All good love stories start with etymology, right? Ok, maybe not, but this one did.
For those that don’t know, etymology is the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history, and it is something I find highly fascinating. I happen to share this fascination with a friend of mine (yes, it’s a male friend…) and, oddly enough, it’s one of the reasons we became friends in the first place. I mean, who else were we going to share all this cool word stuff with, right?! (Please know that I used the word ‘cool’ very loosely just there. Ha!)
But just for today, I’m going to let you into our little club and tell you a little bit about love. You know, that four letter word that we’re all secretly terrified to say? Yeah, that one.
In English, we use the word love in a lot of different contexts. You can love a movie, you can love a friend, you can love your family, you can love food, you can love your spouse. One word, different meanings. It can get confusing.
Personally, I think that we should take a page out of the Greek’s dictionary. There are four words in Ancient Greek which can be rendered into English as “love”. Storge refers to familial love; Philia to friendship as a kind of love; and Agape refers to selfless love. But the one I want to talk about is Eros, which refers to romantic love or desire.
But before I do that, let me give you a little insight into why I’ve been doing this research.
Now, I mentioned earlier that there was a love story to be told and I’d be doing you all an injustice if I just mentioned it but didn’t elaborate, so allow me to give you the run down. But before you get too excited, I should warn you that this story doesn’t exactly have a happy ending.
This story starts with your typical girl meets boy scenario; girl moves interstate, girl meets boy, they hit it off, become best friends, girl likes boy, boy claims he doesn’t like girl but continues to show girl affection at any given opportunity (confusing much?), boy moves away (to girl’s hometown just to add some irony), still best friends, girl moves back home, together again. This is usually the part of the story where the boy realises he’s been madly in love with the girl the whole time and they live happily ever after, but that’s not how this story goes.
In case you hadn’t put two and two together by this point, the aforementioned girl is me, and this boy has consumed my thoughts for almost 18 months now.
I’ve mentioned before that I am not an emotional person, so I’m not going to gush about how amazing and incredible and wonderful I think he is, I’m just going to give it to you straight. I love him. I’m in love with him. Completely. And since he’s made it clear that that is not a feeling we share, I’ve done everything I can think of to push those feelings far, far away. I don’t know how to deal with feelings at the best of times, let alone when they aren’t reciprocated and put me in a vulnerable position, so the sooner I can toss whatever I’m feeling, the better.
Yet, in spite of my best efforts, those feelings have not gone away. If anything, I think they’re probably just stronger, dammit!
So, I did what any true thinker would do and started to attempt to logically scrutinise my feelings; Maybe it’s not love? I’ve never been in love before, so maybe I just think this is what love feels like? If I research what other people’s experience of love is, then surely I’ll realise that I don’t actually love him and be able to drop this, right? I think you get the point.
So, now we come back to Eros, the romantic love or desire.
C.S. Lewis wrote a book called The Four Loves where he explains the four different types of love as found in the Ancient Greek language. This is an excerpt on how he describes Eros:
“For it is the very mark of Eros that when it is in us we had rather share an unhappiness with the beloved than be happy on any other terms. Even if the two lovers are mature and experienced people who know that broken hearts heal in the end and can clearly foresee that, if they at once steeled themselves to go through the present agony of parting, they would almost certainly be happier ten years hence than marriage is at all likely to make them – even then, they would not part.
Even when it becomes clear beyond all evasion that marriage with the beloved cannot possibly lead to happiness – when it cannot even profess to offer any other life than that of tending an incurable, invalid, of hopeless poverty, of exile, or of disgrace – Eros never hesitates to say, “Better this than parting. Better to be miserable with her than happy without her. Let our hearts break provided they break together.” If the voice within us does not say this, it is not the voice of Eros. This is the grandeur and terror of love.”
“This is the grandeur and terror of love.” One sentence sums up everything thing I feel about this man. It’s terrifying; I’m scared I’m going to lose his friendship, I’m scared he’ll find happiness with someone else (honestly, I think I’m more scared that he won’t find happiness), I’m scared I’ll love him forever and he’ll never love me back. There’s a thousand anxious thoughts that cycle through my mind, yet in the same breath, there is a grandeur found in love. There is a constant hope, a blissfulness, a joy. It is a privilege that we were created with the ability to love another person with such immensity and I consider it an honour that I get to love him like that.
So I might as well just face it, despite my best efforts to try and convince myself I don’t, I do love him. Truly and deeply. I didn’t mean to and I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but it did. I guess that’s why they call it ‘falling’ in love. It’s not planned, it’s involuntary, you just…fall.
Yet I can’t help but wonder, how is it that someone who is usually very unemotional has the ability to feel something with such intensity?
“We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.” 1 John 4:19 MSG
It all comes back to Jesus.
Over a year ago now, I was praying one night about all the things I was feeling for this other human and the confusion that came with that. I was terrified because it was the first time I had felt anything in a really long time. I had done such a good job at shutting everything out that, by this point, I was completely devoid of emotion. Even a hint of this feeling sent me into a panic because I had no clue what to do. But amidst the flurry, God gave me this scripture.
“Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get anything from us but to give everything of Himself to us. Love like that.” Ephesians 5:2 MSG
Jesus has called me to love like He loves. And in that moment he was calling me to love this boy with a love that is so extravagant, so intense, so entirely selfless. A love that is without fear. A love that remains steadfast through hurt and through trial. A love that demands vulnerability in the face of anxiety. It’s a love that only comes through complete surrender and dependency on Christ.
So, in my weakness, my fear, my confusion, my brokenness, I chose to trust my God, I chose to love. And it’s a choice I continue to make. All the time.
I may not like how this situation is at the moment and I may not understand why God asked this of me, but one thing that I’ve learnt is that as I pour out my love in obedience, God comes in and drenches me in His love. And it is a love that consumes me, overwhelms me, and fulfils me like nothing else.
So, nameless boy, my best friend, I love you.