Just what is that thing called love?

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, February 12, 2014

By Jan Penton

Guest Columnist 

“What is love? Six feet of heaven and a tall marine.” As a small child visiting my grandparent’s farm in Neshoba County I overheard my elder sister, Dianne, and cousin, Phyllis, belting out their rendition of true love around Mamaw’s old upright piano.

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The aging farmhouse was cold, and I was a skinny little girl so I felt it bitterly. As I sat warming myself by the hearth I envisioned a tall, handsome marine in dress uniform. I wasn’t sure about this gooky romance stuff, but I stored the information away for future reference.

Most of us remember “Cinderella” as a timeless classic. It mattered not that the coachmen and carriage were once mice and a pumpkin respectively. Young ladies everywhere were enamored with the beautiful ball gowns, splendid castle, and last, but definitely not least — the handsome prince. Many a little girl lay down to sleep and dreamt of her very own handsome prince.

Marvelous tales from childhood with a variety of plots and characters almost without exception ended with, “and they all lived happily ever after.” What a lovely thought that “happily ever after” stuff. But how many people do you know whose lives have not been marred by tragedy of some kind? None, I suspect, as none of my acquaintances have been so fortunate, nor have I.

So what of the “happily ever after,” and what is love really? Is real love and happiness only true in a fairytale? In my years of working in the public schools as a teacher’s assistant, first, then as a teacher, I often told my students, “If I don’t know the answer I’ll find someone who does.” On this occasion I will defer to the Bible to answer the question of love, and happily ever after.

“Love is patient; love is kind. It does not envy; it does not boast; it is not proud. It does not dishonor others; it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

— I Corinthians 13:4-8

“He who heeds the word wisely will find good, and whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he.”

— Proverbs 16: 20

A sweet friend, fittingly named Joy, recently shared with me that each day she prays to be emptied of herself, filled with God’s spirit, and used as a vessel to pour out Christ’s love on others. As she spoke a palpable peace filled my living room, and I was reminded of the unselfish, sacrificial love of my savior.

Yes, I believe that we can all give and receive love. We can really be happy. May each of us fill our hearts with true love this year, and like my friend, Joy, learn to give it away.

(Jan is a guest columnist, local writer and member of the Writer’s Guild of Picayune.)