I just returned from a week in Alaska with my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson. It was the highlight of my life, so far. I mean, there have been some incredible moments and I will treasure them always – my wedding day, the birth of my children, the weddings of my sons, and the birth of my grandson, as well as moments celebrating the passing of a life – my grandmother dying while holding my hand; the death of my father-in-law…moments of living and life, and death. “All of that being said,” as that trite saying goes, there was nothing that has come before to prepare me for the floodgates of emotions I experienced in spending a week with a one-year-old grandson.
When you are a parent, you experience the joys of that child. You have concern for your child, and you feel responsible for all aspects of their life. As they mature and move on to their own, separate existence, that tends to ease off a little bit, but never goes away. In my mid-50s and married for 28 years, my parents still exhibit concern for me and the life I am living. I love that about being a family – that circle of love expands and grows, and is stronger and stronger. I treasure the life I had under my parent’s roof. Some of the most amazing moments happened when I lived as their daughter. And now I have passed some milestones in my own life; having two of my three sons married and parents is a huge thing! Our middle son’s baby is due this spring and she is already loved so very much, it is almost fantastic in the sense of it being “other worldly.” We think of her or say her name, and our hearts just melt. A lot of it, I am sure, has to do with the idea that she is a girl…we have only ever had sons. My husband melted when they told us she was a girl and said, “Thanks be to God we had sons, because I feel so in love with her and protective of her already, and she is not even born yet! I know she will wrap me around her little finger, and I am just the grandfather!” Ha-Ha. The profound joy we have experienced in becoming grandparents is almost overwhelming in its intensity, and its simplicity.
My grandson loves his trucks. Almost anything he plays with makes a truck sound. It was so much fun to be around a little boy’s toys, again. And his joy was infectious. This trip was a pivotal trip for me. My son lives very humbly, in a very modest neighborhood. They have four rather large, and rambunctious dogs, who are everywhere all at once, adding to the chaos and the joy of living. They have, although small, a home filled with love. And as I sat in their very comfy living room, surrounded by their dogs and listening to the truck sounds coming from my grandson playing on the floor, I was overwhelmed. I felt such an overabundance of love and peace and contentment…and it did not matter where we were. Nothing mattered, other than we were all together. My daughter-in-law works so hard to keep their space clean and organized and I admire her so much! She has poured herself into being a wife and mother and it was wonderful to see. They are deliriously happy, and so in love with each other, and their son. I loved being there and seeing how their relationship has grown over the years, and how much they’ve grown as people since becoming parents. it was a joy to witness. And they were a witness for me, even though they probably don’t realize it.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jn 13:34-35
I did not realize, fully, all the different kinds of love we can bear for one another. I re-checked my Greek, and Biblical definitions of love, and this is what I found:
(1) Mania – this is the strangest, sort of sickest type of love, and it involves more of an obsessive sort of love; a desire to own.
(2) Storgy – this is often referred to as ‘motherly’ love and is completely wrong in a marital relationship. It involves loving a dependent person; once they become independent, just the emotional vestige of love remains, which is proper in parental relationships to children. Once they are grown and on their own, that overwhelming desire to mother lessens.
(3) Eros – yes, this is where the word “erotic” comes from, but it is not just sexual love. This sort of love is also very emotionally based and is integrally tied with Agape in marriage.
(4) Phileo – this is also known as ‘brotherly love’ and is the root of the name for Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. This love is the love we bear our friends, and those around us. This type of love cares for neighbors, sets up soup kitchens, and volunteers to help those less fortunate than ourselves.
(5) Agape – this is the purest form of love because this requires no action or involvement from the receiver of the love. This form of love enables us to truly “love your enemy” because it does not require our enemy to return that love. It is also the love we can feel for others, when they do not know us or realize that we love them; we are satisfied with just loving them and require nothing in return. This is the love God has for us.
I think that the word, “love,” is overused and misused so much. It is not possible to “love” our car, “love” our shoes, “love” that steak we just ate. Those are inanimate objects and we cannot love an object. We don’t love our phones or love our homes, we love the people we speak to over the phone and the people who live with us in our homes. We need to emphasize this with our children…they need to realize that love is reserved for the people in our lives and it can be expressed in many ways. We can love in a phileo way our dear friends, and we can pray for them and do good for them and it stops with that. Our eros love is reserved solely for that one person in our lives we are bonded with in Holy Matrimony. The eros form of love should be reserved for what I refer to as the “marital embrace” and should not be squandered in sexually rampant couplings that not only damage our bodies, but can often damage even more keenly, our souls. The obsessive, or mania type of love, is something that occurs when our lives become disordered and we have no sense of purpose guiding us. We obsess over objects, people, things…but that sort of love is sickly because we want to own that thing or that person and value them or it solely because we own it. There is an important aspect of love missing from a mania style of love…the agape portion. To love someone in a motherly, or storgy, style of love means that you love someone when they need you. If they stop needing you, you only experience a slight emotional remnant of the love you had for them. And again, that important aspect of agape is missing. When we love selflessly, and live for that other person, we experience the type of love that Christ was talking about when He instructed us to “love others as I have loved you.” Christ did not expect our love in return; He loved us with a pure love. His love is what we need to love others with, regardless of how or if they return our love. And I experienced that with my grandson. I felt the gates of my heart just flood with love for him, with absolutely no expectations of love from him. And I witnessed something else, too, that moved me….
While I was there, sitting in their little home, surrounded by love, I realized that nothing, absolutely nothing, else mattered. It did not matter where I was, my things certainly held no sway over me, and my world had contracted to just those people in that little room. How profound it is! I do not require anything else in this world but to be surrounded by my loved ones. My home does not matter; the type of car I drive does not matter; the “friends” in this life do not matter – only love of family matters. As to friends, we have very few, truly, in our lives. We have acquaintances that flitter in and out when God wants them a part of our lives, and I can count on one hand my true friends. So when I say that friends don’t matter, I am not including those very few, but rather, all the others who are in my life for now, but will not remain with me over time. The other truth that came to me was that it also truly does not matter what you do all day long for a living, it is what you do and how you spend your time when you are NOT working that counts. So many people, mostly men (and it is just how men seem to express this, more so than women, in a general sort of way), so tightly associate who they are with what they do. You are not an accountant; it is what you do. You are not an engineer; it is what you do. You are, however, a father, a son, a mother, a daughter, a grandmother. Those are the important roles in your life – your career is a paycheck and should not define WHO you are. You are a child of God first and foremost. And if you only identify yourself as an engineer or a doctor, and realize all your satisfaction from that, you are missing the agape in your life; the emotional or eros love is also absent, which God ordained as part of our human love. And I now know that all I require for satisfaction in life is my loved ones to be near me.
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Cor 13.
I am so blessed to have my little grandson show me how to love in a pure, Agape, sort of way. It opened my heart and showed me the inherent goodness in people…God gives us all we need to find Him when we are born. It is our duty and our job to seek Him, and along the way, to learn to love Him through loving others. I am blessed with an inordinate and overwhelming sense of love and family and the bonds we share, and I pray everyone can experience this blessing, too. If there is something in the way, or something that hinders this relationship or this bond, do away with it immediately. In the end, all we have is family.