I remember when our friends first visited our church assembly, oh, sometime in the year 1993. My daddy was the preacher at that time while mama supported and encouraged him and the congregation. The visiting couple were newlyweds and his job had moved them to our small town from Big City. I now know why the Almighty placed them there—to change our lives!
All of my life I had been “in the church” and around church folks. I have heard many sermons where the speaker mentioned the different meanings of a commonly used word, “love”. Apparently the Greeks had four distinct meanings of this word which we generally throw around when we say, “I love that pizza place!” and “Yes, I love you and will marry you.” Or, “Honey, I have loved you for the 59 years we have been married.” Different types of love but we toss the one word around….because we don’t speak Greek.
If this concept is new to you, would you allow me to put the definitions in my own words while you keep in mind I am no Greek scholar?
- Agape—expecting nothing in return; unconditional love; action, not necessarily feeling; unwilling to abandon the other person; the nature of God; agape-ing the person but maybe not liking the situation; a choice and expecting nothing in return [Staying up with a sick loved one all night… don’t necessarily enjoy it but do it because of agape for that person; adopting an orphan child]
- Eros—romantic; erotic; leads to complete bond and trust [Kissing your spouse on your 59th wedding anniversary…years after you said “I do” when you used to kiss with more of a phileo love than erotic]
- Storge—dutiful but strong; family and close friends; parents + children; siblings; husbands + wives; natural, effortless; makes us feel secure, safe, comfortable [Visiting with a dear friend you haven’t seen in many years; hugging your son who has just returned from overseas military duty]
- Phileo—love between close friends; a strong liking and connection of sharing same values, culture, interests; easy but felt in the soul; emotionally connected [Raising a glass to toast that group of longtime friends; enjoying the comfortable, intimate, weekly gatherings of Bible study group or Book Club or Bunco]
It is safe to say that when our new young friends entered the church building that morning I had no idea how they would shape my understanding of “love” over the next quarter of a century.
This couple were and are go-getters, as my Mama would have said. Chris and Poppy dove right in to the work of the church and labored wherever needed, proving right away that they cherished the idea of being the hands and feet of Jesus. Mr. Patient and I will never forget the first time this couple agaped us by offering to keep our one-year-old so that we could chaperone the teenagers to Opryland Theme Park in Nashville. The wasn’t long after we had just met (and knew we could trust them, of course.) I’m going to admit that this act was a bit surprising because we didn’t grasp the true meaning of agape in our own lives. But….we would….
Chris and Poppy and we have continued down life’s paths and are no longer living in that small town. My parents, too, have traveled on and no longer call that town their home. It is probably safe to say that the most influential mark our friends left on that small town church is the same one that was felt by my own mama.
As we were learning the true meanings of love from our wise, young friends, they were also teaching many of us in our congregation the art of American Sign Language (ASL). A sweet group of deaf and hard-of-hearing saints began to join our faith congregation, forging many friendships that would not have existed without the phileo of Chris and Poppy. While many of us appreciated learning the ‘foreign’ language of ASL, my late mother dove right in to the language and never let go. As a public high school teacher she exposed her students to this language, often inviting Poppy to instruct her Home Economics Classes which she taught in both Tennessee and Ohio. She signed every hymn and praise song that was ever led in church for the next 24 years whether or not a deaf person was in attendance. I believe this was a form of praise and worship for her, something she could offer to Abba. The last time I sat beside her in a church worship service, mere weeks before her passing in 2016, she signed every word of the songs, as usual. This just filled her soul and she did it for His Glory. Twenty-four years of signing and sharing this “foreign” language was how long Mama carried on the art of ASL. The joy and avenue of showing love that my mama cherished was a direct result of the foreign language lessons of agape, storge, phileo and ASL which were taught to so many of us by those two young visitors who entered our church doors a quarter-of-a-century ago.
The agape of Chris and Poppy have made such an impact on thousands of people.
Very recently HERITAGE WAYS chatted with Poppy about her HERITAGE of ASL, how it began and how she is using her HERITAGE to build community and inspire others to learn the foreign languages of agape, storge, phileo and, oh yes, American Sign Language.
And…Happy (Earth) Birthday today, Mama! We miss you but we know you wouldn’t return to earth if you could. You aren’t aware but Chris and Poppy traveled the 500+ miles just to comfort us when you passed 14 months ago.
They are still agape-ing us, Mama.
Beautiful story! I, too, love to sign the songs during church. I will think of your momma now when I do 🙂
That is sweet, Jean. Thanks, dear friend🙌🏽
Love my momma, loved your momma!