Reclaiming Romantic Love… CS Lewis on “Eros”

For those of you who have been dreading talking to your kids about romantic love, or “EROS” as described by the Greeks… don’t be. In our western culture, Eros /Love  has been hijacked by the concept of something sexual, or EROTIC, and for parents it’s not a comfortable word to be using around the house… but believe me…nothing could be further from the words intended meaning.

It is critical for us as parents to communicate to our kids what was intended in love, Eros love is one that cherishes an individual as unique and matchless, as BELOVED in their value. Much more than just the attainment of a moment of pleasure with an available and willing member of the opposite sex. This love is one of the four foundational loves and the most critical of any romance leading to marriage.

Working through the four loves, it’s impossible to miss the order in which CS Lewis introduces us to their foundational truth. AFFECTION, natural and common is the love we have between common circumstance and need, FRIENDSHIP is more than just a companion or acquaintance and requires a common mission or shared belief to exist as described by the Greeks, who used the word Phileo.

It’s clear that for a true friendship to form, a deep affection will be naturally already present. The same with Eros or Romantic Love, for such love to develop, affection and friendship are necessary prior ingredients. Without those present, you have only ‘lust” or Venus like emotions of sexually focused and selfish satisfaction.

Eros Love calls to us from the words of CS Lewis in this great quote… “Now EROS makes a man really want, not a woman, but one particular woman. In some mysterious but quite indisputable fashion the lover desires the Beloved herself, not the pleasure she can give.” (p 136 – Four Loves) To further clarify the difference between EROS and lust, he (CS Lewis) offers this comment “Without Eros, sexual desire like every other desire is a fact about ourselves. Within Eros it is rather about the Beloved.” What an important reminder for us all.

It’s amazing how far our understanding of love can be redirected by society. Not surprising though when you stop to consider how much consumer marketing has used the sexuality and beauty of love to sell stuff and promise fulfilment at the same time, IF we buy their product. Branding and marketing have moved beyond the intended meaning of Eros love as being set on one irreplaceable love, and makes it a goal to gain as much interest and sexual attention as possible so that we can “pick” our best option for our own pleasure. It’s painful to understand that the pure nature of Eros love is tainted by this modern definition, it undermines the very sense of the set – apartness of love, until we start to think that EROS is a dirty word, or some kind of sexual innuendo to hide ourselves and our kids from.

The truth is this… Eros represents the love of God towards man. He is fixated on us individually, specifically, He considers us to be His BELOVED. No ONE else will do, He is captivated by our beauty, by our unique and irreplaceable worth… it’s only the third of the four love words the Greeks had to describe love, and the bible reflects those words in a myriad of ways to begin to paint a beautiful portrait of God’s “Feelings” towards us. His commitment to honor and love and pursue us forever. No wonder it’s been co-opted by our enemy to become something tarnished and dirty and shameful. It’s time we take it back!

So the next time love comes up in the discussion with your blushing pre-teen or teen… take some time to review Eros Love with them and reset their understanding of Gods version of true love. Or… just for fun…watch one of my favorite 90’s films, the classic”Princess Bride” in which an idiot priest character will educate everyone at the wedding on the proper way to express and enunciate “Twwrooo Wuvv” 🙂

We can help to set the record straight for our kids and their friends to re-evaluate the dating concept from top to bottom. Affection, Friendship and Romantic Love. In that order. AGAPE’ is the fourth and final love and it is the glue that holds all love and our lives  supernaturally together, and it can’t be found within us or anywhere on this earth, its only source is in Jesus Christ.

To share that supernatural form of love (Agape), we will have to share a common Savior and Lord. Approximately 50% of our marriages are ending in Divorce in and out of the Church. That’s implies that we have not grasped the underlying truth about love and it’s intended progressive nature. Some of us have learned painfully that our own ability to love is sometimes simply not enough… without a common faith center to our lives, we are vulnerable to a similiar outcome. For others who may feel they have failed at love…, Redeemption is on its way! Hang in there, God loves to restore what we have lost. Love can be re-born, but be careful to follow the same path progression for love to grow deeply and in union with you faith, not as an exception to it.

I believe it falls on us as parents to first guard our own marriages and then clearly express the plan of Romantic Love to our kids before they allow their hearts to make promises their lives will never be able to endure.

Peace out fellow parents… and I was serious, pop some corn this saturday night and take the time with your spouse & kids to check out the movie “Princess Bride“, its a great movie to share with your teens as you look for strategies to bring up ways to discuss this most critical life issue.


PS – As a biblical exercise… Consider taking a new look at the Song of Solomon in the scriptures with the added insight of mankind being in the text as God’s “Beloved” and it will come alive with a whole new meaning for you. The poetry moves beyond a simple metaphor between Solomon and his lover and becomes instead a metaphor for God to mankind. Something beautiful and precious and sacred, yet so tangible for us to recognize in our own lives.

Learning about Love… with CS Lewis – #1 “Affection”

Last night, I spent a great evening with a local teen – college group talking through a basic conversation on the first of four types of love. “Affection” or “Storge” in the Greek, is the initial love type discussed and reviewed by famous Christian Theologian CS Lewis in his classic book, ‘The Four Loves“.

If you’re a parent or step parent of a teen or pre-teen, taking the time to refresh yourself on the topic of love is a good idea, if you’re the parent of teen or pre-teen girls… it’s ESSENTIAL. Not because girls need to understand it more than boys, but they are definitely considering earlier and more seriously than their male counterparts.

Given the media soaked culture and moral ambivalence of our current social norms, talking about and understanding the nature of “Love” is a foundational truth that all families would do well to review together. Dads, you need to take the time to share at least the fundamentals of Love with your daughters and sons before someone else does.

Watching TV, reading books, thumbing through the latest fashion magazines etc… most pre-teens have formed a pretty good idea of what they believe love is or isn’t by the time they hit seventh grade. For young ladies, they probably have their weddings at least planned out except for the exact final identity of the groom, but the rest for sure is covered. Colors, flowers, dress style, decor, food, honeymoon etc… they have without question put thousands of hours into the careful consideration and preparation of their dream day.

But its clear that few of us have taken an hour to consider seriously the differences in the emotions we all feel in life, specifically how to discern between a healthy love and lust or  affection and this crazy idea of sacrificial love that Jesus keeps talking about. For those parents who are already backing away from this one, don’t. EVEN IF YOU HAVE A NO-DATING POLICY in your home, this is critical to pre-emptively discuss, review and confirm with your young adults.

Remember, the massive media machine we’re all connected to, is running 24/7/365 telling your kids all kinds of half-truths and lies about love, sex, lust, beauty and happiness all coming from being in the perfect relationship with the perfect man or woman. If you don’t step up  and really specifically challenge those assertions with real life biblically based truth and answers, they will by default leave your home trusting in the most fickle and dangerous of hormone infused rationales. Do we want our kids cruising through life believing that if they just find the elusive ” love feeling” with someone, they will be happy. As if this emotional rush was a way to have the most ultimate life fulfilling experience possible, as they have seen and believed their entire lives at the movies… and if unchallenged, they risk jumping into an adulthood of mis-understanding the ultimate nature of God, Love and the proper balance of both in our lives.

Why is that dangerous, isn’t Love the ultimate good for a Christian ?

CS Lewis is brilliant, yet stern in his warning of the danger of glorifying love to the position of being an ultimate” good, or essentially as equal to or greater than God himself. Remember the Apostle Paul’s words… “God is Love” ? The problem is when we in our simple nature reverse the order of the words and make “Love is God” in our lives. Not good. Really Not good when you think it through.

As parents…its crucial that we step back a bit from the relentless onslaught of confusion coming from our world and remember the basic truths of what we know about love. It’s so far from a simple emotional attraction or feeling, it’s a powerful and deep truth that has many facets and meanings attached. The Greeks were so expressive on the subject of love, they used four distinct words to describe its depth and breadth, but in our culture we use only one.

For the Christian, all four love expressions only begin to make sense when we consider them within the context of the life of Jesus Christ. Without that anchor to our souls and hearts and minds, we can get very,very confused, distracted and deceived into following something of love that is false and empty. How many millions of homes and marriages have been wrecked by the self- limiting understanding of Love to be a one-size fits all emotion ?… Parents, be careful, guard yourself from the temptation to live only by your wits and not by the words of God.

Not to mention the dangers to our kids.

Affection is described by some to be the fondness between a mother and child, the natural and instinctual love between us that we are all supposed to experience from birth, the comfort of knowing someone with great familiarity the grace to “love” your unlovely friends, to care for your puppy or cherish a favorite student. Affection is not proud or vain, it doesn’t seek to puff itself up or separate others. Its gentle and can be taken for granted, but it is the building block of our concept of Love. One can feel Affection for someone without the awkwardness of attraction or the need to share the same biological parents, it can be casual and common and for most of us, its certainly the most familiar.

For those who lack the simple presence of “Affection” in their lives often struggle with understanding the basic element of Love for their future relationships of a romantic nature, even harder… there is a huge struggle to grasp the basic love nature of God as our heavenly father. That He could be “Fond” of us, is a foreign concept because we never felt that from a parent or friend or colleague.

In God’s wisdom, He created the environment of the local community of faith to fill in those gaps for us. To repair our missing and un-healthy life experiences, including those of love. He made us to be in Christian fellowship to help in part to restore and heal those empty places in our hearts and for our kids he created first and foremost the family unit to be the incubator for a healthy love foundation to grow from. When we walk away from our local fellowship and or our families, we are setting ourselves up for a significant pattern of lost loves and mis-conceptions about God because we never get to the point of balance and wholeness in our understanding of Love, first with each other and then ultimately with God.

Sorry so long, but our topic is gigantic… meant to only scratch the proverbial surface, so the next RTP blog will continue this theme of the discussion on the four Loves, and we’ll jump into “Phileo'” or Brotherly love. It’s the second of the four we must know to begin to grasp the essential nature of our savior and His overwhelming expression of an ultimate and supernatural love to every man – woman and child on this planet.  Affection however, remains a great place to start the discussion with any child who is coming of age.

Peace and Grace to you as you like me…seek to keep your families in between the lines and on the road of life.