Learning About Love with C.S. Lewis: Affection

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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.

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 C.S. 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; they have, without question, put thousands of hours into the careful consideration and preparation of their dream day.

But it's 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. Kids are being taught 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. If unchallenged, they risk jumping into an adulthood of misunderstanding 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 ?

C.S. 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, it's 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 unhealthy 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. 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 misconceptions 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.

“Phileo’” or brotherly love is 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.

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