What Is Love? by Christa Smith

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WHAT IS LOVE?  It’s a question that’s been asked for centuries and the definition varies drastically. I certainly don’t claim to have the complete answer, but I can at least share my thoughts and experiences on what love has looked like in my life. 


Love looks like KINDNESS. God has blessed me in so many ways, but one of my greatest gifts is my parents. My whole life, they have displayed the kindness of the Lord to my sisters and I, and to many friends and strangers that entered our lives.  Growing up, there were some Saturday mornings that I would wake up, and find a family had spent the night that had car trouble and was stuck on the side of road. My dad would bring them home so they could have a safe place to stay the night and get a hot meal. My parents stopping by to check on someone who had just been released from the hospital or had experienced a family tragedy, was completely normal. They never did it to be thanked or recognized, but I had a front row seat to it all, witnessing firsthand the power of being present in someone’s pain. I remember my Dad always leaving big tips at restaurants saying, “These people aren’t getting rich, but they are working hard. Let’s leave a little extra today.” I loved it. I remember getting so excited at the thought of our waitress or waiter discovering they had received a $20 dollar tip for a $10 dollar meal.


My parents taught me the joy of serving others and giving what we had. Last week, I called my parents to say hi and I couldn’t get a hold of them. I tried a couple of times that day, but again I couldn’t reach them. Later that day, my Mom finally called me back. She told me about a family friend of ours who had cancer some years ago, but had gone into remission. They just learned the cancer had returned, and it was serious. His family was coming from out of town to spend some time with him. My parents called to check on him and learned that due to his sickness, he had been unable to clean his house and was stressed that his family was coming to visit and the house wasn’t clean. My parents, who are in their 70’s, went over to his 2-story home and cleaned it top to bottom. They mopped, vacuumed and dusted to remove the burden from him. When my Mom was telling me, she was so excited because she got to talk to him about the Lord and he let my parents pray for him—something he hadn’t been open to before. My response, “Can I be like you and Dad when I grow up?” I hung up the phone that day and just marveled at my parents. They’re amazing. They clean the house of the sick, they visit the elderly that can’t get out of bed and they bring meals to the injured. They care for the orphans, the forgotten and the overlooked. Isn’t that just like Jesus?  He took the time for the one, the hurting and the broken. The ones that were too sick to take care of themselves.


I learned that love looks like showing up, cleaning a bathroom and holding a hand. It’s not for the thank you or for the recognition. It’s not even for what you get back. It’s because that’s who Jesus is. He sees us through our wins and through our mess. He is there every step of the way, and sometimes, He lets us come along and sit in a front row seat.    


Love looks like RESTORATION. Some years ago, my parents and I decided to open up our own antique repurposing business.  My Mom and I would hunt for pieces of furniture that had charm and told stories through their wear and tear. On a day when we weren’t on the hunt, my Mom happened to drive by a garage sale that was closing up, and sitting near the curb was an antique trunk. It was dirty, broken and looked like it had lived a couple of lifetimes. My Mom learned from the person selling it that the trunk had belonged to a Vietnam Vet who had served multiple tours. That trunk had been with him on every tour. That explained the condition of this broken-down piece of furniture. My Mom saw it’s potential, l so we all agreed to bring this antique trunk back to life. We had to sand the wood down to the original grain, replace broken hardware and line the inside with beautiful cedar.  After a couple of weeks, it was completed and it was stunning!  So stunning, that I wasn’t sure I wanted to sell it!


I felt the Lord nudge me to take our furniture and sell it at the county Christmas Fair, where local Artisans would sell their goods, but I knew I was late signing up and wasn’t sure I would even get in. I called anyway and wouldn’t you know, someone that had been at the Christmas Fair for 20 years gave up their 2 booths and we got one. We were excited! We were placed next to a woman, who like us, was a first-timer selling at the Christmas Fair. She too had happened to call the same day I did and got the other booth! We shared the excitement of getting in and the great location we were given! What were the odds that we both called on the same day and were given booths right next to each other, because someone that had been there for the last 20 years cancelled? God. As customers ebbed and flowed throughout the day, the woman came over to our booth and was looking at all our pieces. She saw the antique trunk and stood there and stared at it for the longest time. She then looked at my Mom with tears in her eyes and said, “That looks a lot like a trunk I sold this past summer. It was the last thing I had of my Dad’s. He passed away, and I so wish I had not sold his trunk. He was a Vietnam Vet and that trunk went with him on multiple tours.”


My Mom was stunned. She said, “Well, do you want to hear the rest of the story? I’m the woman that bought that trunk at your garage sale and that IS your Dad’s trunk!” Both women just stared in silence at the antique trunk, taking in the divine beauty of the moment, knowing God has orchestrated this moment of restoration. For this woman, getting her Dad’s trunk back was a major turning point in her relationship with the Lord. That trunk represented prayers heard, lost things being restored and promises coming true. That woman found me on Facebook some months later, and told me she is currently in Seminary and feels called to full-time ministry. She said that whenever she shares her testimony, she has to tell the story about her Father’s trunk finding it’s way back to her. She had regretted selling it, wanting it back so badly because it was a piece of her earthly Father’s life.


Our heavenly Father is a Father of restoration, and NOTHING is lost with Him. God set it up that day, simply to display to all of us, that He hears every prayer—and even things that seem lost and beyond repair will be used for the beautiful story He is writing in and through our lives. 


LOVE LOOKS LIKE NO MATTER WHAT. I didn’t get married until I was 39 years old. It wasn’t because I didn’t have offers or a desire. I had both, but I wanted God’s best for me. I wanted a man that passionately loved Jesus, a partner for life, a ride or die that no matter what came our way, he would be there. I wanted romance, laughter and a best friend, so I waited. I waited so long, I actually got to the place where I didn’t think I was going to get married. And although that sounds sad, it wasn’t. I was okay with it. I was really happy in my singleness. I was determined as a pastor to give a new face to being single, and I refused to think I wouldn’t walk fully in my destiny or God couldn’t use me because I was single. I knew none of that was true.


God could and would use me whether I was single or married.  That’s when God brought Sean into my life. Before Sean, I had never been in love or in a serious relationship, so everything was new to me. Transparency and vulnerability, with the person I wanted to think I was amazing, was a bit of a struggle at first. I remember the first year of our marriage, I was trying to be everything I thought Sean wanted me to be. The pressure didn’t come from him, it came from me. I loved him so much, I wanted him to have the perfect wife and life. But, like any weight that you weren’t created to carry, over time, it’s going to come crashing down. My ‘crash’ came after multiple ministry trips back to back.  Weariness and tiredness took over, laundry piles loomed and moving boxes stayed packed.  


One morning, Sean woke up to me sitting next to him crying and overwhelmed at everything that needed to get done. I was convinced I was disappointing him and I was a failure as a wife. Sean sat up, put his arms around me and said, “Boo, I love you no matter what. It doesn’t matter if the laundry gets done or not or if the boxes don’t get unpacked, you are never a disappointment to me.  I’m so happy being married to you.  I’ll always love you no matter what”. That day, I saw it in my husband’s eyes and I felt it in his embrace. I realized in that moment, we had the ‘no matter what’ kind of love. From that day on, I’ve extended myself a ton of grace. The high achiever who wants to be awesome at everything has to take a back seat sometimes when I need rest or do something fun, because my fun tank is low. 


Love isn’t about things working out perfectly or looking like that Instagram life we admire. No, it’s a garage full of 2-year old moving boxes (actually true) and knowing that bit-by-bit I do what I can. My husband’s love isn’t based off of any of those things.  It’s based off the fact he just loves ME. Isn’t that just like Jesus?  He finds us sitting on our beds, feeling like total failures and He comes, puts His arms around us, and says, “I love you no matter what”.  We’ve got that kind of love.   


I don’t claim to understand love completely. I’m still walking this journey out myself. But, I do know Jesus’ love is always kind, ever restoring and there is nothing I can do can earn His love or lose His love. With Him, we have a ‘no matter what’ kind of love. That’s just who He is.