Editor’s Note: November 22, 2013, will mark the fiftieth anniversary of C. S. Lewis’s death. On that day, he will be given a place in Westminster Abbey’s renowned Poet’s Corner. In commemoration of this event, all this week Christ and Pop Culture contributors will be writing about the works by C. S. Lewis that have been most personally significant to them.
There are numerous dating and marriage books on the shelves these days, but I wonder how often The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis is picked up and read as that kind of book. For Christians entering into dating relationships with the intent of marriage (and even couples years into marriage), there is wisdom to be found within these pages. Lewis walks through the four different expressions of love, recognizing their place in relationships, all the while understanding where this love ultimately comes from and how it manifests itself in the contexts of relationships.
For Lewis, the love he deems “Affection” is the love shared and expressed between seemingly unlikely individuals. I find this line to beautifully communicate Lewis’s thought on this: “Affection almost slinks or seeps through our lives. It lives with humble, un-dress, private things; soft slippers, old clothes, old jokes, the thump of a sleepy dog’s tail on the kitchen floor, the sound of a sewing-machine, a gollywog left on the lawn.” Moving on from Affection, Lewis begins his dialogue on the love of “Friendship.” He makes the distinction between the posture of “lovers” and the posture of “friends”—how lovers are face-to-face and how friends remain side-by-side. Lewis feels that “Friendship” love defies the normal sets of boundaries surrounding different groups of people, almost expressing that the love expressed within friendship can and often does go against societies standards.
Here is a line I think expresses this clearly: “Every real Friendship is a sort of secession, even a rebellion . . . In each knot of Friends there is a sectional “public opinion” which fortifies its members against the public opinion of the community in general.” The act of “being in love” is wrapped up in “Eros.” In this chapter, Lewis makes the helpful observation between lovers who want the thing itself and the Beloved who desires the Beloved. Rather than seeking a man or woman solely for the pleasure they can give, we should understand that Eros is (In Lewis’s argument) what enables love for one specific man and one specific woman, to be the grounding for the pleasure expressed. Lewis’s final chapter dwells on the love of “Charity,” expressing how Grace is what is needed in all of these loves, and how it is grace in and of itself that enables any of us to be loved at all. Remembering that we have received abundant grace from God in our salvation, we are enabled to extend and receive grace from our Beloved because we understand the grace that has been shown to us.
There’s risk involved in relationships, in choosing to love someone with our whole being forever, in saying every day, “I do.” It takes work, hard work. But there’s grace all the more:
We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armour. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it.
Photo via Barnes and Noble.