By: Ellen Parrish
When I was a little girl, I would gallop around the house in a leftover Halloween costume announcing to the world exactly who my Prince Charming would be. Since the coolest guy I knew was my father, I would tell my mom, “When I grow up I’m going to marry Daddy.” She would smile and shake her head saying, “You can’t marry Daddy because I already did. When you grow up, you’ll find a man who loves you just like Daddy.” Her answer satisfied my energetic spirit until the next morning when I would make the same announcement.
Love has always fascinated me. I was privileged to grow up in a home where love bounced off the walls and warmed your soul. I attended church every time the doors were open (a side effect of being a preacher’s kid). There I heard many sermons and Sunday school lessons that taught all about that “four-letter word”—where it came from, the One who created it. With each year that passed by, I learned more about love and its many types.
To me, love is simple. It’s when you do something for someone else whole-heartedly, without reservations or conditions, expecting nothing in return. It’s beautiful to hear and fairly easy to say. Yet, nothing compares to the feeling you get deep inside when someone proves through action just how much he or she loves you.
As hard as I try to hold on to my childlike understanding of this simple concept, society continually changes the definition, distorting the idea in my own mind. What was once unconditional now relies on rules that, if broken, cut off the supply. Maybe it was the noise of public high school or the ever-growing roar of a world that is pulling further and further away from it’s Christian roots, but by the time I turned 14 I had completely forgotten about the One who gave love it’s meaning and who He loved me despite my flaws.
Once again, I was like the little girl in her Snow White costume creating unrealistic life plans. I began to ask God to send me someone who would love me just for being me. I just knew God would answer my prayer by sending me the perfect gentlemen. He would love me unconditionally and forever have my heart. I planned out all the places we would go, things we would do, and even created some inside jokes we would laugh about for years.
God has such a sense of humor! I’ve come to find it hilarious how drastically different His plans are from mine. He did send me someone. This boy was extremely short. His legs bowed out as if he had spent the day roping cattle from the back on his trusty steed. His tummy was a little round and his skin was the color of cocoa. He had been living life for almost a year when our paths crossed. His name was Marcus and he was dropped off at the Children’s Home where my family worked.
Love Is . . .
Marcus captured the hearts of everyone he met. He had a thousand-watt smile and a laugh that was contagious. There were many things I loved about him, but my favorite would have to be the lesson he taught me.
First Corinthians 13 gives us the most accurate description of love. It breaks it down into what it does and does not look like. Even though I grew up in a home centered on God and could even quote the entire “Love Chapter,” I learned how to love from a child that had no previous concept of it.
Love is patient and kind. I can recall countless times at dinner when Marcus handed me some mushed up portion of his meal. Once he even took the French fry out of his mouth to give to me so I wouldn’t go hungry. He never stopped to think about whether or not he would get more food; he was only concerned about was me.
Love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. For some people, flattery means nothing. For me, a simple compliment can make my day. However, nothing compares to how sweet it was to hear my “little brother” comment on my dress or always want to hold my hand.
Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. One of the greatest aspects of spending time with a toddler is seeing how awesome you are through his eyes. Marcus lived with an, “If you say jump, I’ll say how high” mentality. Yes, he did throw the occasional temper tantrum (after all, he was a kid). But at the end of the day, he let me make the decisions.
Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. When you have a shadow that follows you around everywhere, he is going to witness you make a mistake. Marcus lived with me during my high school years, so it’s safe to say he witnessed a lot of mishaps. He never made fun of me for them or brought them back up. He never held a grudge when I had to punish him. Each time I left he cried, and each time I came back he greeted me as if I had been gone forever.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. Right after Marcus’ third birthday, his mom returned. He was on his way home before I had finished going through the school lunch line. When I found out he was gone, I was devastated. I tried my best to keep track of him after that. We lived in a small town where everyone knew everyone, so it wasn’t long before I found out his mother had given him to her mother and had taken off again. I continued to keep tabs on him even after my family moved away. It wasn’t until the boxes were all unpacked that I found out he was gone and no one knew where he went. There are no words to describe exactly how hopeless I felt. One of my greatest encouragers was MIA and all I could do was pray. So, I did.
It has been over three years since then. I now live in a completely different state. In fact, the Children’s Home where I once lived is now shut down. Recently, I got word that my little man has a home. An educator in the area is working to adopt him. He is happy, cared for, and loved with the same love he showed me many years before. God blessed me in a unique way. He used a small child to illustrate His love for me so, in return, I could pour out that love on others. I think of Marcus all the time—when I’m listening to a friend, complimenting a stranger, or even sitting back and enjoying the moment. My brief time with him inspired me to have a more intentional love. As a follower of Christ, I am to “love my neighbor as myself.” Thanks to a little boy from a broken home whose smile left an impression on my heart, I now know how to do just that.