Why We Love

As a survivor of childhood trauma, I struggled for years with the truth found in John’s words. I believed in Jesus, but I wasn’t at all sure He loved me. I spent years bargaining with Him for approval. Every time I broke a promise, I begged for forgiveness, but wasn’t sure how to earn His love. I didn’t realize His love was a gift.

We love because He

first loved us.

1 John 4:19

John’s words are simple, straightforward, and powerful. Without Jesus we would not know how to love. His life demonstrated the steadfast, unconditional love of God toward humanity. He loved profoundly, authentically, and without a thought for Himself.

As a survivor of childhood trauma, I struggled for years with the truth found in John’s words. I believed in Jesus, but I wasn’t at all sure He loved me. I spent years bargaining with Him for approval. Every time I broke a promise, I begged for forgiveness, but wasn’t sure how to earn His love. I didn’t realize His love was a gift.

When I allowed Jesus’s unconditional love to permeate my being, I realized I could give and receive love without a cost because Jesus paid the price for me. The more I embraced the love Jesus showed me, the more I understood how to love others.

Surrendering to, abiding in and receiving from Jesus nurtures the love He planted in me. As His love thrives within me, I am better equipped to reflect to those I encounter each day.

The journey is ongoing. I am not finished growing and learning what love is or how to express it in healthy ways, but I am closer than I was thirty years ago when my healing journey began.

Faces of Love-Agape

While Till We Faces primarily illustrates love becoming a god rather than God is love, it ends on the same note as The Four Loves, with a description of Divine love. Lewis skillfully takes the reader deep inside love, leaving the noise of technology behind so we understand more fully what love is. Understanding love in all its complexity is the beginning for many who are blinded by the current culture. Perhaps the best lesson we can glean from Till We Have Faces is we cannot love God or anyone until we love ourselves.

As we discuss the two presentations of love in The Four Loves and Till We Have Faces, we must consider the negative elements of love that Lewis’s presents in both books. Lewis emphasizes that “our imitation of God in this life…must be an imitation of God incarnate: our model is Jesus…of the workshop, the roads, the crowds, the clamorous demands and surly oppositions…the Divine life operating under human conditions.”[1]  He says this to introduce the idea that “love begins to be a demon the moment he begins to be a god.” Recognizing this distinction is important to maintain the truth that “God is love” rather than moving toward, “love is God.”[2] As Lewis warns, any of the natural loves can become gods and seem to have the voice of God.

Lewis provides vivid and compelling examples of the complexity of love turned into gods through Orual’s relationships.  Orual’s demons were self-inflicted through her distorted sense of love. Because the gods were silent, she made Friendship, Need-love and in a distorted way, Eros became her gods.  As Ansit revealed, Orual devoured Bardia by demanding his presence through manipulation.  What Orual perceived as a Friendship, was a demon that destroyed her Friend.  In the encounter with Ansit, Orual is surprised to realize her feelings for Bardia are more than Friendship. She loved him, but selfishly. Although the Fox was Orual’s mentor, grandfather, and friend, Orual saw only that she needed him. She wanted him to herself with no regard for his welfare.  The same selfish, all consuming love causes her to rip Psyche’s happiness away.  Need-love dominated everything and destroyed her relationships until some were restored in the end of the story.

There is a striking similarity to both The Four Loves and Till We Have Faces in that, the final pages describe Charity [Divine love]  In The Four Loves he returns to the scripture from John which states, “God is love.”[3] In the propositional narrative, Lewis argues that “God as the Creator of nature, implants in us both Gift-Loves and Need-Loves.”[4] Lewis describes the three methods of giving and receiving love as “Need-love cries to God from our poverty; Gift-love longs to serve, or even suffer for God; Appreciative love says: ‘We give thanks to thee for thy great glory.’[5] Lewis admits that “the three elements of love mix and succeed one another, moment by moment… none…except Need-love ever exists alone, for more than a few seconds.”[6]  According to Lewis, through Charity “natural love is taken up into, made the tuned instrument of, Love Himself.”[7]  Similarly, Lewis uses metaphors of caves, silent darkness, rocks, and light to describe Orual’s conversion experience. Orual wanted the God’s to answer her complaint. She wanted them to speak, but after she had voiced her complaint repeatedly, she realized, “The complaint was the answer. To have heard myself making it was to be answered.”[8]  Through Orual’s experience, perhaps Lewis helps the reader understand the value of listening to those who doubt or are angry at God. 

Continuing the discussion of Divine love, Lewis argues in The Four Loves, “Thus God, admitted to the heart, transforms not only Gift-love but Need-love; not only our Need-love of Him but our Need-love of one another… natural loves are summoned to become modes of Charity while also remaining the natural loves they were.”[9] God transforms us but does not remove the natural loves. Instead, He changes us to instruments of His love.  The key phrase in Lewis’s statement is “admitted to the heart” not forced or coerced, but admitted. Lewis uses Orual’s elaborate vision illustrate God’s transforming grace. In the vision, Orual realizes that voicing her complaint and being heard is the long awaited answer to the riddle that plagues her.  By accepting the “answer,” she is transformed, her anger fades, and she sees her true self, much as God sees each of us because of Christ’s sacrifice. 

Supernatural Divine Appreciative is the one element of Divine love that Lewis briefly describes in The Four Loves, but he beautifully illustrates in the last pages of Till We Have Faces. In The Four Loves, Lewis writes, “He [God] can awake in man, towards Himself, a supernatural Appreciative love…here, not in our natural loves…lies the true centre of all human and angelic life. With this all things are possible.”[10] Lewis expresses his inadequacy in discussing this grandest of all loves because he has never “tasted this love.” However, in the last pages of Till We Have Faces, Lewis exquisitely captures Orual’s expression at the sight of Psyche, “Joy silenced me. And I thought I had now come to the highest, and to the most fullness of being which the human soul can contain.”[11] Just moments later Orual speaks of a greater love, “the earth and stars and sun, all that was or will be, existed for his sake. And he was coming. The most dreadful, the most beautiful, the only dread and beauty there is, was coming. The pillars on the far side of the pool flushed with his approach. I cast down my eyes.”[12]  Here, Lewis guides the reader into an incredible scene through the eyes of the heroine through perfectly chosen words and descriptions. We can almost “feel” him coming as Orual describes the approach, much like a song that evokes the emotion of indescribable beauty.   Once again, Lewis uses the imaginative form to say what he struggles to express propositionally.

When discussing Lewis’s presentations of love in both The Four Loves and Till We Have Faces, it is important to consider possible apologetic implications of Lewis’s use of propositional and imaginative form to address the subject of love. In the 21st century, we are competing with Social Media and other technology which is often overwhelming. When someone can “Google” any topic brought up in a conversation in real time, engagement becomes difficult.  For engagement to occur, Multiple tools are necessary. Just as Orual’s answer from the gods in Till We Have Faces was ultimately voicing her complaint without interruption, many skeptics have a “complaint” against God that we must hear before they will “hear” anything we say. Earlier, Orual fails to understand the miracle of Psyche’s rescue partially because there was “no answer” to her complaint.  She remains full of self-doubt and self-loathing and cannot see the beauty and wonder of Psyche’s new life and love.  During the initial encounter in the hidden palace Psyche wisely stopped the argument when she realized Orual could not understand.   Another skeptic who is struggling with Divine love may need Lewis’s propositional description that Divine love lifts us out of the natural loves and makes us an instrument of His love. Still another may respond best to a combination of rational and imaginative presentation.  Lewis skillfully demonstrates through these two books that there is no “one size fits all” method for describing love or God to a skeptic, and it is important for 21st-century apologists to acquire sufficient tools for the task.

While neither of these books are simple, the underlying message rings true. Love is a complex and multi-faceted subject that cannot be explained in short quotes found on Social Media.  Lewis provides a comprehensive look at the complexity of love through his propositional work, The Four Loves, and his imaginative work, Till We Have Faces.   While both books are engaging and relevant on their own merits, together they provide a more complete presentation of love.  Although these books were written before the Internet age, the metaphorical and descriptive language may succeed in grabbing the attention of those who describe love as love. Lewis’s captivating dialogue in Till We Have Faces mesmerizes even the most reluctant reader.  I can imagine my grandson reading this book with some sort of video game on his mind. The language of myth stimulates imagination which makes the introduction of the propositional descriptions of The Four Loves easier to convey.  In some sense, Till We Faces is like a metaphor of the thoughts presented in The Four Loves.  While Till We Faces primarily illustrates love becoming a god rather than God is love, it ends on the same note as The Four Loves, with a description of Divine love.  Lewis skillfully takes the reader deep inside love, leaving the noise of technology behind so we understand more fully what love is. Understanding love in all its complexity is the beginning for many who are blinded by the current culture. Perhaps the best lesson we can glean from Till We Have Faces is we cannot love God or anyone until we love ourselves.


[1] Ibid.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 126.

[4] Ibid., 17.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., 127.

[8] Lewis, Till We Have Faces, 288.

[9] Lewis, The Four Loves, 133.

[10] Lewis, The Four Loves, 140.

[11] Lewis, Till We Have Faces, 307.

[12] Ibid.

The Faces of Love-Eros

Lewis’s discussion of Eros is perhaps the most complex and yet most relevant of all the loves, in both The Four Loves and Till We Have Faces. Of all the loves, Eros ignites the most emotion for it is what Lewis describes as “being in love.”[1]

Part 3 of a four part series based on an essay I wrote a few years ago. In this segment, I discuss eros or romantic love.

Love is a universal subject for writers, artists, and musicians both past and present. However, current media often presents love as sex and sex as love.  Social media creates a new expression of love through the click of a button on a smartphone.  Commercials for sexual enhancement and performance products appear on prime time television.  Sex is no longer taboo to prime time television rather the more sex, the higher the ratings.  Relationships change daily on Social Media with a single entry.  Our attempts to define love devolve into meaningless memes on Social Media that reflect our attempt to oversimplify the complexity of love. While engaging the hurried, hurt confused and often angry skeptics of our current culture presents a significant challenge, adding Devine Love to the equation increases the difficulty. Somehow, we need to slow down, take a deep breath and turn off the smartphones long enough to experience and understand the complex subject of love. Fortunately, C.S. Lewis was a master of slowing down the hurried mind with profound, provocative and engaging writing. In keeping with his style, Lewis offers two books that address the subject of love in unique yet complementary ways, a propositional work, The Four Loves and Till We Have Faces, a rewriting of the Psyche and Cupid myth.  While in The Four Loves, Lewis adapts four Greek terms to present a propositional explanation of love, he brings the terms to life in Till We Have Faces by drawing the reader into the experience of the characters. While each book eloquently depicts love’s complexity, the rational approach to defining love found in The Four Loves and the imaginative approach of Till We Have Faces enhance each other to provide a complete understanding of the nature and complexity of love.

Lewis’s discussion of Eros is perhaps the most complex and yet most relevant of all the loves, in both The Four Loves and Till We Have Faces. Of all the loves, Eros ignites the most emotion for it is what Lewis describes as “being in love.”[1] He quickly distinguishes Eros from sexuality by saying that “Sexuality may operate without Eros or as part of Eros…My treatment rules out mere sexuality-sexuality without Eros-on the grounds that have nothing to do with morals; because it is irrelevant to our purpose.”[2] Throughout the discussion of Eros in The Four Loves, Lewis attempts to distinguish between Venus (sexuality) and Eros, “a delighted pre-occupation with the Beloved—a general, unspecified pre-occupation with her in her totality.”[3]  Similarly, Lewis describes Eros through Orual’s thoughts during her second trip to the Grey Mountain. Although she refuses to yield to the possibility, Orual considers that she “should leave[Psyche] alone”[4] because “She is ten times happier,” [5] when she makes her second trip to the Grey Mountain.  Orual wrongfully concludes that “there is a deeper love than theirs who seek only the happiness of their beloved.”[6] Orual dismisses the existence of Eros because, at the time, she cannot comprehend such love.  The reader feels Psyche’s sorrow that her sister doesn’t understand the love she has for her husband, much like 21st-century apologist attempting to explain love to a young person, who can barely look up from their phone.  While the propositional language of The Four Loves may not engage the young person, Psyche’s plight might interest them simply because it is a provocative story of love.


[1] Lewis, The Four Loves, 91.

[2] Ibid., 92.

[3] Ibid.,94.

[4] Lewis, Till We Have Faces, 138.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Lewis, The Four Loves, 121.

The Faces of Love-Affection

This is an excerpt from an essay I wrote in 2017 comparing and contrasting two book by C. S. Lewis, “Till We have Faces” and “The Four Loves.” Both books address the complexity of love, one is imaginative and the other propositional. I used the essay as a basic for my YouTube Videos this week as I discussed the Advent theme of love. This is the first of four posts from the essay.

Love is a universal subject for writers, artists, and musicians both past and present. However, current media often presents love as sex and sex as love.  Social media creates a new expression of love through the click of a button on a smartphone.  Commercials for sexual enhancement and performance products appear on prime time television.  Sex is no longer taboo to prime time television rather the more sex, the higher the ratings.  Relationships change daily on Social Media with a single entry.  Our attempts to define love devolve into meaningless memes on Social Media that reflect our attempt to oversimplify the complexity of love. While engaging the hurried, hurt confused and often angry skeptics of our current culture presents a significant challenge, adding Devine Love to the equation increases the difficulty. Somehow, we need to slow down, take a deep breath and turn off the smartphones long enough to experience and understand the complex subject of love. Fortunately, C.S. Lewis was a master of slowing down the hurried mind with profound, provocative and engaging writing. In keeping with his style, Lewis offers two books that address the subject of love in unique yet complementary ways, a propositional work, The Four Loves and Till We Have Faces, a rewriting of the Psyche and Cupid myth.  While in The Four Loves, Lewis adapts four Greek terms to present a propositional explanation of love, he brings the terms to life in Till We Have Faces by drawing the reader into the experience of the characters. While each book eloquently depicts love’s complexity, the rational approach to defining love found in The Four Loves and the imaginative approach of Till We Have Faces enhance each other to provide a complete understanding of the nature and complexity of love thereby, providing a some insight for those struggling to understand love and all its complexity.

Lewis clearly expresses the difficulty of defining love when he begins The Fours Loves with, “God is love,” says St. John. When I first tried to write this book, I thought that his maxim would provide me with a very plain highroad through the whole subject. “[1] He soon discovers the complexity of the topic and begins the internal conversations that ultimately lead him to the four terms for love: Affection, Friendship, Eros and Charity adapted from the Greek terms Storge, Philia, Eros, and Agape. Even so, Lewis does not stop with the four terms; he also includes the terms Need-love, Gift-Love, Appreciative Love as methods of expressing and receiving love. Lewis describes each term in detail, providing metaphorical and imaginative examples for each throughout the remainder of the book. Without reading Till We Have Faces, the reader of The Four Loves would have a basic understanding of each term, butthe mythical tale provides added insight and understanding for each term.

          Beginning with Affection, we see how the imaginative style of Till We Have Faces, breathes life into the description presented in The Four Loves, thus enhancing the reader’s understanding of the term. In The Four Loves Lewis describes affection as “a mother nursing a baby; … a cat with a basketful of… kittens;” [2] In a similar manner, through Lewis’s description of Orual’s first encounter’s with the infant Psyche,  “I soon had the child out of their hands. I got for her a nurse a free woman, a peasant’s wife, as honest and wholesome as I could find, and after that, both were in my own chamber day and night…I lost more sleep looking on Psyche for the joy of it than in any other way,”[3] we experience mother-daughter Affection through the eyes of Orual, Psyche’s surrogate mother.  We readily accept the level of affection expressed by Orual for Psyche because the language takes us into the bed chamber with Orual to gaze upon the beautiful Psyche through Orual’s eyes. Orual’s experiences become our experience.

To Be Cont’d…


[1] C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, (Orlando: Harcourt, Inc., 1988), 32.

[2] C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces, (Orlando: Harcourt, Inc., 1984), 21.

[3] Ibid.

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