Friendship is a great place to grow up into love! Selfishness can safely be worked out in the arena of friendship. Perhaps you can learn to watch sports with your husband or go shopping with your wife. Work on learning something new together.
Stuart and I chose a hobby neither of us knew anything about—bird watching. We learned it together. It was fun and relaxing and totally different from anything else we had done. We were on level ground; one of us was not an “expert” helping the other.
You may not have a marriage that is falling apart, but if you are honest, you might not be able to say that you and your spouse are good friends. This may be because you don’t play together, find a common goal, laugh together, or just plain have fun. You may need to give yourselves time to rediscover friendship.
When our daughter Judy wanted to get engaged, she called home to talk to us. She and Greg were at Wheaton College and had been dating for three years. They had put their eros love on the back burner for obvious reasons and had been working hard at their friendship. Now they were facing graduation, and it was time to talk about marriage.
“Daddy,” she began, “can I marry my best friend?” I would venture to say many parents would have welcomed that question! We were grateful for Judy and Greg’s maturity and integrity.
“There has to be attraction, too,” Stuart ventured, “but if there is, then you have one of the most important things in place for a good marriage—your abiding friendship with Greg.” Nineteen years of marriage and three children later, their friendship is deeper and more multifaceted than ever. It had been an anchor for the soul of a marriage that has real substance and satisfaction.
A good marriage needs to build on more than just friendship and attraction, however. Greg and Judy have Jesus, and so they have learned to show agape love as well. Friendship love—phileo—alone cannot sustain a marriage; hot romance—eros—will eventually cool. Every marriage that is as God intended it to be needs to submit its human loves to God so that He can transform them. Let phileo submit to agape; let eros submit as well. If they don’t, then when friendship wanes or sexual satisfaction fades, marriage walks out the door. Agape must rule and fuel a marriage. Agape can hold a marriage together when the friends are in a fight or when the lovers feel ice cold. Agape alone can stir the dying embers back into flame.
If we are divorced from the source of love, God Himself, we do not have what it takes to sustain self-sacrificial love. Of course, we all know couples who do not believe in God and yet have stayed happily married all their lives. We may know the love of parents or siblings who don’t believe. But even in their finest moments, phileo and eros are tinged with selfishness. They need the help of agape to reach outside themselves to others and give themselves away.
The fact is, when the wind blows and trouble comes, we need a source of love well beyond our human capacity. If we submit our human loves to God, He will transform them because He transcends them. If we let Him govern our marriages, we will find a reservoir of love we didn’t believe could exist. If He rules our lives, He will fuel our loves.
Just Between Us Magazine