I recently finished reading Jane Eyre on our vacation and much to my surprise it is now one of my favorite books of all time. I had watched the old film version a long time ago and really hated the dark love story they portrayed it as. In fact, although a little more dramatic than a Jane Austen novel, it is a beautiful redemptive love story that has stood the test of time. Without spoiling the story for anyone, a friend and I recently had a conversation about the paralleled characters of Mr. Rochester and Mr. St. John Rivers. These were the two men that had, at separate times, proposed to Jane in the story. Both of them were very different in personality and in love towards Jane. Rochester passionately and tenderly loved her, cherished her above all others. Jane reciprocated that love but circumstances beyond her control did not permit her to many him.
The St. John character greatly admired Jane, respected her, and saw her as an able companion, fit to follow him on his death defying mission to India. Although she also reciprocated St. John’s feelings, she could not marry him without true passionate love. I will not tell you how it ended because then I would be spoiling one of the greatest love stories of all time! You will just have to see for yourself. So, after I got done reading Jane Eyre, I picked up a little book my husband bought me recently called, Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney. In the second chapter she lays out how, according to Titus 2, we can love our husbands well. One of the best things I got from that chapter all lies within a little but powerful Greek word- phileo. In our English Bibles it is just translated “love”. This is sad because there is a reason Greek has three different versions of the word “love”. Mahaney pointed out that Paul could have used agape– sacrificial love. Instead he chose phileo– “tender, affectionate, passionate kind of love” to describe the love we are to show to our husbands. Sometimes it is easy to love out of duty rather than desire and as I am entering into year two of marriage, I want my heart to love more out of tenderness towards my husband rather than duty. This is the difference between Rochester and St. John. Luckily Jane picked up on this: “to marry you would kill me” she told St. John. She saw there was no true love compared to the love she had towards Mr. Rochester.
Although I can say that I love my husband now more than ever, I don’t want to slip into “duty” love. I want to love him tenderly and affectionately all the days of my life. As Mrs. Mahaney pointed out, there is a reason Paul told the older women to “teach” the younger women how to love their husbands with phileo love. It sometimes takes effort. And that kind of effort is what I want to cultivate for the rest of my married years.