Today is Valentines Day, a day dedicated to love! Cupid is aflutter shooting his arrows into people. Love is in the air! At work today, random people would wish me a happy valentines day without knowing my circumstances or predicament on this particular day. For me, Valentines day is nothing special. It is just another day on the calendar and no more meaningful than any other given day. I’m not offended or put off by their wishing that I’d have a good day, but I found it perplexing none the less. I’d describe Valentines day as a celebration of the romantic love, which is a uniquely specific kind of love. While some celebrate in different ways, such as the popular Galentines day or in sharing the occasion with mothers and fathers, I do not find my stock in it. Yet, a celebration of love is a curious thing. Of the many forms or displays of love, I am keenly interested in the love between friends.
C.S. Lewis describes the different forms that love takes in his aptly named book The Four Loves. Exploring the different forms of love that we experience in life, the majority of the book focuses on the love between friends. The Philia: The Friend Love. You see, I did not really begin to follow Jesus until the end of my freshman year of high school. I had been saved as a child at a vacation bible school some many, many years earlier, but had not taken steps to pursue God until I was pulled back into the church in high school. For a good chunk of time I was not attending church. I was not involved and I was a troubled, angry person. The circumstances of life, being bullied and other things, had driven me to be a bitter, resentful individual. I despised people. I wanted nothing to do with them. I was mean and cruel and directed my anger toward those closest to me. Fortunately, I do not remember most of the time from that part of my life, but I remember the path that I walked which brought me to where I am today.
Even after bring drawn back into the church by my youth paster, a Godly man who poured into my life and was my mentor, I was on a process of undoing and unlearning the ways in which I viewed others. Learning to love others took some time and even moving through my sophomore year, I still had yet to master it. Sarcasm was my weapon, a means of hiding my distain. A mask, though shallow, to cause others to guess whether I was serious or if I was being funny. I wasn’t, usually. Y’all, I was a broken person hurting people. I cannot say that I am shameful of the past, but I recognize where I was, and where I am now.
Throughout this time, I was apart of a group of people that became a sort of family. We got along, mostly. We went of mission trips, summer camps, and grew deeper together. My high school youth group was a pivotal component in developing me as a person. However, when I graduated, I was dropped off from the youth. Why? Well, a new stage of life. For a time, I tried to reconcile the change by serving and volunteering, but I now lacked something that I needed. I tried a newly singles group at the same church where I attended youth. However, I didn’t fit with these thirty somethings and married couples. I was suddenly disengaged from an oasis that I had found during high school. The years passed and I had yet to find a place of connection. I moved to a new church home and began serving. A couple years passed from then, and a spark of something was on the horizon.
Our church was looking at creating a college bible study, and had brought on someone to create and lead this group. It was here where the seeds of community where planted. I’ve gushed about the blessing God bestowed upon me with this ministry many, many times before! Y’all best believe that I’m about to do so again! The class started off small, with ten or so people. Most where younger than myself and I once again had to learn how to interact and engage with the people. However, as we grew deeper as a ministry, so too did we mature and blossom into the men and women that we are today.
I met a few people, a couple in fact, who changed my life in many ways. After jump starting the ministry a new pastor was brought on to further grow the ministry. For a time, this person had been the student ministry intern/worship leader. He and his wife, during his time as the student ministry intern, had started a bible study out of their home. It was through this home group where I found a new family. As he and his wife transitioned into his new role as college pastor, they had developed myself and my friends into leaders. As the years went on, more and more people were added to the family.
I adore these people! They hold a very deep and meaningful place within my heart! They have shown me so much love and have challenged me to be a better man. Our relationship to one another is unique as we are, in the truest sense of the word, a family. They are examples of Philia. Their love is pure and genuine. Their love seeks out goodness in others, to speak to their insecurities and to encourage them. When I think about what it means to love people, I think about them. The example that was set by the couple which took it upon themselves to love us in such a meaningful way. We all came from different backgrounds, we have different convictions, and we walk different paths. Yet, we love the Lord and we pursue his will for our lives. We were brought together, not out of happenstance or chance, but through a purposeful design.
I do not find it a surprising that this person, who was the college pastor, is one of my closest friends and mentors. I do not find it surprising that his wife has molded myself and the other men of this family of friends to think beyond ourselves. They have led by example and have shaped the lives of so many people! While we see everyone constantly throughout the year, we gather every year for a gathering of thanksgiving, a Friendsgiving, to celebrate and express gratitude of God bringing us together. We share in life together. We are a family, as real as any other, and I love all of them dearly!
So on a day like today, a day of love, a Valentines day, I can’t help but think about this group of people. They are the expression of Philia and Agape! You see, I found love in this group. They love Jesus and are the embodiment of the his love! I found a home and a family! I do not believe that as the years go by that we’ll not remain deeply rooted together. We may go to the ends of the earth, but we’ll always be a family! So happy Valentines Day to you, in whatever form that takes! Do not take the people closest to you for granted, for they might just be the best thing to ever happen to you.
Grace and Peace,