make me flip through the whole thing. Many people expressed undying friendship (it did); my girlfriend wrote how she would love me forever and ever (she didn’t).
My yearbook is full of every tired trope imaginable. We didn’t know what true love was, but we promised it over and over.
The Four Loves
There are generally four kinds of love (or five or seven or more depending on who you talk to): philia, eros, agape, and storge.
In high school you cared about your friends as a type of Philia (φιλία), friendship or “brotherly love” — which is why Phila-delphia is called the city of brotherly love. This is what they might (mistakenly) call “bromance” nowadays.
For the girls we mixed Philia with a healthy dose of immature Eros (ἔρως), sexual love, or at least the desire of it. At that stage of development a high school boy spends a lot of his time thinking about it. The girls all swear up and down they were only thinking about romance and not about sex per se, but there was plenty of charge in the atmosphere nonetheless.
Sometimes I think our society has a bad case of arrested development, since it appears to content itself with friendship, parent-child affection (Storge), and sexual love. But you don’t hear a lot about Agape. Why is that? Maybe one reason is that it is hard. It takes maturity, sacrifice, and complete self-giving.
Agape is unconditional love
Only one person can be said to have fully realized that definition: the very Son of God, Jesus. He stretched out His hands and spilled His blood to pay for the sins of an ungrateful race. Born to die, so that we might live — because He loves us.
God _is_ love. It says so right in the Scriptures. “Love is patient, love is kind …”. Some days I don’t get it. But I’m trying. It’s important. This agape is what we are all called to as Christians. The whole of the Law is distilled down to this:
And Jesus answered him: The first commandment of all is, Hear, O Israel: the Lord your God is one God. And you shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength. This is the first commandment.
And the second is like to it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12: 29-30)
At Christmas we will celebrate the gift of the giving of Love personified when we gaze upon the Christ-child. At Easter we will celebrate the sacrifice of His death and Resurrection. By the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost we too can live out this sacrificial love in our own lives.
We need that passion to love. Our purpose is to be one with the Lover of Souls in the all consuming fire of His love.
Don’t we want that kind of Love? Instead of a high school year book, when I die I want my name inscribed in the Book of Life. “Your Love is Epic!”