In psychology we often speak about three systems involved in experiencing love. There’s a great Ted Talk given by Helen Fisher called “The brain in love” in which she describes these three systems in detail. While this article is too short to provide the full desription of all three systems, we can summarize them as following:
The first system is something every human being experiences when they’re sexually drawn to another person. You might call this system the “lust system”, an innate drive we have for sexual intimacy. This drive is completely undirected and impulse driven. Left to its own end it would have us jumping into bed with anyone who excites us.
The second system is the “romance system” which takes the afore mentioned sex drive and focuses it on a particular person. We fall in love with someone and connect with them on more than just a physical level, we connect with them emotionally as well. This emotional connection is powerful but volatile and it needs to deepen in order to meet the next level of love. That’s what the third system does.
The third system is the attachment system. Psychologists have known for some time for two human beings to enter into a deep lasting relationship they need to develop strong attachments to one another. These attachments are often modeled on the relationship we develop with our care takers, but ultimately the attachment system is the one that harnesses the base sexual drive focused on one person through the romantic system and transforms it into a deep lasting relationship.
The theory Dr. Fisher presents is fantastic. It explains a great deal about the human experience of love. It addresses the physiological and psychological aspects of the experience and really helps us understand much of what we experience when we fall in love. Yet this theory only discusses natural love; love between two human beings. How might it account for agape love, that love experience causing human beings to transcend relationships they share with people like them to embrace people unlike them? How does love transcend these systems to empower someone like Mother Teresa to care for the least of those in India? A love that’s all embracing is a love derived from the grace of God. If we truly unite ourselves to God and allow that union to take us over we’re able to share the life he pours into us with others.
Our God is a God of hospitality. He makes a place for us within his very being and lifts our humanity through the person of Jesus Christ so we may partake of his divinity. Then, from the sharing of his life with us we take that divine gift and share it with others. This is how Christians become agents of love, reconciliation, peace, and joy in a very inhospitable world based on indifference, division, war, and sadness. While we naturally learn to shape our sex drive into a very special human experience through romantic love and deep attachment to one another, we were created to transcend that experience through a living relationship with Christ.
There’s an abundance of love waiting to be offered to you but even more importantly through you to a world longing for a sense of love. We were created to give and receive love but more importantly to share the life of God with others. If God is continually inviting us to be active agents of his presene we need to explore why we seem to keep that from happening. What is it about our spiritual lives keeping us from participating in the life of God and sharing it with others? The failure to love is not a failure on the part of God but rather a failure on our part to allow God to work through us. Our challenge is to explore our spiritual selves and seek to remove those barriers keeping us from being the very thing God created us to be; a window in which people see through us and encounter the living God.