In his book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis writes about love, and with the help of the ancient Greeks, beautifully divides it into four main categories. Lewis' definitions of each type of love - in a nutshell - are as follows:
Storge: Affection; a fondness through familiarity.
Philia: The strong bonds of friendship shared between people; “the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others.”
Eros: The state of being “in love.”
Agape: Christian charity. This love is the highest, and it is unconditional.
While the first three loves come naturally, Lewis writes that without the fourth kind of love, the other types can become corrupt. He speaks of Agape as the love of God, which, quite literally, gives the other types of love the grace they need to become something more than they can be on their own. Storge, Philia, and Eros all point towards Agape, which is the natural evolution of love – if it is allowed to develop.
A while ago, I was talking about this with a friend, and it became quite apparent that this is what we both had experienced throughout our lives, and indeed what I think many people experience. While a relationship that you have may not go through all four stages of love (although those that do make for the best stories…), at some point or another, if you are true to the other person, if you are true to yourself, and most importantly if you are true to God, the relationship will become one that dwells in Agape – no matter how “close” the two people actually are. Another friend once told me this neat little observation about friends:
“Friends for a reason
Friends for a season
Friends for a lifetime.”
It seems to me that the love of God, Agape, creates friends for a lifetime. Because the reality is this: some things change. Some friends change. People move, they marry, and they grow apart from other friendships. Not all friends stay “close.” But my friend and I both realized that we have certain relationships, that while we may not see the other person for months, or even years, we still feel very much connected to them in a way that is not coming from within ourselves – it is something much greater. Philia, or even Eros may not be the love that is the focus, because it has been transformed and fulfilled in Agape. We love the person differently, but we also love them more.
As long as a relationship is mature enough to go through all of these natural progressions, no matter what happens during the course of the relationship, the two people involved will find that the love shared between them is not one that they themselves created, but one that comes gushing forth from God.