Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you’re enjoying a lovely day with your family and friends!
Currently, I’m reading In His Image (Jen Wilkin) with a group of ladies. This book feels like a follow-up to None Like Him, and it is wonderfully painful in the way it convicts me about my inconsistency in imaging God rightly.
One chapter we read for our last meeting is about imaging God’s love. A question at the back of the chapter prompts the reader to think about the most loving person she knows, and to evaluate what type of love that person exhibits (eros, philia, storge, or agape).
Eros is the word used to describe romantic love.
Philia is the word used to describe brother-sisterly love shared between peers.
Storge is the word used to describe a parent’s love for a child.
Agape is the word used to describe the love of God
(In His Image, p. 34).
I could only think of one person’s name, with regard to agape: my husband, Evan.
This post-surgery season of chemo has challenged us both, but I think my husband has had to take the brunt of the struggle. In the span of a few weeks, he moved to Georgia (and took a trailer of our belongings in tow), returned to Kentucky for my surgery, took another trailer to Georgia, and returned for my first chemo . . . all the while managing a few fairly substantial renovations on our new-to-us home, which was built in 1950. Finally, he made one last trip to Kentucky to collect the rest of our things, and to move me to Georgia.
For anyone, that is a full plate. When you add in things like: Evan was working in Georgia when I received my cancer diagnosis, and we were reminded daily that being apart is hard, there are so many ways we could have responded wrongly and divisively to our undesirable circumstances. (I definitely had my moments.) But by God’s grace, He has grown us closer together and, much to my surprise, I discovered that there is a certain sweetness in a marriage when one suffers, and the other pours out agape.
Evan is patient with me when I am forgetful (which is almost all the time, thanks to chemo) or when I need multiple things from him in a short span of time.
He washes dishes without complaining and without being asked. (I am here to tell you my heart whines if the dishwasher is full and I have to hand wash. Lord, help me.)
He tells me I am beautiful, despite the fact that my hair has started to regrow and my head looks like a scraggly, almost-hairless cat.
He tends to the house and has an ever-growing list that he chips away at, in his free time.
He guides my thinking to a deeper truth, if I’m struggling with trusting God in this time of trial.
All this, while he works hard at his day job, then nestles in to study for his MDiv course work, after a family dinner. And he never demands a return for his labor or indicates that sprinkling me with agape is something he regrets.
“Agape is offered free of need, extended by a person whose greatest need has been met in Christ and originating in a God who has no needs whatsoever . . . it is given with no requirement that it be returned . . . it fixes itself on those the world would regard as unworthy . . . it has eyes for the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind . . . it looks beyond what is typically valued as “lovable,” and determines to love the unlovable even at great personal cost” (p. 35, 36, 42).
From my perspective, Evan strives to live out Wilkin’s definition of agape every single day. I am certain he relies on his Heavenly Father, who gives only good gifts and equips His children for the roles to which He calls them. Right now, Evan has stepped into the role of caretaker for his broken-cistern wife. Nobody is perfect, of course, but I can tell you that I’ve never felt more loved by him that I do right now.
These sound possibly like small things, but I can learn loads about agape by watching Evan, as he cares for me and my heart during this season. What a sweet gift my husband is to me!
One must note, dear reader, that agape is the love that God exhibited when Jesus became flesh and walked on the earth. This is the meaning of Christmas. When He bore the cross for our sin and shame, and rose from the dead three days later. That is love, and is the focus of Easter. Jesus didn’t need our companionship–he has always had perfect communion with the Father. Jesus didn’t need anything from us! And He extended this gift of agape–salvation by faith alone, in Him alone–with no mortgage, because there is no way we could ever repay what it cost Him to be the propitiation for our sin. Jesus didn’t come for those who have their lives perfectly together, with perfect Pinterest-inspired homes and Christmas cards with coordinated outfits. Jesus came for the people we really are–broken cisterns who are lost apart from Him and need deliverance from the sin that holds us captive.
Who is the most loving person you know–one who pours out agape at every turn?
*Wilkin, Jen. In His Image (p. 32). Crossway. Kindle Edition.
**Wilkin, Jen. In His Image (p. 35, 36, 42). Crossway. Kindle Edition.