I recall Valentine’s Day class parties when I was in lower school. We all decorated cardboard shoe boxes with red and pink construction paper hearts and made a slit in the lid for classmate mail. We were in an all- girl school, so the messaging was perfunctory and silly.
“I’m hooked on you”, for example, with a fishhook dangling before a small fish.
“You are such a cutie! “You are a berry good friend”, with a picture of a bowl of fruit. And so, it went. Those were the days of innocence and neighborhood friendships.
Last week we had a round table discussion among our ladies at the House, regarding sex, romance, husbands, boyfriends, and marriage. Many of the women who spoke up wished they had “woke up” to the warnings in their youth by their mothers and grandmothers. Eros, the love that can draw us into romance without commitment, and sex without promise, is advertised ubiquitously, and alleged to be the ultimate love. However, it comes with small print directions and warnings. Frequently what today’s society calls love has brought beautiful children into the world for our community yet left many as single moms parenting and providing for several children alone while living dependent on family, friends, and government assistance.
In the New Testament, there are four Greek words used to describe different types of love – Eros, Storge, Philleo, and Agape.
Eros, or romantic love, is what we discussed last week. And when Eros evaporated, the trusted love of family called Storge helped keep the future hopeful and taught our friends how to make a way in hardship with real friends.
As many shared at the table, tears flowed. Two of our ladies were faithful to their unfaithful husbands and cared for them in failing health and terminal illness. They buried them with dignity, though their own was lost. One has had multiple fathers to her children, and they all are missing in the parenting of them. Two have husbands without work and young children at home. One gave birth to a child after being raped at age 12. Some of the women were sharing for the first time.
We cultivate Storge in Orange Mound. We women are sturdy, and we are strongest when working together in community. We all have invisible Valentine boxes with lids. Encouragement comes in multiple forms as we invest our resources compassionately through the small, concealed openings in the box. Allowing others to know our heartaches, opens the box covered in tattered Valentine hearts and cheap expressions that belie the truth of the struggles of single moms. Faith in Christ changes the tattered to the eternal.
We befriend, support, equip, and promote the ladies in our neighborhood. We try to absorb the pain from the wounds of the past by listening, sharing the burdens, grieving, and resourcing. Whether financial, medical, housing, educational or some other unmet need, we intervene when the ladies want us to, and help in the best ways we can. Our moms are revered at The House. The struggles of raising kids in the inner city are myriad and the fears of gun violence in their neighborhoods are palpable. Crime abounds with hair-trigger anger among the frustrations of poverty and the pandemic. We pray for all with unconditional support and grace.
For those who have believed in Jesus, our Savior, husband, and father to our children, we have become sisters in faith, and embraced Philleo. We are a spiritual family. Philleo brings honor and accountability to our friendships and motivates us to serve together and help all who have lost their bearings. Family always has priority, whether in security or need. Our Prince, The Prince of Peace, opens the finest of loving relationships among individuals in this family that also packages and sells lovely teas.
The evidence of the redemption of our past is in our assurance of the AGAPE love of our Lord. He is Whom we serve and ultimately long to please. We return Agape to Him, in part, by loving our neighbors as ourselves, those inside and outside the House at 3028 Carnes.
For single moms, Jesus is their Bridegroom, Husband, and Comforter. For their children, He is their Shield and Defender, Protector and Provider. His Agape is contagious, irresistible, and available to us all.