This week, we are celebrating Valentine’s Day and continue to mourn Whitney Houston’s death.
These aspirations seldom bear out, particularly among celebrities, for whom love is often more evanescent than eternal.
Then there is agape — “the kind of love Christ taught and showed,” as Peter Kreeft defined the term in explaining C.S. Lewis’s The Four Loves. Agape transcends affection (Storge), friendship (Philia), and romantic love (Eros).
With Agape, “you begin to be when you give yourself away,” Kreeft explained. By giving, “you mysteriously find yourself a recipient — of the very gift you gave away.”
Houston’s tumultuous relationship with Bobby Brown starkly revealed the limitations of Eros to fill the God-shaped void we each have in our souls.
Houston crooned about being “in love eternally.” Faith requires a personal relationship with a loving Creator and believing in the promise of Agape.
And like the river finds the sea
I was lost, now I’m free
Cuz I believe
In you and me.
People of faith know the experience of being lost and then found, imprisoned and then free.
How do we try to free ourselves? Hollywood uses sex, alcohol, and drugs. Washington, D.C. uses excessive work — sometimes with a bit of Hollywood on the side. People everywhere use these and other numbing mechanisms in an attempt to free themselves.
Houston sings, “I will always let you in, boy / To places no one’s ever been / Deep inside, can’t you see?” Agape lets us totally reveal ourselves: flaws, selfishness, bad decisions, pettiness.
“We are fools for Christ’s sake,” St. Paul wrote, “but ye are wise in Christ.” Echoing Paul’s statement, Houston promised her beloved to “play the fool forever / Just to be with you forever.”
Though foolish to some, we too can sing, “I am free,” in the angelic heavenly choir in an eternal Valentine’s Day.