The joy, the struggle, and the complexity of love are unexplainably mysterious. So beautiful, yet impossible to fully understand. We can try our whole lives to wrap our heads around this ‘love’ thing… and we may think we get it. We don’t. This is partly because of how vast the concept of love is, but I think the english language is partly responsible for this as well. We have one word for ‘love.’ One word to cover so many bases. I can tell my sister that I love her on the phone and then walk back into Slate Coffee Bar and say I love their latest washed kenyan blend. Is my love for coffee really the same as my love for my baby sister? Not at all. It’s confusing to me because I really, really like coffee. I think I even love coffee. But it’s different, isn’t it? It has to be.
Right smack in the middle of the bible, theres a collection of Hebrew love poems. Song of Psalms. This book is so explicit that the young Jewish boys weren’t even allowed to read them until they were older. Song of Psalms give us a picture. Multiple pictures of love. Why can’t the English language have multiple pictures of love? I digress.
There are multiple Hebrew words for ‘love,’ but in the bible we see a pattern of three words. Raya, ahava and dod. The best part is, they all mean different things. Fantastic, right?
Raya would be translated literally as a friend or companion. Somebody you’d hang out with. “She’s my best friend– we even finish each others sentences!” “I don’t know where I would be without your friendship.” These are expressions of Raya. At the core of this relationship between these lovers–there’s a friendship.
The second Hebrew word for love that we see in Song of Psalms is ahava. Ahava is deep affection. The desire to be near someone so much that your heart aches. Ahava is when your mind, heart, and soul are bent toward your lover with so much force that you could think of little else, even if you wanted to. Ahava says that I would rather be right here– with you. In this moment. Than anywhere else in the world. Anywhere else. This is love. This is ahava.
Finally, in the bible we see a third kind of love that we call dod. Dod is translated literally as to “fondle.” I think you get where this is going. This is the love that’s not exactly rated PG. Dod is the physical and sexual expression of love.
So when two people come together. They take part in this beautiful, complex illustration of love. When the two meet and get to know one another- the love expressed as raya is found. A lot of relationships don’t escape this phase. This is prime real-estate for friends. For coffee… maybe.
What throws the whole thing for a loop is when ahava is introduced. A love so strong you can’t imagine anything else making sense. A love that transcends all past definitions of love itself. A love so fierce, it leaves you feeling vulnerable, yet comfortable. Scared- yet happy.
Dod is what happens when this love blooms into what it was ordained to be. Love is bigger than how you treat people. Love is bigger than how you feel about coffee. Love is bigger and louder than a lousy four letter English word that we toss around like a dish rag in the back room of a busy restaurant.
Love itself is complex.
Love itself is natural.
Love itself is human.
Understanding love is impossible. Understanding love is like trying to understand God. You constantly get little snapshots of what it really means- but you never know when your mind will be blown again.
Because of this reality we can walk away from heartache with hope. We can walk away from these open wounds knowing that our God is love. What we think we know about ‘love’ is merely the surface of who God is.
So may the Lord bless you and keep you, as He has called you His own. May His presence be ever clear to you on this day, and may He plant in you a seed, that will give root to change.